Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bahrain: UK raises long list of concerns about Bahraini military tribunals

London, IRNA The British government says that it does not know how many political prisoners are currently held in Bahraini jails but that it has raised a long list of concerns about the conduct of military trials, including against 48 health professionals.

“We have made no assessment of the exact number of political prisoners currently held in Bahraini detention centres. We remain deeply concerned by the imprisonment of leading moderate politicians and the alleged mistreatment of detainees,” said Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell.

In a series of written parliamentary replies published Wednesday, Howell insisted that the UK government, which has been accused of adopting double standards toward the uprisings in various Arab countries, continues to press the Bahraini regime “to meet all their human rights obligations.”

He confirmed that the British Embassy in Manama was able to attend some of the many military trials currently taking place, including the trials of the 48 medical staff.

“Our primary concerns in the legal process have been the methods of arrest, early access to legal counsel, allegations of abuse in detention, methods of interrogation, alleged coerced confessions, the charges brought against defendants, and the implications that medical professionals may not be allowed to carry out their duties without fear of recrimination,” the minister said.

He told fellow peers in the House of Lords that the concern about the trial of health professionals had also been raised by Foreign Secretary William Hague when he met the Crown Prince of Bahrain on 25 May.

“Our ambassador continues to raise our concerns at the highest level with the Government of Bahrain to ensure that due process is followed in all cases and that human rights are fully respected,” he also said.

In the House of Commons, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt indirectly confirmed that British vehicles were being used by Saudi troops deployed in Bahrain when denying it breached UK guidelines.

“We have seen no evidence that UK equipment and vehicles supplied to the Saudi Arabian forces were used in a repressive way in Bahrain since we have seen no evidence that Saudi or other (P)GCC forces have done anything other than safeguard installations in Bahrain,” Burt said when asked about the vehicles.

The denial comes after the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) last month launched legal proceedings against the UK government's failure to revoke any licences for the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia used against protesters in Bahrain.

CAAT started the legal challenge by writing to Business Secretary Vince Cable saying the UK government breached its export licensing criteria that it will “not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression”.

It argued that following the despatch of Saudi troops to quell protesters in Bahrain in March, it is clear that their equipment might be used for internal repression, according to a copy of the letter obtained by IRNA.