EU Parliament & Scots MEP slam Bahrain for human rights abuses - but UK maintains support

EU stands for human rights in Bahrain as the UK Government maintains silence and support

THE EU PARLIAMENT has passed a resolution deploring the return to capital punishment by the governments of Bahrain and Kuwait as the two Gulf states prepare to execute two opposition activists.

MEPs including Scotland’s Alyn Smith SNP made statements that encouraged the abolition of capital punishment and the application of a fair judicial system in line with the country's’ professed reforms.

The resolution, passed today (Thursday 16 February), condemned the use of the death penalty against a peaceful opposition, echoing the criticisms by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings.

Human rights organisations have also criticised the UK’s role in training the military and police of Bahrain which has been accused of being sectarian and reneging on claims of democratisation.

Two activists Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa are being held by the security forces of Bahrain who, friends and advocates claim, have administered abuses while being held on trumped up charges.

The EU Parliament through its draft resolution also made an appeal for others detained, they said: “Bahraini-Danish citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a founding director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, as well as Khalil Al Halwachi, a mathematics teacher formerly living in Sweden, remain in prison for charges related to the peaceful expression of their opinion;”

Speaking to CommonSpace Smyth, who gave a speech outlining the EU’s position on the rule of law and human rights, said: "Bahrain, and Kuwait, are friendly countries where it is clear the EU has influence. Both are making progress in reforms and we can do more to encourage and help that process.

“Where individual member states have interests, the EU as a collective has values, and it is important that we remain true to them. Friends speak truth to friends, and I'm glad the debate today was as constructive as it was."

However human rights groups objected to the notion that Bahrain or Kuwait have made steady progress. They cite recent roundups of human rights activists and the firing of tear gas and live rounds in cities such as Duraz this week.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy for the human rights group Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) told CommonSpace: "The UK continues to assess Bahrain as being on a positive human rights trajectory based on their flawed programme of technical assistance. The Bahraini government then uses the UK's technical assistance to defend its system of injustice.

“When the UK calls institutions which systematically fail vulnerable torture victims independent, then it is providing support to a criminal justice system which conducts unlawful executions. Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa are at risk of imminent execution, and the UK's rhetoric puts their lives at risk."

Since 2012, the UK has spent over £5.1m on a “technical assistance programme” to Bahrain which has included the training of riot police in the use of water cannons and dogs, as well as training to state torture investigation and human rights bodies. The UK Government also opened a new £30m naval base to bolster it naval and strategic intrest in the region. 

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After a report in 2016 and 2017, reported by CommonSpace, the human rights body Reprieve exposed a UK-Bahraini judicial torture body's failure to properly investigate the torture allegations of Abbas Al-Samea, one of three torture victims executed last month.

Despite training from the Northern Irish Ombudsman and UK Foreign Office, it was found that the Bahrain Ombudsman ignored the torture complaint of a death-row inmate made before his conviction and misled observers during rights investigations.

The Foreign and CommonWealth office refused to be drawn on the fate of opposition members and activists awaiting trial and execution but did state to CommonSpace that, “all relationships are being maintained to ensure Bahrain’s continued democratic progress.”

As a result of this vote, the EU President will be instructed to pass on the criticism and recommendations to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and both the Bahraini and Kuwaiti governments this month.

Picture courtesy of Al Jazeera English

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