Bahrain's candidature to the HRC criticized in the wake of deteriorating human rights record


During the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session in September, Bahrain’s bid to join the Human Rights Council was condemned by civil society organisations including Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, in the context of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, the systematic targeting of human rights defenders and political opposition and silencing of independent media. Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council, a report from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) highlighted that “[t]he vast majority of human rights defenders are in jail, in exile, under travel bans, or enduring severe threats and intimidation as a result of their peaceful work. Dozens have been abused and tortured, or had their nationalities revoked and family members arrested. International NGOs and journalists are prevented from visiting Bahrain to document ongoing human rights abuses, including the re-instatement of the death penalty in 2018.” GCHR called on the Bahraini government to uphold its commitments made through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR); and immediately and unconditionally free all human rights defenders from prison.


On 13th August 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) once again issued an opinion on the legality of the detention of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab. The WGAD found that the detention of Rajab contravenes the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Bahrain in 2006. The WGAD also labelled the detention as discriminatory. The WGAD reiterated its call on the Bahraini authorities to release Rajab, who has been in detention since June 2016. 127 human rights and civil society organisations welcomed the decision of the WGAD and called upon the authorities to immediately release Rajab.

As reported previously on the CIVICUS Monitor, Rajab was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment on 10th July 2017 for “disseminating false news, statements and rumours about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status". On 5th June 2018, Bahrain’s Court of Appeal upheld the five year sentence.

The statement from the 127 organisations noted that the list of those detained in Bahrain for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion is “long and includes several prominent human rights defenders, notably Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr.Abduljalil Al-Singace and Mr. Naji Fateel”.