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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4982

Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (18:34): I second the motion and rise in support of it. If you look at the full motion you will see that, yes, it is very critical of the government of Bahrain but it also attempts to give an outline, guidance and some way forward that might be adopted by the government of the Kingdom of Bahrain so that we do not have to have recurring debates like this in the Australian parliament that reflect the concerns of not only the wider Australian community but also, in particular, those who have made their home in Australia from Bahrain. I supported a previous motion in May last year. So we might end up having to do this every year, unless the government of Bahrain actually takes concrete action.

Some commentators might say—and they would have every right to do so—that the human rights situation over the last 12 months has deteriorated. According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a culture of impunity reigns, with human rights violations and arrests occurring on a weekly basis. We welcomed the 2011 Independent Commission of Inquiry, appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Its recommendations have yet to be fully implemented. You often see that it is the case that the easy part is to have the inquiry and to have independent suggestions about the way forward, but the difficult part is to then be genuine in your response to what you are told., and this has to be in a true sense of reconciliation and reflection on the deed that have been done.

This commission of inquiry found that security forces had used excessive force against peaceful protestors during demonstrations and had arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured, ill treated and denied them fair trials. Unfortunately, according to Human Rights Watch, protest leaders remain behind bars and no high-ranking officials have been held responsible for the abuses. Indeed, Human Rights Watch goes on to say:

Security forces used excessive force in 2012 to disperse anti-government protests. Authorities jailed human rights defenders and people who participated in peaceful demonstrations or criticized officials. The government dissolved an Islamic opposition party.

More recent examples include that, on 15 May, last month, Bahrain state media reported that six people were jailed for a year for insulting the king in a messages on Twitter.

On 25 April 2013, the United Nations expert Juan Méndez said that the Bahrain government had effectively cancelled his scheduled visit to Bahrain. So they would not allow the UN expert to visit. He was going to investigate reports that authorities abused and tortured protestors in detention. On 15 March this year, dozens of people were injured when protestors clashed riot police on the second anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention in Bahrain.

On a positive note, I acknowledge that on 29 March 2013 a court in Bahrain cleared 21 medics of charges linked to antigovernment protests in 2011. If I remember rightly, that was the basis of our motion in May 2012. Arrests of dozens of medical workers were part of a crackdown by the Bahrain's Sunni rulers after the Arrests of dozens of medical workers were part of the crackdown by Bahrain’s Sunni rulers after an uprising began in 2011 by majority Shiites seeking a greater political voice. I acknowledge that on 13 March this year two police officers were sentenced to 10 years in prison for the fatal beating of an antigovernment protestor at the beginning of Bahrain's political crisis in 2011. The sentences are amongst the harshest against security forces for abuses in Bahrain.

I join with the member for Werriwa in welcoming the resumption of Bahrain's national dialogue, which has been held twice a week since 10 February 2013. However, I note that on 22 May the majority Shiite groups announced that they would boycott these meetings for two weeks due to a crackdown by authorities that has seen hundreds of citizens arrested and the home of a prominent Shiite cleric raided. I hope that the Bahrain government take the discussion here in the spirit that it is meant. Something must be done to show that Bahrain is going forward, not further backwards.