Rising Concerns Among Leading French Politicians Over Human Rights Violations and Conditions of Political Prisoners in Bahrain

   Xavier Paluszkiewicz, Member of Parliament (MP) for France, questioned the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on France’s position regarding the continued violation of fundamental freedoms in Bahrain. Mr Paluszkiewicz, a French National Assembly member, has represented La Republique En Marche since 2017, and serves as a member of the Committee on European Affairs.

In his question to the Foreign Minister, Mr. Paluszkiewicz drew attention to the arrests of political figures by the Bahraini authorities since February 2011. He explicitly referred to Hussan Mushaima, leader of the political opposition in Bahrain, and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, activist and human rights defender. Mr. Paluszkiewicz expressed his concern for the violation of their fundamental freedoms, particularly considering their rapidly deteriorating health conditions.

Hassan Mushaima was recently transferred to hospital following a rapid deterioration in his health, after authorities repeatedly failed to provide him with adequate healthcare in prison. He continues to be denied basic medications and treatment, causing him to suffer from irreversible effects to his health. Moreover, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since July 8, 2021, in protest against his ill-treatment in prison, and the confiscation of his writings that he had spent four years working on. Despite his hunger strike entering its seventh week, authorities continue to deny his basic freedoms and ignore his requests to respect his human rights. The negligent medical care of Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace is yet another example of Bahrain’s persecution of human rights defenders and opposition leaders, as well as Bahrain’s appalling treatment of prisoners of conscience more widely.

The concerns raised by Mr. Paluszkiewicz come alongside recent observations made by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other major human rights groups, who have alerted the international community to the dire human rights situation within Bahrain. As a result, Mr. Paluszkiewicz has requested that the Foreign Minister make France’s position known regarding Bahrain’s failure to abide by international commitments, and to inform him of the possible diplomatic measures to remedy the serious human rights violations perpetrated in the country.

The questions posed by Mr. Paluszkiewicz came only three weeks after Guadeloupean MP, Justine Benin, questioned the Foreign Minister on his commitment to ensuring respect for human dignity and political freedoms in Bahrain. Ms. Benin also drew close attention to the cases of Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, using them as an example of Bahrain’s systematic oppression of all opposition figures. The French government has been repeatedly called out for their lack of action with regards to Bahrain’s human rights violations, with MP’s now beginning to mount pressure on the government to be more forthright in their position on the kingdom. This signifies a significant shift amongst French politicians, who are becoming increasingly concerned with Bahrain’s failure to adhere to their international obligations, and the continuous reports of human rights violations emerging from within the country.

Bahrain’s ongoing attacks on freedom of expression have been a significant cause for concern within the international community, with the government showing particular disregard for this right within the civil and political sphere. Bahraini security forces have continued to regularly detain and abuse government critics, journalists, activists, and religious leaders, subjecting them to police brutality, lengthy prison terms and arbitrary denaturalization. As a result, the government currently holds approximately 4,000 political prisoners and continues to incarcerate individuals on charges related solely to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Despite several international observations, Universal Periodic Review recommendations, and requests by Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, the Kingdom of Bahrain continues to portray a blatant indifference to the human rights of its own people.

It is clear that bilateral and multilateral pressure is the only way to coerce the kingdom to act in line with international human rights norms. The efforts made by French MP’s Xavier Paluszkiewicz and Justine Benin mark a step in the right direction, prompting action by foreign governments to call out Bahrain’s continuous rejection of fundamental freedoms within the kingdom.