Chief Ministers meeting with the Minister of Finance of Bahrain (FOI)
Chief Ministers meeting with the Minister of Finance of Bahrain (FOI)Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by States of Jersey and published on 08 November 2017.
Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, recently stated on the 12 October 2017 that he was “honoured” to meet HE Shaikh Al-Khalifa of the Bahrain Ministry of Finance to discuss the “close ties” between Jersey and Bahrain.
According to Amnesty International's 2016 / 2017 Report, Bahrain has: “tightened restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association and continued to curtail the right to peaceful assembly. Detained and charged several human rights defenders and banned others from travelling abroad, dissolved the main opposition group and stripped more than 80 people of their Bahraini citizenship, forcibly expelling four. Opposition leaders continued to be imprisoned as prisoners of conscience.” Their report also highlights: “new reports of torture and other ill-treatment and unfair trials” and confirms that: “Women continued to be discriminated against in law and practice. Migrant workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people faced discrimination.”
In light of the above can you please confirm, as part of the Chief Ministers discussion, if the issue of human rights was ever brought up? Can you also please confirm as part of Jersey's "close ties" and commitment to international human rights obligations whether the topic of human rights has ever been brought up by any member of the Jersey States Assembly when meeting Bahraini government officials in the past?
The meeting between the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst and HE Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa on 11 September 2017 was an introductory meeting during which both ministers were able to meet in person for the first time. While Jersey’s commercial relationship with Bahrain is well established, the government relationship is at an early stage. The purpose of the meeting was therefore to establish rapport.
The Government of Jersey believes that it is important for advancing Jersey’s external relations that ministers can hold meetings with international counterparts in confidence, on a trusted basis, and with mutual understanding. Article 41(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 contains a qualified exemption for international relations. The Ministry of External Relations believes the exemption applies to this request because disclosure would be likely to prejudice relations between Jersey and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
We acknowledge that releasing information on this issue would increase public knowledge about our relations with Bahrain. However, the disclosure of specific detailed information in regards to the content of private ministerial meetings could potentially damage the bilateral relations between Jersey and Bahrain at this early stage. This could reduce the Government of Jersey’s ability to protect and promote Jersey’s interests through its relations with Bahrain in the future, which would not be in the public interest. For these reasons, we consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
It is not known if the issue of human rights has been brought up by any member of the Jersey States Assembly when meeting Bahraini government officials in the past.
Article 41 International relations
(1) Information is qualified exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice relations between Jersey and –
(a) the United Kingdom;
(b) a State other than Jersey;
(c) an international organization; or
(d) an international court.