Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the University of Bahrain’s announcement to install many surveillance cameras on campus is disturbing and would undoubtedly lead to limiting freedoms.
The Tender Board, an independent regulatory body responsible for overseeing the practices of government tenders and auctions, announced on Thursday that it had received eight bids for a tender to install security cameras at the University of Bahrain.
The university required that security cameras be delivered and installed in all campus buildings and amenities, including outdoor yards, parking lots, corridors, internal streets, the university fence, and gates.
Euro-Med Monitor said that this suggests that the issue extends beyond the need for traditional security protection to a security system designed to track students, invade their privacy, and impose a police-like environment to intimidate and discourage them from exercising their natural right to organise legitimate activities.
The university’s goal of eroding liberties and preventing the creation of student organisations is an extension of the Bahraini government’s strategy of repressing opponents.
Soon, the institution may resemble a security barracks because the fully integrated surveillance system incorporates video analysis functions such as facial and licence plate recognition to identify persons and cars.
Euro-Med Monitor cautioned that the introduction of equipment capable of properly identifying the faces of everyone on campus implies that all students and faculty are suspects, endangers their privacy and safety, and weakens the institution’s credibility.
The university’s history of removing students and faculty members based on political engagement heightens concerns about the surveillance system.
In 2011, hundreds of students were expelled, and several faculty and staff members were terminated for participating in oppositional actions within and outside the institution. Two employees were fired in 2014 for the same reason.
Although several students and faculty members have returned to their positions per official directives, the university administration continues to prohibit demonstrations and opposition activities and subjects participants to administrative investigations and disciplinary proceedings.
The university’s policy of undermining freedoms and restricting the formation of student organisations is an extension of the Bahraini government’s approach to repressing opponents and critics, confiscating their freedoms, and punishing them with other harsh measures, most notably by revoking their citizenship, deporting them, and denying them entry into the country.
Since the beginning of popular uprisings in 2011, Bahraini authorities have consistently violated liberties, imprisoning several activists and human rights advocates, subjecting them to unjust trials, and executing some of them. In addition, the government has prohibited the creation of opposition groups and restricted freedom of expression and thought.
Euro-Med Monitor produced a study detailing Bahraini authorities’ exploitation of the judicial system to kill activists and political opponents by imposing scores of death sentences against individuals.
Euro-Med Monitor also added that the University of Bahrain must examine its restrictive rules on freedoms, including the security system and its purposes, and limit monitoring technology to what is necessary for protection. It must also remove limits on student liberties, which would assist produce and maintaining generations capable of self-expression and community engagement.