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Human Rights Issues

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 28 June 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ceisteanna (51, 52, 53, 54, 55)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

51 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will press the Government of Bahrain to allow international human rights observers genuine access to Bahrain. [31409/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

52 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will request the Government of Bahrain to make public its policies and procedures for the issuance and use of tear gas by its security forces. [31410/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

53 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will join with the UNHRC Navi Pillay in calling for all the convictions made last year in the Court of National Safety to be overturned. [31411/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

54 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will continue to press the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally drop the charges against the 11 medics whose convictions were confirmed on 14 June against 28 medics in a separate trial and at least three more also being prosecuted; and that charges be dropped against the leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Mahdi Abu Deeb and Jalila al Salman both sentenced after trials in the Court of National Safety. [31412/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

55 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will press the Bahrain Government to permit the existence of civil societies in order that the community can support itself at a grass roots level, for example, Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organisation, an NGO registered here. [31413/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 to 55, inclusive, together.

I have already made clear on a number of occasions, including in this House, my own deep concern and that of the Irish Government and people regarding the general human rights situation in Bahrain. As I have advised the House previously, it is my view that civilians should never be tried in military courts. In the course of the recent Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain by the UN Human Rights Council, Ireland recommended that all decisions of the National Security Courts should be subject to review in ordinary courts, and that laws should be enacted that would prohibit civilians being tried in military courts in the future.

My concerns about individual human rights cases have been formally communicated to the Bahraini authorities through diplomatic channels on numerous occasions. In relation to the cases of the medics, and as I made clear in a statement issued on 15 June, I regard it as a welcome development that nine doctors were acquitted and that a further five had their sentences reduced to terms already served. However, I am very concerned that prison sentences have been imposed on four doctors, including two Irish-trained doctors, arising from events at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in March 2011. I have urged the Bahraini authorities to extend clemency in relation to the cases of these four doctors, given the great concerns and doubts which have surrounded their case from the start and in the wider interests of promoting urgently needed reconciliation within Bahrain. Officials in my Department have received assurances from the Bahraini Ambassador in London that these doctors will not be re-arrested pending any appeal they may make to the Court of Cassation.

I am also following closely the case of the leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association, whose hearing has been postponed until 8 July. This case has also been raised directly with the Bahraini Ambassador in London. I believe that charges arising from the exercise of such basic rights as freedom of expression or association should be dropped against defendants if there is credible evidence suggesting mistreatment or torture in custody, as in the case of Mahdi Abu Deeb. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has not received any response to his request for information concerning allegations of Mr Deeb's torture in custody. I would urge the Bahraini authorities to continue their engagement with the Special Rapporteur on Torture and to implement swiftly the recommendations made by the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry in its report last November, particularly the call for effective investigations into allegations of human rights abuses.

I am aware of, and commend, the work that the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organisation is endeavouring to undertake in providing treatment and counselling for the victims of torture. Officials in my Department met with Dr Nada Dhaif, Chairwoman of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organisation, during her recent visit to Ireland. Ireland will continue to encourage Bahrain and all countries in the region to ease restrictions on civil society, as promotion of the role of civil society is fundamental to achieving greater respect for human rights across the region. At Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review in May, Ireland recommended that Bahrain amend any articles of its Penal Code that can be used to prosecute individuals for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly or association, and that it bring its law in line with international standards established by the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

I believe the Bahraini Government should adopt a more positive approach in allowing full access to observers from international human rights organisations who wish to visit Bahrain. However, the key to genuine human rights reform lies with Bahrainis themselves, who should be facilitated in their efforts to develop national human rights organisations which can seek to hold the Government accountable. I again urge swift action to implement in full the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. The Commission made a number of recommendations that would ensure better protection for human rights in Bahrain. The early implementation of these recommendations would help re-build trust between the two communities in Bahrain as part of a process of national reconciliation. I also share the concerns expressed by human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch about the inappropriate use of tear gas resulting in the deaths of protestors. This also underlines the requirement for follow-up to the report of Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry, particularly the need for an extensive programme of public order training for the public security forces.

The only viable path forward for Bahrain is reconciliation and dialogue. A way must be found to chart a new and inclusive future for Bahrain. I urge the Bahraini authorities and the opposition to engage genuinely and meaningfully in a national reconciliation process.

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