ODVV interview: Bahrain's situation has been...
A Member of the European Parliament tells the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence that it's shameful that some European countries and the United States export arms to countries such as Bahrain, which don't respect human rights and use these weapons to commit war crimes.
"It is a scandal that European member states and the US export arms and make arms deals with countries where human rights are not respected and which might be used to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as is the case in Yemen," said Ana Maria Gomes. Ms. Gomes believes the United Kingdom is violating the European Union Arms Trade Treaty by exporting weaponry to Bahrain in great proportions.
Ana Maria Gomes is a Member of the European Parliament from Portugal and a member of Portuguese Socialist Party. In the European Parliament, her work is mainly focused on migration, human rights, security, defence and international relations. She has served in various positions in the government of Portugal and her last assignment was the Ambassador of Portugal in Indonesia from 2000 to 2003.
In an interview with ODVV, Ms. Ana Maria Gomes discussed her views about the violations of human rights in Bahrain and the European Union and international community's response to it. The following is the text of the interview.
Q: The situation of human rights in Bahrain has worsened significantly since the beginning of popular uprisings in this country in 2011 as testified by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The freedoms of journalists, human rights activists and teachers are restricted severely and pressure mounted on the country's Shiite population. What do you think are the reasons?
A: I consider there are three main reasons. First of all, their Saudi allegiance. Second, the incapacity of the Bahraini government to address the democratic aspiration of its people. Finally, the third reason for me would be the western complicity.
Q: Has the European Parliament ever debated and discussed the violations of human rights in Bahrain? Are you aware of any investigations or discussions by the subcommittee on human rights and the parliamentary delegation for relations with the Arabian Peninsula about the situation of human rights in Bahrain?
A: The Bahraini situation has been evoked numerous times in the European Parliament, as well as some specific cases of human rights activists. The most recent work was a motion for a resolution regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain, especially the case of Nabeel Rajab. However, this is not the first work on the case and the European Parliament as well as the subcommittee on human rights have been following the issue closely for several years now.
Q: Bahrain has signed major deals with Britain and the United States to buy weaponry and artillery from these countries and is also using them in the Yemen war. Don't these deals send wrong signals to Bahrain that the Western powers don't have any problems with the violations of human rights in this country?
A: It is a scandal that European member states and the US export arms and make arms deals with countries where human rights are not respected and which might be used to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as is the case in Yemen. Moreover, in doing so, the United Kingdom is violating the European Union Arms Trade Treaty.
Q: Reports published by the human rights organizations show the growth of sectarian conflicts and divisions in this country and the government of Bahrain is a culprit in the emergence of these divisions. Are the international organizations, including the European institutions, able to improve the situation?
A: International organisations can denounce the situation and try to put pressure on the Bahraini government, but the only effective way would be for other countries to put sanctions on it, especially regarding defence agreements and arms exports. But ultimately, only the Bahraini government and population can improve or change the situation.
Q: Do you agree that the major Western powers refrain from closely investigating and explicitly criticizing the situation of human rights in Bahrain because of their close commercial and military relations with the government of Bahrain?
A: Yes, that is usually the case for Western governments: they might speak out on the subject of human rights, but often they try to maintain the economic advantages they developed in the relations with the country.
By: Kourosh Ziabari