13 December 2017 – On 12 December 2017, during the EU Plenary Session’s debate on the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016, MEP Julie Ward denounced the crackdown on civil society in Bahrain, including the cases of Nabeel Rajab and Nedal Al Salman, and called on the EU to uphold its human rights commitments in protecting human rights defenders worldwide. In addition, during the voting time on the same Report, several MEPs showed their solidarity with Nabeel Rajab displaying his picture accompanied by the hashtag #FreeNabeel.
Debate on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in The World 2016
Yesterday, 12 December 2017, MEPs from different political groups discussed the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016 and the EU Policy on the Matter at the EU Plenary Session in Strasbourg. Many of them condemned the shrinking space for civil society in several regions of the world and commented on a number of human rights issues, including women and minorities’ rights, freedom of religion or belief, death penalty and human trafficking. MEPs further urged the European Union to use all means and policy instruments at its disposal to protect fundamental human rights worldwide and to assist human rights defenders and activists across the globe.
In particular, MEP Julie Ward expressed deep concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain. She mentioned the case of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab who is serving a 2 year-sentence for TV interviews in which he criticised Bahrain’s poor human rights record, and who is currently risking further 15 years in prison for posting Tweets where he condemned the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen and denounced the use of torture in Bahraini prisons. MEP Ward also highlighted the case of Nedal Al Salman, Head of International Relations and Women and Children Advocacy at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), who has been banned from travelling to Brussels to attend the EU NGO Forum on Human Rights.
Please find MEP Julie Ward’s speech text and video below.
Last year, I condemned the global clampdown on civil society and human rights defenders. Sadly, the situation is only getting worse.
In the Gulf, where many EU Member States, including the United Kingdom, have strategic and economic interests, the situation of human rights defenders remains catastrophic.
In Bahrain, at least 169 peaceful critics have been targeted in the space of a year. Last week, Bahrain activist, Nedal Al Salman was banned from travelling to the EU-NGO Forum on human rights. As we speak, Nabeel Rajab is serving a 2 year-sentence solely for speaking to media. He is facing 15 more years for tweets on the Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen and the use of torture in Bahraini prisons. Nevertheless, neither the High Representative nor any EU Member States did publicly condemn the confirmation in appeal of his sentence last 22 November. Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience: he deserves our full support and resolute action.
In Turkey the situation is truly appalling. European Union and US relationship with Mr Erdogan is unacceptable and our policy must change. Many human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, civil society representatives, trade unionists, activists, judges, journalists, civil servants and artists face trumped up charges of terrorism. I would like to especially highlight some cases that are close to my heart, for example the Istanbul 10.
The EU must upheld its human rights commitments in assisting civil society actors worldwide, as stated in the EU Action Plan on human rights and democracy 2015 – 2019 and the EU Global Strategy. Ms Mogherini, I urge you to call for the immediate release of Mr Rajab in Bahrain and all jailed human rights defenders in Turkey and to concretely engage with defenders well before they are put on trial.
We welcome MEP Julie Ward continuous support for human rights defenders in the Gulf and we strongly appreciate her long-lasting commitment in promoting the respect of human rights in Bahrain. In addition, ECDHR urges the European Union and its High Representative Federica Mogerini to call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Nabeel Rajab, to lift the travel ban imposed on Nedal Al Salman and to put an end to the targeting and harassment of human rights defenders and civil society representatives in Bahrain.
Voting time on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016
During the voting time on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016 held on 13 December 2017 at the EU Plenary Session in Strasbourg, several MEPs expressed their full support to Nabeel Rajab by showing his picture accompanied by the hashtag #FreeNabeel. Among them were MEP Julie Ward, MEP Ana Gomes, MEP Josef Weidenholzer, MEP Bart Staes, MEP Brando Benifei, MEP Jude Kirton-Darling, MEP Miriam Dalli, MEP Agnes Jongerius, MEP Eugen Freund, MEP Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, MEP Arndt Kohn and MEP Susanne Melior.
We strongly welcome MEPs initiative and we thank them for their continuous support to the promotion of human rights in the Gulf, especially in Bahrain, and for expressing solidarity to prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, a prisoner of conscience who is in prison solely for the peaceful expression of his opinion.