Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, has written to the Prime Minister after Priti Patel hosted a meeting with a Bahraini Minister just over a month after a violent attack on over 60 political prisoners by Bahraini authorities on the 17 April 2021.
The Home Secretary met with the Bahraini Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa on the 25 May 2021. Minister Al Khalifa is himself accused of overseeing the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, and activists in Bahrain.
Gwynne has also tabled an Early Day Motion which calls on the government to ‘apply Magnitsky Act Sanctions to Minister Rashid Al Khalifa for his protracted role in overseeing a culture of abuse and a climate of impunity in Bahrain’. The Motion also highlights ‘other recent serious human rights abuses, including the detention of children as young as 13 years old, who were subjected to beatings and threats of rape and electric shocks to coerce confessions over charges linked to protest activity.’
In 2011, Bahrain experienced protests inspired by the Arab Spring, and the human rights situation in the Gulf state has deteriorated sharply over the last decade. In a recent report the organisation Human Rights Watch wrote ‘The human rights situation in Bahrain did not improve in 2020 […] authorities arrested, prosecuted, and harassed human rights defenders, journalists, opposition leaders, and defence lawyers, including for their social media activity.’
Andrew Gwynne, whose open letter to the Prime Minister has been signed by several cross-party MP’s, said:
‘The human rights abuses being perpetrated in Bahrain are abhorrent, and it is unacceptable that the government haven’t applied sanctions or even publicly condemned the abuse.
The Home Secretary meeting with the Bahraini Minister of Interior shortly after a violent attack on political prisoners is both diplomatically concerning and incredibly insulting to the victims of these abuses.
I am writing to the Prime Minister, in conjunction with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, to express my concerns and ask the Government to apply Magnitsy Sanctions to Minister Alkhalifa. The UK needs to take a firm stand against human rights abuses across the world and needs to be consistent in applying sanctions to states committing them.’