07/01/2012 04:15 GMT

Sophie, Countess Of Wessex, Urged To Sell Gems From Bahrain

Gems accepted by The Countess of Wessex from Bahrain's royal family should be sold and the proceeds given to victims of the regime, a former Foreign Office minister has suggested.

Sophie received two suites of jewels as presents during a visit to the Arab state, whose rulers violently put down anti-government protests last year.

According to a list of royal gifts from Buckingham Palace they were given to her by King Hamad Al-Khalifa and prime minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa during an official visit in December.

Ex-Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane told the Daily Mail: "Given the appalling suffering and repression of the Bahraini people, it would be a fitting gesture for the Countess of Wessex to auction these trinkets and distribute the proceeds to the victims of the regime."

A report published in November criticised the Bahraini authorities' use of torture and "excessive force" in the suppression of the unrest in February and March, in which more than 40 people died.

A few weeks after the protests, the crown prince of Bahrain pulled out of attending the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's April wedding after human rights activists raised concerns.

Official gifts are not the personal property of the royal family and are normally looked after by the Royal Collection.