RIYADH/GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates summoned the Swiss ambassador on Sunday to denounce a statement Switzerland made to the United Nations Human Rights Council the week prior criticizing fellow Gulf state Bahrain’s human rights record.
The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Swiss ambassador “it was better if such issues were resolved through established bilateral channels between Bahrain and Switzerland,” according to a statement posted on 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.
Switzerland’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Valentin Zellweger last week 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 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.
Human rights groups say Bahrain, a strategic island that is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has carried out a wide crackdown on dissent since a 2011 uprising led by the country’s majority Shi‘ites to demand a greater role in government.
Authorities have banned the main Shi‘ite Muslim group, launched legal proceedings to ban another secular group, detained activists and revoked the citizenship of the spiritual leader of the country’s Shi‘ites.
Bahrain says its actions are directed against people who foment violence and sectarian tensions in the kingdom, denying charges by activists that it is targeting dissidents.
Bahrain’s parliament on Wednesday invited the U.N. human rights chief to visit and promised him unrestricted access to prisons and Shi‘ite villages, following his criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record.
Reporting by Katie Paul; and Ali Abdelatti; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Sandra Maler