By Reema Shaalan*
The Bahraini government continues to crackdown on peaceful demonstraters. Amid these critical conditions, there has been recently a wave of violations against human rights activists, to silence their voices. In fact, there is a fear of a comprehensive elimination of the human rights defenders’ activistism.
Human rights defenders have become a heavy burden on the government of Bahrain, because of their effective independent activities to publically reveal these violations. Equally important, the sequence of international condemnations that criticize repression in Bahrain, particularly by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at its annual sessions.
Recently at least 37 human rights activists were banned from travelling, in conjunction with the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Bahrain (UPR), which was carried out between May 1-5, 2017. The campaign aimed at barring the activists from participating in the UPR sessions, and to expose human rights violations. These violations are seriously could no longer be denied, after being exposed worldwide.
In the period from 24 through 28 May 2017, a number of human rights activists were summoned by the Security Forces into investigation. Activists were subjected to ill-treatment and threats to force them to cease their human rights activities, or they would be in danger of being subjected to more severe targeting.
Amnesty International also documented cases of torture and sexual harassment, exerted on Bahraini human rights activists, in its report on May 31, 2017.
Furthermore, targeting human rights activists is not a new occurrence in the country, but it has coincided with the eruption of the Bahraini popular uprising, in February, 2011. For instance, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, co-founder and former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who had previously held several regional and international human rights positions, was arrested in April 2011, and was severely tortured. He is currently serving a life imprisonment sentence, purely for his defense of human rights, and his demand for justice and equality to all people.
In July 2012, the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charge of posts on Twitter. Rajab was again arrested, in June 2016. Today, 10th of July, Rajab was again sentenced to two years of imprisonment for advocating human rights on television channels. He still faces a maximum of 15 years imprisonment, for another case on charges of criticizing the waged war on Yemen.
Similarly, Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, the largest opposition society in Bahrain, is serving a four-year jail sentence, for peacefully exercising his due rights.
Indeed, the policy to silence the dissents is one of the systematic policies pursued by the Bahraini Government. It aims at eliminating the peaceful movement which demand the transition to democracy, and the end of all forms of tyranny and discrimination between citizens.
The policy to silence the dissents has led many prominent human rights activists to seek political asylum, in order to practice further human rights activism, particularly when national and international media have chosen to disregard human rights violations in Bahrain.
However, there can be no doubt that, the abuses human rights defenders are being subjected to, confirms that the allegations, by the Bahraini government of respecting human rights are mere slogans, utilitized for media reasons.
In light of the risks faced by human rights activists, the government of Bahrain must respect its international obligations, and make more effective efforts to protect human rights defenders.
Additionally, the government of Bahrain is asked to revoke its hostile position against activists and opponents. It is called to recognize the influential humanitarian activities practiced by those human rights defenders, who aim at promoting equality, freedom and justice.
* Reema Shaalan
Bahraini Lawyer and human rights activist