FRENCH diplomats have been criticised for interfering in local affairs, especially in matters involving Bahrain’s independent judiciary.
It follows comments made by French Ambassador to Bahrain Cécile Longé that Paris was deeply concerned by the “treatment of human rights defenders and political opponents in the country” and specifically criticised the five-year prison sentence for Nabeel Rajab.
The comments posted on Twitter on June 7 by Ms Longé, who was appointed in November, came a day after a controversial decision by the Council of Paris to grant Mr Rajab honorary citizenship.
However, a top government official, who spoke to the GDN on the condition of anonymity, criticised the Twitter posts and the title presentation – adding that the French have conveniently ignored facts presented by the Public Prosecution that resulted in Mr Rajab being found guilty of committing a “dangerous crime” at a time of war.
The GDN reported on June 6 that an appeal lodged by Mr Rajab against his five-year jail term for spreading false information on social media about the Saudi-led military action in Yemen was rejected.
“The messages posted on the Twitter account of the French Ambassador against Bahrain are totally unacceptable and in violation of the Vienna Convention,” said the Bahraini official.
“How can a diplomat who has taken charge of her new role in Bahrain make such a statement that is against public opinion, civil societies and even the government’s stance?”
The official said issues related to court verdicts or national security should not warrant any foreign commentary or intervention.
“The tweets by the French Ambassador have crossed all lines because there are diplomatic channels to send out a message,” he added.
“Even during the difficult times Bahrain went through in 2011, none of the diplomats made such a statement, they supported us.
“This is a new trend we are noticing that needs to be corrected.”
The GDN repeatedly contacted Ms Longé questioning her tweets and the title of honorary citizen granted to Mr Rajab, in addition to reports that the diplomat was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry for “consultation” over the issue.
Ms Longé has acknowledged receiving the e-mails from the GDN, adding that the communications department at the French Foreign Ministry would address the questions.
However, at the time of going to Press there was no response from either the ministry or embassy.
The GDN also contacted the office of the Mayor of Paris, which acknowledged the email but failed to respond.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Saturday that France’s Foreign Ministry said it stood by the ambassador’s tweets.
It even stated that a Bahraini emissary was dispatched to Paris last Friday to register Manama’s disapproval over the issue.
The National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) also issued an urgent statement yesterday in response to the recent developments.
“The NIHR observed a number of reports issued by external parties on the human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which deliberated on a number of cases and their proceedings thereof,” it said.
“The NIHR takes these issues to serious considerations, where representatives from the institution attend on a regular basis all of the relevant court hearings in civil, penal and personal status courts, and issues subsequent reports in the respect, in order to observe fair trial guarantees offered to all related individuals.”
The rights watchdog urged individuals and institutions from foreign countries to contact them for proper information about Bahrain’s rights record.
Shura Council human rights committee chairman Ahmed Al Haddad also urged the French government to support Bahrain in its reforms process rather than issuing biased statements that could affected bilateral relations.
“We, in Bahrain, should also be more involved, I feel, in communicating with international groups and governments to send out a clear message,” said the MP.
“The government, Shura Council, parliament and Foreign Ministry work together for the interest of our country and if we are wrong then we are the first to rectify those mistakes.
“Human rights is a continuous process that evolves and I hope our relations with France will further improve, despite these recent developments.
“As far as Nabeel Rajab’s case is concerned, it is being dealt with by Bahrain’s courts according to our Constitution.”
Reports coming out of France also stated that the ceremony to present the honorary citizenship title to Mr Rajab was attended by Shaikh Maytham Al Salman, an opposition member who was arrested in 2016 for illegal gatherings but released on bail.