Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) participated in the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, held between 27 February and 4 April 2023. During this session, ADHRB delivered thirteen oral interventions under six items, highlighting human rights violations in Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. ADHRB made nine interventions under items 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9 regarding the situation of human rights in Bahrain, three of which were delivered under item 6, the Bahrain Universal Periodic Review. Furthermore, ADHRB delivered two interventions under items 2 and 3 highlighting the violations committed against the Yemeni people, and two interventions under items 3 and 4 regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.
Under item 2, ADHRB delivered an intervention on the situation in Yemen. On 8 March 2023, during the General Debate, ADHRB and partner NGOs expressed dismay about the lack of progress in peace talks and ongoing human rights violations against the Yemeni people. They also expressed concern about the failure to uphold the truce’s terms and the mismanagement of Yemen’s oil revenues. Finally, ADHRB called on the states involved to stop interfering in Yemen’s affairs and to respect the Yemeni people’s right to self-determination to maintain international peace and security.
ADHRB delivered two interventions under item 3 on human rights violations in Bahrain, as well as one intervention on Yemen and another on Saudi Arabia.
On 15 March 2023 and during the interactive dialogue, ADHRB welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy, but expressed concern over Bahrain’s deliberate violations of privacy through the use of spyware to monitor the activities of activists, opposition leaders, and human rights defenders. Additionally, ADHRB acknowledged the significant decision recently made by the High Court in London to allow a lawsuit brought by two exiled Bahraini activists to proceed, which rebukes Bahrain’s claims of state immunity. ADHRB also asked the Special Rapporteur what steps should be taken to hold the Bahraini government accountable for its continuing violations.
During the General Debate on 17 March 2023, ADHRB delivered three interventions. In its intervention on Bahrain, ADHRB highlighted the gruesome violations faced by 14 Bahraini political prisoners who have been placed in isolation. They have been tortured, placed in solitary confinement, and denied their basic rights including contact with their families and utilities. As Bahraini authorities have denied these incidents and engaged in a whitewashing policy, ADHRB called on the UN Human Rights Council to pressure Bahrain to end these violations, ensure the basic rights of political prisoners, and demand their unconditional release.
In its second intervention that day, ADHRB and partner NGOs highlighted the violations of human rights in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, stating that the recent limited opening of Sanaa International Airport has affected hundreds of thousands of civilians seeking medical treatment and explaining that these unlawful measures are being used as a negotiating card in UN-mediated truce talks. In this context, ADHRB and partner NGOs urged the UN Human Rights Council to prioritize humanitarian objectives by removing the restrictions imposed on Yemen’s seaports and airports as a first step towards a comprehensive political solution.
In its final intervention under this item, ADHRB strongly condemned Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty and denounced the lack of transparency and deterrence in its application, particularly for non-violent crimes. The organization is alarmed by reports of two Bahraini prisoners, Sadeq Thamer and Jaafar Sultan, who face execution after exhausting all legal remedies. ADHRB called on the Council and member states to pressure Saudi authorities to establish a moratorium on death sentences with the aim of abolishing this inhumane punitive measure. Authorities should also return the bodies of executed individuals to their families for burial.
Under item 4, ADHRB gave two interventions during the General Debate on 24 March 2023.
In its first intervention, ADHRB addressed the council regarding the case of Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender who has been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and continues to face violations in prison, particularly medical negligence. He recently went on a hunger strike to protest ill treatment and the confiscation of his writings. Despite calls for his release by Special Procedure offices, Bahrain has refused to comply. ADHRB condemned the mistreatment of Dr. AlSingace, and urged the council to pressure Bahrain to release him and consider suspending Bahrain’s membership in the Council.
Meanwhile, ADHRB gave another intervention pointing out that Saudi Arabia has been using anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws to intimidate and retaliate against human rights defenders and opposition activists in 2022, resulting in long prison sentences, fines, and travel bans. Trials have been deemed unfair and in violation of international standards and human rights obligations. As a result, ADHRB called on the council to pressure Saudi Arabia to amend or abolish these laws and release all imprisoned activists and defenders.
As for item 6, ADHRB gave three interventions on 24 March 2023 during the General Debate, discussing Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review which took place on 7 November 2022.
First, Husain Abdulla, executive director of ADHRB, indicated that the Bahraini government’s official report submitted to the Council paints a false picture of respect for human rights in the country. The reality is that Bahrain is a dictatorship, where free speech is suppressed and democracy is non-existent. Many human rights activists and national leaders have been imprisoned, tortured, and denied medical treatment. Since the Bahraini government claims that no one is above the law, ADHRB questioned when they will arrest those who have ordered the violations of human rights, institutionalized sectarianism, collaborated with the Israeli occupier, and revoked citizens’ nationalities. ADHRB also urged the Bahraini government to end their policy of impunity and improve human rights conditions in the country
Furthermore, activist Youssef Houry questioned the Bahraini government’s claim that it met with civil society organizations to prepare its national report, due to the large number of human rights activists and advocates who are arbitrarily imprisoned. Mr. Houry also questioned the policy of systematic medical negligence against prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, with examples of activists’ health deteriorating due to deliberate medical negligence, particularly in the case of Mr. Hasan Mushaima and Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was not taken to a cardiologist despite having a prior appointment. This policy raises concerns about the infliction of a slow death on prominent critics of the ruling family as a warning to others.
Finally, Ali Hasan Mushaima, a former political prisoner and torture victim, shared his story of being targeted by the Bahraini government due to his family’s opposition to the regime. He highlighted the human rights violations committed by the government, including the torture of prisoners and the revocation of citizenship from Shia scholars. Mushaima called for the activation of Magnitsky sanctions against those responsible for these violations, starting with the Minister of Interior Rashid Al Khalifa.
Similarly, during the General Debate on 30 March 2023, ADHRB highlighted Bahrain’s crackdown on activists who express their opinions through arbitrary arrests and summons, imposing large fines, and prohibiting them from participating in future demonstrations. ADHRB called on the council to pressure Bahraini authorities to respect human rights and end the systematic targeting of opposition activists.
Likewise, ADHRB raised the issue of Bahrain’s systematic discriminatory practices against Shia activists, opposition leaders and human rights defenders, many of whom are held in prison with long sentences for allegedly committing terrorist crimes. As such, ADHRB gave two interventions on 30 March 2023 during the General Debate. In the first, ADHRB highlighted the case of four Bahraini Shia youths who were arrested in October 2022, beaten, and tortured for allegedly burning an electoral tent, with authorities using derogatory language and cursing their religious beliefs. Additionally, the fourteen Shia prisoners who have been placed in isolation since August 2022 have complained of extreme restrictions during holidays and prayers.
In the second intervention, ADHRB highlighted the cases of the two prominent Shia activists, Hasan Mushaima and AbdulHadi Al-Khawaja, who were arrested for their participation in the 2011 pro-democracy revolution, and have been subjected to physical and verbal abuse, medical negligence, and denial of medical care. To this day, they have faced the continuing violation and repression by Bahraini authorities due to their activism.
In light of these facts, ADHRB called on Bahrain to uphold its responsibility under the Durban Declaration to end religious intolerance and systematic targeting of the Shia community and to immediately and unconditionally release Mushaima and Al-Khawaja.
Through its participation in the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, ADHRB successfully brought attention to the gravest human rights violations in the Gulf States and urged their governments to uphold the basic principles of human rights and pressure these governments to end the violations.