(October 25, 2012) PEN International calls on the Bahraini government to implement recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), released on 19 September 2012, alongside the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry BIC’s recommendations.
While Bahrain accepted 145 of the 176 recommendations made as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain, the situation of human rights is still deteriorating.
PEN International is extremely concerned about the ongoing threats of reprisals targeting Bahraini human rights defenders, including writers and journalists, who cooperate with the United Nations (UN) or those who attended the Geneva meeting. Several of these activists have been summoned for interrogation or arrested in the past few days, due to their legitimate peaceful activism for human rights.
On 16 October 2012, activist and president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Mohamed Al-Masktai has been summoned for interrogation at Al-Naem police station. He was then arrested and kept in custody to be brought the following day before the public prosecution office for participating in a protest held on 12 October in Manama. He was released after interrogation. While taking part in the Geneva meetings, Al-Masktai reportedly received death threats through anonymous phone calls.
Also, on 23 September 2012, those who travelled to Geneva to participate in the 21st session of the Human Rights Council were accused of “defaming Bahrain” and labelled as “traitors to the country” by pro-governmental newspaper Al-Watan.
In violation of one of the recommendations which states that the Bahraini government must immediately release prisoners who have been convicted solely for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and free expression during pro-democracy demonstrations in February and March 2011, the Bahraini Appeal Court upheld on 4 September 2012 the sentences against the 14 political leaders and human rights activists including writers and bloggers Abdul Hadi Al- Khawaja and Dr Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace. PEN is seriously concerned for the welfare of Abdul-Jaili Al-Singace, who is in poor health as a result of hunger strike.
The Bahrain Appeals Court has twice postponed the appeal hearing of Nabeel Rajab, the director of Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR), who was sentenced to three years in prison on 16 August 2012 for illegal assembly and another case related to a Twitter post. PEN International protests the continued arbitrary detention of Nabeel Rajab.
Zainab Al-Khawaja, a human rights defender and blogger, was released on 3 October 2012 after serving her two-month sentence which was handed down on 1 October 2012 for her peaceful opposition activities. Zainab reported that she was exposed to physical violence by police whilst in detention.
Despite promises and commitments on several occasions by the Bahraini authorities that PEN International and other NGOs would have access to the country, PEN is concerned about the lack of cooperation by the Bahraini authorities regarding visa requests which were submitted by the organisation in May 2012. These requests are still pending and the organisation has therefore been hindered in carrying out vital fact-finding work to document human rights abuses.
PEN International calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Release Nabeel Rajab, Abdul Hadi Al- Khawaja, Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace and all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression immediately and unconditionally;
- Implement UPR recommendations and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report
- Fulfil its commitments by allowing NGOs to visit Bahrain without restrictions
- Put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against activists, journalists and writers;
- Ensure that human rights defenders cooperating with the UN be free from any kind of threats, harassment or reprisals in relation with their human rights activities;
- Respect the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly which constitute necessary fundamental freedoms, and stop the criminalisation of those rights which is not tolerable or justified under any circumstances;
Research and Development Officer