On 18 November 2020, MP Hugues Bayet submitted a question in the Belgian Parliament Chamber and on 24 November 2020, another question was submitted in the Belgian Senate by Senator Bert Anciaux. Both Senator Anciaux and MP Bayet’s questions were submitted to Madame Sophie Wilmès, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Federal Cultural Institutions. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes these parliamentary questions and thanks both Senator Anciaux and MP Bayet for bringing attention to the ongoing human rights abuses and the plight of human rights defenders and political activists in Bahrain.
MP Bayet asked, translated from French:
“I had already been able to question your predecessor in January 2020 about the human rights situation in Bahrain. Indeed, as many NGOs report, between acts of torture, arbitrary detentions and executions, this country has not been an example in terms of fundamental rights in recent years, even though it is party to various international treaties protecting human rights. Unfortunately, the situation did not improve. In June and July 2020, the Bahraini Court of Cassation confirmed the death sentences of four new people. They now have no access to any means of appeal to hope to escape this tragic situation and their sentences can be applied at any time.
“Twelve people are currently on death row in Bahrain because of their political opposition to the current regime. This despite the fact that all of them have confessed under torture. Their only hope is that the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Kahlifa, will decide to commute their sentences.
- Do you have new information about the human rights situation in Bahrain?
- Belgian instruments on this subject are passing according to the answer given by your predecessor, notably by the Belgian embassy in Kuwait. What information do you get from this diplomatic post?
- What about Belgium’s position at the level of the UN bodies on this subject? Wouldn’t this be the ideal forum to hope to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain?”
Senator Anciaux asked, translated from Dutch:
“The European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), the European representation of a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), advocates for human rights to be respected in the Gulf States. We must once again express our deepest concern about the continued use of the death penalty in Bahrain, as well as the proven serious human rights violations against human rights defenders and political activists present in Bahrain. the country.
“In the past, the ECDHR and the Belgian Parliament have already collaborated successfully to fight against the culture of impunity in Bahrain since the uprisings of 2011. In February 2020, the Senate adopted the resolution on human rights in Bahrain (Senate doc. no. 7 142/2). As a result of this resolution, in particular, the government of Bahrain has realized that the international community is monitoring the situation and will not tolerate serious human rights violations continuing unabated.
“Today we see that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting the lives of thousands of prisoners of conscience at risk of contracting the virus at risk and deprived of medical care in Bahrain’s prisons. Many of them were arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association and were ill-treated and tortured while in detention.
“We urge you, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, to ensure that Resolution No. 7,142 is also transposed into political acts and that the Belgian government urges the Bahraini authorities that these political prisoners be released for humanitarian reasons.
“We also want to remind you that currently twelve men are on death row on political charges and have exhausted all national remedies. While in prison, they suffered all kinds of abuses, such as abuse, ill-treatment, torture and other human rights violations. They were all convicted under broad anti-terrorism legislation, many of them in mass trials held between 2014 and 2018 and without the benefit of any real legal defense. They therefore risk execution at any time.
“Since the adoption of the resolution by the Senate on February 14, 2020, several cases of people imprisoned for political reasons have come to light and evidence of perpetual human rights violations in Bahrain has been gathered.
- Are you prepared to have a meeting with your counterpart in charge of Foreign Affairs and with the Ambassador of Bahrain in order to express our deep concern regarding respect for human rights in Bahrain?
- Will you do what is necessary to bring this issue to the table at a European Council of Foreign Ministers, with the aim of putting pressure on the Bahraini government with your colleagues?
- Will you pray, by all possible means, to the government of Bahrain to respect the rights of political prisoners in the country during this health crisis?
- Do you intend to accede to my request to insist by all means with the regime of Bahrain so that it releases these political prisoners?”
In her response to MP Bayet and Senator Anciaux, Madame Sophie Wilmès noted that she shared “concern about the human rights situation in Bahrain” and that it “is systematically on the agenda of bilateral meetings with Bahrain, both at the administrative and political levels”. Furthermore, Madame Wilmès expressed that both Belgium and the EU “fervently supports the universal abolition of the death penalty”, and stated that “the EU and Belgium have already publicly expressed their concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain, including the right to a fair trial and the politicisation of the judicial system.
Madame Wilmès concluded her response by stating that “[t]he European Union also encourages Bahrain to respect all national and international human rights commitments and to implement the recommendations accepted during the universal periodic review.”