2023 Portfolios: Government's Attempt to Polish Image by Hosting Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly Backfires

2024-02-29 - 4:25 p
Head of Denmark delegation to the IPU conference called for release of HR defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

Bahrain Mirror (2023 Portfolios): Bahraini authorities faced a challenging week as they hosted the 146th session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly from 11 to 15 March 2023, welcoming hundreds of representatives from all over the world. During the event, a number of participants shed light on human rights violations in Bahrain and the imprisonment of regime critics, including Danish Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been held behind bars since 2011.

More than 1,700 MPs, representing about 143 parliaments, attended the event. European MPs were among the most vocal critics of their hosts, with several members of the Danish delegation, including Søren Søndergaard, Chris Jensen Skriver and Kim Valentin, taking to the stage to call for Al-Khawaja to be released. Those calls were echoed by delegates from Finland, Iceland, Ireland and elsewhere.

Søndergaard said the Bahraini authorities had ignored his request to visit Al-Khawaja in prison. Another delegate, Karsten Hønge, tweeted a picture of himself standing outside Jau prison where Al-Khawaja is being held and added "His crime? Standing up for human rights and freedom of speech."

Human Rights Watch, a permanent observer at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, reported the cancellation of visas for two of its employees, deputy director in the Middle East and North Africa division, Michael Page, and researcher Niku Jafarnia. This move was criticized by a member of the Dutch delegation, Petra Stienen. Stienen urged IPU President, Portugal's Duarte Pacheco, to issue an official statement condemning the cancellations.

For the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords, an official delegation from the Israeli Knesset, led by Danny Danon, participated in the conference, representing the Israeli occupation entity.

Before the conference, four individuals were arrested, including lawyer Ibrahim Al-Mannai, for his Twitter (X) statement advocating for legislative reform in Bahrain. He expressed that Bahrain should make its parliament "positive and influential in people's lives if it is interested in highlighting the Bahraini Parliament to the world."

Detained former MP Sheikh Hassan Isa began a hunger strike on March 10 to draw the attention of conference participants to his nearly nine-year imprisonment.

During the conference, Jamal Fakhro, Bahrain's representative and head of the organizing committee, sparked criticism and ridicule by stating that human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja had not been tortured and refusing to release him, in response to the Danish delegation's request. This statement contradicted the findings of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry, whose establishment was ordered by Bahrain's King, which documented Al-Khawaja's torture.

A spokesperson for the IPU declined to comment on whether Bahrain was a suitable venue for its event under the slogan "Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance"

Niku Jafarnia, Bahrain researcher at HRW, noted that the IPU's leadership had remained silent about the arrest of opposition activists, the continued detention of Al-Khawaja and the withdrawal of visas, adding that the silence "has only served to reinforce Bahrain's whitewashing of human rights abuses, and has made a mockery of [the IPU's] slogan of 'For democracy. For everyone.'"

Cyprus strongly protested the appearance of the Turkish flag of Northern Cyprus during the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference and sent a letter of protest to Bahrain over the incident that almost caused a crisis between the two countries. Annita Demetriou, Speaker of the House of Representatives of Cyprus, said that the parliament had sent a letter of protest to the head of the parliament in Bahrain Ahmed bin Salman Al Musalam, Cyprus Mail newspaper reported, adding that Cyprus received a letter of apology from Manama and the Bahraini Parliament explaining that it was not done on purpose.

On the conferences' final day, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Al-Khawaja, labeling him a "prisoner of conscience".

Arabic Version

Head of Denmark delegation to the IPU conference called for release of HR defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

المصدر: Bahrain Mirror
رابط الموضوع: http://bhmapi.servehttp.com/en/news/64334.html