153. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his attention has been drawn to the imprisonment of a person (details supplied) in Bahrain; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this person was allegedly arrested for sending a tweet critical of the Government. [40677/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am familiar with the individual referred to in this question, Mr Nabeel Rajab and the circumstances of his recent arrest, including the reports that the charges against him relate to ‘publically insulting official institutions’ under Article 216 of the Bahraini penal code on foot of an opinion he expressed on Twitter. The apparent arrest, detention and prosecution of Mr Rajab for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression is of great concern. Reports indicate that his trial, which commenced on Sunday, will continue on 29 October. Mr Rajab was released from prison earlier this year, and, since then, has been continuing to act as an important voice on human rights matters in Bahrain, including, inter alia, by his participation in the work of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Officials from my Department have met with Mr Rajab since his release to discuss with him the circumstances of his previous detention and the human rights situation in Bahrain more generally. In 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Mr. Rajab’s previous detention was arbitrary. Ireland has always attached priority to safeguarding the position and rights of human rights defenders and has continually advocated that civil society actors must be free to operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from repression. Ireland’s concerns on such human rights issues in Bahrain have been conveyed regularly to the Bahraini authorities.
Ireland was one of 47 member states who delivered a joint statement expressing serious concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain at the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June of this year. In the statement, the signatories expressed their concern regarding the protection of human rights in Bahrain and called on the government to expedite the implementation of the recommendations received from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in this regard.
At the 27th session of the Human Rights Council last month, in a national statement, Ireland welcomed the positive steps taken by the authorities in Bahrain with respect to cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights while again expressing our serious concerns about the human rights situation, in particular condemning ‘the continuing arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, detained for peacefully exercising their human rights’. The current situation of human rights defenders in Bahrain will also be raised with the UN Special Rapporteur on this issue during an interactive dialogue which Ireland and other like-minded countries will have with him later this week in New York.
Human rights defenders, whether in Bahrain or elsewhere, should not be detained for simply exercising their rights, and all those arbitrarily detained in such circumstances should be immediately released. As noted by the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the detention of high profile human rights activists like Mr Rajab ‘sends a chilling message to other lesser-known activists of the consequences they may face for any criticism of the authorities’.
Ireland will continue to follow closely the human rights situation in Bahrain and to monitor the case of Nabeel Rajab in this context.