Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Bahrain

Delivered in Plenary - 12 September 2013

Mr President

There can be no doubt that what happened in Bahrain back in 2011 was of serious concern. The police sometimes acted disproportionately, innocent protestors were indeed killed and it goes without saying that those responsible for such crimes must be brought to justice. Nevertheless, there seems to be little new that has happened in that country since our last urgency resolution in January of this year that could justify another resolution on the same issue. I have to say that I share the Bahraini Government’s concerns that this Parliament could be seen as singling out Bahrain for reproach when in fact other countries in the region have a far worse human rights record and have not actually been censured to nearly the same extent. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has made little or no progress towards democracy since the Arab Spring, but very rarely comes under criticism or scrutiny.

Bahrain should be congratulated on the progress of the King’s national dialogue, the reforms of the penal code and the legal procedures, and above all the establishment in July of a police ombudsman. We also can all agree that political prisoners should all be released, that citizens should have the right to protest peacefully and exercise their freedom of speech and thought and that a free press is a cornerstone of a democratic society. The Bahrainis know all this for themselves and are showing encouraging signs of improving their society in this regard.

The establishment of the Arab Human Rights Court in Bahrain is further evidence that the Bahrainis, rather than the Europeans, are the ones who hold the key to progress and development in their small island state. I encourage all colleagues to engage with this country constructively and in a spirit of dialogue. If we merely appear to be wagging our fingers from the sidelines, we risk alienating ourselves from this debate and ultimately helping no one.