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PV 06/02/2014 - 15.3
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CRE 06/02/2014 - 16.3

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Thursday, 6 February 2014 - Strasbourg
Bahrain, in particular the cases of Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ibrahim Sharif

European Parliament resolution of 6 February 2014 on Bahrain, in particular the cases of Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Ibrahim Sharif (2014/2553(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Bahrain, and in particular those of 17 January 2013(1) and of 12 September 2013(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 March 2011 on European Union relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council(3),

–  having regard to the statements made by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on Bahrain, in particular her statements of 7 January, 11 February, 1 July and 25 November 2013, and of 16 January 2014,

–  having regard to the local EU statement on the latest developments in Bahrain of 19 September 2013,

–  having regard to the visit by a delegation of its Subcommittee on Human Rights to Bahrain on 19 and 20 December 2012, and to the press statement issued by that delegation, and to the Arab Peninsula delegation visit from 27 to 30 April 2013 and its press statement,

–  having regard to the statements made by the UN Secretary-General, and particularly that of 8 January 2013, and to the statement by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights of 6 August 2013,

–  having regard to the statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Joint Statement on the OHCHR and the human rights situation in Bahrain of 9 September 2013,

–  having regard to the EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting in Manama, Bahrain, on 30 June 2013,

–  having regard to the decision of the Arab League’s Ministerial Council, meeting in Cairo on 1 September 2013, to set up a pan-Arab court of human rights in Bahrain’s capital, Manama,

–  having regard to the report released by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November 2011, and to its follow-up report of 21 November 2012,

–  having regard to Opinion A/HRC/WGAD/2013/12 of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of 25 July 2013,

–  having regard to the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy of 25 June 2012,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on a digital freedom strategy in EU foreign policy(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2013 on the freedom of the press and media in the world(5),

–  having regard to the 2004 EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, as updated in 2008,

–  having regard to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Arab Charter on Human Rights, to all of which Bahrain is a party,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the 1949 Geneva Convention,

–  having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas human rights violations in Bahrain remain of great concern; whereas many recent actions by the Bahraini authorities continue to violate and restrict the rights and freedoms of segments of the population, in particular the right of individuals to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and digital freedom; whereas human rights activists face ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention;

B.  whereas Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was convicted to three years in prison in August 2012 on charges of calling for and participating in ‘illegal gatherings’ and ‘disturbing public order’ between February and March 2011; whereas his sentence was reduced to two years in prison on appeal; whereas before this imprisonment Mr Rajab was repeatedly detained for peacefully expressing criticism of the government during the pro-democracy protests that erupted Bahrain in 2011;

C.  whereas on Friday 29 November 2013 Nabeel Rajab had served three-quarters of his two-year sentence and had become legally eligible for release; whereas a third request for early release was submitted by Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers on 21 January 2014 to the Court, but was rejected;

D.  whereas the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has described the detention of Mr Nabeel Rajab as arbitrary;

E.  whereas on 22 June 2011, Abdulhadi-al-Khawaja, founder of the BCHR and regional coordinator of Front Line Defenders, who has Danish nationality, and Ibrahim Sharif, Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society, were sentenced to life in prison by a special military court; whereas the legal process came to a conclusion after 3 years of appeals and the sentences were upheld;

F.  whereas on 27 January 2014, Zainab al-Khawaja, Abdulhadi-al-Khawaja’s daughter, was sentenced by the Lower Criminal Court in Manama to a further four months in prison on the charge of ‘destroying government property’;

G.  whereas, following the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, the Bahraini authorities committed themselves to undertaking reforms; whereas the government has failed to fully implement the Commission’s core recommendations, notably the release of protest leaders convicted for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly;

H.  whereas on 2 September 2013 Bahrain announced that it would host the permanent headquarters of the Arab Human Rights Court following its approval at an Arab League meeting in Cairo;

I.  whereas on 15 January 2014 HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, upon the request of HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, held wide-ranging talks with participants in the National Consensus Dialogue, including in particular with Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of Alwefaq, for the first time since the events of February 2011;

1.  Condemns all human rights violations in Bahrain and urges the Bahraini government to implement all the recommendations in the BICI report and the Universal Periodic Review, to put an end to all human rights abuses and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, both online and offline, and the freedom of assembly, in line with Bahrain’s international human rights obligations;

2.  Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters, including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Ibrahim Sharif, Naji Fateel, and Zainab Al-Khawaja;

3.  Expresses its grave concern regarding the Bahraini authorities’ treatment of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights activists, in addition to their refusal to grant him the early release for which he is eligible in accordance with the law;

4.  Calls for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance;

5.  Stresses the obligation to ensure that human rights defenders are protected and allowed to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation or harassment;

6.  Opposes the creation and use of special courts or the use of military courts to try national security crimes;

7.  Urges the Bahraini authorities to respect the rights of juveniles, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain is a party;

8.  Welcomes Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s decision to hold talks on 15 January 2014 with leaders of the five main opposition groupings in order to explore means of overcoming the challenges faced by the national dialogue which had been suspended by the government a few days before; welcomes the positive reaction of the opposition and looks forward to the resumption of the National Consensus Dialogue; notes that there is no solution other than a Bahraini one based on compromises and mutual trust; hopes that this step will foster a serious and inclusive national dialogue, setting the ground for profound and sustainable reforms towards the national reconciliation of Bahraini society;

9.  Is encouraged by the operational launch of the office of the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman and a Special Investigations Unit in the Public Prosecution Office and calls on these institutions to act independently and effectively; welcomes the increasingly active role assumed by the National Institution for Human Rights since its reform and the creation of the ‘Prisoners and Detainees’ Commission’, which will monitor places of detention in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment; calls on the Bahraini authorities to improve the conditions and treatment of prisoners and to allow relevant local and international organisations access to detention centres;

10.  Notes the Bahraini Government’s ongoing efforts to reform the penal code and legal procedures, and encourages the continuation of this process; calls on the Government of Bahrain to take all necessary steps to guarantee due process and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain, and to ensure that it acts in full accordance with international human rights standards;

11.  Encourages the UN to organise a prompt visit by the three Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on torture and on the independence of judges and lawyers;

12.  Calls on the VP/HR and the Member States to work together to develop a clear strategy setting out how the EU will, both publicly and privately, actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience; calls on the VP/HR to work with the Member States to ensure the adoption of the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the human rights situation in Bahrain, which should include a specific call for the immediate and unconditional release of the imprisoned activists;

13.  Welcomes the decision by the Arab League to set up an Arab Human Rights Court in Manama and expresses its hope that this may act as a catalyst for human rights across the region; urges the Government of Bahrain, as well as its partners in the Arab League, to ensure the integrity, impartiality, efficiency and credibility of this Court;

14.  Calls for the adoption by the Council of appropriate measures in the event of the reform process being discontinued or a deteriorating human rights situation;

15.  Encourages the establishment of an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and Parliament of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0032.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0390.
(3) OJ C 247 E, 17.8.2012, p. 1.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0470.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0274.

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