Media: MEPs: "High time for EU sanctions against Bahrain"

Marietje
D66, 08.05.2012 EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton should start preparing a set of targeted restrictive measures against the Bahraini government. In a letter sent today, initiated by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake (D66/ALDE), a cross-party coalition of 18 Members of European Parliament urged Ashton to take immediate action. Schaake: "The Bahraini government has committed itself to start a dialogue with the opposition, to implement structural reforms, to stop the violence against protestors and to release all political prisoners. However, we are seeing the opposite." On Saturday the Bahraini authorities arrested Nabeel Rajab, one of the country's most prominent opposition leaders. The detention of Danish/Bahraini Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, another leading opposition member and who is on hunger strike, also continues. Mr al-Khawaja is being detained together with his daughter Zainab al-Khawaja and 20 other opposition leaders. Consistency The MEPs ask Ashton to set a clear deadline for the Bahraini government to keep its promises. If no improvements occur or actions are being taken, the EU should immediately formally ban the exports of all military equipment, including teargas, to Bahrain. The EU should also impose travel bans on those responsible for human rights violations and freeze their assets inside the EU. Schaake: "Bahraini opposition members wonder why the EU is not exercising more pressure. Strategic interests like the presence of the United States Navy's 5th Fleet should not have a decisive impact on the EU's human rights policy. The EU should unequivocally support citizens in their struggle for democracy, freedom and respect for their human rights." Credibility Schaake believes that an EU policy towards Bahrain that differs from that towards the Syrian government and earlier in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, will eventually do much harm to the EU's credibility in the region. "Young people in the Middle-East and North-Africa are connected online and immediately know when the EU is applying double standards. That is not only bad policy, but also very harmful for the EU's standing in the region", Schaake says. Human rights have proven to be of vital strategic interests in the Arab world. "All these young people will remember the EU's position, which will influence our future relations with the entire region. A missed opportunity."