Human rights are non-negotiable. We welcome today’s European Parliament vote demanding the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. A human rights activist, Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in Bahrain’s backlash against the  2011 protests in the country.

Al-Khawaja was nominated for the Nobel peace prize in 2013, and was subject to arbitrary detention, a UN working group concluded in 2012. The UN group reported that Al-Khawaja had been beaten in prison and suffered four fractures to his jaw.

The resolution calls for the release of Al-Khawaja and an end to the use of torture and the death penalty. It also denounces Bahrain’s repression of human rights defenders.

The vote is a victory for human rights, especially as the right-wing EPP constantly tried to block the resolution and any criticism of the Bahrain government. The group finally withdrew from the vote and now refuses to  participate in all so-called “urgency resolutions” on foreign policy, such as the one adopted today. 

The vote comes in the context of media reporting on the chair of the European Parliament’s Bahrain friendship group, Tomáš Zdechovský, an MEP from EPP, who had an undeclared visit to the country in April 2022, where he met Bahrain’s chamber of commerce. Zdechovský negotiated the Bahrain resolution on behalf of his group.   

The Left calls for stricter rules around ethics and transparency in all EU institutions, particularly  in the context of the ongoing Qatar corruption scandal. 

Marisa Matias MEP (Bloco de Esquerda, Portugal) commented on the vote: “Human rights in Bahrain can’t be manipulated by the political interests of political groups such as EPP. Today the Parliament was clear about it by condemning the detention of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.”