Members of Ireland’s Parliament Table Questions on Bahrain

This post was updated on 18 October to reflect Foreign Minister Coveney’s response to Frank O’Rourke’s 15 October question.

15 October 2019 – Since mid-September, as a result of ongoing advocacy efforts by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Members of the Oireachtas and of the Senate in Ireland raised concerns about Bahrain’s human rights situation in several debates and have tabled several questions seeking ministerial responses.

Today, on 15 October 2019, Frank O’Rourke tabled a question for Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. O’Rourke asked:

“The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the position of Ireland on the ongoing political crisis and human rights violations in Bahrain; if he will consider introducing a joint statement at the Human Rights Council in Geneva condemning the ongoing abuse of human rights in Bahrain and demanding the release of political prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

The Foreign Minister responded noting that the human rights situation in Bahrain remains a concern for the government and that he has been alarmed over several recent incidents, including the execution of three men in July 2019. He further highlighted Ireland’s consistent engagement on Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council, and he stated that he has instructed his officials to keep the matter of a joint statement under review.

On 3 October 2019, Senator Ivana Bacik raised a number of concerns, including on Bahrain’s human rights record. She noted that “One year on from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, I urge the Tánaiste to do more at the EU level to condemn the regime in Saudi Arabia. I recently met human rights activists from Bahrain who argue that Ireland should do more to condemn human rights abuses by the Bahraini Government, particularly abuses of political prisoners and discrimination against women.”

Coveney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, responded to Sen. Bacik’s question noting:

“On human rights in Bahrain, last week, I met the Foreign Minister for Bahrain in New York where we had quite a good discussion on this issue. We have raised the issue at a senior level. WE want a good relationship with the Bahraini Government. There is a recognition that there are human rights considerations and concerns that need to be responded to and addressed. I wish to reassure people that the issue of human rights was very much the topic of conversation.”

One month ago, on 17 September, Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan raised a question about Bahrain during a debate, asking “the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the ongoing political crisis and human rights violations in Bahrain; the position of Ireland on the crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

Coveney responded at length, noting, among other aspects of Ireland’s engagement that “the human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of concern. Citizens in Bahrain are living in an increasingly restrictive society and there has been further erosion of fundamental freedoms in recent years, including freedom of opinion and expression. I was alarmed to learn of the executions of three people in July, including two human rights activists.”

That same day, on 17 September 2019, Deputy Seán Crowe asked Coveney “if his attention has been drawn to the fact that over 600 political prisoners in Bahrain have undertaken a hunger strike to protest against degrading and inhumane prison conditions since 17 August; and if the issue will be raised as a matter of urgency with his counterpart in Bahrain.”

Coveney responded noting that “the human rights situation in Bahrain is a matter of concern” and noting that Ireland has been following the hunger strike closely.