MEPs engage with Human Rights in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) has long promoted working towards closer relations with the Members of the European Parliament in examining the critical situation of Human Right defenders in Bahrain and the greater Gulf region.

On 30 April Julie Ward MEP of the S&D group issued a letter, in cooperation with ECDHR and FIDH, co-signed by 67 MEPs, to the attention of the HR/VP Ms Federica Mogherini, asking the EEAS to further engage with Human Rights in Bahrain. In her letter, Ms Ward repeatedly underlined the need to put an end to Human Rights abuses perpetrated against Human Rights activists such as Mr Nabeel Rajab, Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Mr Mahdi Abu Deeb or Sheik Al-Salman.

In addition, on 11 May Ms Ward issued a Parliamentary Question to Ms Mogherini to further bring her attention on the afore-mentioned letter and on the Human Rights situation in Bahrain. On 14 July , the HR/VP  issued a written answer. The answer reads:

“The HR/VP is well aware of the case of Nabeel Rajab, and other human rights defenders and political activists referred to by the Honourable MEP. The EEAS at Headquarters level and through the EU Delegation in Riyadh (accredited to the Kingdom of Bahrain) 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. The EU has been closely following the situation in Bahrain since the events of 2011, and remains supportive of the country’s stability and of the gradual reform process undertaken by the authorities. The will continue to encourage the Bahraini authorities to act in the interest of all segments of Bahraini society and to focus on delivery to respond to legitimate citizens’ aspirations. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, 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, focussing in particular on issues of accountability and ill-treatment in detention”.

On 12 May, Francisco Assis MEP of the S&D group, and member of the subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, issued a Parliamentary Question calling for the release of Sheik Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court and is in danger of imminent execution. The question reads:

“Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, a prominent cleric and peaceful political activist in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, was sentenced to death in October 2014 for sedition and unrest against the Saudi government. His execution is now imminent. Sheikh Al-Nimr has a huge influence amongst the repressed Shi’a population in the region and has been unjustly imprisoned and sentenced for exercising his freedom of expression, as he was not granted a fair due process and often denied access to legal representation. At the time his arrest was met with widespread and violent protests in the Kingdom that left several people dead. There is fear that his execution will spark more violence and bloodshed.

Bearing in mind the EU’s commitment to Human Rights in its Foreign Policy role, the EU’s strong opposition to capital punishment and the concern you expressed in your response letter on 16 January 2015 about Sheikh Al-Nimr’s case, what action does the VP/HR plan to take in order to pressure the Saudi government to:

  1. Stop the imminent execution of Sheikh Al-Nimr?
  2. Ensure that Sheikh Al-Nimr is granted access to legal representation and a fair trial, in respect of basic Human Rights?”

ECDHR believes that the EU has the responsibility to be coherent with its commitment to Human Rights as it is embedded in its governing Treaties and in order not to undermine the credibility of its external policy actions.

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