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    Former British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond boards a British military ship docked in Manama, Bahrain after helping lay a cornerstone for a new British military base being built in Bahrain, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Britain hasn't had a permanent military base in Bahrain since its former colony declared independence from Britain in 1971, though close ties have continued.

    Bahrain: UK 'Over-Excited Cheerleader' of 'Flawed' Human Rights Program

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    Two UK-backed Bahraini institutions designed to improve the human rights situation in the country are "woefully inadequate," while Britain has been acting like an "over-excited cheerleader" in its support of Bahraini officials, a new report has found.

    A report from Amnesty International says it has been "utterly disingenuous" of the UK government to "pretend" that Bahrain's Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior and the Special Investigations Unit within the Public Prosecution Office have been making significant human rights reform.

    A Bahraini protester puts tyre in fire during clashes between protesters and riot police following a protest to demand more rights and against the ruling regime, late on July 10, 2014 in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama.
    © AFP 2018 / Mohammed Al-Shaikh
    A Bahraini protester puts tyre in fire during clashes between protesters and riot police following a protest to demand more rights and against the ruling regime, late on July 10, 2014 in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama.

    The institutions, set up in 2012 in the wake of the Bahraini government's violent crackdown into protests, have received UK support over the past few years, and while they have been designed to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain, questions remain over their effectiveness.

    ​While Amnesty's report, based on more than 90 interviews with victims of human rights violations, their friends and lawyers, acknowledged that some progress has been made on the issue of human rights, the organization urged UK ministers to confront the "awkward reality that these UK-backed institutions are seriously flawed and widely seen as a PR tool of the Bahraini authorities." 

    Amnesty says that in some cases the institutions have failed to protect certain detainees from torture, while only a very small number of security forces have been convicted of crimes, leading to concerns that some allegations are not being properly dealt with.

    UK Must 'Confront Awkward Reality'

    Despite the long-held concerns over human rights and the actions of the country's security forces, Bahrain has enjoyed the strong support of the UK in recent times, with then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond claiming last year that the Middle Eastern country has been "making significant reform," telling the House of Commons that it "is a country which is traveling in the right direction."

    The UK has been under heavy criticism for its continued support of the Bahraini government in the face of violence allegations, with the government attacked for agreeing to a deal to build a British naval base in the country.

    Meanwhile, the new report comes ahead of UK Prime Minister Theresa May's expected visit to the country next month.

    ​"Five years after Bahrain's shocking crackdown on protesters its peaceful human rights activists are still being jailed after unfair trials, yet to listen to UK ministers one would think the country had long ago turned a corner and put these human rights abuses behind it," said Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs.

    ​"It was a welcome move when Bahrain set up these two bodies back in 2012 but it's utterly disingenuous of the UK Government to pretend they're delivering substantial human rights reform in Bahrain.

    "Instead of acting as over-excited cheerleaders for Bahrain's woefully inadequate reforms, UK ministers ought to be confronting the awkward reality that these UK-backed institutions are seriously flawed and widely seen as a PR tool of the Bahraini authorities."    

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    Tags:
    naval base, violence, human rights, torture, crackdown, Amnesty International, Philip Hammond, Theresa May, Britain, Middle East, United Kingdom, Bahrain
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