Obstacles to freedom of movement and violations of freedom of association - BHR 005 / 0910 / OBS 118

Urgent Appeal
ar en

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Regional Coordinator of the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Frontline), and Ms. Laila Dashti, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the committee of detainees [1] have been prevented from leaving Bahrain in reprisals of their human rights activities. The Observatory has also been informed of the ministerial order to dissolve the Board of Directors of BHRS.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

According to the information received, on September 27, 2010, at 10:30 am, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, was prevented from leaving Bahrain at the causeway to Saudi Arabia [2]. At the Bahrain passport checkpoint, Mr. Rajab was left waiting for about 30 minutes, before being escorted to the arrival passport checkpoint by a security officer in plain clothes. He was informed that he was not authorised to leave the country. When Mr. Rajab asked if there was an official travel ban against him, the passport officer answered that there was no such order on the computer system and provided no grounds for the refusal to let him leave Bahrain.

On September 26, 2010, at 3:30 am, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was prevented from boarding a plane to Barcelona at Bahrain International airport to attend a human rights course on transitional justice. At the passport check point, his passport was taken away before an official in plain clothes came and told the passport officer that Mr. Alkhawaja was banned from travelling and that he could check with General Attorney Office. The passport officer accompanied Mr. Alkhawaja to the check-in desk to cancel the boarding cards and ordered to load off his luggage. On September 28, 2010, Mr. Alkhawaja’s lawyer met Mr. Wa’el Bu-Allai, the Head of the General Attorney Office, who told him that preventing anybody from leaving the country could only be based either on a court order or an order by the Prosecution Office. He affirmed that there was no such order against Mr. Alkhawaja so he should not have been prevented from leaving the country.

Furthermore, on September 20, 2010, Ms. Laila Dashti was prevented from leaving the country to participate to the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Despite several requests addressed to the Bahraini authorities, she did not receive any explanation from the Interior Ministry about the grounds for refusal to let her leave the country.

The Observatory fears that this de facto travel bans may merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities, In particular, the travel bans against Messrs. Alkhawaja and Rajab may be linked to the false accusation that they are supporting violence by submitting false information to international organisations published on September 1, 2010, by the newspaper Al-watan [3]. More generally, the Observatory recalls that these measures take place in a context of escalating threats and intimidation against the civil society and organisations criticising the current administration, while general elections are scheduled for October 23, 2010.

Additionally,on September 6, 2010, the Bahraini authorities published a ministerial order announcing that it would dissolve the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and dismissed its elected General Secretary, Dr. Abdulla Alderazi. An employee of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Al Jowder, was appointed to administer the society until the holding of a General Assembly, pursuant to Article 23 of the Law of Association No. 21 of 1989 [4]. The grounds provided were the organisation’s lack of neutrality towards all sections of Bahraini society, complaints sent to the Ministry of Social Development by the Bahrain Journalist Association and the publication of articles issued by “illegal entities” on its website.

The interim director, appointed for eight months, shall have access to all administrative and financial records and shall be responsible for calling the annual General Assembly which shall elect the new board. The interim director has also absolute authority upon the criteria for membership. The interim director shall prepare a report for the Ministry of Social Affairs on the status of the assembly including the financial control during the past two years and should address proposals for the reform of the organisation.

On September 19, 2010, the suspended board members of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), filed a court case against the Ministry of Social Affairs. The suit was lodged before the Urgent matters Court to challenge the legality of the ministry’s decision to suspend the board. It should be examined in October, 2010.

The order to dissolve the BHRS follows a statement published on September 2, 2010 in local newspapers by the Ministry of Social Development in which he threatened to initiate legal and administrative action against human rights societies which, according to the Ministry, would defend a specific category of citizens and neglect the others. On August 28, 2010, BHRS organised a press conference together with eleven other NGOs, with the presence of family members of detainees including human rights defenders arrested in the context of the broad wave of arrests launched mid-August to allegedly dismantle a terrorist network. During the press conference, BHRS denounced the detainees’ conditions of detention and the lack of access to the detainees by their lawyers and families and called for the respect of the right to due process and a fair trial.

The Observatory recalls that, since mid August, eleven Bahraini human rights defenders remain in detention as to date [5] in the framework of a broader crackdown on the civil society that has also targeted several religious and political activists.

The Observatory condemns this serious attack against the independence of a human rights NGO and the travel bans against Ms. Dashti and Messrs Alkhawaja and Rajab, which seem to aim at intimidating human rights organisations in Bahrain to conduct legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against human rights organisations and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the independence of human rights organisations and prevent any interference in their activities;

iv. Repeal the ministerial order, refrain from interfering with the internal management of human rights NGOs as well as with activities of promotion and protection of human rights;

v. Amend Article 23 of the Law of Association No. 21 of 1989 which provides that the Board of directors may be suspended if the Ministry considers that the association has committed minor violations, without providing any definition of “minor violations” thus violating the freedom of association;

vi. Release all human rights defenders;

vii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and its Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

viii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.


· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

Read more