On 8 May 2019, Ruth Coppinger TD, Seán Crowe TD, John Brassil TD, Brendan Howlin TD, and Eamon Scanlon TD – five of Ireland’s elected members of parliament – put forward a number of questions to Simon Coveney TD, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, concerning the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes the parliamentary questions and thanks the TDs for their continued focus on Bahrain’s human rights abuses and the plight of human rights defenders and political activists.
The substance and timing of their questions demonstrates the Irish parliament’s strong commitment to supporting human rights defenders in Bahrain. As Ireland prepares for the June session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, these questions are made all the more relevant. This parliamentary focus on Bahrain brings increased attention to Bahrain’s human rights abuses, building the case for Ireland to continue and increase its engagement with Bahrain at the UNHRC.
Deputy Coppinger asked “the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the efforts made on raising these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Crowe asked Coveney “if he will work with other countries to table a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn continued and worsening human rights violations in the Kingdom of Bahrain especially against political prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Brassil asked Coveney “his views on the human rights violations in the Kingdom of Bahrain; the sanctions there will be in response to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”
Deputy Howlin spoke on the worsening human rights situation, and asked the Deputy Prime Minister his views on the deteriorating situation. He also asked about “the steps being taken at EU and international level to address human rights concerns in Bahrain; and if [Coveney] will make a statement on the matter.” As the leader of Ireland’s Labour Party – the country’s oldest political party – Deputy Howlin’s question demonstrates that concern over the poor human rights situation in Bahrain has gained support among Ireland’s political elite.
Deputy Scanlon concluded the debate by asking Minister Coveney about “the way in which he is addressing human rights abuses in Bahrain.”
In his responses to Coppinger, Crowe, Bassil, Howlin, and Scanlon’s questions, Coveney condemned Bahrain’s “increasingly restrictive society,” and noted the “further erosion of fundamental freedoms in recent years, including freedom of opinion and expression.” He stated “I remain concerned about the detention of a number of people in Bahrain, both in respect of the grounds for detention, and their treatment by the Bahraini authorities.” Coveney also stated that he had instructed officials from his department to meet with officials from the Bahraini Embassy in March 2019 where they raised their human rights concerns directly with embassy staff.
Coveney concluded his answer by stating “my Department will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights. We shall do so both directly with Bahraini officials, as well as at EU and international level, whenever opportunities arise.”