EU parliament calls for tear gas ban for Bahrain, release of Nabeel Rajab

A newly approved EU Parliament resolution urges Bahraini government to put an end to all human rights abuses. It calls to ban exports of tear gas and crowd-control equipment to the country, where prominent activist Nabeel Rajab is still behind bars.

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Bahrain on Thursday by a vast majority, suggesting a creation of an EU-Bahrain human rights working group.

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The document calls for “the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters” with a special focus on the cases of jailed political activist Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-founder of the BCHR, and Ibrahim Sharif, General Secretary of the secular liberal National Democratic Action Society, who was released from jail in June.

“Bahrain is a clear ally of the European Union and an important partner in the region. And it could be a good news story for the human rights in the Middle East – there has been progress, there is an ongoing dialogue,” MEP Alyn Smith, one of the authors of the resolution, said at the discussion before the voting.

“It is also important that we recognize failures and shortcomings. And Nabeel Rajab’s case is emblematic … of many more cases of repression and abuse of human rights. And we do call on all charges to be dropped,” Smith added.

The resolution also suggests “an EU ban on tear gas and crowd-control equipment until investigations on improper use are conducted,” according to the press release.

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“I think this is an illusion, it would be similar to the previous one. I don’t see any kind of pressure of the EU countries on the Bahraini government,” Ali Alaswad, former Bahraini MP, told RT. “The governments still look to adapt to the issues they have, especially business.”

“People know what is happening in prison, they don’t see any kind of improvement of the treatment to their prisoners. We still have more than 3,000 prisoners in prison including the political prisoners. Still, we have torture cases, that’s also because the Bahraini government doesn’t allow [UN] Special Rapporteur on torture to visit Bahrain,” Alaswad added.

Opposition leader Nabeel Rajab was arrested and put behind bars for several times since 2012 for his protest activities and Twitter posts criticizing the government. Most recent arrest took place this April following a September tweet, in which the activist suggested that Bahraini security institutions could act as an "ideological incubator" for terrorism and Islamic State militants.

“I am not a part of any organization, violent, or armed or opposition. I am a human right defender who doesn’t have anything other than his pen and his tongue. I only speak and write,” Rajab told RT.

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Bahrain is small island kingdom that is regarded as a strategic Gulf state. It hosts the home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. When in December Britain announced its plans to build its own permanent naval base there, human rights campaigners condemned the move, calling it a “reward” for government’s silence on human rights abuses.

“There has been clear recommendations by the UK parliament, as an example, with over a hundred MPs urging them to list Bahrain as a country of concern. Unfortunately, the message of the UK government is that this country is moving into the right direction, because Bahrain is investing heavily with the UK, the UK has become a PR-firm for the Bahraini government,” Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told RT.