Stop silencing dissenting voices in Bahrain!

Press release
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After a particularly tense year for human rights, the crackdown on civil society keeps on worsening in Bahrain.

Since the 2011 pro-democracy movement, the Bahraini government has intensified its campaign against civil society and political opposition. The assessment report presented by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights ahead of the Universal Periodic Review’s (UPR) Second Session establishes the lack of implementation by the Bahraini government of previous UPR recommendations. In September 2016, the High Commissioner for Human Rights commented: “In Bahrain, I am concerned by harassment and arrests of human rights defenders and political activists, and legislation which enables revocation of citizenship without due process.” [1] The government keeps on using arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, as well as torture and ill-treatment while in detention, but also travel bans and citizenship deprivation, against civil society leaders from major civil, political and religious organisations. New cybercrime and counter-terrorism legislations enabled the authorities to harass, criminalize and crush any critical or opposition movement. In January 2017, Bahrain has executed three Shia men convicted of killing policemen, despite credible evidence that their confessions had been obtained under torture. This was the first execution carried out in Bahrain since 2010. On 3 April 2017, the ratification of a constitutional amendment also opened the door to military trials for civilians. In the past few days, around thirty human rights defenders have been interrogated, accused of illegal gathering and informed of travel ban orders against them.

“Bahraini authorities have to comply with their international commitments. Crackdown must stop immediately."

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

In the context of these continuous gross human rights violations, the threat to dissolve the National Democratic Action Society (Waad) comes after a long list of attacks against its leaders, members and belongings since 2011. The Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs filed a lawsuit on 6 March 2017 requesting the dissolution of Waad Society under abusive charges, including "advocating violence, support for terrorism and incitement to encourage crime and lawlessness." This constitutes a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain in 2006.

The situation of human rights defenders in Bahrain is also a permanent issue of concern for our organisations. The health conditions of the two founding directors of FIDH member organisations, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab, also FIDH Deputy Secretary General, have seriously deteriorated after respectively years and months spent in detention. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who is serving a life sentence has started a hunger strike on 12 April 2017, and suffers from a severe eye disease which could lead to him losing eyesight. Nabeel Rajab, who has been subjected to multiple charges and trials since 2011, has been taken back to solitary confinement in the police station with a deep and open wound after undergoing surgery on 5 April 2017, which caused his health condition to worsen. He was rushed back to the police hospital on 8 April where he remains until now [2].

"Bahraini authorities should take immediate steps to protect Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja from further degrading and other inhumane treatment and to ensure that they are treated humanely in accordance with international law and standards.”

Yousif Al-Muhafdah, Vice President of BCHR

60 organisations have co-signed an open letter calling on the Bahraini authorities to release Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab raising concerns over their deteriorating health.

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