13 February 2015 – On 14 February 2011, more than 200,000 people from all walks of life flooded the streets of Bahrain to protest state corruption, government oppression, sectarian discrimination and a lack of self-representation and equality in law. On the fourth anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) call on the Government of Bahrain to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and assembly ahead of the fourth anniversary, which is likely to see large scale demonstrations and rallies. The organisations also call on the Bahraini government to immediately release all arbitrarily detained political prisoners and human rights defenders and for all in Bahrain to unequivocally reject violence.
Since February 2011, the Government of Bahrain has responded to protests for rights and democracy with excessive. Four years later, more than 3,000 prisoners are in jail, an estimated 5 Bahrainis per day are subjected to enforced disappearance, and dozens have been killed at the hands of their government, which has committed these violations with impunity. Just as protests have not stopped, the excessive use of tear gas and birdshot pellets continue to cause serious injuries to individuals, including children. Additionally, the government continues to employ policies that fuel sectarian divisions and marginalize peaceful opposition.
Bahrain has also issued legislation that allows for harsher penalties to be used to silence dissent. Misuse of anti-terrorism legislation has led to the revocation of citizenship of at least 115 individuals without due process, as well as the arrest of prominent opposition leaders like Sheikh Ali Salman. Human rights defenders and activists also face ongoing judicial harassment, with the majority of them currently imprisoned or awaiting trial, including BCHR President Nabeel Rajab who is currently appealing a 6-month prison sentence for a tweet.
“The Government of Bahrain must immediately stop employing violence and oppression in response to the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people for rights and democracy,” said BCHR President Nabeel Rajab. “Instead, the international community must ensure that Bahrain adopts a political solution that address these demands and meet its obligations to international human rights treaties.”
The aforementioned organizations call on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:
- Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to release all human rights defenders and political activists imprisoned for exercising their basic rights;
- Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to halt all judicial harassment of human rights defenders and political opposition members;
- Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against those sentenced for exercising their internationally protected right to freedom of expression
- Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon internationally protect rights;
- Urge the Bahraini government to start an inclusive political dialogue that leads to a comprehensive solution to the political crisis; and
- Urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure that civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain may conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.