Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Questions (62)

Seán Crowe


62. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Bahraini Court of Appeal has upheld the five year sentence against a person (details supplied); his views on whether the person was simply peacefully expressing their opinions online and this should not be a crime; if he will speak out against their ongoing detention and the Bahraini authorities’ determination to squash the right to freedom of expression and silence peaceful criticism; and if he will discuss the case with his Bahraini counterpart and request the person's immediate release and for all charges against them to be dropped. [25750/18]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy, and that the individual in question has had his sentence upheld in a recent ruling by the Bahraini Court of Appeal. Ireland attaches a high priority to safeguarding human rights defenders, such as the person referred to by the Deputy.

I remain very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain, which I have spoken on in this House several times of late. Statements from the Bahraini Government on its commitment to safeguarding human rights enshrined in the Bahraini Constitution are undermined by ongoing examples of violations of fundamental freedoms, including violations of freedom of opinion and expression. A number of worrying developments suggest an increasingly restrictive approach, targeting those who express disagreement with or criticism of the Government.

Ireland’s concerns about human rights issues in Bahrain are regularly conveyed to the Bahraini authorities, including through the Bahraini Embassy in London and through Ireland’s (non-resident) Ambassador to Bahrain. In February of this year, officials from my Department met with the Ambassador of Bahrain in Dublin, and raised Ireland’s concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain, including the case referred to by the Deputy.

Officials from my Department also raised ongoing human rights concerns with Bahrain in the context of its Universal Periodic Review, which took place in Geneva in May 2017. At the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March of this year, Ireland supported an EU statement under Item 4 (Human Rights situations that require the Council’s attention) which reiterated calls on Bahrain “to maintain its commitments as to the respect of freedom of speech and human rights defenders.” We also made reference to Bahrain in our national Item 4 statement highlighting our grave concerns over the ending of the defacto moratorium on use of the death penalty.

My Department will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Bahrain, and will utilise every appropriate opportunity to raise Ireland’s concerns with the Bahraini authorities.