The government have done something right. Hoorah. On the Andrew Marr show, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that any individual that has abused human rights would not be able to enter the country. He specifically spoke about the Olympics and clarified that that any athletes from the Syrian delegation who had connections (or supported) Bashar al-Assad’s regime would be banned from entering the UK.
I don’t need to say it but this is a fantastic move on the part of the British government. As a country, we shouldn’t be welcoming those who are involved in torture, mass murder or a string of further abuses, as is the case with al-Assad’s regime. And the same can be said of the leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and a number of other countries.
If the government are serious about this, they need to prove it. In Bahrain, citizens have been protesting peacefully for over a year, and one person was shot and killed on the very first day. In a continuation of the brutal tactics, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa then brought in tanks from Saudi Arabia to viciously crush the non-violent movement. Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington, D.C. office of Human Rights Watch, dubbed Bahrain “Prison Island” and writes that in response for taking part in peaceful demonstrations, protesters can expect to be either arrested, tortured, thrown off a building onto a balcony, tear-gassed or a mixture of the above. So why, just over 10 days ago, was King Hamad at the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations sharing a joke with Her Majesty?
Similarly, Iranian leaders should also be banned from the UK for sending in forces to Syria – although I don’t think that would be too difficult for the British government.
In Yemen, after enduring protests in which many of those involved were killed, the people elected the former Vice President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi – as he was the only person on the ballot. The deal which lead to Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation was backed by the European Union – even though it consisted of giving amnesty to all crimes committed by the former president and thereby broke UN Security Council Resolution 2014 (“all those responsible for violence, human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable.”) With abstention votes being ignored, and many security commanders unchanged from the previous regime, human rights abusers are plentiful in the country. Britain should not only ban those involved from entering the country, but also demand that they be tried under international law for war crimes.
And don’t get me started on Saudi Arabia – who aren’t even sending any women athletes, and have been denying women opportunities to play sport in the country for many years. Apart from sending tanks to Bahrain, this is the same country where public protests are banned, where girls and women have to seek permission from their “male guardians” before travelling or studying and where a fair trial is not commonplace. And rather than banning the team from entering, on 23 May BAE sold the country twenty-two Hawk trainer jets in a £1.9bn deal. To top it off, Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal was “more good news for British jobs, for British investment and British Aerospace”. Fabulous.
How about Israel, a British ally, who arrested a member of the Palestinian national football team three years ago and is still held without trial or any charges? Forget the confining of citizens within the Gaza strip and Operation Cast lead in 2008-2009, which included the “unlawful use of white phosphorus”, London 2012 is meant to be “Everyone’s Games”. Arresting members of sports teams without a trial doesn’t particularly fit in with that message, does it?
And how’s our record? It turns out that we can put TPIMs on suspects and detain someone for up to two years without charge, we arrested activists before the Royal Wedding because of a suspicion that they may protest, we found out that the police are using heavy-handed tactics during protests, and that we were complicit in torture in Libya. We still have some work to do on the human rights front, then.
This new move by the British government has the potential be an excellent one, a broad claim that Britain will not welcome anyone involved with human rights abuses. The biggest problem is that we work closely with many countries that are extremely guilty of human rights abuses. If Britain wants to be seen as serious, they need to be consistent. Yes, it will lead to a number of countries lacking participants but it will show that the British government does not support those countries in any way. It’s no wonder that I’m not too hopeful…
Originally published in The Huffington Post UK.
Originally published in The Huffington Post UK.