Despite ongoing human rights abuses the UK sells weapons to Bahrain

Isa al-Aali, a Bahraini activist, revealed to the Campaign Against Arms Trade that he was arrested and tortured by Bahraini authorities for attending a protest in 2013. Authorities accused him of throwing Molotov cocktails, and threatened to cut off his genitals unless he provided them with information. Al-Aali repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Following a three-month detention, Isa al-Aali left Bahrain and travelled to the UK, where he claimed asylum. The Home Office initially refused his claim, and threatened to deport him back to Bahrain, before the High Court intevened.

Despite the abuses Isa suffered, and the ongoing torture and mistreatment of other detainees in Bahrain, the UK continues to work with the Government of Bahrain as it supplies the Kingdom millions of pounds in arms. While the UK government has argued that “Bahrain is a country that is ‘heading in the right direction,’” human rights organizations have documented, and continue to document, detailed “rampant abuses including torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists.” Bahrain has assured its western allies that it is committed to human rights but has failed to deliver the crucial reforms needed to end repression. In spite of the well-documented human rights violations, the UK licensed £45 million ($65 million) worth of arms to Bahrain between February 2011 and September 2015. It remains to be seen whether the UK, and other Western allies of Bahrain, will ever hold the Kingdom accountable for its actions.

Tyler Pry is an Advocacy Intern at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Photo courtesy of al-Jazeera