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Police reforms possible through UK assistance programme

UK ‘helping spur Bahrain reforms’

MANAMA, July 23, 2015

Bahrain has received significant reform assistance from the UK in the last three years, revealed a top diplomat.

The comprehensive programme covered several fields including human rights, which outgoing British Ambassador Iain Lindsay said led to a wide range of reforms within the police force, the penal code and the prison system, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

He was speaking at a Press briefing held at the embassy in Ras Ruman yesterday, where he highlighted bilateral relations between Bahrain and the UK during his four year tenure here.

“Our relationship with Bahrain went through a difficult phase in 2010 and early 2011 and my task was to rebuild trust and have a process of reconciliation for the differences that existed,” he said.

“By the end of 2012, because of the trust and confidence we gained with our partners the reforms support was started.

“Our reforms support three years ago was worth zero pounds and now this programme is [worth millions].”

The UK provided support by working with different ministries and organisations, especially in implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report.

“Human rights is an area in Bahrain that continued to be commented on internationally and it is important for Bahrain to show it is making progress in the commitments it made at the time of implementations of the BICI recommendations and during the UN Human Rights Council.  

“Much of the assistance aimed to achieve sustainable stability and we recognise that Bahrain authorities require economic, social and political reforms.

“We are not saying Bahrain is perfect and I think the Bahrain leaders admit that there is still work to be done, but we believe the direction of travel is the right one and inevitably changing attitude, cultural and behaviour is not a quick process as we know from the Northern Ireland experience.”

A Bahrain delegation will travel to Northern Ireland in a few weeks to be trained in conflict management, said Lindsay, who will start his new post in Hungary in January.

“There are times when Bahrain is going forward and other times events happen and the progress is not happening as fast as we would like,” he added.

“The British government is keen to see faster reforms process here and this is the view shared by our European partners and other allies.

“In general, Bahrain is on the right track and the reform agenda and vision of His Majesty King Hamad and the government indicates it is in the right direction.”

The British envoy also spoke of engaging with the Social Development Ministry, National Institution for Human Rights, Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission and the Ombudsman Office, which investigates police misconduct, as part of the reforms support.

“The number of complaints the Ombudsman Office received have gone up and this shows people are willing to go to Office as they have greater confidence,” he said.

“Bare in mind this is the first Ombudsman in the region, a concept that is not widely accepted and understood in the region with Bahrain taking the lead.”

Meanwhile, Lindsay said bilateral trade between the two countries increased by seven per cent last year, adding that a drop in oil prices did not affect trade.

“There are 90 branches of British companies in Bahrain, over 500 active UK commercial agencies in Bahrain and in addition there are over 350 Bahraini companies who have UK partners,” he said.

“British companies use Bahrain as a platform to enter the region as the kingdom is strategically located, provides trained Bahraini workforce and still has a good reputation as the best regulated and open market in the Gulf.”

Simon Martin has been appointed as the next British Ambassador to Bahrain and will take up the post in September.

Martin joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1984 and served in London, Rangoon, Budapest and Prague.

His most recent role was deputy private secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. - TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Bahrain | UK | reforms | assistance |

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