MEP Harkin asks the EEAS about Sheikh Ali Salman of Bahrain

On 23 September 2015, Marian Harkin, member of the European Parliament for the ALDE Group, issued a parliamentary question directed to Mr Mogherini, the High Representative and Vice-President (HR/VP) of the European Union.

On her question, Ms Harkin raised the pending imprisonment and case against Bahrain’s Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s main opposition political party. The question reads as follows:

The Bahraini regime continues to curtail freedom of expression. Arbitrary arrests and detentions are part of an ongoing campaign by the Bahrain authorities to undermine human rights in the country.

On 16 June 2015 Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Bahrain’s main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, was sentenced to four years in prison on three charges related to free speech. Sheikh Ali Salman has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion.

In the light of the above, could the Vice-President / High Representative answer the following:

  1. What action does the VP/HR plan to take to secure the release of Sheikh Ali Salman?
  2. What steps have been taken by the European External Action Service to ensure that peaceful political societies in Bahrain are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation?

On 23 November 2015, Ms Mogherini provided the following response to the parliamentary question:

The HR/VP is well aware of the case of Ali Salman, Secretary General of al-Wefaq political society, referred to by the Honourable MEP.

The EEAS issued Statements by the HR/VP Spokesperson on 29 December 2014 and 17 June 2015 expressing the EU’s concern at the arrest and sentencing of Mr. Ali Salman.

The EEAS has been consistently advocating for the release of those arrested in the context of peaceful political activities and will continue to liaise with its authorities to advocate for the respect of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms as per Bahrain’s international commitments, the recommendations set out by the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry, and the UN Universal Periodic Review process.

The EU will continue to call on the Bahraini Government to act proportionately in all such cases, to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and assembly, and to reconsider charges against citizens accused or convicted as a result of the peaceful expression of their opinion. A sustainable political process leading to gradual and inclusive reform requires an environment where legitimate and peaceful grievances can be expressed freely, in particular by political parties. The EU continues to call on all sides to unequivocally denounce violence.

The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambinidis, visited Bahrain in May 2015 for the second time. During this visit, he reiterated the EU’s offer to support the implementation of Bahrain’s international commitments and the UPR recommendations.

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes Ms Harkin’s question and her interest in the case of Sheikh Ali Salman. ECDHR further welcomes Ms Mogherini’s answer to said question.

ECDHR calls on the Bahraini government to immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Ali Salman and drop all charges currently standing against him. Further, we call on the government of Bahrain to abide by its international commitments under international law and respect freedom of speech, thought and association.

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