Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (95)

Seán Crowe


95. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that over 600 political prisoners in Bahrain have undertaken a hunger strike to protest against the degrading and inhumane prison conditions since 17 August 2019 (details supplied); and if the issue will be raised as a matter of urgency with his counterpart in Bahrain. [37280/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The human rights situation in Bahrain is a matter of concern. Citizens in Bahrain are living in an increasingly restrictive society and there has been further erosion of fundamental freedoms in recent years, including freedom of opinion and expression. I remain concerned about the detention of a number of people in Bahrain, both in respect of the grounds for detention, and their treatment by the Bahraini authorities.

Many political prisoners are being held in Jau Prison in Bahrain where there are widespread reports of bad conditions and mistreatment of prisoners, including allegations of torture. I understand that a large number of the prisoners have gone on hunger strike in response to these conditions. 

  Respect for human rights is an integral part of Ireland’s foreign policy. Ireland attaches a high priority to safeguarding human rights defenders, and continually advocates for freedom for civil society actors to operate in a safe and enabling environment, without repression. Ireland urges all States to safeguard the human rights of prisoners and detainees and is committed to the prevention and eradication of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. These principles feed into our bilateral dialogue; for example, officials from my Department met with officials from the Bahraini Embassy in March 2019 and raised our human rights concerns directly with them. 

Ireland, as a small country, amplifies its voice on human rights issues through multilateral engagement and through measured recommendations offered as part of constructive dialogue.

Through our interventions at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Ireland has sought to ensure that the human rights situation in Bahrain and in other locations where we have concerns, remains in focus. Ireland has repeatedly raised human rights concerns in Bahrain at the HRC in recent Item 4 Statements ("human rights situations that require the Council’s attention"). For example, in September 2018, Ireland expressed concerns about the ongoing restrictions on civil society space and the treatment of human rights defenders, and called on Bahrain to respect freedom of opinion and expression. In February 2019, Ireland reiterated concern at the ongoing detention of human rights defenders. In our most recent Item 4 statement at the Human Rights Council in June/July 2019, Ireland called on Bahrain to ensure respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to a fair trial.  

At the most recent HRC Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain's human rights record in 2017, Ireland urged Bahrain to accept an open offer by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Bahrain.

With regard to the rights of prisoners and detainees in general, Ireland co-sponsored HRC Resolution 36/16, which calls upon States to ‘investigate promptly, effectively and impartially all alleged human rights violations and abuses suffered by persons deprived of their liberty, in particular cases involving death, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to provide effective remedies to the victims, and to ensure that detention administrations cooperate fully with the investigating authority and preserve all evidence’. Ireland has also co-sponsored; Resolution 30/7, concerning human rights in the administration of justice; Resolution 31/31, concerning torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and UN General Assembly Resolution 71/188, also concerning human rights in the administration of justice.

My Department will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights.  We shall seek all opportunities to do so both directly with Bahraini officials, as well as at EU and international level.