‘Five Days to Save Their Lives’: UK Urged to Stop Bahrain Executing Activists
By Sam Courtney-Guy - Metro
Human rights watchdogs have urged ministers to step in to save the lives of two pro-democracy campaigners in Bahrain who have until Monday to overturn their death sentences.
The UK is seen as holding sway in the Gulf kingdom through economic ties and has provided training and support human rights watchdogs set up by the country in the wake of Arab Spring-inspired uprisings in 2011.
Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa, high-profile figures in the protests, were sentenced to death in 2014 for murdering a policeman and other terror-related offences.
Both men say they were forced to sign false confessions after being tortured – including allegations that Husain was hung from the ceiling for days while his captors beat his genitals with batons.
Mohammed detailed his treatment in a chilling first-person account for Metro.co.uk earlier this year, recalling how interrogators assaulted him and threatened to rape his wife and sisters in front of him.
MPs on both sides of the house pressured Middle East Minister James Cleverly to take action during Commons questioning on Thursday.
Labor’s Kim Johnson said the UK has ‘five days to save their lives’ and call on him to make ‘effective representations’ to Bahrain before a court rules on their appeals on Monday.
Mr. Cleverly argued the strength of UK-Bahraini ties allows for ‘frank, candid and regular conversations’ with the king and that the UK will ‘loudly remind Bahrain of our opposition to the death penalty’ if the appeals fail.
He suggested pulling the plug on agreements to support the Bahraini Ombudsman and Special Investigations Unit [SIU] – two bodies tasked with investigating allegations of human rights abuses – would do more harm than good.
The minister added: ‘The Bahraini royal family have demonstrated a desire to improve their structures and transparency, and the resilience of their governmental structures.’
‘The oversight bodies we support are a part of that. While they continue to express the desire to improve their structures and head in a positive direction, we will maintain our support to enable them to do so.’
The United Nations’ torture experts and international watchdogs including Reprieve and Human Rights Watch have accused the bodies of failing to get to the bottom of Mohamed and Husein’s torture claims.
A court overturned their death sentences in 2018 after the SIU flagged up a medical report by Bahraini government doctor, documenting injuries on Moosa’s wrists, which was only uncovered more than a year after their conviction.
In January this year the country’s high court re-imposed the sentences after deciding the SIU investigation showed the confessions were not in fact obtained through torture.
The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims called the verdict ‘critically flawed’ and said the SIU’s report ‘fails to meet the minimum professional standards and minimum international legal standards to which the Kingdom of Bahrain is subject’.
Reprieve Deputy Director Harriet McCulloch said: ‘What we heard in the House today from Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly was more empty talk about Britain’s “moral responsibility” to protect human rights in Bahrain.
‘Two Bahraini men are likely to be sentenced to death on Monday, based on false confessions, following a UK-supported whitewash of their torture.’
‘It is not enough to have ‘candid conversations’ with Bahrain: Britain must act now to save their lives.’
Labor’s shadow Middle East minister, Wayne David, said the government needed to act ‘far more proactively’ by heaping pressure on the king before Monday’s verdict.
He told Metro.co.uk: ‘We should be using our economic leverage to the full. If Britain is to be seen as a moral standard-bearer it has to take a firm stance on these issues.
Mr. David called for a ‘full-scale review’ of the torture allegations and for the UK to end its involvement with the Bahraini Ombudsman and SIU if they are proven, suggesting Britain’s training had a ‘knock-on effect’ on the men’s trials
Stephen Doughty, a shadow Foreign Office minister, repeated claims that the UK has spent £5 million supporting Bahrain and demanded evidence that its training had benefited the country’s human rights record.