Bahrain: injustice and violence continue while West keeps quiet
The uprisings in Bahrain have seen little media coverage and a continuation of western political allegiances with the current regime, despite widespread acknowledgement of the use of torture against detainees, violence against demonstrators and inequitable arrests and trials.
According to media reports on Monday, police had once again been firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors. The same day the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain postponed the final verdict on the appeal of thirteen opposition activists relating to their participation in pro-reform demonstrations last year.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have aided Bahrain’s ‘constitutional’ monarchy in suppressing voices of internal opposition and crushing dissent, while bolstering Bahraini security forces. Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the behest of Bahrain have provided around 2,000 troops. The West, meanwhile, has quietly averted its eyes.
Since the uprisings began in February 2011, small rumblings of disapproval have been heard from various Western powers: President Obama has called for the ‘universal rights’ of Bahraini citizens to be upheld, whilst the EU’s Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton has called on the Bahraini regime to ‘fully respect and protect the fundamental rights of their citizens’ – a sentiment David Cameron has reiterated.
Bahrain’s King, Hammad bin-Issa al-Khalifa, have provided the West with the requisite assurances of change. He launched the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) investigating human rights violations during demonstrations in February and March 2011. It is said that his deeply held concern over the actions of his security forces against his people prompted the enquiry, but observers have been quick to point out that a desire to prevent further international condemnation is an explanation equally likely.
BICI reported that a myriad of human rights abuses had been observed including excessive use of force and torture against some detainees, as well as violence against protestors by Bahraini security forces. The National Commission was subsequently set up to ensure that such injustices were never repeated. But little has been done in practice to administer these changes.
Two weeks ago, Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights, testified to the US Congress that Bahraini security forces had continued to act with “impunity” . In particular, he found that 48 medical specialists had been “targeted, detained, tortured, and forced to sign false confessions.” Many were tried in military courts and found guilty of various charges including attempting to overthrow the government, inciting hatred towards the regime as well as occupying the Salamiya Hospital. BICI later found the charges to be fabricated. However, Western voices have been reluctant to speak out against these abuses.
In fact, Britain and the US have been positively smooching with the regime. Cameron has said that Britain is “a friend of Bahrain’s” and showcased our commitment by inviting the King to Number 10 in May this year. The US Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough visited Bahrain in June consulting on issues of ‘mutual concern’, with McDonough stressing the importance of the US-Bahraini partnership. Bahrain has also been honoured with visits from the then Defense Secretary Robert Gates as well as Mike Mullens, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is the strategic interest of Bahrain that has ensured such tolerance from the West. The country’s close relationship with neighbouring OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the US, has ensured tacit Western support.
What small, reluctant murmurings our governments have made, through their quietly publicised statements of “concern”, have in fact allowed the Bahraini regime to continue with its current crackdowns. The West’s collective commitment to promoting democracy , which include principles of good governance and freedom of speech, have been wholly selective in their implementation. Blatant contradictions can therefore be seen in the West’s rhetoric of supporting ‘fundamental rights’.Tagged in: Bahrain, david cameron, human rights, saudi arabia
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