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A Blow Against Civil Society in Bahrain

In recent months, Bahrain has been cracking down on dissent, activists, journalists, and political opposition, primarily targeting members of the Shi’a community and arguing that criticism of the government promotes sectarianism and threatens national unity and security.

Recently, the police re-arrested human rights activist and outspoken government critic Nabeel Rajab on accusations of “spreading false news.” Furthermore, travel bans have been placed on civil society actors and journalists, including reporter Nazeeha Saeed, in addition to activists planning to attend this month's UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The government also announced that it revoked prominent Shi’a cleric Shekikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship without giving him the opportunity to appeal that revocation in court.

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Germany: Federal Foreign Office on the dissolution of the Bahraini opposition party Al Wefaq

Today (18 July), a Federal Foreign Office spokesperson issued the following statement on the most recent developments in Bahrain:

"We have noted with unease the dissolution of the Bahraini opposition party Al Wefaq with yesterday’s ruling by the High Civil Court in Bahrain. The charge brought by the public prosecution office against Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim also gives us great cause for concern.

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UNHRC: Press briefing notes on Turkey, Israel and Bahrain

We deeply regret the decision by a Bahraini court on Sunday to dissolve Al Wefaq, the country's largest opposition group, following its initial closure on 14 June. In spite of strong calls from the international community for Bahrain to seek to de-escalate the worrying tensions in the country, we regret the decision to press ahead with the ban. Reports suggest that the court hearing on the ban was carried out without due regard for the principles of fair trial. 

The ban on Al Wefaq is the latest in a series of measures over the last few months that appear to be designed to quash dissent. We urge the authorities, and the national human rights institutions in place in Bahrain, to take immediate confidence-building measures to ensure the rights to freedom of peaceful expression, assembly and association are respected. We urge them to review the decision to ban Al Wefaq and other organisations that have been suspended for peaceful exercise of their rights.

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Human Rights First - Pentagon Forces Congress to Wait for Late Bahrain Report

Congress has requested an analysis of how the current security situation in Bahrain affects the safety of U.S. personnel in the kingdom, and for the Pentagon to suggest alternative locations should they have to move.

Page 759 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Committee Print directs “the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, on threats posed to Department of Defense personnel and operations associated with United States military installations in Bahrain. The report should, at a minimum, include an assessment of the current security situation in Bahrain, the safety and security of Department of Defense personnel and dependents, and appropriate measures to mitigate the threat to U.S. operations and personnel including potential alternative facilities should U.S. personnel require temporary relocation.”

On Sunday the main opposition group Al Wefaq was dissolved. Leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is currently on trial, hauled before a court for tweeting criticism of the repressive government. Leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim has had his citizenship stripped and leading members of civil society are prevented from leaving the country.

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RSF condemns politically-motivated charge against correspondent

The Bahrain correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya, Nazeeha Saeed went to the prosecutor’s office with her lawyer, Hameed Al Mullah, on 17 July in response to a summons without knowing what awaited her.

It was only after being interrogated that she learned that she was charged with working illegally for international media.

We condemn the authorities’ attempts to prevent her working, firstly by imposing an unjustified and incomprehensible travel ban on her and then by accusing her of working illegally although her papers were always in order.”

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France: Bahrain – Dissolution of al-Wefaq (July 17, 2016)

France deplores the decision of Bahrain’s Supreme Administrative Court to order, on July 17, that the political opposition movement al-Wefaq be dissolved.

We call on the Bahraini authorities to establish an environment conducive to the resumption of a broader political dialogue, which is essential for national reconciliation and the country’s stability.

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EU: Statement by the spokesperson on the verdict to dissolve Al Wefaq political society

The verdict that a Bahraini court issued to dissolve Al Wefaq political society and to liquidate its assets is the last of a series of worrying developments in the country. The EU expects this judgment to be reversed.

As already expressed, the EU considers that Bahrain's stability and security can only be achieved through reforms and inclusive reconciliation. The verdict on Al Wefaq, the arrest of activist Nabil Rajab and the revocation of the citizenship to Sheikh Isa Qassem go, on the contrary, in the direction to further divide Bahraini society.

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Bahrain: Continued Attack on Freedom of Press and Expression as Journalist Nazeeha Saeed Banned from Work and Travel

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the authorities imposition of a travel ban and new charges against journalist Nazeeha Saeed.

Bahraini human rights defender and correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, Nazeeha has fallen once again victim of the government’s crackdown on freedom of expression. 

Saeed was arrested for the first time in May 2011, after covering the pro-democracy movement spreading throughout the country, she was subjected to beatings and torture while in police custody, and released only after signing a false confession. Describing her torture, Saeed said she was “blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession.”

Although she had three independant medical reports - two of them issued by Bahrain’s MOI - and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for torturing her and those who were brought to court were later acquitted of all charges.

In its most recent attempt to silence Saeed from publicly reporting on the escalating human rights violations in Bahrain, the government forbade her from leaving the country. She was prevented from boarding a plane to Germany on 29 June, when airport security authorities informed her that a travel ban had been imposed on her, without providing any reason or additional information.

Saeed enquired at the Nationality, Passport, and Residence Department which confirmed that she wasn’t banned from travel; however, when she attempted to travel through King Fahd Causeway, she was again not allowed to leave the country and was told that she is banned from travel.

On 17 July 2016, the public prosecution summoned Saeed for interrogation over charges of “exercising media work without an authorisation.” According to the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), Saeed has allegedly violated Article 88 of 2002 Bahraini Press Law, regulating the press, printing and publications as stated, which states that “correspondents of foreign newspapers, magazines, news agencies and radios shall not exercise their work in the Kingdom of Bahrain unless licensed by the ministry for a renewable one-year period.”

Saeed asked for a renewal of her permit earlier in March, which was refused by the IAA. Now she faces a fine of up to 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650).

Freedom of expression, as well as freedom of movement, are fundamental human rights preserved by both national regulations and international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Bahrain is a signatory.

The charge filed against Nazeeha Saeed, and the travel ban imposed on her, are merely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate activities in the defence of human rights in Bahrain.

 

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally lift the ban on Nazeeha Saeed, guaranteeing her right to freedom of movement;
  • Drop the charges against her, allowing her to carry out her journalistic work, and respect the sanctioned right to freedom of expression;
  • Allow all human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their activities, in Bahrain and abroad, without fear of harassment and retaliation; and
  • Immediately cease the ongoing crackdown on journalists, activists and civil society.

Foreign Secretary statement on the dissolution of Al Wefaq in Bahrain

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

I am deeply concerned by the decision of the Bahraini High Administrative Court to dissolve Al Wefaq. I urge the Government of Bahrain to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens. I encourage all sides to engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue to promote social cohesion and inclusivity, including political representation, for all Bahrainis. I understand there is a right of appeal, and we will continue to follow the case closely.

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Bahrain: UN chief condemns dissolution of Al-Wefaq political party

18 July 2016 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today deplores the dissolution of the main opposition political party in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq, and called for the resumption of an all-inclusive national dialogue aimed at peace and stability in the country and the region.

In today's statement, Mr. Ban stressed that the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, similarly to other actions taken in the country – such as stripping Sheikh Issa Qassem and others of citizenship, a travel ban on human rights defenders, and the increased sentence for the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman – risk escalating an already tense situation in the country.

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Read full statement here