British ambassador’ woes compounded amid new calls for his departure

March 16, 2010

Shaikh Khalid with Bowden earlier this month - BNA

The woes of the British ambassador to Bahrain have been compounded following new calls made by 240 owners of majlises to the local authorities to have him leave the country.

In a petition published in the Arabic press, the signatories said that they were speaking on behalf of the Bahraini street and wanted the diplomat to get transferred elsewhere for “interfering in the country’s internal affairs.”

 “As representatives of the Bahraini street and as the loyal citizens of Bahrain whose allegiance is to God, then to HM the King, we condemn the interference of the British ambassador in our domestic affairs and demand that the authorities expel him from the country,” the petition said. “The ambassador has not respected international and diplomatic laws and traditions and has clearly abused the sovereignty of the Kingdom, the will of the people and international laws.”

Jamie Bowden last month came under fire following a meeting with members from Al Wefaq Society, the country’s largest political formation, shortly after it waded into controversy for calling at its general assembly for changes in Bahrain’s government system.

The call was branded as a constitutional coup and sparked uproar amid other MPs and some political societies who issued calls for the ambassador to leave Bahrain for his alleged “violation of international diplomatic and laws and interference in the country’s domestic affairs.”

MP Jassem Al Saeedi, an independent Salafi, led the charges against the envoy and staged a rally in front of the British embassy.

However, Bowden denied in a meeting with the foreign minister that he sought to interfere in Bahrain’s domestic affairs and insisted that his meeting with members of Al Wefaq was not secret.

“There have been a number of allegations that the ambassador’s recent meeting with MPs from Al Wefaq society was secret. This is incorrect. The meeting was a routine one held in the British embassy with full knowledge of numerous staff,” he said. “As is usual, it was notified in advance to the Ministry of Interior police who guard the embassy compound. We regularly meet MPs from Al Asala, Al Menbar, Al Wefaq and independents. This does not imply, of course, that we agree with them on every issue,” he said.

However, Bowden’s statement has not apparently succeeded in defusing totally the tension and the petition by the 240 majlis owners, who claimed that they were a genuine parliament of the people, is now putting more pressure on the envoy.   

“Bahrain’s majlises have traditionally been a true parliament that debated all issues and discussed all national problems. Today, 10 years after the launch of democracy, we are keen on continuing what our fathers and forefathers started,” the majlis owners said. “Our majlises include all age sections, all educational and cultural levels and people from all areas in Bahrain. We cannot remain silent after what the British ambassador did. We consider his behaviour as a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, especially Article 41.”

Bowden, the 12th British ambassador to Bahrain since the country’s independence in 1971 from Britain, was appointed in 2006.

 Side bar 1:

 Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961)

 a. Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.

b. All official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other ministry as may be agreed.

c. The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner incompatible with the functions of the mission as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State.

 Side bar 2: British ambassadors to Bahrain

 1971 – Alexander John Dickson Stirling

1972 – Robert MathiesonTesh

1975 – Edward Ferguson Given

1979 – Harold Berners Walker

1981 – Roger Tomkys

1984 – Francis Sidney Edward Trew

1988 – John Alan Shepherd

1992 – Hugh James Oliver RedversTunnell

1996 – David Ian Lewty

1999 – Peter William Ford

2003 – Robin Lamb

2006 – Jamie Bowden



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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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