Boris Johnson has been accused of putting trade before torture after he met senior Bahraini officials in Downing Street to discuss a free trade deal with the Gulf states.
Neither the Foreign Office nor Downing Street advertised the meeting with the country’s prime minister, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, in advance, with one official citing security concerns.
Downing Street’s statement after the meeting said the two sides had agreed to “further strengthen our economic, security and diplomatic cooperation”.
The UK is looking to strike a new trade deal with the Gulf countries either bilaterally via individual states or through their collective body, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes バーレーン, Qatar, サウジアラビア, Kuwait, Oman and theUnited Arab Emirates.
Last November the UK government announced it was starting work with the GCC on a joint investment and trade review intended to be completed by this month. The review is a prelude to a free trade deal that the trade secretary, リズ・トラス, has said the UK is seeking.
The GCC is already one of the UK’s largest trading partners, with bilateral trade amounting to almost £45bn in 2019.
Bahrain has been pressing for the free trade talks to start before the review is complete, but the UK wanted to wait for the research into what barriers the two sides needed to address before the talks started. Bahrain has already drawn up a white paper with its thoughts and expectations on what might be included in any deal. One proposal is for the GCC to draw up a relatively skeletal deal upon which individual countries could build in bilateral talks with the UK.
The UK is likely to face intense parliamentary scrutiny of any trade deals with Gulf states due to their human rights records. The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven said: “I am dismayed but unfortunately not surprised that the prime minister rolled out the red carpet and put trade over torture with his meeting with the crown prince today. Even the official press release fails to mention human rights abuses.”
The UK is a close ally of Bahrain, and says it works with Bahrain to help the country reform its penal system.
In a sign of pressure to come, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), 前記: “If Britain is truly seeking a free trade deal with a regime that holds political prisoners as hostages, tortures children and throws even mild critics in jail, it is imperative that human rights issues are at the core of any future trade relationship.”
Reprieve, the campaign group against the death penalty, pointed to the cases of Mohammed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa – two men that have been facing execution since at least 2017 for what they “confessed” under torture.
In a joint report coinciding with the visit, Reprieve and Bird said: “Between 2011 そして 2020, Bahrain has sentenced at least 51 people to death. Between 2001 そして 2010, the decade before the Arab spring, the number executed was seven. They claimed that per head of the population Bahrain’s record was not substantially better than Iran’s.