- 24 November 2022 – Cross-party peers in the House of Lords debated human rights in Gulf states and put pressure on the Minister for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, to explain why UK Foreign Policy in the region is failing to prevent serious abuse.
- Led by Liberal Democrat Peer and Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, Lord Scriven, the debate also saw interventions from former Green Party leader, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Labour Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Lord Collins of Highbury, and Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lord Purvis of Tweed.
- Lord Scriven highlighted his concerns on the ongoing use of the Death Penalty in Bahrain, referencing the recent report from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Human Rights Watch and asking the Government “how does it continue to support Bahrain including money from the Gulf Strategy Fund, that it says it will not fund countries that have death penalties, if Bahrain continues to have such an approach to the death penalty?”
- Observing the debate in-person from the gallery were three Bahraini human rights defenders and torture survivors, Ebtisam AlSaegh, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei and Ali Mushaima, son of imprisoned opposition leader Hassan Mushaima.
- Their cases, along that of imprisoned human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja who is facing a new series of criminal charges in Bahrain, were raised by Lord Scriven, Baroness Bennet, Baroness Brinton, and Lord Collins who asked the Minister to meet with these torture survivors and raise their cases.
- Former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett criticised Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for failing to mention human rights in his speech in Manama amidst “sham” Bahrain elections and an execution spree in Saudi Arabia. She went on to raise serious concerns over the Gulf Strategy Fund’s (GSF) implication in human rights violations in Bahrain.
- She asked Lord Ahmad to confirm whether the government violated its own guidelines by failing to seek assurances that Bahrain would not carry out the death penalty, before providing millions in GSF programmes to bodies implicated in Ebtisam’s abuse.
- Lord Collins of Highbury raised the case of imprisoned human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, commenting “He is now facing a series of criminal charges as a reprisal in the form of judicial harassment as a reprisal for his protest activities while in prison” asking Lord Ahmad to take up his case with Bahrain’s authorities.
- Responding to peers, Lord Ahmad defended the UK’s relationship with Bahrain and promised to meet torture survivors who were present at the debate, commenting: “Yes, I will meet with the representatives and those who are present here today, I’ve always said Human Rights must be informed by those who are practicioners”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, commented: “Bahrain’s shameful record on human rights was rightly exposed at the House of Lords today. The Minister was doing a “lonely” job to defend the indefensible when it comes to UK taxpayer-funded support being provided to bodies repeatedly implicated in the use of torture and the death penalty and other horrific abuses in Bahrain. It was important that torture survivors of the Bahraini regime were present today to hear the Minister’s response in first-hand. We look forward to meeting with Lord Ahmad at his earliest opportunity, as he promised.”
Ali Mushaima, son of imprisoned opposition leader Hassan Mushaima commented: “I was pleased to see members of the House of Lords raise the case of my imprisoned father, Hassan Mushaima, and Bahrain’s appalling ongoing denial of urgent and vital medical treatment for him. Today, whilst Lord Ahmad attempted to defend UK support for my father’s abusers, more members of my family were detained by the regime in Bahrain for making this exact demand that my father’s basic right to medical treatment be met.”