Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tuesday I went to the Bahrain Embassy with Ann Clwyd MP, chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, for a inconclusive discussion with the Ambassador, H E Khalifa bin Ali Al Khalifa, a relative of the King, naturally. He wasn't prepared to acknowledge the blitz against the opposition, with over a thousand arrests, the dismissal of Shi'a professionals from the Salmaniya hospital, the universities and the refinery, the widespread torture of leading members of the opposition such as Hassan Mushaima, Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, Abdul Jalil al Singace etc, all personal friends of mine and regular visitors to the UK during which they have spoken at the regular seminars we have held twice a year in the Palace of Westminster.

This is accompanied by a systematic clampdown on freedom of expression, with the mysterious death in custody of Karim Fakhrawi, founder and board member of Al-Wasat, the country's only independent daily, the destruction of the printing presses by armed thugs from the security service and the arrest of the editor Mansoor al-Jamri.
Al- Wasat newspaper was supposed to shut down on May 9, 2011 according to a resolution adopted by the Annual General Meeting that was held on May 2,2011, but the Bahraini authorities contacted the newspaper's investors and told them that the paper ought to continue. So al-Wasat is still being printed.

Moreover, three leading editorial staff, Mansoor Al-Jamri, Walid Noueihed and Aqeel Mirza, (as well as Mr Ali Sherify who had been forcibly deported on May 4, 2011) were summoned to appear before the High Criminal Court on May 18, 2011, accused of fabricating news. The three senior editors were forced out of the newspaper under direct pressure and orders from the Bahraini authorities on April 2, 2011, and government stooges have been installed in their place.

There's a good article by Robert Fisk in today's Independent, see

Wednesday EU Subcommittee F in the morning, putting the final touches to our report on the EU's Internal Security Strategy. Then a lunchtime meeting to launch the Traveller Law Reform Project's Panel Review on the Coalition Government's policy on Gypsies and Travellers, A Big or Divided Society? Th . The inquiry was based on two days select-committee type hearings of evidence from experts, a formula that translated well, and I think the Panel's recommendations will be given the sympathetic consideration they deserve when the Localism Bill reaches the House of Lords.

Thursday I attended the morning sitting of the LibDem peers' 'AwayDay', a misnomer as it was held in our usual Committee 4A. There were a lot of constructive thoughts on how we recover from the loss of 700 councillors in the local elections, and the debacle of the referendum on AV. Then at 14.30, to Portcullis House to co-chair (with Jim Dobbin MP) a meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Global Action against Childhood Pneumonia to draw attention to the pledging conference in June of the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation. Helen Evans, Chief Executive of GAVI spoke, also Alan Duncan the responsible Minister at DfID, who said that the UK would come up with an increased contribution.

After that, a meeting on the situation in Bahrain with the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the highlight of which was a telephone conversation with Nabil Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Finally, Priyanka Motaparthy, the Human Rights Watch expert on Kuwait came to dinner, and we had a useful discussion on the current state of play on the Bidoon. HRW are about to publish her new report on the subject.

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