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Human rights in Bahrain

Bahrain is a majority-Shiite country ruled by a Sunni monarchy. Widespread protests in 2011 were seen as a threat to the survival of the monarchy and the response from the authorities was harsh, culminating in a military intervention from the GCC countries, led by Saudi Arabia. The Sunni/Shia rift, an important part of Bahrain’s troubles, is viewed as a microcosm of the broader sectarian contest in the region and of the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office lists Bahrain as a priority country in its 2017 Human Rights and Democracy Report; although it says there is a “mixed picture” in Bahrain. The FCO highlights prison sentences for people such as Nabeel Rajab, a human rights activist and opposition leader; the suspension of al-Wasat newspaper, one of the few independent news sources in the country; the fact that Bahrain has stripped people of Bahraini nationality, leaving them stateless; and the fact that several people were condemned to death in 2017.

The FCO also mentioned some signs of progress: the Bahraini Parliament passed a new law to benefit women and children and the Government acted against slavery and human trafficking. The UK provides technical expertise aimed at promoting the rule of law, strengthening public institutions and developing human rights monitoring bodies.

UK relations with Bahrain

The Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Joint Forces Command provide military training to Bahraini armed forces.

The UK also has a Naval Support Facility at Mina Salman in Bahrain, the first major British base in the region since the 1970s, which, the Government says will “enhance the Royal Navy’s ability to operate effectively in the Gulf and further demonstrate the Government’s enduring commitment to regional security”.

On 24 July 2018, the 10th meeting of the UK-Bahrain Joint Working Group was held in London. Chaired by the Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa and UK Middle East Minister Alistair Burt. The two ministers, accompanied by civil servants, discussed regional issues, defence, security, human rights, education, the environment, and trade and investment opportunities.

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