Britain plays double game on Bahrain

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces fire teargas canisters to disperse anti-regime protesters in Manama (file photo).

A British Foreign Office Minister has criticized the Bahraini regime for human rights abuses, while the UK government is considered as one of the most supportive of the Al Khalifa monarchy.

Following the Arab country’s top court ruling to uphold prison terms for 13 pro-democracy activists, including eight life sentences, British Minister for Middle East Alistair Burt claimed that he was “deeply dismayed” at the appeal verdicts.

On January 7, Bahrain’s highest court rejected the jailed activists’ appeal and upheld their sentences for their roles in anti-regime protests in 2011.

“I call on the government of Bahrain to meet all its human rights obligations and guarantee its citizens the fundamental liberties to which they are entitled,” Burt said in a statement.

The British official’s remarks come as the UK government faces censure for supplying the Manama regime with weaponry to crush peaceful pro-democracy protests in the tiny Persian Gulf island.

Bahrain, the home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been gripped by anti-regime demonstrations since February 2011. The Manama regime has been crushing the protests using harsh security tactics that have so far killed dozens of people and injured many more.

In October last year, The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee alleged that the UK government is playing double games on human rights issues, as it introduced its own boycott of the Euro 2012 football championships in Ukraine but it failed to take any action over Bahrain’s controversial Formula One Grand Prix held in April 2012.

However, British Foreign Secretary William Hague described the UK’s relation with the Arab kingdom as “strong and deep-rooted”, hailing the Bahraini regime for what he claimed to be efforts to address concerns about human rights, after a meeting with his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa in London on November 20, 2012.