27 January 2020 – On Tuesday 21 January 2020, Belgium’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Philippe Goffin was questioned by Belgium’s Ecolo Groen party Minister Samuel Cogolati regarding Bahrain and its human rights violations.

Minister Cogolati’s statement begins by highlighting the human rights crisis in Bahrain, stating that “the situation of the 4000 political prisoners is disastrous as they are deprived of their right to have access to medical attention. Among those prisoners, there is a large number of human rights activists. In addition, the country had renounced to the usage of the death penalty seven years ago, but is now using it again.” 

Minister Cogolati then followed up his question by asking Minister Goffin the following questions: “Mr Minister, what assessment does Belgium make of the human rights situation in Bahrain? What action is available for Belgium to use to promote human rights in Bahrain? How was the human rights situation in Bahrain addressed by Belgium during the 3rd cycle of the bilateral political consultation organised on the side of the 15th summit of the IISS Manama Dialogue to which Belgium was a participant? Finally does Belgium confirm that a number of prisoners do not have access to medical attention? If yes, has Belgium condemned this preclusion of prisoner’s rights in its bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain?”

Minister Goffin expressed his concern regarding the sentences of Husain Moosa and Mohamed Ramadan, saying: “Despite the concerns we have expressed regarding their right to a fair trial, the death penalty ruling of Mr Mohamed Ramadan and Mr Hussain Ali Moosa was confirmed. The ruling is still subject to appeal in front of the Court of cassation of Bahrain.” Minister Goffin continued by stating that “Belgium fully subscribes to the declaration from the European Union and its demand to Bahraini authorities to suspend the execution of these two individuals and to ensure that their new trial complies with international norms regarding fair trials. 

Minister Goffin reiterates the Belgian government’s opposition to the Death Penalty by saying “Belgium opposes the death penalty in every cases and circumstances. The death penalty violates the inalienable right to life written unto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and constitutes a sentence that is both inhumane and degrading. Neither does the death penalty have any dissuading effect on the criminality rate; moreover the judicial errors are irreversible.”

During his statement Minister Goffin mentioned that Belgium formulated recommendations “Bahrain’s last UPR cycle under the guidance of the UN Human Rights Council, including the full implementation of the recommendations formulated by the BICI report (Bassiouni report), and concerning the death penalty.” The minister highlighted that to ensure Bahrain’s long-term stability, the country must enable a space for political opposition to be voiced.

Minister Goffin discussed the informal human rights dialogue between Bahrain and the European Union since 2016, focusing on the last session in May 2018 where “concerns were expressed regarding issues of fair trial, the conditions of detentions of prisoners and more particularly their unlimited access to medical attention and the general human rights situation in the country.” He continues by moving forward to 2019 where the “Human Rights Council at the United Nations, the European Union reiterated its concerns regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain, and more particularly; the politicisation of the judicial system, and the importance of freedom of expression and association as inscribed in the universal declaration of human rights, which Belgium has ratified.”

A transcript of the questions can be found here

With a translation into English found here

Staesha Rath and Jonathan Miseroy are Advocacy Volunteers with ADHRB.