I recognise the serious concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain, particularly on the position of opposition and civil liberties groups, the detention of political prisoners and allegations of torture.
I am aware of Dr al-Singace’s case and have read deeply disturbing reports of Dr al-Singace’s treatment by the Bahraini authorities.
According to the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, following Dr al-Singace’s arrest Bahraini authorities placed him in solitary confinement for two months and subjected him to torture.
Likewise I know that Dr al-Singace went on hunger strike at the start of July 2021 to protest his continuing ill-treatment, as well as the confiscation of a book he has been working on for the past four years. Reports about Dr al-Singace’s health since then have been profoundly troubling.
Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights have joined with over 100 academics in calling for Dr al-Singace’s confiscated research to be returned and for him to be immediately released from prison. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has also called for Dr al-Singace to be immediately released.
I am proud that my colleague, the Shadow Minister for the Middle East, wrote to the Government about Dr al-Singace’s case and treatment on 26 August 2021, urging his release.
Where the UK can exert influence, this Government should not remain silent. However currently despite evidence to suggest that the two Bahraini security bodies that enabled torture-the Special Investigations Unit and the ombudsman for the Ministry of Interior-were funded by this Government, they have chosen to stay silent. The Government needs to step up and condemn the use of torture by the security forces in Bahrain, rather than just monitoring them. Likewise the UK has spent £5 million on a programme of technical assistance to the Kingdom of Bahrain since 2012, but during this time death sentence have tripled, allegations of torture have been widespread, and unlawful executions have been carried out.
Myself and Labour colleagues have argued that the Government should press the Government of Bahrain to establish an independent commission of inquiry to conduct an Istanbul protocol-compliant investigation into the torture allegations for these two men. The Government should also freeze assistance to the Bahraini security bodies that are potentially implicated in this case and publish the human rights assessments and the assessments against the overseas security and justice assistance guidance, which the Foreign Office is supposed to use when funding such programmes to assess whether the programmes it supports are implicated in torture and the use of the death penalty.
The UK continues to have a close relationship with Bahrain. Therefore I believe it is vital that the UK Government uses this relationship to be seen to be doing all it can to press for the immediate release of political prisoners in Bahrain who are still detained for standing up for democracy, including Dr al-Singace. The UK Government should therefore publicly call on the Bahraini authorities to return Dr al-Singace’s confiscated research and immediately and unconditionally release him from detention.
Unfortunately because of parliamentary convention I am restricted from signing any EDMs due to my position as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However, I can assure you that I will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Bahrain and the Dr al-Singace case closely.