Due to his Participation in a Human Rights Symposium in the British House of Lords:
The British Embassy in Bahrain prevents a human rights activist from getting a visa
Manama, Oslo – 17 December 2008
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights -BYSHR and the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights and International Law-AECHR express their deep concern regarding the measures the British embassy in Bahrain took in delaying the procedures of obtaining a visa for entering the British lands for Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati – president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – in order to participate in a symposium held by Lord Eric Avebury – member of the British House of Lords [[i]] – regarding human rights issues in Bahrain. Mr. Avebury had extended an invitation to Mr. Al-Maskati to participate with a paper on human rights issues in Bahrain on 18 December 2008 at the headquarters of the British House of Lords in London.
Mr. Al-Maskati stated that he received the invitation on 30 November 2008, and on 4 December he applied for a visa and he attached the letter addressed to the British embassy in Bahrain to facilitate obtaining the visa. For 13 days he continuously and for several times kept checking with the people in charge of extracting visas, and he also checked with the visa department in the British embassy. This continuous follow-up did not give any results whether with a rejection or approval, nor did the embassy even ask for additional documents other than the invitation letter that was attached to the visa application.
Al-Maskati made clear that he informed Lord Avebury of the delay in obtaining the visa, and Lord Avebury told him that he would keep track of the case with the British Foreign Office to know the cause of delay in the visa.
Al-Maskati stressed that on 17 December 2008, he decided not to participate in the symposium, and he informed Lord Avebury of this decision, because he would not be able to travel within just one day, and in case he did get the visa he would not be able to participate because the next flight would arrive in London later than the time of the event.
The information of The BYSHR and the AECHR indicate that the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some of the members of parliament, who have a close relation with the executive powers in Bahrain, have played a role in preventing the participation of human rights activists in the event held by the House of Lords [[ii]]. The reports published in the local and international newspapers indicate the intensive meetings that were held between some of the MPs and the British ambassador in Bahrain, and between the Minister of Foreign Affairs with the British Foreign Secretary, where they discussed issues concerning Bahraini human rights activists who have obtained political asylum in Britain and the Bahraini authorities resentment towards the British government giving political asylum to Bahraini activists who the authorities accuse of committing acts of sabotage and riots in Bahrain, and also Bahrain’s resentment towards holding annual events on human rights issues in Bahrain, and the participation of international organizations in these events.
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Arab-Euro Center emphasize that the British embassy in Bahrain does not carry out the EU guidelines on human rights defenders in the world. The European Commission of Human Rights has confirmed that the Union Member States should inform their embassies in countries of the guidelines on the definition of human rights defenders, and which emphasizes providing the protection possible to whoever carries out a job in the field of human rights [[iii]].
The BYSHR Rights and the AECHR stress on the following:
1. To provide legal and moral protection to the human rights activist Mohammed Al-Maskati, in order for him to practice his work in utmost freedom.
2. To investigate the details of the delay in extracting a visa for Mr. Al-Maskati by the British embassy in Bahrain.
3. The European Union should direct a straightforward criticism to the British government for the embassy’s lack of attention towards the EU Commission of Human Rights’ guidelines.
4. The British embassy in Bahrain should practice its diplomatic work in utmost freedom without any pressures from the Bahraini authorities.
5. The international organizations should criticize what the British embassy in Bahrain did towards Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati.
For further information:
In Bahrain, Nader Al-Salatna – Vice president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – firstname.lastname@example.org
In Norway, D. Abdullah Al-Salamo – Assistant director of the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights – email@example.com
[[i]] Lord Eric Avebury’s website http://ericavebury.blogspot.com/
[[ii]] Statements of some of the MPs close to the executive power , Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs statements
[[iii]] The EU human rights commission’s guidelines on the defenders of human rights