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Bahrain: Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa

Volume 801: debated on Wednesday 12 February 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to continue to provide funds for Bahrain through the Integrated Activity Fund following the decision of the Fourth Supreme Court of Appeals in Bahrain to uphold the death sentence in respect of Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa.

My Lords, progress on human rights reform has been made, but there remains more to do. The United Kingdom is committed to supporting Bahrain-led reform, including through carefully targeted assistance and private and public engagement. We are clear that disengaging or criticising from the sidelines is less likely to deliver the positive reform that Bahrain and the international community seek.

I have been given the official dossier from the Bahraini Special Investigations Unit, which reveals that its investigation into the torture allegations of the death row inmates Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa was inconsistent, contradictory and contravenes international standards. The dossier shows that the SIU, which the noble Lord maintains is transparent, is quite the opposite and implicated now in human rights abuses. In the light of this, will the Minister agree to a meeting with me and representatives from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy to discuss this dossier, the IAF funding and why these two men transpire to have been deemed guilty by the Bahraini authorities even before they went to the dock?

My Lords, I am always happy to meet and we can look into that. On the noble Lord’s more specific point, I beg to differ. It was because of the United Kingdom’s investment in and provision of technical support, particularly for the oversight authorities, that the cases of Hussain Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan were looked at again. The noble Lord shakes his head but that is a fact. Of course, we regret the fact that the death penalty prevails as a form of sentencing in Bahrain. In that respect, I assure the noble Lord that I, the ambassador and my right honourable friend Dr Murrison, the Minister responsible, have made it known that we do not believe the death sentence should prevail, and we will continue to make that case to the Bahraini authorities.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes the point about positive engagement and seeking change, and I know that the UK is funding the alternative non-custodial sentencing programme. However, we now have a report from eight UN experts on this programme, saying that it discriminates against human rights defenders. What does the noble Lord say about that when he is the Minister responsible for human rights and his own programmes are discriminating against them?

Given his background, I am sure the noble Lord will know that we worked directly with UNDP on that programme and we have been working on this issue. He raised the issue of alternative sentencing and we have seen positive outcomes: up to 1,000 people have now been looked upon for alternatives to prison sentences. The noble Lord rightly raises genuine concerns about human rights and those continue. As I said in my original Answer, we are far from where we want to be but our continual engagement with the Bahraini authorities is producing results.

Does the Minister agree that the British judicial system is one of the best in the globe, if not the best, and that many countries have benefited through training from our judicial systems? Can he offer additional training to some of the countries that we know well have uncertain outcomes of their judgments? I know how much judges of the countries I serve in welcome visits, support and training from our judicial system.

My noble friend makes a helpful suggestion, but we are seeking to do more. In this respect, judges from Bahrain have visited Crown Courts and magistrates’ courts in the United Kingdom and we continue to engage with the judiciary on this point.

My Lords, in the past hour the UN has called on Bahrain to prevent the execution of these two men, saying:

“Admission of evidence obtained under torture into any proceeding violates the rights to due process and fair trial and is prohibited without exception. If carried out in these circumstances, the death penalty would constitute an arbitrary killing.”

Does the Minister agree?

My Lords, I am aware of those reports, but I have not seen the full detail. On a previous occasion last year, when the death penalty was also passed, I made a direct intervention. Unfortunately, that death sentence was not reversed. Subsequently, at the Human Rights Council, we made specific reference under Item 2 on the death penalty and will continue to do. I will review the report the noble Baroness mentioned on my return. It remains the consistent position of the United Kingdom Government that the death penalty should not be part of sentencing policy. We continue to make that case with Bahrain and elsewhere.