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Volume 574: debated on Tuesday 21 January 2014

The most recent assessment of the human rights situation in Bahrain is in the FCO’s update to its annual human rights report, published last September. The report noted the positive steps taken by the Bahraini Government to improve the human rights situation and highlighted areas where more needed to be done.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recommended that if Bahrain’s human rights record did not substantially improve by this January, the Foreign Office should designate it as a country of concern. Today, Human Rights Watch launched its world report and stated:

“Bahrain’s human rights record regressed further in key areas in 2013”,

from, I have to say, a fairly low base. Will the Minister accept the recommendation of the Select Committee and designate Bahrain as a country of concern?

Clearly, we follow events in Bahrain very carefully and the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Crown Prince about the situation recently. With the full backing of the King, the Crown Prince has begun a set of meetings to start a political dialogue process. We very much hope that that will see concrete steps taken to improve the situation.

What is the Foreign Office doing to object strongly to the stripping of nationality from 31 Bahraini citizens? That is a disgrace. Bahrain always cites the UK as an example of another country that has in the past stripped people of their nationality, so I would be glad if the Foreign Office would refute that.

We have a regular programme of contacts with the Bahrain Government that cover a considerable number of areas across our bilateral relationship. That is an issue that we discuss with them regularly and it will most certainly be part of the Crown Prince’s new political dialogue. I very much hope that some progress will be made.