February 2017 marks the 6th anniversary of the violently repressed pro-democracy protests held in Bahrain. Despite Bahrain government’s public commitment to improve the state of human rights in the country, we have seen a continuous, and in the past year largely intensified crackdown on civil society and political dissent.
The event “Bahrain 6 years on – where to go from here?” hosted by MEP Julie Ward (S&D) in the European Parliament, focused on what next steps could be taken in order to pressure Bahraini authorities to live up to their human rights commitments.
The panel brought together experts from different fields, including representatives of the Bahrain’s civil society, international human rights organisations and members of the European Parliament.
- Julie Ward MEP (UK, S&D)
- Ana Gomes MEP (Portugal, S&D)
- Hussain Jawad Parweez (European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights)
- Jean-Marie Rogue (International Federation for Human Rights)
- Ben Pitler (Reprieve)
The two MEPs from the S&D Group Julie Ward and Ana Gomes reaffirmed their continuous commitment to support human rights and democracy in Bahrain. Both of them have been driving forces in the European Parliament to raise awareness and to push for coherent EU actions by calling on the European External Action Service and EU Member States to act on European Parliament’s resolutions on Bahrain.
Husain Jawad Parweez, director of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, reported on his own case as prisoner of conscience in Bahrain and gave insights with regards to the current sentiment and activism of the Bahraini people. To the astonishment of the audience, he reported that around 70 protests take place across Bahrain on a daily basis yet this remains largely unknown to the international community because of the lack of media coverage.
Speakers from FIDH and Reprieve concentrated respectively on the role of the EU and the UK to pressure the Bahraini government to respect human rights. Jean-Marie Rouge from FIDH proposed new and concrete ways on how the EU can increase its impact. He called on the European Parliament to be more specific in its urgency resolutions and complement them by insisting on a proper human rights dialogue with GCC countries, in accordance with EU Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues. He added that it is important to closely follow the current constitutional changes in Bahrain which could enable military courts to try civilians. Further, he underlined the importance of digital security for activists.
Ben Pitler from Reprieve concentrated on the UK’s support for a false narrative of alleged human rights reforms in Bahrain, when the situation is actually worsening. He also elaborated on the complicity of UK-trained institutions in the recent unlawful executions of Abba al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Signace and other cases.
Shedding light on Bahrain’s degrading human rights situation from different angles, the speakers also agreed on further follow-up activities which could raise additional awareness of the situation on the ground and the complicity of some EU member states.