Arbitrary Revocation of Citizenship in Bahrain

Making a person stateless is clearly prohibited by international law. The right to a nationality, which must not be deprived arbitrarily, is enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 24 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a state party. Article 15 of UDHR explicitly refers to a right to citizenship, declaring, “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” Likewise, Article 7 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness also prohibits, with only a very few very tightly drawn exceptions, any loss of nationality which results in statelessness.

Meanwhile, the Bahraini Constitution stipulates under Article 17 that a “person inherently enjoying his Bahraini nationality cannot be stripped of his nationality except in case of treason, and such other cases as prescribed by law.” Subsequently, the obligation to avoid statelessness has been recognized as a norm of customary international law and the Constitution of Bahrain.

The situation of citizenship revocation in Bahrain

The stripping of nationality, however, has been an instrument for the Bahraini government to punish any political dissidents and to repress popular uprisings. The Bahraini authorities allegedly allow the Interior Minister to carry out revocation of citizenship through its Nationality Act 1963, Article 10(3), in particular, which allows for the deprivation of nationality of persons that are causing “damage to the security of the state”. The authorities have thus unlawfully used this Act to punish dissidents, activists, clerics, and scholars, the vast majority of whom have never committed a crime or prosecuted.

Moreover, it was empowered by Law No. 58 of 2006 on ‘Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts’ which was ratified by the King in August 2006. This law defines ‘terrorism’ as a broad range of acts, which do not have any intention to cause death or serious physical injuries. By manipulating broad terms with vague ambiguities such as “infringement to national unity” or “stirring sedition”, the Bahraini authorities have simply accused dissidents of creating security threat to the country and provoked their citizenship.

Consequently, in total, 738 Bahrainis have been revoked their citizenship. Most recently, in May 2018, the authorities revoked the citizenship of 128 Bahrainis. Since the beginning of 2018, 8 people have been deported to Iraq after being stripped their nationality.

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Salam’s recent roles in standing against revocation of citizenship in Bahrain

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights has closely followed the issue of citizenship revocation and raised our voice against the Bahraini authorities’ arbitrary decisions on that matter.

Panel participation in ‘Citizenship Stripping as a Security Measure: Towards more Inequality?” organized by T.M.C. Asser Instituut / Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion

– Assessment on Bahrain’s CCPR National Report in July 2018

– Report entitled “Law to Protect Society from Terrorist Acts: Legitimising State Terrorism Against Citizens”, June 2018

– Panel participation in the UN HRC Side Event entitled “Human Rights and Anti-Terrorist Legislation”, organized by the Rencontre Africainepour les Droits de I’Homme, 21 June 2018

– Panel participation in the UN HRC Side Event entitled “The Absent Rights & Justice”, organized by Khiam Centre for Rehabilitation for Victims of Torture, 20 June 2018

Organisation of the event at the French National Assembly, entitled “Bahrain, A Key to Unraveling the Political and Social Tensions on the Arab Side of the Gulf?”, 14 June 2018

– Report on “Bahrain’s Incompliance with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” on the occasion of Bahrain’s review at 123rd Session of the UN Human Rights Committee ICCPR

– “Ana Bahraini” campaign launched on 23 February 2018 with the support of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, Sentinel HRD, Bahrain Mirror and Bahrain Centre for Studies in London.

Since our seminar held on 31 October 2016 in London, with cooperation with Amnesty International, we have managed to bring an attention of more NGOs and campaigners to this issue. Nevertheless, there is still a general lack of awareness about the situation of the stateless, and only a few state governments have made a serious consideration to bring the issue to an international level, such as at the Human Rights Council sessions, to make a huge pressure on the government of Bahrain to immediately stop the arbitrary revocation of citizenship.

Recommendations to NGOs, donors, stategovernments and the Human Rights Council

Campaigners and NGOs to hold a side-event at one or more Human Rights Council sessions for wider awareness of the issue and emergency public appeals
Journalists not only to report the citizenship revocation in Bahrain but also to investigate, andquestion the arbitrary decision of the Bahraini government on this issue.
State governments to make an urgent examination of the human rights deterioration in Bahrain and re-examine their political and economic support and funding to the government Bahrain, priotising humanitarian support and values.
The international community to hold the government of Bahrain accountable for the above-mentioned matters and to the recommendations made by the High Commissioner for UN Human Rights Council.

* Below are the recommendations made at our seminar in London on 31 October 2016

Undertake a comprehensive study or a mapping exercise, compiling data disaggregated by gender, age, status and location, in co-operation with the UNHCR and national human rights organisations, on the prevalence of the practice of deprivation of citizenship;
Determine the relationship between deprivation of nationality and statelessness in order to better understand the scale of the problem, in quantitative and qualitative terms, of those who have been deprived of their citizenship and, as a result, been made stateless. This would be a first step towards identifying and implementing comprehensive and effective measures for redress for the deprivation of citizenship and for the eradication of statelessness;
Publicly acknowledge, if they have not already done so, the existence and problem of statelessness;
Support grassroots or smaller, specialized human rights organisations, including through funding, to undertake advocacy with domestic, regional and international governments and relevant bodies to end arbitrary deprivation of citizenship and eradicate statelessness, as well as monitor implementation of any proposal to end these practices and any future mechanism that is put in place to address them.

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