On Wednesday 26 June, during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) delivered an oral intervention during Item 3 Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly and association. In the intervention, ADHRB raised concerns about the widespread targeting of activists speaking up against the government in Bahrain. Continue reading for the text of the intervention, or click here for a PDF.
ADHRB thanks you for your report and we would like to draw your attention to Bahrain, which targets and prosecutes activists because of their criticism of the government and its policies. Most prominently, the government arrested and sentenced prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab because of tweets critical of the government, sentencing him to five years in prison. Officials also arrested former Member of Parliament Ali Rashed AlAhseeri for tweeting that he would boycott the parliamentary elections held in November 2018.
Now, Bahrain has embarked on more draconian policies, amending the kingdom’s already broad anti-terror legislation to allow prosecutors to charge citizens with “promoting terrorism” simply for liking or sharing a tweet the government deems “damages national unity.” When combined with amendments to the cyber-crime law, this gives officials broad leeway to further restrict the right to free expression. What recommendations can you make to states like Bahrain, where even tweeting might constitute a so-called terrorist offense?
Rapporteur Voule, we also thank you for your report, and we would like to draw your attention to the violent raid carried out by Bahraini security forces against peaceful protestors in Duraz two years ago, which killed five individuals.
In June 2016, the Bahraini government revoked the citizenship of prominent Shia religious leader Sheikh Isa Qassim, leading his supporters to stage a mass peaceful sit-in outside his home in Duraz. On 23 May 2017, the government attacked the demonstrators, killing five people and arresting at least 286, making it the bloodiest security force action since before 2011.
The government brought 171 individuals brought to trial, 167 of whom were convicted in a mass trial. A number of the convicted individuals were tortured to the point of permanent physical and psychological injuries. Rapporteur Voule, what steps must Bahrain take to uphold the right to free assembly and association?