Suppressing Liberties with Laws

6 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern regarding sentencing the human rights defender and president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati to fine of B.D. 500 in the case of establishing a society and practicing human rights work without an official license.

News published in one of the local newspapers[i][1] spoke of the Lower Criminal Court issuing a ruling which fines Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati with B.D. 500 after it had charged him with working in an unlicensed association. The details of the case return to when Mr. Al-Maskati received a summon on Tuesday 27 November 2007 to appear before court on the background of practicing activities and holding events and training workshops in the field of human rights by the name of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights without a license from the Ministry of Development and Social Affairs. The opening arguments continued for three years until the Lower Criminal Court issued the abovementioned sentence. It justified that court sentence with the Law of Civil Associations issued in 1989 and which is one of the laws that restrict freedoms and which has long been criticized by the international institutions due to its incompatibility with international standards for establishing non-governmental institutions. Al-Maskati's request to establish the Society was met with a refusal in the past.

The lawyer Mohammed Al-Jishi and Fadhel Al-Medefea challenged the constitutionality of Articles (11) and (89/2) from law no. (21/89) regarding the societies, social and cultural clubs and private bodies working in the field of youth and sport, stressing that the articles – of the Law of Associations – contradicts Articles (27), (28 A and B), (23) and (31) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain issued in 2002, and that the articles of the Law of Associations are an apparent restriction of freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembling and joining civil organizations.

It is worth mentioning that Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati is one of the known defenders in the field of human rights. In addition to his presidency of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, he contributed in establishing a regional network in collaboration with the Social Democratic Forum to train youth on the principles of human rights. Al-Maskati was also involved in several local, regional and international activities, and his Society was known for being found in the first place in the Middle East to train on the principles of strategies and struggling without violence. He recently participated in establishing a union that is concerned with the defenders of human rights in the Arab World. In acknowledgment of his continuous efforts in defending human rights, Mr. Al-Maskati received several local and regional awards. The BCHR believes that the prominent role played by the Society in documenting the cases of torture and violations of human rights, especially by filing several complaints related to torture to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and revealing the escalating abuses and violations of human rights, had a major role in issuing the sentence and setting restrictions to this Society and its president Al-Maskati.

The BCHR believes that the series of targeting the activists and the associations is a continuation of the Authority's policy in Bahrain to restrict civil society institutions. The authorities had closed down the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and imprisoned its executive manager solely for holding a seminar on poverty and discrimination in Bahrain, and the Bahrain Nursing Society was also lately closed down in an attempt to discourage them from their human rights work which calls for respecting human rights and adhering to international commitments and agreements. The BCHR released a statement earlier that addresses the systematic targeting of activists in aim of smearing their reputation and isolating them socially.

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

1. Immediately annul the trial of the human rights defender Mohammed Abdul-Nabi Al-Maskati;

2. Allow the non-governmental human rights organizations to operate freely and not to restrict them;

3. reform the laws that restrict liberties which are incompatible with the international standards and which guarantee the right to establish associations and the freedom to work in the fields of human rights;

4. adhere to the international charters and covenants related human rights, especially those signed and endorsed by the Kingdom of Bahrain.