Bahrain: NPWJ strongly condemns widespread reprisals against dissenting voices ahead of UPR

24 Apr, 2017 | Press Releases

Brussels, 24 April 2017
On 23 April 2017, a group of thirty leading Bahraini human rights activists have been summoned for interrogation by the Public Prosecution just a few days ahead of Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council to be convened in May. The group includes former Secretary General of Waad Ibrahim Sharif, his wife Fareeda Ghulam, Sayed Hadi Almosawi the head of the human rights section of Al Wefaq, as well as many other well-known prominent figures. The individuals were subsequently charged with illegal assembly, relating to the ongoing protests in Diraz, and informed of travel ban orders issued against them.Statement by Niccolo’ Figa Talamanca, Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) firmly condemns the alarming decision by the Bahraini authorities to target prominent human rights activists ahead of the coming session of the Human Rights Council, in an attempt to intimidate and prevent them from traveling to Geneva and advocating at an international level. We urge 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.

“Yesterday’s ruling 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. Since the 2011 pro-democracy movement and despite the Bahraini regime’s claims to advance reform, the crackdown against any peaceful and dissenting opposition voices in the country has kept on worsening.

“Prominent political opposition leaders, civil society activists and human rights defenders are still being exposed routinely to harassment, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, ill-treatment and unfair and politically motivated trials leading to harsh sentences for having participated in peaceful demonstrations or criticised officials. In January 2017, Bahrain has executed three Shia men convicted of killing policemen, despite credible evidence that their confessions had been obtained under torture. This was the first execution carried out in Bahrain since 2010.

“In addition to the unfair revocation of nationality, new cybercrime and counter-terrorism legislations are also used as a means of political pressure and punishment to dismantle the country’s independent political space. Following last year’s alarming decision by the Bahraini authorities to suspend and dissolve the largest opposition party Al-Wefaq (whose head Sheikh Ali Salman is serving a prison sentence), the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs filed a lawsuit on 6 March 2017 requesting the dissolution of the secular National Democratic Action Society, or Waad, under abusive charges, including “advocating violence, support for terrorism and incitement to encourage crime and lawlessness”. On 3 April 2017, the ratification of a constitutional amendment also opened the door to military trials for civilians.

“The international community cannot remain silent in front of what is rapidly becoming the realisation of the worst possible scenario for Bahrain: the establishment of a state of tyranny and repression where civil and political rights of the majority of Bahraini citizens are negated. We call on the international community, and the European Union (EU) and its Member states in particular, to urge the Bahraini regime to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, both on a bilateral level and using multilateral platforms such as the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review on Bahrain to be held in May at the Human Rights Council in Geneva”.