Not Just Qatar – Against World Cup Backdrop, UK Peers Lambast Gulf States Over Human Rights to day

Bahraini human rights activists have welcomed a British government minister’s promise to hold a meeting with them to discuss the situation in their country.

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The pledge was made by Middle East Secretary of State Lord Ahmad during a debate on the human rights situation in the Gulf States held in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the UK Parliament, on November 24.

Bahrain and the other five members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) received sustained criticism for their human rights record during the debate.

It came against the backdrop of the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, where there has been widespread negative media coverage of that country’s treatment of migrant workers and the LGBT community in particular.

The debate was followed in the public gallery by Ali Mushaima, whose father Hasan Mushaima is in prison in Bahrain. There were also opposition activists Ebtisam Al-Saegh and Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei. Lord Ahmad said he would arrange a meeting with them “as soon as possible”.

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Ali Mushaima said after the debate that he was happy that his father’s case was brought up in the debate. “Today, as Lord Ahmad tried to defend the UK’s support for my father’s abusers, more members of my family were detained by the regime in Bahrain because they [the] demand that my father’s basic right to medical treatment be met.”

Commenting on the debate, Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute of Law and Democracy, said: “It was important that survivors of torture from the Bahraini regime were present today to hear the minister’s response firsthand. We look forward to meeting Lord Ahmad as soon as possible.”

Region-wide criticism

Lord Scriven, a vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, opened the debate by pointing to the deterioration of human rights across the region in recent years and questioned whether the Gulf Strategy Fund of the British government must continue. “After a decade of British taxpayer-funded aid to these wealthy regimes, their human rights record has largely deteriorated, often in flagrant violation of international law,” he said.

In addition to the lack of democracy, he pointed to the “severe restrictions on freedom of expression, political participation and the media. Migrant workers make up the bulk of the workforce in any state and are often denied basic rights. Women and LGBT+ people are systematically discriminated against.”

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While Qatar’s record has drawn a lot of media attention in recent days, criticism has been directed at all six GCC countries, including this year’s mass executions in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Labor Party colleague Lord Cashman noted that of the 11 UN member states that prescribe the death penalty for consensual same-sex relations, three are in the GCC: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. The other Gulf states impose sentences of a minimum of three years for same-sex relationships.

Aside from the government, there was one lone voice in the room offering some support to the Gulf states, with Liberal Democrat peer Lord Hussain saying the progress Qatar has made in recent years “should be appreciated and welcomed”. Lord Hussain said he had recently visited Qatar as part of a delegation of parliamentarians from seven European countries invited by Qatar’s National Human Rights Commission.

In response to the government, Lord Ahmad, who is also minister responsible for human rights, described the debate as “an insightful, passionate, emotional and detailed insight”.

“It’s important that we have these discussions to bring awareness to these issues and how to unlock them,” he said. “There are times when you want to scream very publicly. When I move from the front benches and return to the back benches, I am sure there will be occasions when I will raise these issues in a much more public way.”

Lord Ahmad said he regularly raised specific human rights cases with Gulf governments and their ambassadors in London, including the case of Jordanian Hussein Abo al-Kheir, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia – Lord Ahmad said he raised the matter at a meeting raised the matter with the Saudi ambassador that morning.

Earlier in the debate, Green Party colleague Baroness Bennett had said Al-Kheir had been tortured into confessing to drug offenses after he was arrested in 2014. like a death row. His execution can take place at any time,” she said.

The debate is unlikely to be the last time the issue of human rights in the Gulf will be raised in the House.

“FIFA and world football have put the spotlight on the Gulf States,” said Lord Cashman. “It is a spotlight that will last long after the last game. It is a spotlight that reminds us that what is done against people in other countries is just as important and urgent as if it were happening to us.”


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