31 October 2015 – Construction began today on Britain’s new Royal Navy base in Bahrain, despite ongoing controversies.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa were pictured today ceremonially digging spades into the ground at the site of the new base. Bahrain is spending £15m constructing the base, with the British expected only to pay running costs.
The Foreign Office’s press release states: “The beginning of construction work at Mina Salman Port marks a watershed moment in the UK’s commitment to the region.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “All the British government’s policies show is a commitment to military expansion at the cost of human rights. Bahrain continues to systimcally arbitrarily arrest, torture and silence any critic of the government. This new base is totally inappropriate.”
Since the announcement of the new base in December 2014, Bahrain arrested political leaders Sheikh Ali Salman, Fadhel Abbas and Ebrahim Sharif and sentenced each for the exercise of their free speech. Courts have also sentenced six to death in the last year, despite credible allegations of torture and fabricated evidence. A prison riot in March 2015 led to the collective punishment and torture of hundreds of inmates.
The new base has not gone uncontested in Britain. In September, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the UK’s “uncritical” support of Bahrain. He said that “it does not help our national security” to “give such fawning and uncritical support to regimes like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain who abuse their own citizens and repress democratic movements.”
The new Royal Navy base in Bahrain, announced by Mr Hammond at the Manama Dialogue last year, was an immediate source of controversy. Fifty-six Members of Parliament criticised the news in an Early Day Motion, Lead by Mr Corbyn.