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Sheikh Maytham Al Salman Clarifies Blasphemy Laws in Bahrain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this video, Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman explains the illegitimacy of charges brought against him by the Bahraini authorities.

Inter-faith leader, human rights advocate and Columbia Global Freedom of Expression expert, Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman faces new charges of defamation of religious symbols. The charges, punishable under Article 309 of the Bahrain Penal Code with a fine and imprisonment stem from a sermon Sheikh Maytham delivered in November 2015.

Click here to continue reading the article here.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Press briefing note on Bahrain

From UN OHCHR

 

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:     Geneva
Date: 18 March 2016 
Subject:       Bahrain

We are deeply troubled by the arrest on Monday in Bahrain of the social media activist and human rights defender, Zainab Al Khawaja, who was detained along with her one-and-a-half year old son. Ms. Al Khawaja was previously convicted on a number of charges, including insulting the King. Her father, who co-founded the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been in jail since 2011, serving a life sentence. There are also unconfirmed reports that Ms. Al Khawaja’s infant son has been denied a birth certificate.

In 2014, amendments to the citizenship law enabled the Government to revoke the citizenship of any Bahraini who “causes harm to the interests of the Kingdom,” fails in his or her duty of “loyalty,” or assists “a hostile state.” At least 250 people have reportedly been stripped of their citizenship as a result, including 72 people in January alone this year. Those who lose their citizenship are forced to return their passports and ID cards and apply for residency permits or alternatively leave the country. Four such people have been deported since the beginning of February.

Under international law, loss or deprivation of nationality that does not serve a legitimate aim, or is not proportionate, is arbitrary and therefore prohibited.  And Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says explicitly: “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality…”

In addition to being rendered stateless, human rights activists are also facing problems travelling abroad.  The prominent religious and human rights figure, Maytham Salman, who works in Bahrain and abroad to prevent the incitement of hatred and violence, has reportedly been waiting for his passport to be renewed for more than two months. And another co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nabil Rajab, still faces a travel ban, after being convicted – and then pardoned – for tweets he wrote in 2014.  He faces further charges for more tweets he allegedly posted in March 2015.

We are also concerned about recent laws that seriously curtail the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain. A 2014 law amending the penal code provides for up to seven years in jail, and a fine, for offending the King, the flag or national emblem. It is also a crime to offend the National Assembly, the army, courts or government agencies or to develop hostility towards the system of government. These provisions are regularly used to censor and intimidate human rights activists and journalists documenting or raising awareness about abuses. The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the Interntional Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by Bahrain, has made it clear that the mere fact that remarks might be considered insulting to a public figure in Bahrain is not sufficient to justify penalties.

In addition to restrictions on freedom of expression there is also a serious issue regarding the right to freedom of assembly in Bahrain. Gatherings in the capital have been indefinitely banned since 2013, and dozens of people – including minors -- who have participated in protests have been prosecuted.

Bahrain: Stop Deportations of Nationals

From Human Rights Watch

 

(Beirut) – Bahraini authorities have deported five stateless Bahrainis, whom they had previously stripped of their citizenship, since February 21, 2016. Another nine people stripped of their citizenship will be at risk of deportation if a court of appeal does not overturn the decision to strip them of their citizenship, which is based on a vague accusation that they had “damaged state security.”

On December 7, 2015, the court of appeal, upholding a decision to strip eight people of their citizenship, ruled that the authorities can exercise their discretion and need not provide “specific means of proof” when revoking the citizenship of nationals who “cause harm to the state” or fail in their “duty of loyalty” to it.

“These unlawful deportations are ripping families apart and causing untold suffering,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Bahrain should stop the deportations immediately and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless, especially when this was done without justification or because they criticised their government.”

The Bahraini Center for Human Rights told Human Rights Watch that, on the afternoon of March 15, 2016, 54-year-old Ali Esfandeyar became the fourth Bahraini whom authorities have deported since February 21, when they deported Shi’a cleric Mohamed Khojasta. On December 7, 2015, a court of appeal upheld the decision to strip Esfandeyar and seven others of their citizenship – a decision that has left at least five of them stateless.

Nine others are at risk of deportation after March 22, 2016, if a court of appeal upholds the decision to strip them of their citizenship. The nine were among a group of 31 Bahrainis whose citizenship the authorities revoked on November 6, 2012, claiming that they had caused “damage to security of the state.”

One of the nine, Taimoor Karimi, a lawyer, received a court summons on August 10, 2014, from the public prosecutor, citing “violations of asylum and immigration law” that include remaining in Bahrain without the residence license that all non-nationals over 16 are required to have. Karimi has four children, the youngest of whom is 14. He told Human Rights Watch that he is concerned that he may have to go to another country, away from his family and with no other nationality. “I am not a young man,” he said. “This does not make sense.”

 

These unlawful deportations are ripping families apart and causing untold suffering. 

Joe Stork

Deputy Middle East director

The others are Sayed Mohamed Ali al-Musawi, Sayed Abd al-Amir al-Musawi, Adnan Kamal, Habib Darwish, Ebrahim Darwish, Ismail Darwish, Maryam Sayed Ebrahim, and Sayed Abd al-Nabi al-Musawi.

The court’s decision cites a 2014 amendment to article 10 of the Bahraini citizenship law of 1963, which allows for the revocation of citizenship from persons who “caused harm to the interests of the Kingdom or behaved in a way inimical with the duty of loyalty to it.” The judgment, which Human Rights Watch has reviewed, states that:

It is established that the state has the right to assess what is and is not harmful to its domestic and foreign affairs. … It has the discretionary authority to take all measures to ensure its security and safety, and these measures may broaden or narrow in accordance with the circumstances surrounding the state. … It is established that the decision to revoke citizenship may be proved by any incident or evidence without a requirement for a specific means of proof. The administrative body possesses broad discretionary authority in this regard that is not subject to judicial review provided its decision is free of the abuse of authority.

The court’s reasoning effectively grants the authorities full discretion to revoke the citizenship of any Bahraini in the knowledge that the courts will not require them to provide any proof to justify their decision. The decision can be based on vaguely worded offenses such as “damaging state security” or failing in a “duty of loyalty” to the state.

Another of those affected by the decision was Masaud Jahromi, 46, who was deported on March 7, 2016. He was among a group of 72 Bahrainis whose citizenship the authorities revoked on January 31, 2015. The Interior Ministry statement announcing the decision stated that those involved had either been involved in “illegal acts” that included a range of terrorist offenses, “spying for foreign countries,” “defaming the image of the regime,” and “inciting and advocating regime change through illegal means.” At the time, Jahromi, who has a 3-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, was chairman of the Computer Science Department at Ahlia University in Manama.

Jahromi told Human Rights Watch that he received a phone call on March 7, 2016, telling him to report to the General Directorate of Nationality, Passport and Residence. He had appealed to the authorities in writing and in person to delay any deportation until June, saying that his wife was in ill-health and that the deportation would have a negative impact on his 12-yearold son’s education.

The authorities did not respond to his appeal. Instead, they drove him to the airport, gave him a Bahraini passport that identifies him as a Bahraini resident, not a citizen, and placed him on a plane with a passport issued the same day. Jahromi asked Human Rights Watch not to divulge his current whereabouts. But he said that his one-year passport expires on March 7, 2017, and he does not know if he will be able to renew his entrance visa when it expires. He said he has no idea why the authorities decided to revoke his citizenship: “I attended [anti-government] rallies in 2011, but everyone attended rallies in 2011,” he said, referring to anti-government protests that the authorities repressed with disproportionate and sometimes lethal force.

In 2015, authorities stripped 208 Bahrainis of their citizenship. They can be classified into three broad categories: human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, doctors, and religious scholars; Bahrainis known to be fighting alongside the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in Iraq and Syria; and individuals convicted of domestic terrorism offenses. With regard to the last category, Human Rights Watch has described Bahrain’s courts as playing “a key role” in maintaining the country’s highly repressive political order” and the Supreme Appellate Court held in September 2012 that terrorism need not involve the use or threat of violence but can be the result of “moral pressure.” Article 29 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, states that “Every person has the right to a nationality, and no citizen shall be deprived of his nationality without a legally valid reason.”

Article 21 of the Arab Charter states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.” There is no Arab Court of Human Rights to interpret the charter and offer guidance on its implementation, but other international human rights bodies have applied a three-part test to determine whether the state’s actions violate the right to family life. They have said that decisions must be made in accordance with law, must pursue a legitimate aim, and must be proportionate (and necessary in a democratic society), taking into account the impact of the deportation on the person’s family.

Although the Bahraini authorities have followed a legal procedure, the court of appeal’s reasoning appears to grant the authorities absolute discretion to make decisions without considering the impact on the family life of those affected, no matter how arbitrary or unreasonable.

“Bahrain’s allies can and should press Manama to end this policy of banishing peaceful dissidents,” Stork said.

NGOs Call for the Release of Activist Zainab al-Khawaja

14 March 2016 – Bahraini security forces today raided the house of human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja and arrested her with her 15 months old son. The undersigned NGOs condemn in the strongest terms the arrest of Zainab and her son over charges merely related to her activism and exercise of free expression.

On 14 March 2016, at 3:45 P.M., security forces raided the house of Zainab al-Khawaja’s in-laws’ house asking for her. When they did not find her, they raided Zainab’s apartment where she was arrested with her 15 months old son, Abdulhadi. She was then taken to Al-Hoora police station. Her family were informed that she will be transferred for a medical checkup before transporting her to Isa Town women's prison.

Zainab was sentenced to a total of three years and one months in prison and BHD 3,000 fine over several charges related to her exercise of freedom of expression and her peaceful dissent against the Bahraini government. On 2 February 2016, the court of appeal upheld a 9 months prison sentence against Zainab for trying to visit her father, human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in Jau Prison when he was on hunger strike in August 2014. In December 2015, the court amended a prison sentence against Zainab to one year and four months instead of three years and three months on charges related to tearing up a picture of the King and allegedly insulting a public officer during a peaceful protest in Bahrain. In October 2015, the court reduced her sentence to one year in prison instead of three years over the same charge of insulting the Kings.

Zainab AlKhawaja has been previously detained several times since 2011 for various periods, and has had over 13 cases brought against her at Bahrain courts. At one time she spent over 12 months in prison between February 2013 to February 2014  serving multiple sentences on different charges related to her human rights work and exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. She has previously suffered from ill-treatment and poor prison conditions during her previous detention.

Zainab was determined to exercise her right to free expression, she tweeted: “Ripping his picture is a first step to let him know that we are not afraid, that we are determined to gain our rights, to live as free ppl Bahrain.” Bahraini authorities targeting and prosecution of human rights activists is a part of a wider crackdown against whoever exercises their freedom of expression in Bahrain, including journalists, bloggers, social media activists, and opposition figures. Bahrain has failed to uphold its international commitments and continues to violates its people’s fundamental rights.

Zainab’s family believe the arrest was timed as a retaliatory act against her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and former Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Maryam Al-Khawaja recently attended the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council, and in February attended the FIFA presidential elections in Zurich, Switzerland, which saw the Bahraini candidate Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa lose, in part due to human rights allegations related to the February 2011 “Arab Spring” events.

 

We, the undersigned, therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Zainab al-Khawaja and her son;
  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Zainab related to freedom of expression; and
  • End the systematic targeting of individuals for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression.

 

Signed

  • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  • Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
  • Justice Human Rights Organization
  • European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

Bahrain: Media Coverage 2016

Bahrain Human Rights updates

Coverage by the media and NGOs around the world

 

The Telegraph

02.01.2016

Tear gas fired at protesters in Bahrain after Saudi Arabia executes top Shia cleric

Sputnik

04.01.2014

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry press center said that Police in the Shiite-majority kingdom of Bahrain have detained an unspecified number of people protesting the execution of a prominent cleric in Saudi Arabia

Middle East Eye

05.01.2016

The forgotten story

BMA

14.01.2016

Doctor held for 'misusing' social media

Human Rights Watch

27.01.2016

Bahrain: torture allegations expose sham reforms

The Washington Times

11.02.2016

When Bahrain Bullies

Human Rights First

15.02.2016

American journalists arrested in Bahrain indicates continuing crackdown on dissent

Global Voices

16.02.2016

In Bahrain, journalism is a crime

Goal

18.02.2015

Dyke: I don't think anyone from Bahrain should be Fifa president

Human Rights First

24.02.2016

Bahraini opposition leader sentenced to one year in jail

Arabian Business

26.02.2016

Bahrain's Sheikh Salman loses out to Infantino in FIFA presidency vote

Huffington Post

06.03.2016

Five years on from the uprising, the UK is still fuelling oppression in Bahrain​

Bahrain Mirror

08.03.2016

BCHR: Dry Dock Prison responds to hunger strikers' demands by imposing more arbitrary measures

Bahrain Mirror

09.03.2016

Policeman Convicted of Beating Prisoner Sentenced to 3 Months in Prison instead of 2 Years

Bahraini Authorities Violate the Right to Privacy and Suppress Freedom of Expression

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern at the Bahraini authorities' continuing policy of suppressing an individual's right to freedom of expression and violating the right to privacy. They have recently imposed harsh new security restrictions that target people's discussions and messages on short-messaging social media platforms.

On Sunday 6 March, the Education Ministry – specifically the department responsible for secondary education – sent a message to all secondary school heads demanding that the contents of messages sent by teachers and students in WhatsApp groups be examined. The Ministry threatened to take legal action against anyone found to have sent messages that “insult authorities.” These are the kind of bombastic expressions the authorities have used over recent years to target political activists, opponents and critics.

This announcement came just days after a landmark speech by Hayat Abdel Majid, the head of the sector targeting electronic crime at the Ministry of Interior's Department for anti-corruption and economic and electronic security. In this speech, Abdel Majid said that the administrator of any WhatsApp group would be responsible and legally culpable for any defamatory news, rumours or inaccurate information circulated in that group. She also stated that members of a group could be held responsible for its content. She announced that the punishment could extend to a period of two years in prison and a fine of 200 Bahraini dinars, or one of these, in accordance with Article 168 of the law governing the spreading of defamatory information.

The Ministry of Interior had previously announced, on 7 February 2016, the arrest of a group of people who had participated in the “al-Busta” WhatsApp group. The Ministry confirmed that they were supported by foreign powers in connection with terrorist activities within Bahrain. A number of people were also arrested over allegedly insulting statements about the authorities that they shared on WhatsApp. AbdAli Khair is still serving a 10-year prison sentence for forwarding a WhatsApp message.

BCHR considers the surveillance of the contents of private WhatsApp groups and messages a violation of an individual's right to privacy, one of the fundamental rights stipulated by Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” BCHR also considers these new restrictions part of the arbitrary use of power used by authorities to prevent people from exercising their right to expression in a healthy and peaceful environment. It prevents people from sharing news and ideas as outlined by several international agreements and conventions, particularly Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to do the following:

  • Respect human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression and to information sharing without restrictions, conditions or arbitrary legal procedures;
  • Respect privacy and stop surveillance of messages sent by users of social media platforms and forums;
  • Release all those detainees arrested for peacefully expressing or publishing their views using social media; and
  • Stop imposing arbitrary restrictions on social media platforms and repeal all laws that hinder the right to free expression.

Bahraini Scholar Dr. Masood Jahroomi Forcibly Deported After Citizenship Revocation, as Pattern of Discrimination Continue

Bahraini Scholar Dr. Masood Jahroomi Forcibly Deported After Citizenship Revocation, as Pattern of Discrimination Continues

8 March 2016 – Yesterday, the Government of Bahrain summoned Dr. Masood Jahroomi, a former Shia Ajam citizen for forcible deportation. Dr. Jahroomi, whose citizenship was revoked in January 2015, had his denaturalization order confirmed by the appellate court. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), and Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO) strongly condemn the authorities’ use of citizenship revocation as a tool to further target and discriminate against the Shia population.

On 14 April 2011, Dr. Jahroomi was arrested by security forces. He was subjected to enforced disappearance for approximately one month before his family was allowed to meet with him. Government forces allegedly subjected Dr. Jahroomi abuse in detention and was denied access to a lawyer and adequate due process. He was detained for five months before he was sentenced to four months in prison for "illegal assembly".

In January 2015, the Bahraini authorities revoked Dr. Jahroomi’s citizenship through an administrative order against 72 citizens. In its statement, the Ministry of Interior cited the revocation of citizenship as a punishment for allegedly committing “illegal acts.” However, none of those individuals were charged or brought to court for these allegations, including Dr. Jahroomi. On 6 March 2016, a Bahraini court upheld a previous decision to deport Dr. Jahroomi. He was summoned to be forcibly deported from Bahrain on 7 March 2016.

Dr. Jahroomi is a Bahraini scholar and former Chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Ahlia University, Bahrain. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom; having earned his MSc and BSc from the University of Manchester, UK, and the University of Bahrain, respectively.

This is the third incident in less than a month in which the Bahraini authorities have forcibly deported Bahraini citizens, including leading Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta and union member and medic Husain Khairallah. All individuals denaturalized and deported since 2011 belong to the Shia populations and Ajam ethnic group. The discrimination against Shia citizens, mainly Baharna and Ajam, was detailed in the UN special procedures joint communication report, in which the Rapporteurs on culture, extreme poverty, and religion expressed concerns regarding the Bahraini government’s systemic discrimination against its Shia citizens.

The signed organizations therefore call on the government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • End systemic discrimination against Shia populations, including Baharna and Ajam;
  • Allow Dr. Masood Jahroomi and others who were forcibly deported to return to Bahrain;
  • Reinstate the nationality of all those whose citizenship was arbitrarily revoked on politically-motivated grounds since 2011, including that of Dr. Masood Jahroomi; and
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

Bahrain Deports Another Man Whose Citizenship Was Revoked

The Bahraini authorities have deported Husain Khairallah, whose citizenship was revoked in 2012. This is the second case of forced deportation in a week, following the court of appeal’s decisions to uphold deportation orders. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns the Bahraini authorities’ actions against Khairallah and other Bahrainis who have had their citizenship revoked.

Khairallah was previously arrested in 2011, after which he alleged being subjected to torture while in detention. He was a member of the ALBA union and also one of the medics that treated wounded protesters during the Pearl Roundabout unrest in Bahrain.

On 23 February 2016, the court of appeal upheld the order to have Khairallah deported from Bahrain. Bahrain’s Directorate of Immigration, Passport, and Citizenship summoned Khairallah and arrested him after which he was immediately transported to the airport. After he refused to board the plane, he was detained at the airport. On the following day, Khairallah was only allowed to meet his wife. He had not been allowed to pack or say goodbye to his family and friends before he was arrested. He was then put on a plane to Beirut and had to leave his wife and 2 children behind.

This is the second case of deportation in a week. Two days before the deportation of Khairallah, Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta was deported by the Bahraini authorities after his deportation order was also upheld by the court of appeal. Last year, the authorities deported the prominent Bahraini Shia cleric Sheikh Husain Najati.

Apart from the cases of Khairallah and Sheikh Khojasta, there are ten ongoing cases of Bahrainis who have been denaturalized by administrative orders. As stateless individuals, they are usually deprived of their right to enjoy an adequate minimum standard of living, including health, social allowances, and other services. There have been calls to take the housing units given to them and their families prior to the denaturalization. They have been prosecuted and unfairly treated by security forces. Today, they are at an imminent risk of being deported.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to a nationality (Paragraph 1). Paragraph 2 further specifies that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his or her nationality. Moreover, article 9 of the UDHR states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

BCHR therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • Allow Husain Khairallah to return to Bahrain;
  • Reinstate the nationality of all those whose citizenship was arbitrarily revoked on politically-motivated grounds since 2011, including that of Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta; and
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

 

 

Amnesty International: Jailing of Ebrahim Sharif Is 'Outrageous Attack' on Freedom of Expression

From Amnesty International UK.

 

‘Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out’ - James Lynch
 
The sentencing of Bahraini political activist Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison today simply for making a speech calling for reform is yet another example of Bahrain’s intensified crackdown on peaceful critics, said Amnesty International in response.
 
Mr Sharif gave the speech in July, a month after being released from prison for his role in the country’s 2011 reform protests. He had served four years of a five-year sentence after an unfair trial involving 21 opposition activists found guilty of attempting to change the constitution and monarchical system “by force”.
 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director James Lynch said: 
 

“The sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif to yet another year in prison simply for calling for reform in a speech is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the latest example of the Bahraini authorities’ insidious clampdown on government critics.

 

“No one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out, serving as a warning to all dissidents, and must be quashed immediately.

 

“Today Amnesty International published its annual global report highlighting an unprecedented assault on freedoms across the world. Evidence of this crackdown is patently clear in Bahrain where the authorities have sought to suppress freedom of expression, association and assembly by continuing to ban demonstrations in the capital, Manama and harassing, intimidating and arbitrarily arresting government critics and in some cases even revoking their nationality rendering them stateless.”

 
Read the original source here.

Bahrain Court Sentences Ebrahim Sharif to 1 Year for Peaceful Speech

24 February 2016 - Bahrain’s fourth criminal court today sentenced leading opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison for allegedly “inciting hatred against the regime”. We, the undersigned NGOs, strongly condemn the sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif today, which represents yet another example of Bahrain’s criminalization of free speech. We call for Sharif’s unconditional release and the release of the more than 3,000 political prisoners who have been jailed since 2011 for exercising their universal human rights.

Today’s verdict comes in retaliation against a peaceful political speech on 10 July 2015 at the annual commemoration of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old peaceful protester killed by security forces in 2012. In his speech, Sharif reiterated his peaceful calls for reform, an end to discrimination in the country, and for the opposition to continue its peaceful movement as the only means to effect real change within and produce true dialogue with the government.

The Ministry of Interior re-arrested Sharif on 12 July 2015, just three weeks after his early release from prison, on charges of “inciting to change the country’s political regime, and publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime.” Today, the court found Sharif guilty of inciting hatred against the regime and sentenced him to one year. It acquitted Sharif of inciting the change of regime.

“Ebrahim Sharif’s sentencing for a political speech is a slap in the face for Bahrain’s allies who have tried to claim that Bahrain has taken steps toward reconciliation and human rights reform,” said Hugh Ali, Executive Director of the Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO). “His imprisonment for purely free speech charges shows that the government has no interest in upholding its international human right obligations.”

This is not the first time Ebrahim Sharif, the former secretary-general of the secular opposition National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), has been targeted by the Bahraini government for his free speech. In 2011, in the midst of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising, Bahrain’s security forces arrested and tortured Sharif, holding him in solitary confinement for 56 days without access to a lawyer or his family. In June 2011, a military tribunal sentenced Sharif to five years in prison on charges almost identical to those that the court tried him of today.

The United Kingdom stated in October 2015 that they “continue to monitor” Ebrahim Sharif’s case. In July 2015, following his arrest, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office stated that they urge Bahrain to ensure due process is followed.

“The UK needs to step up their rhetoric because due process is a meaningless call,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). “Sharif should not be prosecuted for his peaceful speech. The case should have been thrown out of court and Bahrain should be shamed for these authoritarian moves. It is that simple.”

The US Department of State cited Sharif’s early release in June 2015 by royal pardon, after serving four years and three months, as a key example of Bahrain’s “meaningful progress” on human rights reform that led to the partial resumption of arms sales that same month. Following his re-arrest, however, the State Department has publicly expressed concern over his case and formally called for his release, most recently in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising.

“While the United States has been consistent on calling for Ebrahim Sharif’s release, it, along with the UK and the rest of the international community must do more to back up this rhetoric to end the never-ending merry-go-around of Bahrain’s jailing of opposition leaders,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “Bahrain’s allies must stay true to their own rhetoric: there can be no real dialogue or national reconciliation in Bahrain while any of the political opposition’s leadership sits in jail, let alone the more than 3,000 others who languish in arbitrary detention on politically-motivated charges.”

Signed,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)

Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)