John Yates: In his own words

There’s no real need for an exposé of John Yates now. Since the end of December he has been a special advisor to Bahrain’s Police ‘reform’. In those four months, there has been at least 37 deaths, continued use of excessive force as documented by Amnesty International, blanket use of tear gas and more allegations of torture.

Salah Abbas Habib, whose body was found on Friday evening, was allegedly tortured according to Al Wefaq who took part in an examination of the deceased.

But John Yates has not tried to keep a low profile. In the past week, he has made many comments, that appear to directly contradict international opinion and even The UK Foreign Office.

So we have decided to let his quotes speak for themselves. In some cases we have added explanatory notes:

On protesters:

“These are not lawful protests which are permitted, but violent conduct by a very small minority – often groups of 15-20 young men.”

“These are criminal acts being perpetrated against an unarmed police force who, in the face of such attacks, are acting with remarkable restraint.”

“These people are intent on causing harm to the police and the communities in which they live.”

“They are not representative of the vast majority of delightful, law-abiding citizens that represent the real Bahrain that I see every day.1

After the Grand Prix and international reaction:

“So, the Grand Prix in Bahrain is over. The teams have packed up and the circus has moved on. They have a left a small nation feeling bewildered. Bewildered at the level of ignorance about what is really happening here, at the level of animosity and bile, at the media bias. And bewildered that so many in the UK, a long-standing friend and ally for two centuries, could so readily swallow everything opposition groups and activists were saying.”

“The abiding image I have of the Grand Prix last weekend was of thousands of people enjoying themselves at the post‑event parties.”

“Like many Bahrainis and expats, however, I am bewildered by the level of criticism aimed at a nation that has acknowledged its mistakes, but has plans in place to put things right.”2

Speaking about deaths of protesters:

“Thirty-five people died during the unrest last year, and some of those deaths were at the hands of the security forces.”

“The death over the weekend of Salah Abbas al-Qattan, an anti-government protester, is also a powerful reminder of the tragic consequences of the unrest.”3

From where did Yates get 35? The number of dead is now at least 85. Perhaps he is excluding those who died while he was in Bahrain? More worrying is the claim that “some of those deaths” are because of security forces. Some? What about the others? Do healthy people suddenly drop dead in the streets?

The second quote is also a strange formulation. Is the death of Salah a consequence of the unrest or perhaps more accurately the consequence of a repressive and brutal Government?

He is however more graphic and clear when speaking about injuries caused to the police:

“What some of the police are facing it’s horrific. I saw four or five cops with life-changing injuries, faces taken off, ingested flames and lungs damaged. Where are their human rights? The cops have taken some heavy, heavy injuries.”4

Finally the crown jewel of quotes:

“Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London.”5

This is both absurd and offensive. Yes it is a personal opinion but one that lays clear his absolute ignorance of the state of affairs in Bahrain today. The Police should be making the country safe for all, not just for it’s special advisor.

His comments are further proof of why reform is simply not happening; the reality is he is just doesn’t get it. With no sympathy for protesters, a conviction that the Government is right, the only advice Yates can offer Bahrain is how to exasperate an already desperate situation further.


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