United Kingdom: latest FCO human rights report fails to properly address human rights issues in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released its annual rights report  which has failed to depict a realistic image of the human rights’ situation in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Starting from Bahrain, the report has ignored the information and evidence concerning multiple cases of torture, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment which have been occurring throughout the country, even if the cases of Nabeel Rajab and Sheikh Ali Salman have been undeniably mentioned. Furthermore, the activity of the Bahraini human rights bodies, such as the Ombudsman and the Special Investigation Unit, have been wrongly praised for their presumed independent work. Moreover, the results of the latest parliamentary elections, held in November 2018, have been described as “a democratically-elected parliament.” Ignoring the fact that it was indeed a single-party election. A shammed criterion, characterised by the arbitrary dissolution of the major opposition societies, Al-Wefaq and Wa’ad, and by the crack down on civil society and political activists. Something which appears to be a clear non-democratic behaviour.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia, the report lacked accuracy in tackling human rights issues that have occurred in the Kingdom. Commending the decision to lift the ban on women driving the FCO’s analysis is rather simplistic, for it happened a few weeks after the arbitrary arrest of eleven women protesting the ban and the consequent reaction of the international community.  Nowadays, women keep enduring the worst human rights violations and atrocities in Saudi Arabia, together with human rights defenders, migrant workers and whoever practices a different religion.

The report has neglected to thoroughly assess the case of Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has been barely mentioned, without drawing the attention to the numerous airstrikes which have devastated the life of hundreds of civilians. Moreover, no space was devoted to talk about the cholera outbreak. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 million suspected cases of cholera have been recorded since its outbreak in 2016. Since then, Oxfam International has reported that over 3,000 people have died.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) is disappointed by the latest FCO’s annual rights report. We hoped that the UK, a country which has always expressed a strong commitment to human rights, could stand up for these rights and attack more vigorously who infringe them all around the world.

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