European Parliament condemns death penalty, torture and harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

Today, European law makers have adopted a Resolution ‘on the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, in particular the cases of death row inmates and human rights defenders’ with an overwhelming 633 votes in favour, 11 against and 45 abstained. 

The undersigned NGOS welcomes this strong Resolution and considers it a wake-up call to the international community, which appears to have given up on any serious pressure on the Government of Bahrain to respect human rights and implement serious reforms. 

We calls on EU Member States and the EU VP/HR, Mr. Josep Borell, to take these recommendations from European Parliament into serious consideration, revise its foreign policy towards Bahrain and provide clarification about their strategy to support and respect human rights in Bahrain and the Gulf region. 

The Resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, including Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Dr Abduljalil al-Singace, Naji Fateel, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ali Hajee, Sheikh Ali Salman and Hassan Mushaima, who have been detained and sentenced for merely exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to drop all charges against them. It also calls on the VP/HR of the EU, Mr. Josep Borell, and the Member States to champion and pursue a vigorous campaign to secure the immediate release of Bahrain’s imprisoned human rights defenders. 

Lawmakers also strongly condemn the lifting of the de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty and calls on Bahraini authorities to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a step towards its abolition. Moreover, it calls for a comprehensive review of all death sentences in Bahrain to ensure that these trials adhered to international standards. 

The European Parliament also condemns the continuing use of torture, the ongoing practice of arbitrarily stripping nationals of their citizenship, lack of political space for expressing legitimate and peaceful dissent, and the misuse of anti-terrorism laws in Bahrain. It calls on the Bahraini Government to stop the harassment of human rights defenders and to fully cooperate with UN bodies. 

The Resolution and debates on the human rights situation in Bahrain comes after two weeks after the signing of a cooperation agreement between Bahrain and the EU, along with informal human rights dialogue between the Kingdom and the EU, held on 22 February. 

During the debates in the plenary session on 11 March, Thursday noon, many MEPs showed a firm stance and strongly voiced their dissatisfaction with the EU’s informal human rights dialogue, which was held for the fifth year with no concrete actions taken until today. Objections were also made to the latest cooperation agreement signed with Bahrain, which did not refer to human rights.  

MEP Domenec Ruiz Devesa, member of the S&D Group, stated the following: “We just signed a cooperation agreement now with Bahrain, but we have not included human rights in this agreement. How come? Can you explain this to us? We now have a new system of sanctions, why not use it against human rights violators in Bahrain?” 

MEP Marc Tarabella, the Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula and member of the S&D Group, mentioned that the Government of Bahrain is using human rights dialogue with the EU as a proof that they respect human rights, while that is totally not the case. He said that the EU must not fall into a trap, because while dialogue is needed, it should be followed by concrete actions. 

We noted in a statement earlier in February that while the EU has repeatedly expressed the importance of human rights in its relationship with Bahrain, the four earlier rounds of dialogue do not appear to have contributed to the creation of a durable, positive change or a climate in which political or human rights reform has or will take place.

Bahrain Forum for Human Rights 

Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights