Human Rights Watch condemns the Bahraini government’s detention of activists
Human Rights Watch reported that the Bahraini authorities detained four activists over social media posts in early March this year. HRW said in a press release today that one of these detainees was arrested following a post he wrote demanding reform in the parliamentary system.
From March 11 to 15, Bahrain will host the IPU Assembly, an annual gathering of parliamentarians worldwide. “Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance” is the theme of this year’s Assembly.
The Human rights group called on the IPU representatives and leaders to publicly call on Bahraini authorities to adhere to the theme of the Assembly, including by dropping all charges against the four men and the numerous other people currently detained for exercising their rights right to free speech.
Human Rights Watch researcher Niku Jafarnia said, “Holding an assembly that claims to promote inclusive societies in a country that regularly arrests people for speaking their minds has only served to embolden the Bahraini government to continue repressing free speech.”
“The current silence of the leadership of the parliamentary group and of the parliament members present at the Assembly is deafening and supports Bahrain’s efforts to cover up its egregious violations of political opponents’ human rights,” she added.
Ebrahim Al-Mannai, a lawyer and well-known Twitter activist, is among the four men detained. The Bahraini government should reform its parliament, according to a tweet by Al-Mannai on March 6. He claimed the government is “interested in highlighting the Bahraini parliament to the world.”
He and three other people were subsequently detained for their social media posts. The four were detained for “abusing social media platforms,” according to a statement on Instagram posted on March 9 by Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor’s Office. Al-Mannai was later freed, but the whereabouts of the other three people are still unknown.
Despite having permanent observer status with the IPU, Bahraini authorities cancelled the visas they had previously granted to two Human Rights Watch employees so they could attend the IPU the same week as the arrests.
The arrests and the suspension of Human Rights Watch’s visas are two instances of Bahrain’s restrictions on free speech, association, and Assembly, which go against the nation’s obligations under international human rights law. Political isolation laws, which prohibit former members of the country’s opposition parties from running for office or serving on the boards of governors of civil society organisations, among other restrictions, are just one example of how opposition voices are routinely suppressed and excluded in the country. In addition, the government has effectively banned independent media since 2017, and elections are neither free nor fair.
Bahraini authorities have routinely jailed human rights advocates, political opponents, and activists, including two former lawmakers. Numerous instances of torture and the denial of medical care to numerous detainees have been documented by Human Rights Watch. Most recently, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights advocate and dual citizen of Denmark and Bahrain, was refused access to a cardiologist despite experiencing urgent heart problems on February 28. Four former Bahraini parliamentarians are among the other political opposition figures whose citizenship has been further revoked by the authorities.
“The parliament members attending this Assembly should be using these arrests as an opportunity to speak out against Bahrain’s human rights abuses on behalf of the many who cannot,” Jafarnia said. “As long as they do not, the Bahraini government will continue to arrest and abuse those who speak out.”