Britain’s Prince Andrew is in Bahrain at the request of the UK Foreign Office to help promote what the website of the British Embassy in Manama calls “GREAT British Week,” according to the BBC. This will include a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is designed to boost trade and “emphasise the friendship and strong bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Bahrain.” 

Prince Andrew will arrive in a country whose rulers appear to believe that it is possible to arrest and torture their way to stability and security. And the Foreign Office appears to believe much the same – at least when it comes to Bahrain, whose people suffer the daily consequences of increasingly repressive laws aimed at quashing their calls for political reform and accountability for serious human rights violations.

The British government’s approach to Bahrain clearly infers a double standard regarding support for human rights. In the case of Burma, to take one example, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister Hugo Swire recently called for the release of two imprisoned high-profile activists, as well as review of the legal procedures used in the detentions and trials of several hundred prisoners.

In contrast, FCO Minister Hugh Robertson has refused to call publicly for the release of prominent Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab or other political prisoners, convicted in manifestly unfair trials, on charges solely related to crimes of speech and peaceful assembly.

The Burmese authorities could be forgiven if they wonder why the British government bangs the human rights drum in its direction, whereas their Bahraini counterparts not only escape censure – they get a prince thrown in for good measure.