Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs, Alistair Carmichael MP, has pressed the government today to publish its assessment of the UK’s assistance to Bahrain in the prosecution of two men now sentenced to death in the Gulf state. The two men’s prosecutions have been criticised due to allegations of the use of torture in their interrogations.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“When it comes to issues relating to the Gulf, I preach a sermon of pragmatism and humility in engaging with these countries, but surely we can only encourage progress if we see it actually happening and expressing desire for change is not good enough. The Overseas Security and Justice Assistance process that the minister relies on is one that has been criticised by the Home Affairs Select Committee as not being fit for purpose. If he is going to rely on that Overseas Security and Justice Assistance process, will he publish the assessment that was carried out under it in relation to this assistance, and will he in fact promote within government an overhaul of that whole process?”
Responding for the government, James Cleverly MP said:
“It was a Conservative Foreign Secretary that brought in the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance process and as I have said it is constantly under review and we seek to always improve it. The oversight bodies that have been criticised in this chamber today are only recently in existence, in significant part because of the work that the UK government has done with the Bahrainis. There is desire to see these organisations and their processes improve, and our technical assistance is part of that improvement programme. It would be entirely counterproductive to suggest that these organisations are dispensed with because I cannot see how that would improve the oversight of the human rights situation. The aim surely should be to improve them and it is through our cooperation that we do seek to improve them.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The minister did not answer my simple question about the publication of the government’s assessment. Without transparency and scrutiny of the government’s interactions with Bahraini authorities we cannot hope for meaningful progress. I will be following this up with the government to ensure that this assessment is published urgently.”