On Monday 25 February 2019, MEP Marie Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL) held at the conference “Bahrain – Implications for the EU of an Emerging Political Culture of Exclusion” at the European Parliament. Many topics have been addressed during the discussion by different NGO representatives, Bahraini activists and journalists. They tackled the main human rights issues have been occurring in Bahrain and described the current political situation in the country.
Marc Pellas, economist and columnist for Le Monde Diplomatique, made a historical introduction of Bahrain and the House of Khalifa. He highlighted how the Al-Khalifa family has accumulated power to turn Bahrain into a dictatorial regime, especially in the aftermath of the Bahraini uprising in 2011. This point was reiterated by another speaker, Morgan Cloud from No Peace Without Justice. On the other hand, Bill Law, journalist and Director of Gulf Matters, focused on the “despicable practice” of arbitrary revocation of citizenship, a tool used by the Bahraini government linked to the Anti-Terrorism Law. He stated that more than 900 people have been stripped of their citizenship and that, starting from January 2019, 40 more have become stateless. Moreover, he highlighted the failure of the political and social reforms implemented by the British government.
After this introductory part of the conference, Ali Al-Aswad, a Bahraini activist and former member of the Bahraini Parliament, thoroughly presented the role of the Bahraini political opposition, namely Al-Wefaq and Wa’ad. He stated that any form of opposition has been destroyed and that there has never been “room for political reform in Bahrain.” In fact, the crackdown on civil society has become more intense after 2014. Mr. Al-Aswad concluded his speech by calling for the end of any form of violence in Bahrain and calling upon the European Union to foster the dialogue with the country.
In the last part of the conference, Tara O’ Grady, member of the advisory board of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, presented several cases of human rights activist who have been detained and tortured in Bahrain, including the case of Nabeel Rajab and of the medics who assisted the people wounded during the demonstrations in 2011. Lastly, Bernard Dreano, President of the Centre d’études et d’initiatives de solidarité internationale (CEDETIM), concentrated his speech on the arms sales issue. In fact, since all the points he wanted to highlight had been already mentioned by the previous panellists he decided to focus the end of his speech on soft power tools. One of his suggestions was to discuss human rights issues in sport channels during the Tour de France since the Merida Bahrain cycling team is one of the most renowned teams of the competition.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) is pleased to acknowledge that several international organisations are focusing their activity on Bahrain. ECDHR welcomes the recommendations made by the speakers. We call upon the government of Bahrain to put in place more social reforms, to put an end to every form of torture and ill-treatment against detainees, to the immediate and unconditional release of all the detained human rights activists, women, human rights defenders and political activists currently detained in the Kingdom. Lastly, ECDHR calls upon the EU and more broadly the international community to continue pressing on Bahrain for a stronger cooperation in addressing human rights issues.