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Bahrain forces escorted Queen at Jubilee horse show after MPs urged her to disinvite king

Bahraini activist says he was sickened by kingdom's defence forces involvement in star-studded celebrations, saying whoever allowed it failed to conduct human rights assessment
A lightened screengrab from ITV's televised broadcast of the Royal Windsor Horse Show showing Bahraini Defense Forces escorting the Queen (ITV)
A lightened screengrab from ITV's televised broadcast of the Royal Windsor Horse Show showing Bahraini Defence Forces escorting the Queen (ITV)

Members of Bahrain's Defence Force accompanied the Queen from the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday, days after MPs urged the monarch to "consider taking the morally correct stance" and revoke her personal invitation to the King of Bahrain. 

King Hamad, who is believed to have been invited by the Queen regularly since 2013, would have been entertained with the star-studded line-up that included Tom Cruise, Dame Helen Mirren and Damian Lewis.

But in a 13 May letter to the Queen, five MPs and two peers warned that they were "markedly concerned" that the king had continued to benefit from her invitations "despite ruling Bahrain as an absolute dictatorship". 

Bahrain: Activists condemn UK visit by royals for horse show
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In particular, they said, the king personally signed off on the death sentences of five torture survivors between 2017 and 2019 whose executions a UN special rapporteur later condemned as arbitrary or extrajudicial, and has allowed government critics "to languish behind bars for over a decade".

"We kindly urge you to consider taking the morally correct stance in this instance and stand on the right side of history by revoking your invitation to King Hamad and sending a message that the continued arbitrary detention of those opposed to the regime is unacceptable," they wrote.

In the end, King Hamad reportedly attended a lunch banquet hosted by the Queen on Saturday but did not attend Sunday's televised "A Gallop Through History" pageant following the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Friday.

However, members of the Bahrain Defence Force's royal guard ceremonial calvary unit, led by Royal Canadian mounted police, escorted the Queen from the arena to Windsor Castle as a live orchestra played and the crowd gave a standing ovation.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said: "It is sickening to see the Bahrain Defence Force escorting the Queen. Whoever allowed this to happen has failed to conduct any human rights assessment whatsoever.

"If this failure to conduct due diligence was deliberate, then they have affiliated themselves with a racist and sectarian army that was once deployed to attack pro-democracy protests, and which murdered a protester with impunity."

Alwadaei, who was among protesters outside the event on Sunday, pointed to the November 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry which found that the BDF may have used "excessive and unnecessary lethal force" resulting in the killing of Abdulredha Buhamaid, a 28-year-old protester. The military said their personnel acted within the law.

Activists have previously highlighted the make up of the Bahraini security forces, pointing out that the during the 2011 uprisings, the soldiers and police sent to break up protests were mostly Sunni, including recently naturalised Pakistanis, Yemenis, Syrians and Iraqis, while the majority of the protesters were Shia.

Middle East Eye asked Buckingham Palace if the Queen shared the concerns of Bahraini activists over the kingdom's human rights track record. A spokesperson said their office would not be commenting.

MEE also asked the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office whether it had advised the British royal family on invites extended to foreign dignitaries, including the Bahraini royal family, for this year's horse show and if it was concerned that such invites greenlighted human rights violations. The FCDO did not respond.

The Bahrain Embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.