Royal pardon of 178 activists and defenders. A strong signal for ending a latent political crisis?

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) strongly welcome the royal pardon of 178 activists and human rights defenders charged with security offenses, issued by the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa, on April 12th, 2009. Our organizations ask for the release of those who were pardoned and remain detained on April 15th.

"FIDH considers this royal pardon a significant measure for a more tolerant policy towards activism and human rights activities. We reiterate our call upon the Bahraini authorities to press its efforts on and take the necessary measures to initiate a dialog with the relevant stakeholders » declared Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH who met with several high representatives of the Bahraini authorities last March 2009. « An appropriate solution remains to be found to solve the internal problems which shake Bahrain increasingly for several months. The royal pardon is an important step to move in this direction. The authorities of the Kindgdom of Bahrain should set and implement a policy of social justice and integration towards all social categories . FIDH along with its member organizations in Bahrain, remains available to support further positive steps for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms to be implemented and strengthened in the Kingdom of Bahrain. », she added.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is faced with protests and demonstrations which mainly took place in Shiite villages and denouncing discrimination they are subjected to.These regular protests often ended in violent clashes between demonstrators and the police forces. The disproportionate use of force against demonstrators by the police was regularly denounced. Furthermore, several human rights defenders arrested at these gatherings were sentenced to heavy prison sentences.

FIDH, BCHR and BHRS would also recall that the Bahraini authorities should exert the necessary efforts to guarantee that an investigation into the allegations of confessions under torture and the prosecution of those found responsible should be ensured.

Some activists and human rights defenders among those released following the royal decree were accused of charges indicated in the 2006 Counter Terrorism Law. FIDH, BCHR and BHRS warn that some tenets of the Counter-Terrorism Law nurture an environment in which impunity and violation of basic human rights is allowed to propagate. FIDH and its member organizations in Bahrain thus call upon the Bahraini authorities to amend the above-mentioned law in order to comply with the relevant international human rights standards.

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