CIVICUS

MonitorbetaTracking civic space

Bahrain

Live rating: Closed

Last updated on 22.12.2017 at 14:00

Bahrain-Overview

Bahraini authorities severely restrict civil liberties through an orchestrated campaign of unlawful arrests, revocation of citizenship, enforced disappearances, detention and torture of activists and journalists. This assault on civil society, which began following widespread peaceful demonstrations in 2011, continues despite recommendations made by a state-sponsored commission in 2011.

read more

from the news feed

view the news feed
Human rights situation deteriorates as Bahrain's Prince meets President Trump over business deals

Human rights situation deteriorates as Bahrain's Prince meets President Trump over business deals

Civic space freedoms continued to be restricted in the country, while Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met with President Donald Trump in the United States.

Association

Human rights organisations have called again for the release of human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his human rights-related efforts. Al-Khawaja is the founder and former president of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as the former MENA protection coordinator for Front Line Defenders. He has been held in Bahrain's Jaw Prison, since his sentencing in 2011, along with other human rights defenders and activists, including blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singaca. Collectively, the imprisoned activists make up the Bahrain 13. In the past year, Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience have repeatedly protested against the deteriorating conditions in the prison, which mimic the general deterioration of conditions in Bahrain for human rights defenders and civil society. Prisoners have been denied access to news, pens, paper, books, and had family visits and calls shortened. They continue to be denied proper access to medical care and medicine.

Bahrain's authorities have also targeted family members of human rights defenders. On 20th December 2017, three-year prison sentences were upheld against three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights and Democracy (BIRD). According to BIRD, Alwadaei’s mother-in-law Hajer Mansoor, brother-in-law Sayed Nizar Alwadaei  and maternal cousin Mahmood Marzooq were reportedly tortured until they signed false confessions.

In addition, travel bans remain in effect for human rights defenders, including  Nedal Al-Salman, who was again prevented from traveling in November 2017. Nedal leads the Women & Children's Rights Advocacy efforts at BCHR. 

Peaceful Assembly

According to a report released on 12th December 2017 by Salam Organisation for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, no one has been held accountable for serious human rights abuses committed against peaceful protesters in Duraz earlier this year, as previously reported on the Monitor. The civil society groups, therefore, call for an independent and transparent investigation into allegations of the use of excessive force during the 23rd May 2017 protests, which led to the death of five protesters, more than 90 injured and 326 arrested.

Expression

While Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa was meeting in the United States with President Donald Trump in November to discuss business deals, including the sale of fighter jets to Bahrain, the human rights situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate. According to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Trump's failure to publicly address the human rights situation has further emboldened Bahrain's authorities and prolonged their flagrant human rights abuses.

On 22nd November 2017, an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the two-year prison sentence handed down against Nabeel Rajab for talking with various media outlets about human rights issues. Given this sentence, he will remain in jail until December 2018, even though he has now already been in jail for over 18 months. Rajab has also had multiple hearings for his case related to tweeting about conditions in Jaw Prison and Bahrain’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition attacks on Yemen. That case has been postponed till January 2018.

On 30th October 2017, a Bahrain court convicted 19 individuals on terror charges after a mass trial that was reported to be unfair. Among those convicted are former Al-Wasat journalist Mahmood Al-Jazeeri and Husain Abdulwahab Husain, son of imprisoned opposition leader Abdulwahab Husain. 

Association

Even though the Bahraini Constitution guarantees the freedom of association in Article 21, a 1989 Societies Law makes it illegal for any group to operate without a permit. The state specifies the scope of each organisation’s activity and CSOs are prohibited from operating outside of that strictly-defined mandate.

Even though the Bahraini Constitution guarantees the freedom of association in Article 21, a 1989 Societies Law makes it illegal for any group to operate without a permit. The state specifies the scope of each organisation’s activity and CSOs are prohibited from operating outside of that strictly-defined mandate. Authorities also keep a close watch on civil society’s communication with external actors. Activists working in the field of democracy and human rights face particularly serious harassment by security forces. Some human rights organisations have been shut down or taken over by the authorities, forcing them to carry on their activities clandestinely, while others were refused registration in the first place. Such interference in the affairs of organisations is justified under the pretext of maintaining security and stability. The government has also placed several restrictions on receiving foreign funds and to do so prior approval from the relevant authorities is mandatory.


Peaceful Assembly

Public assemblies are banned by the authorities in Bahrain, although protests continue to take place in defiance of the authorities. Even though the right to gather peacefully is protected by Article 28 of the Bahraini Constitution, in practice assemblies are rarely authorised, forcing activists to gather without the protection of the law.

Public assemblies are banned by the authorities in Bahrain, although protests continue to take place in defiance of the authorities. Even though the right to gather peacefully is protected by Article 28 of the Bahraini Constitution, in practice assemblies are rarely authorised, forcing activists to gather without the protection of the law. No gathering can take place near public buildings, and in no part of the capital, Manama. Protests that do occur are regularly met with excessive force and the arrest and torture of protest organisers and participants. Extrajudicial killings of protesters have also taken place. Despite the risks, protests continue on almost a daily basis in an attempt to draw attention to human rights abuses and to commemorate the peaceful uprising in 2011.


Expression

The Bahraini Constitution provides very limited protection for the freedom of expression. According to the law, it is necessary for all publications to obtain government approval. Most media in Bahrain avoids criticism of the Monarchy, particularly following a legal amendment that increases punishment for insulting the King to between 2 and 7 years.

The Bahraini Constitution provides very limited protection for the freedom of expression. According to the law, it is necessary for all publications to obtain government approval. Most media in Bahrain avoids criticism of the Monarchy, particularly following a legal amendment that increases punishment for insulting the King to between 2 and 7 years. Those that attempt to take an independent line risk being targeted or shut down. In August 2015, The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote to the Bahraini authorities expressing his concern at the temporary suspension of Al Wasat, the only newspaper that takes an editorial line that is somewhat independent of the government. Individually, journalists are subject to serious harassment and similar treatment to that meted out to human rights activists. Although over 90% of people access the Internet, social media sites including Facebook and Twitter cannot be used freely, rather, online content is used to level charges against people and arrest them.


Let us hear your views

Have your say