Bahrain Refuses to Hold Discussion Panels about Combating Terrorism

20 March 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its resentment towards the deteriorating situation that the freedom of opinion and expression is heading towards in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and which this time is represented in the Bahraini government's refusal to authorize discussion panels about combating terrorism, organized by the French "Kitson" organization which was supposed to be held on the 8th of the current month, owing to the sensitivity of the topics open for debate.

The French Kitson organization is a non-profit organization whose activity focuses on conducting discussion panels which it had begun in January 2009 in Paris and Geneva, addressing several issues relating to public affairs. The organization[2][1] intended to hold discussion panels about combating terrorism directed at leading officials, thinkers and journalists to exchange views on world issues, among private events alongside the events of the Manama Dialogue. The British and French ambassadors in Bahrain, and the representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Combat the Financing of Terrorism, and the Director of the World Policy Institute were supposed to participate. The first of these panels was going to address "The role of the GCC countries in Fighting Terrorism".

Ms. Alisa Kitson, president of the French "Kitson" organization condemned this prohibition without specifying who was responsible for it, especially that such activities were met with a preliminary support and approval from the Bahraini ambassador in France.

The BCHR believes that the causes of prevention might be due to the Bahraini authorities fear from the outcomes that are expected to be concluded from these discussion panels and the probability of connecting some bodies in the governing institution with extreme religious movements and which in turn might be related to terrorist movements. For years, the Bahraini authorities have been working on two parallel and simultaneously contradicting paths, while it is attempting to create an impression that it is a liberal, open and tolerant government towards other religions, sects and beliefs taking advantage of some individuals of religious minorities living in Bahrain to create this impression, it on the other hand worked on strengthening an enabling 'Takfiri' parties and groups, and religious extremists, circling around it and around its relations a lot of suspicions.

This is not the first time that symposiums relating to political affairs are prohibited. In June 2009, the Bahraini authorities prohibited a symposium about "political naturalization in Bahrain", which political societies were intending to hold in Muharraq island. The political forums in Bahrain are semi-taboo, and many complications created by the authorities obstruct them through a group of laws that restrict freedoms and which were issued in the last years, such as the law of public gathering and the law of associations. All this deterioration led to a fallback in the indicator of freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain, as was stated in the report of the 'Reporters without Borders', where Bahrain moved from the 67th rank in 2002 to the 121st rank last year. It also fell back in the report of the Freedom House, where it used to be considered a partially free state to a state that is not at all free.

These suppressive approaches of freedom of opinion and expression by the Bahraini authorities contradict the commitments of the country as a member state in the human rights council as a party in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the Bahraini authorities the following:

1. To remove the ban from the French "Kitson" organization and permit it to hold discussion panels related to fighting terrorism;

2. not to interfere with preventing discussion and political panels and to open way for local and international institutions to carry out their educational role.

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[1] نص المقال في صحيفة الوسط http://www.alwasatnews.com/2717/news/read/372911/1.html

[2][1] The article in Al-Wasat newspaper http://www.alwasatnews.com/2717/news/read/372911/1.html