Why Bahrain's torture prince can still visit Britain despite calls for his arrest
The regime in London, despite its pretensions to democracy and human rights, continues to support the state terrorism of the repressive Aal-e Khalifa regime against the people of Bahrain.
Now we have a feature in this regard published by Global Voices and written by Joey Ayoub, titled: “Why Bahrain's torture prince can still visit Britain despite calls for his arrest”.
In recent months, Britain’s relationship with its Persian Gulf allies leapt into the spotlight with a unique espionage tale amidst a British media landscape otherwise dominated by Brexit.
In November 2018, 31-year-old British academic Matthew Hedges returned to London after spending seven months in a jail in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), mostly in solitary confinement, on espionage charges.
Hedges’ story, which initially received relatively little attention, made it to the front pages after the UAE, a British ally, announced it was accusing Hedges of being a spy for MI6. Hedges and the British government deny the accusation.
Hedges’ story calls attention to Britain’s long and complicated history of impunity when it comes to reports of torture committed by its allies in the Persian Gulf states, and reminds us of some of the reasons Bahrain's “torture prince,” Nasser bin Hamad Aal-e Khalifa, still has the privilege and pleasure of meandering through Britain despite clear evidence of abuse ever since Bahrain's 2011 uprising.
Hedges suffered abuses during his imprisonment in the UAE that seemed to have surprised British regime, but London’s tepid response to his torture — in addition to solitary confinement for 23 hours every day, Hedges was drugged by his jailers — despite the fact that the UAE is one of Britain’s main allies in the West Asia-North Africa region.
Hedges’ wife Daniela Tejada, who had spent the entirety of the seven months campaigning for her husband's release, held the British regime responsible for ignoring her constant requests for aid.
The British regime’s response to the Hedges story revealed yet another example of the leniency afforded by London to the Arab regimes of the Persian Gulf. And activists can't help but remember how and why Bahrain's notorious “torture prince” can still walk free.
Long before Britain ignored the torture of one of its citizens at the hands of an ally, it faced a legal challenge at home for its role in protecting a notorious member of the repressive Aal-e Khalifa minority regime of Bahrain: the ruler’s Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad.
Notorious as the “torture prince” for taking part in the torture of activists who participate in the ongoing revolution that started in 2011, he once shamelessly tweeted: “If it was up to me, I’d give them all life [in prison].”
Indeed, Nasser bin Hamad, aged 32, is among those calling for the brutal repression of peaceful protesters.
As the head of Bahrain's Olympic Committee, he has created a special commission to “identify and punish more than 150 members of the sporting community” who took part in the 2011 protests alone, according to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). He publicly called for “a wall to fall on [protesters’] heads … even if they are an athlete … Bahrain is an island and there is nowhere to escape.”
Rather than face prosecution in Bahrain, his father promoted him to the commander of Bahrain's Royal Guard on June 19, 2011.
Nasser’s relationship with the British regime goes back to 2006 when he graduated from Britain’s elite Sandhurst Military Academy at the age of 19.
Given such a prestigious background, the “torture prince” may have never thought that visiting Britain could lead him to trouble. But soon after he tortured Bahraini protesters, another protester, known only as ‘FF’, made it London and successfully applied for asylum.
This meant that Britain recognized FF's legitimate claims, including FF's fears of retaliation should he or she be forced to return to Bahrain. FF, notes ADHRB, also “testified that Sheikh Nasser was involved in torture.”
A year later, however, the British regime opted to grant the “torture prince” immunity when FF called for his arrest during his July visit to the 2012 London Olympics as the head of Bahrain’s Olympic Committee. Instead, Nasser bin Hamad was spotted in the VIP section in one of London's stadiums that day, which made prominent female Bahraini activist, Maryam al-Khwaja, herself a former prisoner, tweet: “Is it true the torturer Nasser bin Hamad is being allowed to attend the Olympics in London.
The story doesn't end here. In October 2014, however, the High Court in London ruled that bin Hamad was not immune from prosecution over torture claims, reviving hopes that he could be arrested.
As the daily ‘Guardian’ reported, the dossier was then passed on to the war crimes team of the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command. To the shock of peace activists, the latter subsequently announced that “on the basis of the dossier submitted to it, the police are not investigating.”
Part of the reason why the Metropolitan police decided not to investigate was simply that key witnesses are still in Bahraini prisons and therefore can't be interviewed. Incidentally, Nasser bin Hamad's representatives made a similar argument, claiming that FF's statements “have not been tested in a British court and that there have never been any proceedings against him.”
In other words, Nasser bin Hamad's representatives tried to claim that FF's allegations could not be tested in British courts without acknowledging that the reason is that key witnesses could not be present in any court or answer any questions by British police.
And so, just a few months later, in March of 2015, Nasser bin Hamad uploaded a video of himself jogging across London's Hyde Park, renewing calls for his arrest. In fact, he has regularly visited Britain despite the charges against him, including to enjoy the yearly Royal Windsor Horse Show in the company of Queen Elizabeth II with his father, Sheikh Hamad, King of Bahrain, because the regime in London has chosen to turn a blind eye.
This blatant case of impunity has renewed questions as to whether Britain is living up to its international obligations, notably the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, which says that states must criminalize torture and pursue public officials of other nations when they are present in the state's territory.”
Britain signed it on March 15, 1985, and ratified it on December 8, 1988, but continues to blatantly violate its clauses.