In the wake of the brutal suppression of Bahraini protestors by the al-Khalifa regime, Foreign Office Minister Lord David Howell said in a statement to the House of Lords that the Foreign Office is not currently considering an embargo on Bahrain.
“At this present stage, we do not consider travel bans or other charges and moves of that kind to be a proper way forward,” Lord Howell said.
According to the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRAN), Howell insisted London believes in the settlement of the crisis in Bahrain through a national dialogue claiming the situation is an “appalling” case of “inter-regional strife between the Shai majority and the Sunni minority that represents the ruling group”.
Howell’s description of the situation in Bahrain as a conflict between the Sunni rulers and the Shia opposition comes as, Bahrainis living in Britain chanted slogans of “Shias and Sunnis are united in Bahrain” in a late April rally outside the Saudi embassy in London stressing the uprising in the Persian Gulf state aims at obtaining “justice and democracy”.
“For the moment, we stick to the view that we must urge these countries, the ruling family [al-Khalifa] and the leaders on both sides-the opposition and the ruling group-to move towards a national dialogue. That is what they say they want and that is what we are urging them to do as hard as we can at the moment,” Howess insisted.
Howell’s remarks came during a Lords debate on whether to impose sanctions on Bahrain over the reported persecution of medical staff by the country’s rulers who are charging doctors with crimes against the monarchy.
Howell had no alternative but to accept that the harsh treatment of the medical staff by the Bahraini regime is too serious to ignore.
“We are deeply concerned about reports of the severe charges brought against a large number of doctors and nurses by a Bahraini military tribunal. It is essential that medical personnel can treat their patients free from political interference,” Howell said.
He added “the arrest of doctors and nurses seeking to perform their duties is clearly an appalling situation,” yet he tried to justify inaction against al-Khalifa regime insisting “not all aspects of this case are clear at the moment”.
Howell made the remarks in the face of what he accepted as “strong” reasons to believe the regime is mistreating medical personnel, though he claimed he is “not yet convinced” by the evidence.
This comes as Conservative peer Lord Ribeiro, who is a consultant surgeon by profession, said Howell has a list of 17 doctors detained adding the reports of torture and beatings leave no doubt that the Bahraini regime is “failing in their duty of care to protect doctors and medical staff”.
“The International Code of Medical Ethics, adopted in 1949 and amended in 2006, states: ‘A physician shall give emergency care as a humanitarian duty’,” Ribeiro said.
Howell also ignored Liberal Democrat Lord Avebury’s call for a “travel ban” on senior members of the al-Khalifa regime and their prosecution at the ICC for “crimes against humanity”.
Lord Avebury said the regime’s leaders should only be spared such punishments if they allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to launch impartial investigations into the Bahraini situation and release the detainees.
The calls by Avebury and Ribeiro were also echoed by Former foreign secretary Lord Owen who said London should use its leverage in the Security Council, the World Health Organization and all humanitarian bodies to raise the issue at the very highest level.
“There is now very clear evidence of targeted action against individuals who are caring for people who come into hospital as a result of demonstrations. The Bahrain Government, who have had good relations with this country over many years, must now listen to those representations,” Owen said