Bahrain imposes De-facto Ban on travel against Human Rights Defenders
“It seems that the National Security Apparatus is in a panic and has decided to misuse its influence to prevent human rights defenders from travelling assuming that this will hinder reporting human rights abuses, specially committed by the Apparatus itself, to international bodies.” - Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja
28 September 2010
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned for the de-facto ban on travel against three human rights defenders namely; Ms. Layla Dashti, leading member of the Committee of Detainees, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the regional coordinator for Front Line, the international organization based in Dublin and Mr. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division, Chairperson in CARAM Asia and Deputy Secretary General in FIDH. On Saturday 18 September 2010, Ms. Layla Dashti, was prevented from leaving Bahrain airport whilst heading to Geneva to participate in seminar on Bahrain during the meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council. An official in plain national clothes ordered the passport officer not to allow Ms. Dashti to travel despite an argument by the passport officer that the computer system does not show an official ban on her travel. The next day she went to the relevant authorities at the Ministry of Interior and the Passport Department, where they assured her that there was no official ban on travel against her and that they have no explanation why she was prevented from travelling.
On 26 September 2010, at 3:30 am, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was leaving from Bahrain airport to Barcelona to attend a human rights course on transitional Justice. At the passport check point, his passport was taken away for five minuets then an official in plain national clothes came and told the passport officer that Mr Alkhawaja is banned from travelling and that he could check with General Attorney Office. The passport officer accompanied Mr Alkhawaja to the check-in desk to cancel the boarding cards and ordered to load off his luggage. On 28 September 2010, Mr Alkhawaja’s lawyer, Mohammed Al-Jeshi, managed to meet with Mr. Wa'el Bu-Allai, the acting General Attorney (head of the General Attorney Office). Bu-Allai told Mr. Aljeshi that preventing anybody from leaving the country is based either on a court order or an order by the Prosecution Office. He affirmed that there is no such order against Abdulhadi Alkhawaja so he should not had been prevented from leaving the country.
On 27 September 2010, at 10:30 am, Nabeel Rajab, was prevented from leaving Bahrain at the causeway to Saudi Arabia. At the Bahrain passport checkpoint, Mr Rajab was left waiting for about 30 minutes, then a security officer in plain national clothes accompanied Mr Rajab back to Bahrain arrivals passport point where he was informed that he is not allowed to leave the country. When Mr Rajab asked if there is an official ban on travel against him, the passport officer answered that there was no such order on the computer system.
Mr Alkhawaja told BCHR: “Telling from a previous same experience last year when I was prevented from leaving the country, the passport department told me that their computer system did not show any order to prevent me from leaving the country and that it might be the decision of an apparatus other then the ministry of interior. When I asked if it was the National Security Apparatus they refused to answer”. The same experience happened to human rights defender ,Mr Abdulredha Mohammed in June 2010. Mr Mohammed was told by the passport officer that there was no official travel ban against him, however, he will not be able to travel unless he checked with the National Security Apparatus . In both these previous cases the de facto ban was lifted as result of public campaigning, International pressure and intervention by International human rights organizations.
In regard to the possible motive behind this travel ban, it is worth noting that this apparatus unofficially published a conclusive report in Al-Watan daily newspaper which included accusation against Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Nabeel Rajab of supporting violence by submitting false information to international organizations.
“It seems that the National Security Apparatus is in a panic and has decided to misuse its influence to prevent human rights defenders from travelling assuming that this will hinder reporting human rights abuses, specially committed by the Apparatus itself, to international bodies.” Alkhawaja told BCHR. “Reporting human rights violations to International bodies is a noble work not a crime, however, I personally have not been reporting on human rights in Bahrain to international organizations since I started working with Front Line in October 2008. As a policy, my work with Front Line covers the region excluding Bahrain where I am based and which is covered by another colleague” explained Mr Alkhawaja.
The Bahrain Centre for Human rights calls upon the Bahrain authorities and urges the concerned bodies to intervene in order to:
1. Remove immediately the de-facto ban on travel against Ms. Layla Dashti, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and Mr. Nabeel Rajab or any other human rights defender who could be banned from travelling because of his human rights work 2. Conduct an independent, thorough and prompt Investigation in abuses committed by the National Security Apparatus including misuse of its influence to ban the travel of human rights defenders, make the result public, and bring those responsible to justice 3. Secure a safe environment for the work of human rights defenders in accordance with the United Nation’s Declaration on human rights defenders.