UAE summons Swiss ambassador over Bahrain human rights remarks

The UAE summoned the Swiss ambassador to discuss and condemn a statement made by her country on Tuesday about the human rights situation in Bahrain.

The United Arab Emirates has summoned the Swiss ambassador over a statement made by her country last week about the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Abdul Rahim al-Awadhi, UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for Legal Affairs, summoned Maya Tissafi to discuss a report presented by the Swiss representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday.

During the meeting, attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, director of the ministry’s European Affairs Department, al-Awadhi denounced the Swiss statement, saying it would have been better “if such issues were resolved through established bilateral channels between Bahrain and Switzerland”, according to a statement posted by state news agency WAM.

The foreign ministry also accused Switzerland of failing to acknowledge the steps Bahrain had taken to improve its human rights record, it said.

On Saturday, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) strongly condemned the Swiss statement, slamming what he called “accusations and distortions” against Bahrain.

“The GCC member states reject categorically the allegations cited in the Swiss statement, which disregarded Bahrain’s dedicated efforts to protect human rights in compliance with the international standards and national legislations,” Abdul Latif al-Zayani said.

Last week, Switzerland’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Valentin Zellweger called on Bahrain to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s procedures, expressing alarm over the tiny Gulf kingdom’s “repression of civil society”.

The GCC member states reject categorically the allegations cited in the Swiss statement, which disregarded Bahrain’s dedicated efforts to protect human rights in compliance with the international standards and national legislations
– Abdul Latif al-Zayani

“The use of torture, inadequate fair trial guarantees and excessive use of force during peaceful demonstrations, as well as reprisals against victims of human rights violations or those who cooperate with the United Nations, are of concern,” he said.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been rocked by sporadic unrest since 2011, when a wave of popular protests demanding an elected government erupted in the majority-Shia kingdom.

Authorities have cracked down on political dissent since then, and many leading political activists are in exile or behind bars, while others have had their citizenship revoked.

Bahrain says its actions are directed against people who fuel violence and sectarian tensions in the kingdom, denying charges by activists that it is targeting dissidents.

On Wednesday, Bahrain’s parliament invited the UN human rights chief to visit and promised him unrestricted access to prisons and Shia villages, following his criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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