SHAFAQNA – A group of lawyers in London are threatening to prosecute the UK government to revoke its decision of establishing a permanent military base in Bahrain. They are also threatening a judicial review of military assistance and support provided by Britain to the Bahraini government, VICE News, The Independent and RT have learned.
Solicitors at Deighton Pierce, in London are challenging the legality of the move: On the grounds that Britain did not conduct a review of human rights risks before agreeing to build the base, which is expected to cost £15-million mainly funded by the Bahraini royal family.
The Independent pointed out that the Bahraini activist’s lawyers will claim that the Ministry of Defence should have followed the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) guidance set out by the Government in 2011. These rules call on ministers and civil servants officials consider “human rights implications” on security and justice agreements with Britain’s allies overseas.
Moosa Mohammed, a Bahraini human rights activist, is set to file the lawsuit against the British government. He assigned lawyers to prosecute before the British courts against the PM David Cameron last week. He says the Ministry of Defence has admitted it did not take the human rights situation in Bahrain into account when it agreed to the new base that accommodates aircraft carriers.
Moosa Mohammed was granted asylum in Britain in 2006 after claiming he was abducted and tortured by the Bahraini regime.
David Cameron’s Government Refuses to hand in documents to lawyers
Meanwhile, David Cameron’s government refused to hand in documents to lawyers.
Mohammed’s lawyers have written to the British government threatening a judicial review after officials refused to release documents disclosing the UK’s support of the Bahraini military and security services whether in the past, present or future.
Lawyer Sue Willman sent letters to Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defense, asking for detailed information about how and by whom the British naval base will be used. Lawyers counter that without knowing exactly how the naval base is going to be used, they can’t determine whether or not its construction constitutes assistance to Bahrain. Thus, they contacted the government again demanding the disclosure of these documents.
“If the government has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to release documents about what assistance is being provided and to whom?” Sue Willman told the Independent.
Lawyers said that they are concerned that the Government has not provided any detailed information or documents to confirm what the base will be used for or why the Bahrain government is funding its development,” lawyer Chessie Aeron-Thomas, who is also working on the case declared.
Moosa Mohammed lawyers say that once they see those documents, they can decide whether to take further legal action – and whether to demand an urgent judicial review of the UK-Bahrain deal. In the extreme case, lawyers would seek an injunction on the agreement, to halt further work on the naval base.
“The British public deserve to know why the UK government is collaborating so closely with Bahrain, a country which has a terrible record on human rights,” Moosa Mohammed said.
An Uphill Struggle
The British government sent a three-page response to solicitors – arguing that the base does not involve provision of military assistance to Bahrain and therefore no assessment is required.
A British government spokesperson told the Independent: “The UK government is supporting the government of Bahrain in its reform program… will continue to provide assistance to them”. He also claimed that, “The recent defense agreement is not about the provision of military assistance to Bahrain, and therefore no assessment was required.”
Meanwhile legal sources told the Independent that the legal challenge was “innovative” but would be an “uphill struggle” unless the legal team could force the government to release more documents.
Nonetheless the legal challenge could prove embarrassing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which refused to list Bahrain as a “Country of Concern” in its annual Human Rights report, despite concerns from NGOs, The Independent announced.
The case could also put any potential deal to sell Typhoon aircraft to Bahrain in the spotlight after a senior British military source told The Independent that the base in Bahrain was the second choice in the region and was selected after the United Arab Emirates ruled out buying the advanced combat plane in December 2013.
The clampdown in Bahrain has intensified since the base was announced
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced the deal of establishing a British base in Bahrain in December 2014 and told the Bahraini officials while signing the agreement, “Your security is our security.”
Allan Hogarth, head of policy and government affairs in Amnesty International, said “the UK government must ensure that human rights are not sacrificed at the altar of trade and military deals with the Bahrainis.”, “If there are conversations going on behind the scenes, clearly they are not working. It is time for the UK government to come out and publicly condemn this assault on human rights,” he added. This statement follows a highly critical Amnesty report on human rights in Bahrain last month.
From his part, Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade told the Independent: “The UK has already put a lot of time, effort and political capital into arming and supporting the Bahraini dictatorship, and the drive for Typhoon sales has been right at the heart of it. The message it sends out is that the human rights of Bahraini people is of less importance than profits for BAE Systems.”
In February, Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House, told VICE News that” Bahrain’s clamp down on the opposition has only intensified since the base was announced. The base has probably given the government more confidence.”
The UK and US supported Bahrain’s Sunni-dominated government after it violently put down protests by the majority Shia population. In addition to the military base, the sales of British arms to Bahrain increased and reached £18 million in 2014. Last year, Britain classified Bahrain as a “priority market” for weapons sales.
On February 14th, 2011, Bahrainis took to the streets in protest demanding democratic change, but these peaceful demonstrations were quashed by the Bahraini government and forces from KSA that invaded Bahrain to help it in cracking the protesters down.