HRC38 Item 3 Oral Intervention: Restrictions on Free Expression in Bahrain

On Monday 25 June, at the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Salma Moussawi delivered an oral intervention during the Item 3 General Debate on behalf of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). In her intervention, Moussawi raised concerns about ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression in Bahrain, in particular, online expression and over the press. Moussawi cites Nabeel Rajab’s prison sentence based on tweets and the closing of Bahrain’s only semi-independent newspaper, Al-Wasat. Click here for her intervention in Arabic and here for her intervention in English, or read the English text of her intervention below.

Mr. President,

ADHRB wishes to bring to the Council’s attention multiple violations of freedom of expression in Bahrain, particularly online and in the press. Bahraini authorities continuously silence critical opinions in the country.

In February 2018, Bahrain’s unelected Prime Minister for over 40 years, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, announced harsher penalties for charges of “misusing social media” under the umbrella of cyberterrorism. Soon after, the King announced that the kingdom’s security forces would take new measures to track down activists for criticizing the government on social media, and five new arrests were conducted. Earlier this month, Nabeel Rajab’s five-year sentence for tweets criticizing the war in Yemen and condemning torture in Bahraini prisons was upheld.  He is now facing a total of seven years in prison.

Bahrain has further imposed restrictions on free press. In June 2017 the government closed Al-Wasat, the last independent newspaper in Bahrain. On the 12th of June 2018, for the second time in seven years, Bahraini forces arrested Hassan Mohammed Qamber, a photojournalist documenting human rights in the country. His house was raided sixty times in six years because of his activities and he was sentenced in absentia over 100 times.

We call on Bahrain to halt violations of freedom of expression in the country, to reinstate independent press outlets, and to release all prisoners convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression. We also urge the Council to hold Bahrain accountable for violating international norms relating to the freedom of opinion and expression.

Thank you