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British rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Bahraini regime has made “no progress on key reform promises” just days after British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt reaffirmed ‘friendship’ with the Al-Khalifa regime in Bahrain, hailing their reforms. “All the talk of national dialogue and reform mean nothing so long as the country’s most prominent human rights and political activists remain unjustly imprisoned while officials responsible for torture and murder remain in their positions,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW. The rights organization said the Bahraini government has unreasonably restricted its access to the country, denying and ignoring numerous requests for visas over the past two years. Back in November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which was appointed by Bahraini ruler Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, concluded that the regime’s security forces operated within a “culture of impunity” and that the abuses “could not have happened without the knowledge of higher echelons of the command structure” of the security forces. The suppression of the pro-democracy protests has resulted in scores of deaths, serious injuries to hundreds of people, thousands of detentions and more than 300 formal allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Only last month, Bahraini forces killed two youths aged 16 and 22 by shotgun fire at close range and by firing a tear gas to the head from about 10 meters away, respectively. “It is mind-boggling that the same officials who were in charge during the unprecedented shootings, beatings, killings, and torture of hundreds of Bahraini citizens have identified no wrongdoing by high-ranking officials,” Whitson said. Against such a colorful background of abuse, British Foreign Minister for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia Alistair Burt hypocritically endorsed, what he called, Bahraini reforms on February 20 in a show of London’s support for the regime. Burt who had earlier made a phone conversation with Bahrain Foreign Affairs Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on his Twitter account that he “spoke to Bahraini FM @khalidalkhalifa earlier to affirm UK support for National Consensus Dialogue in #Bahrain”. To Burt’s post, Shaikh Khalid replied: “Thanks for your continued support .. The UK is a true and solid friend”. Indeed, Shaikh Khalid’s remark was an accurate assessment as London has stuck to the regime despite its clear and blatant violations of human rights. The regime is protecting officials from prosecution while a state court convicted 13 dissidents in January, including seven who were given life in prison solely for exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly in the 2011 protests. “There can be no real claim that justice is being done in Bahrain so long as these men remain unjustly imprisoned,” Whitson added. AMR/HE