Deal with Bahrain in spite of ‘concerns’

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD: Bishop Robert Paterson

HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD: Bishop Robert Paterson

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THE Isle of Man endorses the ‘deep concern’ expressed by the United Kingdom Government about human rights abuses in Bahrain, Chief Minister Tony Brown has said.

In Tuesday’s Tynwald sitting he was asked by Bishop Robert Paterson to respond to the latest reports of human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters in the Gulf state.

The bishop’s concerns follow the island’s signing of a double taxation agreement with Bahrain earlier this year.

Mr Brown said that while the island was not a sovereign state and so did not conduct international relations or foreign policy in its own right, it was ‘very responsive to the actions of the international community in general, and the United Kingdom in particular’.

He said the island would join the many countries and organisations in urging the Government of Bahrain to ‘meet all of its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, and to carry out investigations into alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces’.

He added: ‘We welcome the King of Bahrain’s announcement this month to establish an independent commission to look into allegations of human rights abuses, and his commitment to a National Dialogue with groups across the country.’ He said there had been no further relations with Bahrain since the double tax agreement was signed in February.

Bishops rarely table questions in Tynwald, so this was a sign of how strongly Bishop Robert feels about the island’s links with the Gulf state.

The Bishop raised his concerns when the matter was last raised in Tynwald in March.

He tabled an unsuccessful three-month adjournment on the ratification of the taxation agreement to allow the full picture to emerge.

Pressure group the Celtic League has repeatedly criticised the situation.

It issued a statement saying: ‘Subscribers to Celtic News will recall that the League raised this issue with the Manx government some time ago and we were disappointed that the matter has not surfaced politically sooner.

‘Obviously gratifying as it is to have the Bishop highlight the issue, it is still disappointing that no elected member of the Keys chose to question the government’s moral compass.’

League director of information Bernard Moffatt said that just days after the ratification, pro-democracy demonstrators were gunned down in the streets and members of the majority Shia community were the target of violence and intimidation.

And he said hospital staff treating injured pro-democracy protesters were ‘being subjected to a wave of terror’.

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