MEPs strongly criticise Bahrain's human rights record
Following the release of a report assessing the human rights situation in Bahrain, MEPs call for "urgent rethink of relations between EU and Gulf States".
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global nongovernmental human rights organisation, has released a report slamming the Bahraini government for allegedly torturing and mistreating detainees.
Ten detainees interviewed by HRW describe being subjected to electric shocks; suspension in painful positions, including by their wrists; forced standing; extreme cold and sexual abuse. Six said that government interrogators boasted of their reputation for inflicting pain on detainees.
The report is the latest development in a series of alleged human rights abuses involving Bahrain, with the government struggling to suppress growing demands for democratic reform.
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As part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain currently enjoys close economic and political ties with the EU, with the region being Europe's fifth largest export market (€95bn of exports in 2013).
In July, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for, "the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters," held by the Bahraini government. The resolution condemning human rights violations in Bahrain was the third adopted by Parliament to in the past few years.
The release of the HRW report has prompted strong condemnation of the Bahraini government from some MEPs.
Marietje Schaake, a substitute on the European Parliament's Subcommittee on human rights (DROI), highlighted the lack of impact of previous measures taken by EU institutions.
She said, "The European Parliament has adopted three resolutions condemning the human rights violations in Bahrain over the past few years. Unfortunately, we have not seen the necessary improvement of the situation."
She identified other Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, as being partially responsible for the lack of progress. She called for, "an urgent rethink of relations between the EU and the Gulf states."
She continued, "given the unrest and violence in the Middle East, it is key that Bahraini authorities accept their responsibilities and work on democratic reform."
David Martin, a member of the Parliament's DROI committee, called on the Bahraini government to investigate all allegations immediately. He stated that all of the EU's "international partners" must adhere to the same high standards of human rights as the EU.
He said, "any accusations of torture must be taken seriously. Bahrain must investigate all claims of torture and other human rights abuses against detainees, and immediately act against any incidents where authorities’ behaviour has fallen below the standards that international human rights norms expect of them."
He also noted that if Bahrain's pro-democracy movement is to make any progress then, "the mistreatment of those detained for supporting free speech must end."
Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at HRW, commented: "The claims of Bahrain and its allies, that authorities have ended torture in detention, are simply not credible. All the available evidence supports the conclusion that these new institutions have not effectively tackled what is described as a ‘culture of impunity’ among security forces."
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