France slams Bahrain in rare criticism over human rights

France slams Bahrain in rare criticism over human rights
2 min read
23 June, 2018
French ambassador to Bahrain Cecile Longe said that Paris was deeply concerned by the "treatment of human rights defenders and political opponents in the country".
Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists since 2011 protests demanding political change. [Getty]

France sought to reassure Bahrain on Friday after rare criticism by its ambassador to the kingdom over the country's human rights record.

French ambassador to Bahrain Cecile Longe on 7 June tweeted that Paris was deeply concerned by the "treatment of human rights defenders and political opponents in the country".

The senior official specifically criticised a five-year jail sentence for opposition member Nabeel Rajab for criticising the Saudi-led coalition fighing in Yemen.

Rajab had also accused Bahrain's prison authorities of torture. The activist was made an honorary citizen this week by Paris' town hall.

"The Bahrainis went apoplectic after this because the symbolism of it was a step too far," said one source aware of the matter, Reuters reported.

On Friday a Bahraini official was sent to Paris to underscore Manama's disapproval over France's criticisms.

Two diplomatic sources said the decision to name Rajab as an honorary citizen had pushed the Bahrainis to consider calling off the king's official visit to Paris due at the end of June.

France's foreign ministry said it stood by the ambassador's tweets.

Bahrain, a Shia-majority country located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been ruled for more than two centuries by the al-Khalifa dynasty.

Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups since protests demanding political change erupted in 2011.

They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, leaving many stateless.