UK Gov silent as human rights activist’s family is hounded by Gulf ally

Nathanael Williams

A leading UK democracy activist fears for his family after Bahraini government target them in response to his work

SAYED AL-WADAEI, a UK human rights advocate from Bahrain has expressed grave concerns after his family were targeted by Bahraini forces who have threatened his wife and children in the Gulf country this month.

Al-Wadaei who was given sanctuary in the UK, after allegedly being beaten and tortured by state forces trained by the UK, has accused the Bahraini Government of going back on promises of reform since the violent suppression of democratic uprisings in 2011.

Several human rights organisations have come forward to condemn the detention and abuse of members of Al-Wadaei’s family including his in-laws, which they say is a form of retribution for his campaign against the UK ally’s human rights violations.

However, the UK Government has stayed silent about its association with the regime in Bahrain, which is ruled by a sectarian Sunni absolute monarchy in a Shia majority nation, backed by regional power Saudi Arabia, also a key UK regional ally. 

Video showing recent escalation of human rights abuses

“This looks like a cowardly attempt to break the resolve of an activist by attacking his family,” said Eric Goldstein, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Bahraini authorities forced Sayed al-Wadaei into exile in Britain, where he’s a thorn in their side. Since they can’t touch him, they’ve resorted to threatening and harassing his wife, infant son, and in-laws.”

After Al-Wadaei fled Bahrain he set up the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) in 2013, which has released reports and studies which show forces under the control of senior members of Bahrain’s royal family have been involved in serious human rights abuses. Embarrassment was heaped on the UK Government when it was shown by BIRD that there have been links between support for a new naval base in Bahrain and the UK Foreign and CommonWealth Office’s (FCO) reluctance to monitor the progress of reforms in the authoritarian state.

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, has described the new base, christened by Prince Charles as “ back east of Suez.” This is a reference to the UK’s imperial history, when it dominated parts of North Africa as well as India, and held political and military sway over parts of the modern middle east.

When contacted the UK FCO first stated it was in the process of creating a statement, but after a second enquiry for a comment was not able to provide the government’s response.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been in touch with his relatives since October last year, and have reported that a large group of masked men, accompanied by police officers, detained Sayed al-Wadaei’s 18-year-old brother in-law, Nazar Sayed Namaa al-Wadaei, at a house in Jid Ali at approximately 3:40 a.m. on March 2 and taken to the infamous Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID).

Outrage as Prince Charles blesses Bahrain sectarian militia naval base 

After the arrest of Nazar, on March 5 at 1am, police in civilian clothes then went to the home of Sayed al-Wadaei’s mother-in-law, Hajar Mansoor Hasan, and summoned her to the CID, allegedly without warrant or cause. She later claimed that her son Nazar had called from a CID facility where he claimed he had been tortured by forces trained by the UK FCO and Northern Irish Ombudsman.

The pressuring of Al-Wadaei’s family coincides with a new report sponsored by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad which condemned Bahrain on its “increasing levels of human rights violations”.

Commenting, Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), said: “The high commissioner cannot effectively pressure Bahrain without the backing of states and the rest of the international community. If the community fails to do this, it will only embolden Bahrain to intensify its repressive campaign against the country’s embattled civil society.”

The EU, having recently voted to express it displeasure at moves by the contry to reinstate the death penalty, is due to send a delegation to the country.

Picture courtesy of YoutTube/HRW

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