On 26 June 2016, the government of Bahrain deported human rights lawyer Taimoor Karimi to Iraq. Bahraini forces arrested Karimi in 2011 for participating in demonstrations during the pro-democracy movement. In 2012, authorities revoked Karimi’s citizenship, along with 30 journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition figures. Without his citizenship, Karimi was not able to legally work in Bahrain. Officials also confiscated his identification card and access to a bank account. On 10, August 2014, the public prosecutor summoned Karimi for “violations of asylum and immigration law” that included living in Bahrain without a residence license. In October 2014, officials ordered Karimi’s deportation from the country. Karimi was at risk of deportation for more than a year before courts upheld the decision and acted upon it in June 2016.

Since the Bahraini pro-democracy movement in 2011, the government has arrested and revoked the citizenship of more than 300 individuals. Many of those individuals are human rights defenders, political activists, and civil society members. Following the Bahraini government’s stripping of an individual’s citizenship, they are at risk of deportation from the country.

Bahrain revokes citizenship as it deems necessary. Evidence suggests there are few due process protections for individuals facing deportation. Bahraini courts cited Article 10 of the Citizenship Law, which allows for the revocation of citizenship for those who “cause damage to state security.” At a Bahraini court of appeals hearing, officials determined that they do not need to provide “specific means of proof” when revoking the citizenship of nationals who “cause harm to the state” or fail in their “duty of loyalty” to it. This allows for courts to practice wide discretion in issuing citizenship revocation sentences. Individuals who attempt to contest the sentence often have no job and little financial help.

Bahrain is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a state party. Article 12 of the ICCPR states that a government cannot arbitrarily deny someone the right to enter their own country. Moreover, the obligation to avoid statelessness has been recognized as a norm of customary international law. Bahrain is within its sovereign authority to revoke citizenship as it deems necessary. The right to a nationality, which must not be deprived arbitrarily, is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The government of Bahrain’s ability to revoke citizenship without due process protections effectively silences free political expression. Individuals such as Taimoor Karimi cannot express their political beliefs or exercise their rights to peaceful assembly without risking arrest and deportation. The ICCPR and UDHR prohibit the arbitrary deprivation of citizenship. Bahrain must stop utilizing the threat of citizenship revocation as a tool to suppress free expression and silence peaceful dissent.

Jaskirat Singh is an Advocacy Intern at ADHRB