NGOs Welcome European Union Statement on Bahrain at the United Nations

30 October 2014 – Today, H.E. Thomas Mayr-Harting, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, expressed concern over the situation in Bahrain during a statement on the promotion and protection of human rights at the Third Committee meeting of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) welcome the statement and praise the member states of the European Union, as well as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Iceland, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, for supporting the statement.

“Pressure from the international community is imperative to ensure the Government of Bahrain ends its campaign of reprisals against human rights defenders,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director. “We are grateful to the many countries that supported the European Union statement and hope the international community will continue to closely monitor and publically condemn all forms of human rights violations in Bahrian.”

In the statement delivered to the Third Committee, Mayr-Harting said that “the EU continues to closely monitor the situation in Bahrain and supports the framework set by the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry and the UPR recommendations. The EU firmly believes that freedom of expression and assembly are a key prerequisite if Bahrain is to overcome its current challenges.” He urged individuals throughout Bahraini society to peacefully and constructively contribute to dialogue and national reconciliation.

“The European Union’s statement serves as a reminder that a framework for national reconciliation already exists within the recommendations from the 2011 BICI report and Bahrain’s 2012 UPR,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Unfortunately, the Bahraini government has failed to utilize the recommendations from and support provided by the international community to resolve the situation.”

The statement was delivered amidst increased reprisals against human rights defenders in Bahrain by the government. Today, the trial of Zainab al-Khawaja was postponed until 4 December, while the government postponed the trial of Nabeel Rajab until 2 November. Al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant, could face up to seven years in prison for free expression. Rajab, President of BCHR and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), is facing up to six years in prison for criminal charges stemming from a single tweet in which both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense allege that he “denigrated government institutions.”

“As noted by His Excellency, the situation in Bahrain cannot be resolved without government respect for freedom of expression and assembly,” said Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah, Vice President of BCHR. “We urge the Government of Bahrain to head the calls of the international community to respect basic human rights and implement meaningful and substantive reform.”