- King Hamad of Bahrain is in UK for Royal Windsor Horse Show at invitation of Queen Elizabeth
- Activist Ali Mushaima launches sit-in protest outside Windsor Horse Show to demand medical treatment for his imprisoned father in Bahrain
- Two men risk imminent execution pending King’s ratification amid intensification of repression
10 May 2019 – Campaigners have condemned Buckingham Palace’s decision to invite King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain over to the UK for the Royal Windsor Horse Show (RWHS). The event, which has included Bahraini participation and sponsorship since at least 2013, presents a major public relations opportunity for the regime to whitewash its dire human rights record.
In opposition to the King’s presence, activist Ali Mushaima resumed his protest to obtain adequate medical care for his 71-year old father, Hassan Mushaima. Mr Mushaima, a Bahraini opposition leader, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011 for defending democracy in the Kingdom. Ali will be sitting outside the Windsor Horse Show until Sunday 12 May. In August 2018, he launched a 46-day long hunger strike outside the Bahraini Embassy in London to demand basic rights for his father.
Today, I resumed my protest to save my 71 year old father #FreeHassanMushaima, who is still denied medical care.
This time, I protest against the person who’s responsible for my father’s imprisonment.
— Ali Mushaima (@AMushaima) May 10, 2019
The RWHS has attracted serious criticism for regularly hosting the Bahraini monarchy. In 2016, Human Rights Watch labelled the closeness between the Queen and King Hamad of Bahrain an “error of judgment”. Similar concerns were expressed in a complaint submitted by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) to the UK National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which the NCP said “merits further examination”. The show’s organisers’ have continued their partnership with the Bahraini government, despite evidence of harassment and intimidation of British and Bahraini protesters at the show in 2017, as reported by Amnesty International.
Three days before the King’s arrival to the UK, on 6 May, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation rejected the final appeal of death row inmates and torture survivors Ali AlArab and Ahmed AlMalali. The two men are now at imminent risk of execution following a grossly unfair mass-trial marred with due process violations, including allegations of torture and the use of coerced confessions as evidence in court, according to the UN.
Despite the repression in Bahrain, the UK government has continued to arm and support the regime. Since the uprising began in February 2011, the UK has licensed over £100 million worth of arms to the Bahraini authorities. In 2018 the UK opened a permanent naval base in Bahrain, largely paid for by Bahrain.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of BIRD, said: “It is shameful that King Hamad is going to be offered a seat next to the Queen. The Bahraini regime continues to jail and torture human rights defenders and journalists. The UK Government continues to look the other way and cover up Bahrain’s appalling rights record by investing in arms sales and a new naval base in return. This toxic relationship must come to an end.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “This visit is a moral disgrace. It offers a major international stage to a dictatorship that has a long history of repression. The UK Government has made itself complicit in the abuses by arming and supporting the Bahraini authorities, regardless of the consequences. The UK should be standing with the human rights campaigners calling for change, not with the regime which is denying basic rights.”
Background: Bahrain’s human rights record
Over recent years there has been a further intensification of the repression of rights in Bahrain. Capital punishment resumed within the Kingdom, with the execution of three men in January 2017, described as extrajudicial killings by the UN. 20 individuals are currently on death row, 8 of which are facing imminent execution. Reprisals targeting protesters, journalists, human rights defenders and their relatives have become commonplace. The only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, was forcibly closed in 2017. Conditions in Bahrain’s Isa Town Prison, the country’s only female detention centre, continue to worsen. Individuals have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and imprisoned, often with the use of torture and sexual assault to extract false confessions, and subjected to unfair trials in a totally flawed criminal justice system. The arbitrary stripping of citizenship has emerged as one of the most disturbing methods used by the Bahraini government to silence dissent.