Bahrain: NPWJ and the NRPTT strongly condemn new sentence of imprisonment against opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif

Brussels – Rome, 25 February 2016


 
Yesterday, Bahrain’s fourth Criminal Court sentenced Ibrahim Sharif, prominent opposition leader and former Secretary-General of the left-wing secular National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), to one year of imprisonment on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime”.  Sharif was also accused of “incitement to overthrow the government through forceful means”, but the court dismissed the charge.
On 12 July 2015, Sharif was arrested after giving a speech calling for democratic reforms. The arrest occurred only three weeks after he was released from prison, having served nearly all of a five-year sentence for peacefully calling for reform in 2011. With Sharif back in detention, the rest of the Bahrain Thirteen and the General-Secretary of the country’s largest opposition bloc al-Wefaq Sheikh Ali Salman still behind bars, almost the entire leadership of Bahrain’s political opposition is now in jail.
 
Statement by Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice:
 
“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) firmly condemn the conviction to one year of imprisonment of the leading opposition figure Ibrahim Sharif. We express our undiminished solidarity with and support for Mr Sharif, who has consistently called for peaceful protest and advocated for a fair and just democratic political system in Bahrain.
 
“Yesterday’s sentence grounded on purely politically-motivated charges is yet another clear example of the Bahraini authorities’ unabated determination to criminalise free speech and suppress any nonviolent quest for meaningful democratic reform, rule of law and respect of human rights in the country. It also further demonstrates that the Bahraini regime’s claims of reform are purely rhetoric and part of a smokescreen strategy used to cover the real face of a routine campaign of repression to silence peaceful opposition and independent voices.
 
“Sadly, the response of the international community has, so far, been weak and deaf to the plight of the Bahraini citizens. The Bahraini authorities have used this approach as a green light to persevere in their repressive and retaliatory practices rather than engage in a real and inclusive dialogue with the peaceful opposition leaders and human rights advocates.  It is way past time for the international community, and the European Union (EU) in particular, to react strongly and as a matter of urgency to this latest blow to freedom of expression in Bahrain with the seriousness it warrants. Failure to do so is, in reality, siding with tyranny and repression.
 
“As highlighted by the latest resolution condemning human rights abuses in Bahrain adopted by the European Parliament in July 2015, the High Representative and EU Member States should do all in their power to secure that Bahrain complies with its obligations under international human rights laws. We therefore expect them to take action to ensure the safe and immediate release of Ibrahim Sharif, as well as all other prisoners of conscience detained in Bahrain solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly peacefully.
 
“A truly democratic transition in Bahrain will be achieved only if all those who are committed to peaceful and nonviolent dialogue are able to contribute fully to the political process without fear of reprisals. The international community must support this process rather than turning a blind eye to another move clearly designed to thwart democracy and human rights”.