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10 NGO's Call For Protecting Religious Freedoms and Ending Sectarian Discrimination on Bahrain's Religious Freedom Day

Bahrainis have always been committed to the principles of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect and religious freedom. Bahrain has long been viewed as a role-model in the Gulf region for peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths and idealogies.  Over half of those living in Bahrain are expatriates, resulting in the country having a very religiously diverse population. The capital of Bahrain, Manama hosts churches, mosques, temples and a synagogue . Many of these religious centers and structures have been in place for decades with large and well-established congregations which have been welcomed by the Shiite and Sunni communities.

Bahrain has always been home to numerous religious communities and non-state actors have spared no efforts in ensuring religous freedom is protected and religious and cultural tolerance is fostered.

However, Bahrain has unfortunately witnessed an alarming rise in extremist ideologies being advocated throughout the region. This rise has created momentum for mass human rights violations committed against the Shia majority in Bahrain. On the 17th of April 2011 the government of Bahrain deliberately demolished a historical Shia mosque (Al-Barbaghy) which dates back to 1549. The demolition of 38 Shia mosques in 2011 was widely condemned internationally however the government of Bahrain has failed to hold those responsible for the destruction of 38 Shia mosques accountable for their actions. The government of Bahrain has also continued to persecute individuals based on their religious identity, political aspirations and social belongings. 


On Bahrain's Religious Freedom Day we, the undersigned, recommit ourselves to:

  1. Defending and protecting religious freedoms in Bahrain as stated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 
  2. Demand the protection of religious minorities in Bahrain and defend their religious rights including the right of worship, observance and practice.
  3. Remember those who have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered for their faith and demand an immediate end to the persecution of the Shia majority in Bahrain.
  4. Rejecting policies and actions that target people  because of their religion or belief and call upon the governemtent of Bahrain to ensure equal enjoyment of human rights by all and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed religious discrimination.
  5. Calling upon the government to undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating sectarian discrimination in all its forms and promote equal citizenship amongst all Bahrainis regardless of religion or faith.
  6. Motivate non-governmental organizations to counter the advocacy of sectarian hatred and encourage where appropriate, integrationist multi-sect non-governmental organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between people of different faiths and to discourage anything which tends to strengthen sectarian divisions.



Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Society for Human Rights

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights

Bahrain Human Rights Observatory

Bahrain Human Rights Youth Society

European-Bahrain Organization for Human Rights

Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights

Bahrain Forum for Human Rights 

Lualua Center for Human Rights

Manama Observatory for Human Rights


US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Bahrain

The US Department of State, through the Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor, published its report on Human Rights practices in Bahrain during the year 2015. Their full report can be found here or here on pdf format.


"[...] significant human rights problems included lack of judicial accountability for security officers accused by the government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) of committing human rights violations; defendants’ lack of access to attorneys and ability to challenge evidence; prison overcrowding; violations of privacy; and other restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of press and association. Societal discrimination continued against the Shia population, as did other forms of discrimination based on gender, religion, and nationality. The government at times imposed travel bans on political activists in conjunction with arrest charges and in some cases continued to enforce them after authorities had dropped charges or pardoned the individual. The government maintained the revocation of citizenship for 31 individuals whose citizenship it revoked in previous years, and it revoked citizenship from another 72 who were not otherwise charged with any crimes. There were reports of domestic violence against women and children. Despite government efforts at reform, the rights of foreign workers, particularly domestic workers, continued to be restricted, leaving them vulnerable to labor abuses and human trafficking."

39 NGOs call for the unconditional release of Zainab al-Khawaja

12 April 2016

HM Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa

King of Bahrain

Riffa Palace

Manama, Bahrain


Dear King Hamad,

We, the undersigned Bahraini and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), would like to unequivocally condemn your government’s arrest of human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja along with her infant son. The implementation of Ms. Al-Khawaja’s prison sentence for merely exercising her right to free expression and assembly amounts to arbitrary detention is wholly unacceptable. While Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa indicated an intention to release her, she has not yet been freed from prison and we are concerned that these arbitrary charges remain against her. We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to secure her immediate and unconditional release.

On 14 March 2016, security forces raided the home of Ms. Al-Khawaja’s parents-in-law looking for her. When they did not find her there, they went to her apartment and arrested Ms. Al-Khawaja along with her 15-month-old son, Abdulhadi. After they temporarily detained her and her son at the Al-Hoora police station, the authorities informed Ms. Al-Khawaja that she would be taken for a medical examination at the Ministry of Interior before being transferred to the Isa Town Detention Center to serve out her prison term. From the time of her arrest at 3:45 pm until her midnight arrival at the detention facility, security services denied Ms. Al-Khawaja any food for her son, despite repeated requests. Isa Town Detention Center has recently suffered an outbreak of Hepatitis C which puts both mother and son at risk. The demeaning and dangerous conditions of the detention center where Ms. Al-Khawja and her infant son are kept indicate a gender specific attempt to destabilize and hinder her peaceful human rights advocacy.

Bahraini courts sentenced Ms. Al-Khawaja to a total of three years and one month in prison, as well as a BHD 3,000 fine, on several charges related to her peaceful dissent and free expression. In December 2014, a court sentenced Ms. Al-Khawaja to three years and three months in prison on charges related to allegedly insulting a police officer during a peaceful protest and insulting the king by tearing up a photograph. In October 2015, Bahrain’s appeals court confirmed her conviction for insulting the king but reduced her sentence to one year in prison. Additionally, on 2 February 2016, the appeals court upheld a 9-month prison sentence against Ms. Al-Khawaja after she tried to visit her father, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, in Jau Prison when he was on a hunger strike in August 2014.

The international community has repeatedly expressed grave concern over your government’s decision to prosecute Ms. Al-Khawaja for exercising her right to free expression and assembly. In 2014, the UN Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, human rights defenders, and freedom of peaceful assembly and of association urged your government to drop all charges against Ms. Al-Khawaja, warning that her detention could be considered arbitrary. A year later, these same Special Procedures issued a joint communication to your government stating that Ms. Al-Khawaja’s sentencing appears to “indicate a prima facie violation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of association, as set forth in articles 19 and 22 of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].” The United States Government has previously expressed concern over the fairness of Ms. Al-Khawaja’s trial, and – most recently – the Government of Denmark has raised Ms. Al-Khawaja’s case at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, insisting that she and her son be released. Furthermore, Ms. Al-Khawaja’s arrest comes during a session of the UN Committee on the Status of Women, where your government is taking part in discussions on how to protect women rights globally, while targeting women human rights defenders locally.

On 7 April 2016, the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, stated that the authorities intend to release Ms. Al-Khawaja on humanitarian grounds. Sheikh Khaled provided no timeline for her release and her family has received no further guarantee that the government will release Ms. Al-Khawaja from prison. However, the foreign minister did indicate that the government will not drop any of the charges against Ms. Al-Khawaja, leaving her vulnerable to her re-arrest at any time.  

We would like to join this growing chorus of international voices in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Zainab Al-Khawaja and her infant son. The broad criminalization of peaceful dissent and free expression in Bahrain, as well as the government’s continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders, contravenes your obligations under international law, and is wholly unacceptable.


Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Arab Center for the Promotion of Human Rights (ACPHR)

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

Cartoonists Rights Network International

CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Freedom Forum

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda

Human Rights Sentinel

Index on Censorship

Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI)

Institute of the Press and Freedom of Expression (IPLEX)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia Pacific

Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)

Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)

Maharat Foundation-Lebanon


National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)

Nazra for Feminist Studies (Egypt)

Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión (OLA)

Pacific Islands News Association

Pakistan Press Foundation (PFF)

PEN America

PEN Canada

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights

Saudi Organization for Rights and Freedoms

Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

World Association of Newspapers and 

More prison sentences and interrogations for free expression “crimes” in Bahrain such as “insulting the king”

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern over the Bahraini authorities continuing prosecution of free expression and opinion. BCHR is concerned about the legalization of criminalizing the right to exercise free expression under charges of “inciting hatred against the regime” and “insulting the King,” among others.  

Bahraini authorities have increased the crackdown on individuals exercising free expression by convicting and sentencing them to years in prison over charges that do not conform with international human rights covenants. These charges have been used against, among others, human rights defenders, social media activists, and religious figures and clerics. In the past three weeks alone, the authorities have sentenced at least four individuals to more than 12 years in prison and more than BHD12,000 in fines for merely expressing their opinions. BCHR presents herein a few of the most recent cases as a sample of this serious human rights violation.

In March 2016, the third low criminal court sentenced the owner of the Twitter handle “Takrooz”, Hussain Mahdi, to five years in prison and a BHD10,000 fine over charges of “insulting the King.” Mahdi was arrested in 2015 and subjected to ill-treatment. Similarly, Ebrahim Karimi, who had his citizenship revoked through an administrative decision in 2012, was arrested in 2015 and subjected to ill-treatment for allegedly running the Twitter handle “FreejKarimi”. On 1 April, 2016, the fifth criminal court sentenced him to two years in prison and BHD2,100 for “insulting a brotherly country and inciting hatred against the regime.”

On 14 March 2016, Bahraini forces arrested human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja at home and took her with her 15-month-old son to begin serving sentences in several cases, including two cases of “insulting the King” for tearing up his picture during peaceful protests.

Moreover, numerous Shia religious figures and clerics have been accused and sentenced because of speeches they’ve delivered during Friday prayer sermons as part of their duty as clerics.

Sayed Kamel al-Hashemi, a well-known religious figure and social advocate with no political involvement, was sentenced to a total of three years’ in prison: one year in prison for “inciting to hatred against a group of people” and two years in prison for “insulting the King.” Al-Hashemi was convicted based on speeches he delivered in Friday prayer sermons at a mosque in Barbar village and a social and religious center in Bani Jamra in October 2012. He was arrested under these charges for 10 days that same month. His trial began in 2013, he was sentenced in March 2014 and the sentence was upheld by the court of appeal in March 2016. Currently, al-Hashemi is at risk of being arrested.

In December 2015, Sheikh Abdulzahra al-Mubasher was sentenced to two years in prison for “inciting hatred against the regime and insulting a historical figure that is respected by other groups” in relation to a speech he gave during the religious sessions of Muharram. He was arrested following that speech in October 2015. On 29 March 2016, a court of appeal upheld his sentence of two years in prison. Sheikh al-Mubasher is currently serving his imprisonment sentence.

Several Shia clerics have been summoned and interrogated during the months of March and April 2016 due to speeches they delivered during religious sermons. Bahraini authorities summoned Sayed Majeed al-Mishal for interrogation. He was charged with inciting hatred against the regime for referencing the United Nations’ joint communication report during a speech at Friday prayers.

It should be noted that since 2011 the government of Bahrain has harshened penalties and punishments in the law on charges related to free expression. In 2014, a bill was approved which increased imprisonment sentences and fines for whoever “offends the emir of the country [the King], the national flag or emblem.” The amendments introduced sentences of up to seven years’ imprisonment and up to BHD10,000 fines for any person committing these “crimes” according to the government of Bahrain. This amendment resulted in a wide space in criminalizing any form of expressing critical opinion about the King.

The BCHR believes that the Bahraini authorities violate one of the fundamental human rights by criminalizing individuals for exercising  free speech using vague, broad, and undefined charges of allegedly “insulting the King” and “inciting hatred against the regime.” These charges are believed to have been introduced to silence dissidents and activists and prevent Bahrainis from demanding rights and political reform.


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

  • Respect human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression without restrictions, conditions or arbitrary legal procedures;
  • Stop the targeting of peaceful human rights defenders and dissidents and allow them to freely exercise their right to freedom of speech;
  • Release all those detainees arrested for peacefully expressing or publishing their views; and
  • Stop imposing arbitrary restrictions on freedom of speech and repeal all laws that hinder the right to free expression.

Ettifaq Football Player Khawouri Split Between the Bitterness of Deportation and Staying in Prison for Life

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern at the authorities' arbitrary policies, such as the detention of the Bahraini football player from Ettifaq FC, Mahmoud Ahmed Khawouri. He has been detained for over 23 months by the Department of Citizenship, Passports and Residency, because he does not have a passport or Bahraini citizenship.

His family has informed BCHR that Khawouri, 23 years old,  was arrested on 29 April 2013 as a result of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011. The First Tier Criminal Court accused him of unlawful assembly and rioting, and ordered him to be detained for a year. He served the sentence until April 2014 – but his family was shocked when he was then transferred to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), and then to an immigration deportation centre, rather than being released. The family learned that this was because he had not obtained Bahraini citizenship or a passport, even though he was born in Bahrain and had not left the country since birth. He has been held in the detention centre for the past two years, despite concerted efforts by his family and human rights organizations to bring about his release.

Khawouri is the third son of a Bahraini woman and a man with Iranian citizenship who has lived in Bahrain for over 50 years. Bahraini law doesn’t allow the Bahraini mother to transfer her nationality to her children. As such, Khawouri, who was born in Bahrain and lived there with his siblings, does not have not citizenship. He has studied in government schools, never traveled out of Bahrain and plays with Bahrain's Ettifaq FC. He worked with his father in the central market until he was arrested in April 2013. The Khawouri family alleges that the young man was subject to torture and ill treatment while detained at the CID, in order to force him to confess to the crimes of which he was accused. They also say he was deprived of his right to legal representation during his interrogation. Following ongoing back and forth negotiations, the Department of Citizenship, Passports and Residency ordered the family to get papers from the Iranian embassy to show that Khawouri is an Iranian national. However, the Iranian embassy refused to do this, as they consider him to be a Bahraini national, not an Iranian, because he was born in Bahrain to a Bahraini mother, and he has lived his whole life in the country. He has never set foot in Iran, and there are no official documents to support the assertion that he is Iranian.

In February 2016, Khawouri's mother took documents containing the aforementioned facts to the detention centre, but they were not taken into consideration. Khawouri has spent two years in detention despite the fact that his mother and other citizens have put forward sufficient sureties for him to remain in Bahrain, along the lines of foreign workers residing in the country. In recent months Khawouri has developed a skin condition due to the unsanitary conditions in which he is held.

The Bahraini government has prevented many people born to Bahraini mothers, including people with Iranian heritage or a Shia background, from getting Bahraini citizenship. This is clear discrimination and marginalization. At the same time, the Bahraini government is also naturalizing large numbers of foreigners who were not born in Bahrain and do not have Bahraini fathers.

The Bahraini government is forcing Khawouri to choose between two options: deportation or remaining in prison for the rest of his life, not because of a crime he committed but because the government is preventing him from accessing citizenship in the country in which he was born, and where his mother is a citizen. Bahraini law only gives fathers the right to pass on citizenship to their children, which is a clear violation of women's rights and human rights according to international conventions.

BCHR has issued a report about people denied naturalization in Bahrain, either those who have had their citizenship revoked by a court after being convicted of crimes relating to popular protests demanding political reform and human rights, or those whose citizenship has been stripped by administrative orders from the Interior Ministry. Others have been denied the opportunity to claim Bahraini citizenship because their father has been imprisoned, or is wanted by the security forces due to political activity.

In 2015, UN rapporteurs on cultural and human rights and freedom of religion said that a study carried out in 2008 showed that around 2,000 families living in Bahrain are prevented from accessing citizenship. Many of them are from the Shia community, and according to the law have the right to claim Bahraini citizenship. It is also alleged that the majority of these people are non-Arabs, the ethnic group the majority of whose members are Shia. It is probable that, due to this discrimination, Shia and non-Arab residents remain in the lowest social and economic class. They are likely to be subject to other human rights violations, such as restrictions on their right to education, healthcare and housing.

Depriving these people of citizenship is a discriminatory government policy. Imprisonment for lack of citizenship violates international agreements and laws which stress the right to naturalisation, such as Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a nationality, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

International human rights covenants also demand that all states put in place procedures to prevent people from being made stateless, by granting citizenship to individuals born in their territory or to citizens who would otherwise be left stateless. Those who are stateless are prevented from owning or selling property, and are not allowed to access housing, social benefits or free healthcare. They also face challenges in accessing legal representation, registering for education services and getting jobs. The biggest challenge, though, is the legal prosecution they face due to “illegal residency,” despite their efforts to find a surety to stay in the country as is the case with foreign workers. This means they are at risk of deportation.


Based on the above, BCHR demands the authorities do the following:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Mahmoud Khawouri from his arbitrary and unlawful detention;
  • Grant Khawouri Bahraini citizenship, which is his legitimate right due to his mother's Bahraini nationality and his birth and life-long residency in Bahrain;
  • Release all those detained under similar circumstances;
  • Provide fair and just treatment of people involved in nationality and naturalisation cases, which must be considered fairly regardless of ethnic or religious background; and
  • Respect international laws and human rights covenants and their stipulations around rights to nationality and to change nationality.

Bahrain: Impunity and light sentences for the killers and torturers of protesters and prisoners

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the continued policy of impunity and the lack of accountability for the abusers of human rights in Bahrain, as indicated by several cases during the month of March 2016.

On 27 March 2016, the Bahraini Higher Court of Appeal reduced sentences of one officer and two policemen from five years to two years’ imprisonment for the murder of 36-year-old Hasan Majeed al-Shaikh who was tortured to death on 6 November 2014 at Bahrain’s Jaw prison. The wounds that caused his death were caused by severe physical torture inflicted on him by six Interior Ministry affiliates. Another three policemen who were sentenced to periods between one and three years in the same case were all acquitted. Reducing the sentences of six officials who had been found guilty of ill-treatment, torture and murder shows the lack of independence of the Bahraini judicial system.  

In another case, on 1 April 2016, an officer was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for shooting and killing 19-year-old protester Fadhel Abbas, as well shooting and injuring Sadiq Alasfoor, causing him injuries that disabled him for over 20 days in 2014. The officer was originally sentenced to a three months only which has been now raised to three years, a sentence that is still not adequate to the level of the crime of extra-judicial killing.

On 9 March 2016, nine policemen who had been accused of severely beating 13 detainees using hoses and wooden sticks at Jaw prison, were acquitted, an order upheld by the Court of Appeals. Nabeel Rajab, the leading human rights defender who was in prison at the time in May 2013, was a witness to this prison assault. He reported it immediately and as a consequence he was subject to further restrictions on his movement and communication in prison. He provided his testimony to the court along with another witness. It’s shocking to see how the courts are blatantly protecting abusers, says BCHR.

In March 2016 alone, there have been at least five cases of officers who have not been held adequately accountable for their crimes. On 7 March 2016, an officer who severely beat a detainee saw his sentence reduced from two years in prison to only three months.  On 21 March 2016, a detainee who had been accused of burning tires on the streets was severely beaten, causing him several serious injuries. The court found the policeman who was involved in this case not guilty. On 17 March 2016, the court  acquitted a policeman who was involved in severely beating a detainee on 30 June 2015.

While such officials see their sentences reduced, human rights defenders and protesters receive harsher sentences for merely making use of their freedom of expression by for instance, tweeting. Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested with her 15-month-old son on 14 March 2016 after being sentenced to prison solely related to her activism and exercise of free expression. She was sentenced to combined sentences of three years and one month imprisonment and a BHD 3,000 fine. Hussain Mahdi, a satirical twitter user has received a five-year prison sentence for “insulting the king” in posts on the social media website Twitter.  

In 2012, the Government of Bahrain established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) which concluded in its report that “the lack of accountability of officials within the security system has led to a culture of impunity, whereby security officials have few incentives to avoid mistreatment of prisoners or to take action to prevent mistreatment by other officials.The commission received evidence indicating that, in some cases, judicial and prosecutorial personnel may have implicitly condoned this lack of accountability.” Based on these findings and in order to end the culture of impunity, BICI presented several recommendations, including:

“1247. In the light of the “pattern of impunity” for torture and mistreatment in the past, the appropriate prosecution should be initiated with a view to ensuring punishment consistent with the gravity of the offence.

1719. To adopt legislative measures requiring the Attorney-General to investigate claims of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to use independent forensic experts.”

The Government of Bahrain has not fully implemented any of these recommendations and ended the ongoing impunity of security forces, and the bodies that it has established to hold human rights abusers accountable have failed in their role.

It’s notable that most if not all the above mentioned cases against police officer were investigated and prepared by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) that was established on 28 February 2012 as a specialized unit at the Public Prosecution for the investigation of torture crimes, abuse and ill-treatment that may have been committed by government officials. The light sentences and the acquittals easily passed by the courts on the above mentioned cases provides doubt about all the cases and how they are officially handled, and indicate that the SIU is not preparing strong cases with required evidence and justification to secure justice for the abuses.

The BCHR calls on Bahrain and the international community to:

  • End the systematic torture of detainees and inmates;
  • End the impunity of security forces;
  • Hold accountable all the officials involved in such criminal practices;
  • Bring to justice those who break the law, independently of their position, political affiliation or connections;
  • Ensure independent and unbiased investigations and trials;
  • Repair all damage caused to victims of torture and their families;
  • Comply with the international human rights standards and legality.

The BCHR calls on the Bahraini government to put an end to the authorities’ political and judicial impunity and their lack of accountability.


Immediate and Impartial Investigation Needed After Death of Teenager

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) alongside the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) and the Justice Human Rights Organization(JHRO) call for an immediate and impartial investigation into the death of 17-year-old Ali Abdulghani after he died from injuries sustained during his arrest by Bahraini security forces.

Ali, who was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment on charges related to his participation in demonstrations, succumbed to his injuries on 4 April at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital (BDF). According to witnesses, security forces hit him twice with their car as they attempted to arrest him.

An eye witness who spoke to the BCHR, reported that on 31 March 2016 at approximately 11:00am, riot police raided a property belonging to the victim’s aunt where Ali was present in Shahrakan. When officers attempted to arrest him, Ali ran away and a vehicle driven by government agents drove into him. When he continued to run, the vehicle slammed into him and he fell to the ground. Ali then got back up and ran into another property approximately 200 meters away from his aunt’s house.

A few moments later, the victim was seen and photographed by other witnesses lying on the ground with blood spilt from a serious head injury. Images obtained by the NGOs show the victim to be severely injured, lying in his own blood, and surrounded by police. The authorities then reportedly transferred Ali to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital as police cordoned off the area where he had been injured. When the mother of the victim arrived at the scene, police took her to the Hamad Town Police Station where she was kept briefly before being released.

A video seen by the NGOs appear to show a member of the security forces tampering with the crime scene by burying Ali’s blood with sand.

After the family called for an official investigation, police informed them that Ali was present at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital. Details of the incident and information on how he was injured were not made clear. Ali’s family has informed the NGOs that when they visited him, he was in a coma and suffering from severe internal bleeding and a head injury. There were also bruises under his eyes.

On 4 April, when they traveled to the hospital to visit, the family was informed by police that Ali had succumbed to his injuries and passed away. Authorities did not inform them when he had died.

The Ministry of Interior is yet to comment on the case.

Ali’s death comes during the 2016 Formula One race and as authorities threaten to increase security across the country. He is the second to die during the event after Salah Abbas, a father of five who was killed by police on the eve of the 2012 race after being tortured and shot. His corpse was found on the roof of a building. Despite promises by authorities to open an investigation, no one has ever been held responsible for Salah’s death. According to figures collected by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the authorities have killed at least 97 people since 2011. That year, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) found that authorities had used excessive force to suppress the protests and that torture was systemic. Five years later, Bahraini authorities have failed to implement the majority of the BICI’s recommendations, including those meant to increase accountability for serious abuses such as torture and extrajudicial killings. Institutions established by the government under international observation have failed to bring a single torture case relating to the unrest as the authorities continue to operate under a culture of impunity.

If the above account is true, the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Bahraini authorities may have led to the death of another teenager – ultimately constituting extrajudicial killing. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Bahrain is obligated to protect the right to life. Force must only be used when strictly unavoidable, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The Government of Bahrain must launch an immediate investigation into the death of Ali Abdulghani and it must hold all those implicated in his passing to account.

Read the French version here

Formula 1 Overshadows Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain, Even as They Spike During the Race

By Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah


While Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen were closing the final lap of the 2015 Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain, and then celebrated with teammates and engineers, they were probably unaware that they were gifting Bahrain’s authorities with another image of success since Formula 1 landed in the tiny Gulf Island in 2004. Another success masking abuses the regime is committing against its own people. Human rights violations are the norm, freedom of speech is prosecuted and those who speak their minds end up jailed, imprisoned without a trial, and tortured.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa was in the picture when awarding the British racer with the winning driver's trophy at the podium. The royal house has managed to keep its rule over the country by crushing the opposition, especially since the 2011 popular uprising; the year when the Bahraini Grand Prix was cancelled. The following years carried brutal crackdowns on protesters in order to have this race back up and running.

During the month of Formula 1 in Bahrain, human rights violations are often at their peak both in terms of severity and the amount documented. The number of arrests increases considerably compared to other months of the year. Most arrests are carried out illegally while suppressing ongoing protests. Protesters are usually subjected to severe torture during and after arrest

During the 2013 Grand Prix, Rayhana Al-Mosawi and Nafeesa Al-Asfoor were arrested while protesting at the circuit. The two young women were taken from there straight into custody, beaten, tortured and forced to sign a confession. Their forced confessions were used to convict them in a sham trial in which they were sentenced to five years in prison. Additionally, the number of injuries documented among protesters escalates as security forces use excessive force to suppress calls for democracy and freedom. Forced confessions, severe torture, and excessive use of force are common practices in Bahrain. However, not even such practices could stop the race in 2012, when human rights activists pushed for the Grand Prix to be cancelled, drivers agreed but only because they selfishly felt their own safety was endangered.

A country that currently keeps more than 3000 people under arbitrary arrest, tortures detainees, bans freedom of speech and sentences people to jail for “misuse of social media” should not be celebrated, let alone get such positive media attention. But this is exactly what the Formula 1 is doing for the regime. It is the perfect distraction, not for Bahrainis, but for international media to focus on sports in Bahrain and overlook the blatant human rights violations happening at the very same time as the superstar drivers warm the tires in the heat of the track.

The Formula 1 organization and the International Automobile Association (FIA) acquiesce with the Bahraini regime when allowing them to host the Grand Prix, as a silent approve of the various violations of human rights that are acted out by the regime. Flashes of the celebrities at the paddock and the glitter of Mercedes and Ferrari outshine the dark and gloomy jails where prisoners are beaten, have their citizenships revoked and are sentenced to life imprisonment and death.

Journalists from all over the world will visit Bahrain this weekend, to see whether McLaren has managed to engineer a car which can compete head to head with both Ferrari and Mercedes. However, they should bear in mind that on the same soil they are stepping on, journalists and photographers like them are targeted and prosecuted. Even unlawfully imprisoned for doing their job to inform about and protect the human right to freedom of speech.

The flashes and luxury of the Formula 1 circus are always a great chance for a country to sell itself as the perfect tourist destination and to make powerful contacts in the highest spheres, while the suppressed population falls off the priority agenda. They are left to be tortured, prosecuted or extradited. As long as the show goes on, no one seems to care. The real dilemma here is that the Bahraini regime and the international community ignore the suffering of regular civilians basically in favor of the profit of TV entertainment on a Sunday afternoon.

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.

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



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.