Bahrain Independence Day Speech
Presented by SALAM Chairman Jawad Fairooz during a press briefing at UNITE the Union in London, on 14/08/2017
I would like to thank everyone present for attending and would like to thank the organizers of this event on utilising the day Bahrain got their independence from Britain to shed light on serious issues affecting Bahrain.
As you already know, the United Kingdom has had long-standing involvement in Bahrain, from business and trade to politics and government. It has maintained strong links with the ruling family in Bahrain even after independence and has endeavoured to expand its influence on the island. Most recently, it cemented its military presence in the country with a new naval base.
The current Prime Minister of the UK, Mrs Theresa May, visited Bahrain last year and did not focus on the main underlying issue of the country: its dangerous human rights situation. During her visit, Duraz was under siege and still is today! The whole Bahraini opposition were behind bars and still are! Human rights defenders were barred from attending human rights events and were constantly complaining of harassment and torture, and still are! The list goes on and on.
Britain silently ran training projects in Bahrain’s notorious Police and Security Apparatus, that are British tax-payer funded schemes. Schemes including NI-CO public order training and others have cost the British taxpayer over 4,000,000GBP.
Bahrain’s Police Chief visited Belfast on a number of occasions, and Britain paid to have many Bahrain police officers visit Belfast for training too. Yet, Bahraini peaceful protesters continue to be targeted on the street and in detention centres, many sustaining life-threatening injuries and even death. Just recently hundreds of Bahrainis were injured in the Duraz raid, and atleast 5 Bahrainis were killed by the security forces.
Furthermore, the British-funded and backed Ombudsman has continuously ignored claims of torture. Examples include Mohamed Ramadan, who was overlooked as the complaint was drafted in an email rather than through the complaints procedure. It reached a point where Tobias Ellwood MP, had to confirm that a torture investigation has been launched despite telling British Parliament in 2014 that there was “no allegations of torture”! Mohamed Ramadan, is still on deathrow.
Even historically, Britain has taken a suspicious position against Bahrainis and human rights, with the then Security Advisor Ian Henderson referring to human rights advocates, supporters of the Constitution and elected Parliament as “radicals, extremists, and terrorists”.
All this funding, support, and investment in Bahrain’s security apparatus has resulted in a notorious agency – the Bahrain National Security Agency. It was specifically mentioned in the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI) as an agency that follows:
“Systematic practices of physical and psychological ill-treatment which in many cases amount to torture.”
This is the result of Britain’s constant support for Bahrain’s security apparatus that always commits atrocity after atrocity.
Britain has pushed for the creation of bodies that have done nothing other than try to whitewash the violations that happen in Bahrain on a daily basis. One example is the Ombudsman which I have already mentioned; another is the National Institute for Human Rights.
The National Institute for Human Rights has had a nil-effect on Bahrain’s human rights. It has continually ignored all the serious issues unfolding in the country, and has even started dropping recommendations that it presented in 2013 and 2014. Examples include inviting the UN Special Rapporteurs; it has now dropped such requests in its recent statements. NIHR received 137 complaints in 2016 alone, but no case was ever investigated properly and no one was compensated, helped, or released, and no official actor was held accountable!
As such, it is very disappointing to say that these official bodies created through Britain’s involvement in Bahrain are useless entities that seem more intent on whitewashing Bahrain’s human rights image than improving it!
Britain’s involvement in Bahrain is clear for everyone to see. Prime Minister Theresa May said in her visit that, “where there are issues raised about human rights… we will rightly raise those”.
It is high-time for Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise to become a reality. If the UK are serious about reforms in Bahrain, it must be serious about full and substantial human rights reforms first. Any changes, improvements, or training is absolutely useless if there isn’t a full-package, genuine human rights effort; and without human rights efforts there will never be proper political reforms as the country will face one atrocity after another.
Britain has taken it upon themselves to defend Bahrain’s record and provide training and expertise from British tax-payer’s money to Bahrain’s security apparatus; it must now show tangible plans, deadlines, timelines, and on-the-ground improvement if it is really serious about human rights in Bahrain.
I would like to take this opportunity to forward the following recommendations: That Bahrain is designated a country of concern by the UK; that the UK lobbies Bahrain to allow UN Special Rapporteurs entrance and carry out their tasks unhindered; for the Bahraini Government to commence reconciliation and national dialogue by enforcing all human rights and political rights; for the UK to push for the freedom of all prisoners of conscience particularly political opposition and human rights activists; for the UK to ensure any human rights violator to be held accountable; for the Bahraini people to be source of all powers in Bahrain; for the UK to ban entry of any Bahraini official who has violated human rights; for the UK to reassess funding and backing of technical assistance to Bahrain’s human rights and security bodies; and for the UK to use its relationship with Bahrain to ensure rule of law and human rights compliance as a requirement for any agreement.