“The King of Bahrain, whose regime has been accused of brutally suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations, will have lunch with the Queen in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.
The Middle East ruler is one of a number of foreign monarchs criticised for their human rights records or extravagant lifestyles who have been invited to dine with the British Royal Family.
Buckingham Palace has released a guest list for the Sovereign Monarchs lunch being held at Windsor Castle – the biggest gathering of foreign royals in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year.
Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa has been condemned as a despot by former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane in the run up to the lunch.
The Labour MP said many would regret Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to approve the inclusion of the Middle East ruler. But the Foreign Office has stressed it is supporting Bahrain in its attempts to improve its human rights.
Guests from controversial regimes include Swaziland’s King Mswati III, Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.
Mr MacShane said: “Arab nations must let their citizens vote in free elections and let them speak without fear of arrest, torture or death.
“For too long we have turned a blind eye to the repression carried out under the rule of royals in Arabia.
“The FCO should protect the British Queen rather than expose her to having to dine with a despot.” “
Lest we forget, the Guardian’s page on Bahrain.
AI’s page on Bahrain.
“This is consistent with the way the Bahraini authorities have responded to unrest over the past year. Among those on the receiving end of the crackdown have been members of the medical profession (attacked, detained and tortured for helping injured protesters) and academics (abused for failing to show sufficient fealty to the ruling family).
Worldwide condemnation did force the ruling al-Khalifa family to make concessions last year, notably the setting up of an International Commission of Inquiry to look into rights abuses and reform. This was a significant step and raised hopes. The commission’s report, released in late November, was damning and made strong recommendations to the Bahraini Government, including holding to account those responsible for past abuses and legal reforms to help to prevent their recurrence. But five months on, very little has changed.
Despite evidence that the Bahraini security forces have engaged in widespread torture, no senior figures have been brought to justice for these crimes. And while the guilty remain at large, thousands have been convicted and incarcerated, not for genuine criminal offences but for peaceful protest. Human Rights Watch has documented scores of cases in which long prison sentences have been handed down on the basis of unfair trials, with defendants denied legal representation and with confessions obtained through torture.
The most high-profile of these prisoners is Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a leading human rights and political activist. Mr Khawaja has been on hunger strike since February 8 in protest at the life sentence he received in June and he is now close to death. The Bahraini Government has accused him of “plotting against the state”. However his trial was fundamentally unfair, with no evidence produced to suggest that he either advocated or used violence during the protests. The shocking reality is that he had been jailed for life for demanding political reform. The Bahrainis have also blocked proposals to allow Mr Khawaja to leave for medical treatment in Denmark, where he also has citizenship. “