Local human rights organisations: 12 years of systematic political repression in Bahrain

Four Human Rights Organizations (Bahrain Forum for Human Rights (BFHR), Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, and The Journalist Support Committee (JSC)) have held a press conference marking the 12th anniversary of Bahrain’s popular uprising entitled “Bahrain: 12 years of prisons and relentless repression.”

Chairman BFHR, Baqer Darwish, expressed heartfelt condolences to the victims of the humanitarian catastrophe that befell Syria & Turkey, calling for breaking the inhumane blockade imposed on Syria, and for dropping the Caesar Act, which prevents the delivery of aid to victims. Darwish stressed, in his intervention, that the authorities in Bahrain, led by the Supreme Defense Council, and under the supervision of the Minister of Interior and other security institutions, have turned prisons into chambresfor retribution.

Manama, according to Darwish, has repeatedly denied to the calls for dissolution initiated by the opposition; Rather, it has resorted to systematic collective political repression, and has mastered innovative forms of torture, most notably the denial of medical treatment. Besides, Darwish pointed out that more than 600 prisoners of conscience are currently on strike to demand improvement of prison conditions and the right to practice rituals, while the authority allegedly calls for coexistence to justify its humiliating normalisation with the enemy entity, which is widely rejected by the Bahraini nation.

He recalled the abuses that religious scholars are subjected to, as happened with the detained cleric Sheikh Abdul Jalil al-Miqdad, which is in line with the security doctrine of the authority that proposes alternative punishments instead of maintaining human rights reform, whitewashing prisons from prisoners of conscience, and providing reparations for victims. Head of BFHR described Bahrain’s prisons as hotbeds of political revenge, and jailers and security leaders as perpetrators, who enjoy torturing victims. Darwish added that the authorities have developed repression techniques by establishing institutions, such as the Special Investigation Unit and the Public Ombudsman, just to whitewash its violations.

Further, Darwish talked about the dissolution of political societies such as Al-Wefaq, Wa’ad, and Amal, after the arrest of a number of opposition leaders, including Sheikh Ali Salman, who has been falsely accused of collaborating with Qatar, which the authorities is meanwhile seeking reconciliation with. He added that the authorities revoked the political rights of thousands of citizens and banned demonstrations and peaceful assembly. Darwish drew attention to the hundreds of people sentenced to life imprisonment, after unfair trials, and the hate speech used by the official media, which is only consistent with the discourse of ISIS, as part of the political repression. Chairman of BFHR concluded, recalling what the authority did, in January 2017, after it executed prisoners of conscience and victims of torture, Mushaima, Al-Singace and Al-Samee, by sending the clothes of those martyrs, in whom they were executed, as a message of intimidation to their families. However, martyr Mushaima’s mother reply was: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

For his part, Chairman of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, Jawad Fairouz, pointed out that the ongoing popular movement has kicked off in response to a political crisis that generated human rights, economic and social crises. Fayrouz questioned the credibility of regime’s alleged human rights reform, that has been frequently critiqued by international rights institutions, adding that violations are still a crime and there is no prospect of a radical solution to it.

Besides, Fayrouz noted that 12 out of 26 torture victims at risk of imminent execution at any moment after exhausting all judicial procedures, while Manama renege on their promises. The evidence for this, according to the head of SALAM, is that the United Nations, last December, requested a suspension of the execution of the death sentence, but Bahrain refuse to ratify it. Also, Fayrouz confirmed that all forms of human rights violations -known historically – have been applied in Bahrain, including revocation of nationality for political reasons, as the nationality of 990 citizens was revoked without justification.

Fayrouz stated that, due to pressure, the authority reconfirmed the nationalities of 551 in April 2016, while 430 cases and their children are still stateless. He described Bahrain as being unique in the practice of forced deportation, just as the occupation does against the Palestinians, as there are 18 cases of forcible transfer, adding that the list of violations goes on: execution; torture; sectarian discrimination; arbitrary sentences; politicised judiciary, etc.

The head of SALAM Organization stressed that the international committees confirm the continuation of violations in a systematic manner, and this was proven, in November, by the Anti-Discrimination Committee, which confirmed the lack of equal opportunities in Bahrain, as well as the Committee against Torture and the Committee on Women’s Rights, in addition to the Universal Periodic Review, which all confirm Bahrain’s disregard of international recommendations regarding amending the human rights situation. It also confirms that there is no seriousness in reform and that all the bright names and slogan of Bahrain’s oversight bodies are empty of content.

At the end of his intervention, Fayrouz called on the international parliamentarians, who will meet in Bahrain next March, to defend freedom of opinion and to demand the release of the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq Society, the head of the largest parliamentary bloc in the history of Bahrain, Sheikh Ali Salman, and the restoration of the political rights of 15 parliamentarians who have been politically targeted.

In his turn, Abdul-Hafez Moujeb, a member of the executive body of the Committee to Support Journalists, condemned arrests, repression and silencing mouths in Bahrain, stressing that Bahrain is in the lowest position according to international indicators of freedom of expression, in terms of grave violations against journalists, including: revocation of nationality and deprivation of political rights. Moujeb expressed the committee’s deep concern about what is happening in Bahrain, calling on those affected to continue the human rights and political struggle.

JSC’s spokesman called on the Bahraini government to: stop targeting journalists; stop blocking websites; stop restricting freedom of opinion and expression; release all political prisoners -as a first step to express its seriousness in reform as it claims- and in the forefront of all journalists and to restorat their inherent rights that can not be confiscated under any circumstances.