2 February 2015 – On 31 January 2015, the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior revoked the citizenship of 72 individuals, including journalists, doctors, political activists and a human rights activist, rendering most of them stateless. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the continued use of citizenship revocation by the Government of Bahrain as a reprisal against human rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners.
The Bahrain Ministry of Interior has published the names of 72 Bahraini citizens in a statement declaring the revocation of their citizenship for a number of “illegal acts” without any due process of law, and in effect, rendering many of them stateless. The Ministry invoked its newly given powers under a revision made to Article 10/c of the 1963 Bahraini Citizenship Act, with the approval of the Council of Ministers, which issued a decree to revoke the nationality of these individuals. The reference number of the decree was not mentioned. In absence of a reference to the decree number, chances for appeal against the decision can be highly restricted.
The Ministry of Interior’s statement claimed that “each citizen of Bahrain has the responsibility to act in ways that do not harm the interests of the Kingdom.” Alongside spying, financing terrorism, participation in terrorist actions, the statement lists: “defaming the image of the regime, inciting against the regime and spreading false news to hinder the rules of the constitution,” “defaming brotherly countries” and “inciting and advocating regime change through illegal means” as justification for their decision. ADHRB, BIRD, and BCHR make no representations regarding the guilt or innocence of all 72 denaturalized persons, but strongly believe that due process is a fundamental human right belonging to every person in the world, and that any such denaturalization proceedings should take place in a fair, independent, and competent court of law.
These justifications have been used to revoke the citizenship of human rights activists, political activists, journalists, academics and religious figures. Among the named are blogger Ali Abdulemam, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia because for running an online news forum; Dr. Ali Al-Dairi, founder of the online news site Bahrain Mirror; journalist Abbas Busafwan; university professor Masoud Jahromi; and former opposition MP Shaikh Hasan Sultan.
The revocation of citizenship without any due process is a severe violation of international law, namely Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.”An arbitrary revocation of nationality may also lead to violations of other human rights conventions such as the right to a family life, the right of children to have a nationality under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Individuals that have been rendered stateless also face severe difficulties in enjoying social and economic rights and freedoms.
“We are constantly told by the British government that Bahrain is on the path of reform,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “At exactly the same time, the Bahraini government is trying to ruin the lives of its critics.” Alwadaei fled to the United Kingdom after his arrest and torture in 2011. He is one of the 72 listed in the Ministry of Interior’s statement and has been left stateless.
Since November 2012, Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of 124 persons either through direct statements by the Ministry of Interior or through court orders.
Based on the above, the aforementioned groups call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and concerned international institutions to exercise real pressure on the government of Bahrain to:
- Restore the citizenship of all citizens who were unfairly denaturalized without recourse to due process, with the aim of trying any persons suspected of violent terrorism-related offenses in a fair and independent court of law;
- Halt the policy of citizenship revocation used as a punishment against critics and dissidents practicing their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
- Join and adhere to the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.