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[The following statement was published on the Bahrain Center for Human Rights website on 17 January 2013.]
The European Parliament today endorsed a strongly-worded resolution addressing the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain. The effort, led by Dutch Member of European Parliament Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66), calls for targeted EU sanctions against human rights violators in Bahrain. “For almost two years now the world has ignored the lethal violence used against Bahraini peaceful protestors. We have to be consistent in our policies and impose sanctions to force the Bahraini authorities to respect rights and freedoms,” Schaake says.
Since February 2011, protests have taken place in Bahrain. The Bahraini population, of which Shias make up around seventy percent (the rest is mostly Sunni), is being closely watched by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia sent tanks to Bahraini authorities to assist in suppressing revolts. Demonstrations in which citizens call for more democracy are increasingly sectarian. Schaake explained that, “people suffocate from the excessive use of tear gas, bird shot is fired from a very close range. Doctors face jail time for providing basic medical care, activists are sentenced to life long imprisonment in flawed trials." Schaake led several other initiatives that got Parliamentary backing.
Bloggers and youth activists who use social media to inform a vast international public about the situation in their country, are also being arrested. “Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha (@Saidyousif) was arrested in Bahrain on 18 December. Two weeks earlier he was one of the speakers during a roundtable in Brussels I organized on the human rights situation in his country. A Bahraini diplomat also attended that meeting.” The Liberal MEP sought to visit Bahrain with an official Parliamentary delegation, but was the only Member of European Parliament who was not granted a visa.
In November 2011, an independent commission of inquiry (BICI) on the request of Bahraini king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa presented a set of recommendations and reforms which would meet the protestors’ demands. Despite several commitments by the authorities, no changes have been made. Schaake stated that "the authorities keep referring to the BICI report as the silver bullet, but so far it is nothing more than their paper reality. By imposing sanctions the EU finally shows it is getting serious.” Schaake notes that the United States refrains from criticizing the Gulf state, which is likely related to the US Navy’s 5th fleet being based there.
Human Rights Situation in Bahrain
In their resolution on Bahrain, MEPs call on the authorities and security forces to stop using violence against peaceful protestors and demand an independent investigation into all human rights abuses, particularly those involving children. The prosecution, detention, and torture of protestors must stop and freedom of expression and assembly, both online and offline, must be guaranteed, they insist.
The EP urges the Bahraini authorities to follow the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), implement democratic reforms and pursue a national dialogue aimed at reconciliation.
The House expresses its "strong disapproval" of the EU's lack of response to the ongoing crackdown in Bahrain and calls for sanctions against the individuals directly responsible for the human rights abuses and for restrictions on EU exports of surveillance technology, tear gas and crowd control material.
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