German Parliamentary Questions Addressing Human Rights Issues in Bahrain

Since 2011 Members of the German Bundestag (MPs), in particular those belonging to left-wing political parties (The LeftDie Linke and The GreensBündnis 90/Die Grünen), have posed questions to the German government on at least forty occasions concerning the issue of arms exports and the human rights situation in Bahrain. Following the country’s 2011 pro-democracy protests, the first German parliamentary question was tabled by MP Sevim Dag˘delen on 7th of March 2011 from The Left. The question was in relation to the export of police equipment and information technology to Bahrain and other Gulf states, as well as to countries such as Libya and Yemen. The question also raised issues of training and technical assistance, which has been given to security forces with known associations to often-violent protest suppression.

The same year Saudi Arabia sent security forces in support of the Bahraini government, a government accused of ordering violent attacks on peaceful protesters. On 21st March 2011, MP Inge Höger, also from The Left, raised concerns regarding the Federal government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. On 4th April 2011, MP Jan van Aken questioned why the German government did not stop the export of arms to Saudi Arabia despite Saudi involvement in Bahrain.

The German Bundestag database on parliamentary questions shows that between 2011 and 2012 MPs tabled questions in relation to the following topics:

  • Whether the government considered its current arms export policy to be appropriate, particularly in the light of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests and the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.
  • The types of arms exported to Bahrain and the previously aforementioned countries.
  • How the Federal government assessed the human rights situation in Bahrain.

On  4th June 2014 The Left tabled a series of questions regarding the contradictory behaviour  of the government. They questioned why the government decided to show support for the opposition in Syria and not in Bahrain. In Bahrain the majority Shia population are largely subjugated by the Sunni al-Khalifa family and their supporters, yet the government has stayed silent with the Bharani regime remaining unreproached. However, within the framework of the Syria Recovery Trust Fund, the German government gave support to the Syrian opposition helping create administrative structures in areas of their control. Furthermore, through their contributions to the international Group of Friends of the Syrian People, further funds have been allocated to Syrian opposition forces.

Additionally on 22nd of August 2014, MP Omid Nouripour from The Greens raised concerns that surveillance and monitoring equipment sold by the German-British company Gamma/FinFisher, was being used by the Bharani government against individuals of the political opposition.

Since 2015 German parliamentary questions have been related to the following topics:

  • The measures the government has taken to support the ban of German citizens travelling to Bahrain.
  • The intervention of Saudi Arabia in both Bahrain and the war in Yemen, and whether this was of interest to German security policy.
  • The value of arms exports to Bahrain and other Gulf states.

On 10th of February 2017, MP Inge Höger raised detailed questions regarding the death penalty in Bahrain. The MP asked how the German government would attempt to prevent the execution of Mohamed Ramadhan Issa, Hussain Ali Moosa and Maher Abbas Khamis. The government answered that Germany’s position is clear: “the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment that we reject under all circumstances. The Bahraini government has been asked to refrain from further executions”. The Government of Bahrain however has not stopped the execution process, nor their persecution of human rights defenders.

Regarding the ongoing human rights situation and the rule of law in Bahrain, last year on the 9th August 2019, MP Omid Nouripour questioned the German government in relation to the execution of two Bahraini prisoners. Three days later, the government responded stating that the Federal government will continue to work for human rights and the rule of law in Bahrain, both at a bilateral and multilateral level, joining forces with EU partners to raise the case for the abolition of the death penalty with the Bahraini government. Since then however, the Bundestag has appeared disinterested, as the further tabling of questions to the government regarding human rights, the rule of law, democracy and the death penalty have ceased.