Open Letter to Mr. Phil Popham, Director of Global Operations, Jaguar Land Rover

To: Mr. Phil Popham, Director of Global Operations, Jaguar Land Rover

Monday, 13th February 2012

Dear Mr. Popham,

As an enthusiastic and brand-loyal customer of Land Rover, I am writing to express my deep concern over the recent sale of Land Rover vehicles to the Bahrain police.

A new Discovery vehicle in Bahrain Interior Ministry Police livery can be seen at. 3.40 to 4.00 in this video of the arrest of two American human rights activists last weekend:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAjjXJPmukc

While Land Rover has previously sold vehicles to the Bahrain police, for much of the 2000s they have used Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols.

I was resident in the GCC region from 2002 to 2011, and in Bahrain from 2007 to 2011. During my time in the Gulf I have owned a Discovery, a Freelander and a Range Rover. Now I am back in the UK, I run a Freelander, and have enjoyed driving the Range Rover TDV8 at Land Rover Experience in Luton. Land Rover would be my first consideration in buying a new vehicle. I am a prospective customer for new and/or approved secondhand Land Rover vehicles, am a member of the South Coast LOC, attended the London to Brighton LR run last October, and have contributed articles to the enthusiast LR press. My interest in Land Rovers dates back to the winter of 1976, when as a young motorcyclist I was rescued from a blizzard on the North Downs by a Kent Police Range Rover.

I was a witness to severe repression at the University of Bahrain on 13th March 2011, and resigned from my job there shortly afterwards when it became clear that ethical professional practice had become impossible there. The following link provides an overview of what I saw, towards the end of the piece you will see a photograph of an axe-wielding pro-government thug which I took through the window of my Discovery as I escaped the violence, the police were complicit in this attack on a peaceful demonstration:

http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/4862

The Interior Ministry police in Bahrain are a paramilitary force that has little legitimacy to the majority population of Bahrain who call them “mercenaries” because they are recruited from outside of Bahrain on a sectarian basis.

Throughout 2011 and 2012 the Bahrain police have used their vehicles as weapons against protesters by deliberately driving them into crowds and at individuals in a highly irresponsible manner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPwcFJYGWKs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVBH67_pWYg

These tactics led to the death of a 16 year-old protester (the second link contains a disturbing image):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlROndCd4X0

https://plus.google.com/113253185547784664866/posts

The following video shows a bound protester being beaten and tortured inside a   Bahrain police vehicle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB-wrwipy2M

While this Daily Telegraph video shows Bahrain police vehicles being used in a drive-by shooting:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/bahrain/8388082/Bahrain-police-carry-out-drive-by-shooting.html

This is an example of their driving, shot by a policeman from inside his vehicle (thankfully not a Land Rover):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JIvqImRR0gk

Sadly, these abuses are not merely the result of poor training, but are systematic and are unlikely to be solved until or unless real, externally verifiable reform takes place in Bahrain.

Jaguar Land Rover has an excellent Corporate Social Responsibility programme, embracing e-technologies, sustainable manufacturing, CO2, and conservation and humanitarian partnerships:

http://www.landrover.com/gb/en/lr/about-land-rover/sustainability/

JLR’s Sustainability Document states:  “We will positively engage with the local and global communities to ensure our presence adds value and brings benefits” http://ourplanet.landrover.com/new/en-en/downloads/sustainable_development_policy.pdf

Unfortunately, these commitments are seriously undermined by JLR selling vehicles to so unruly and ill-disciplined organisation as the Bahrain police.

I understand that military and police applications are an important part of Land Rover’s heritage, and an important current and future market. I have of course no objection whatsoever to JLR selling vehicles to responsible forces that police professionally with the consent of the people they police.

While Land Rovers have in the past been sold to police and military outfits with less than wonderful reputations, organisations and companies change and evolve. Practices that might have been acceptable 50, 40, or 30 years ago are not necessarily acceptable today.

JLR’s far-sighted and comprehensive CSR policy recognises this, and these commitments mark a significant step in JLR’s evolution as an ethical organization of the C21st committed to environmental and humanitarian sustainability.

Despite what I consider to be the over-optimistic assessments of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the same cannot be said of the current Bahrain regime, whose recent human rights abuses are very well documented:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_reports_on_2011%E2%80%932012_Bahraini_uprising

As a Land Rover enthusiast and strong advocate of the brand, I’d be very disappointed to see the “Green Oval” appear on cartoons such as this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saudi-backed,_peace-loving_King_Hamad,_of_Bahrain.gif

While I understand that JLR operates in a highly competitive market, association with organisations like the Bahrain police will do long-term damage to the brand.

I therefore request that JLR suspend all business with the Bahrain government until such time as Bahrain is at peace and real, verifiable reform has taken place, including the complete overhaul of the current police force, so that its membership reflects the population it polices.

I also request that JLR consider adding a human rights dimension to its current CSR policy explicitly saying that all police and military sales will be subject to a human rights assessment.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mike Diboll, FHEA

(Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development, University of Bahrain, 2008-2011)

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