European Parliament adopts an urgency resolution condemning Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on civil society and political opposition

08/07/2016
Press release

Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted, with a large majority, a resolution condemning recent human rights abuses performed by Bahraini authorities, and strongly called for an end to the ongoing repression against the country’s human rights defenders, political opposition and civil society.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders jailed over charges related to the exercise of their freedom of speech. They further condemned Bahraini authorities’ measures to prevent representatives of civil society from participating in the work of international bodies, such as the recent imposition of travel bans on the delegation set to attend the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.
In the resolution, MEPs urged the Bahraini government to stop persecuting legitimate political opposition. They condemned the decision to suspend the country’s biggest opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and called for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the group’s secretary general whose sentence was increased from 4 to 9 years in May.

The MEPs particularly condemned the Bahraini authorities’ misuse of anti-terrorism laws and mechanisms for denaturalisation as means of political pressure. The European Parliament strongly called on the authorities to reverse the decision to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim and to “restore Bahraini citizenship to all those individuals who were unfairly stripped of it.”

The resolution also called for the effective implementation of the 2011 recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the Universal Periodic Review and the country’s own constitutional provisions linked to the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, the resolution recognised the risk of impending execution faced by Mohammed Ramadan and Ali Moosa
Finally, MEPs condemned the agreements on trade in weapons and technologies used to violate human rights and called for the prohibition of exports of tear gas and anti-riot equipment to Bahrain until investigations have been carried out into their inappropriate use.

The undersigned NGOs strongly welcome the resolution as a clear signal to the Bahraini authorities that they must respect their international commitments, as well as their own constitution, and allow their citizens to exercise their basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and assembly.

We believe that it is of the utmost importance that EU policy and decision-makers assert the respect for human rights and legitimate expression of political dissent as a condition for any further development of relations with Bahrain and GCC countries. The next opportunity to do so will be the EU-GCC ministerial meeting which will be held in Brussels on 19 July 2016.

Please read the full text of the resolution here.

Background:

In what has been a concerted crackdown on civil society, media and fundamental freedoms, Bahraini authorities have in the past month embarked on a series of arrests, impositions of travel bans and denaturalisations of their citizens who have tried to exercise their fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

These moves include:

  • the arrest and prosecution of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab; the suspension, announced dissolution and the asset-freeze of the country’s biggest opposition party, the Al-Wefaq Islamic Society;
  • an increased jail sentence, from 4 to 9 years, for the party’s Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Salman;
  • the imposition of travel bans on journalists and activists, including a delegation of human rights activists set to participate at the 32nd UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva;
  • the forced exile of prominent human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja;
  • the suspension of several non-governmental and religious organisations;
  • the denationalisation of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the Bahrain’s Shia majority population.

These moves, and in particular the decision to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, provoked a wave of mass protests across the country, representing the largest public outcry since the 2011 unrest.

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