The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express concern over the recent arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa, a prominent member of the opposition political group al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. His arrest is the latest in a series of such detentions undertaken by the government against opposition political figures. We condemn this arrest as both yet another act of suppression of free speech and a further attack against peaceful political opposition. We therefore call on the government to lift all restrictions against the legitimate and peaceable work of all political societies in Bahrain.
On 18 August 2015, government security forces arrested Sheikh Hasan Isa as he returned from vacation with his family. A former member of parliament for al-Wefaq National Islamic Society representing Sitra, Sheikh Hasan resigned his parliamentary position following a government assault on peaceful protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in February 2011, but maintained active membership in the political society. Upon his arrest, security forces transported him to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), a facility run by the Ministry of Interior known for human rights violations including substantial numbers of cases of reported torture. They held him there without charge for over 48 hours in direct violation of Bahraini domestic criminal law. Sheikh Hasan’s family has not been informed of the reason for his arrest, and the government has thus far denied Sheikh Hasan access to his attorney.
Sheikh Hasan Isa’s arrest is the latest in a campaign of government attacks against Bahrain’s peaceful opposition. The Government of Bahrain has also arrested and prosecuted other prominent political opposition figures, including al-Wefaq Society’s Secretary-General, Shaikh Ali Salman, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison for acts of peaceful speech; former Secretary-General of Wa’ad political society Ebrahim Sherif, who was re-arrested for exercising free speech and criticizing the government; Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society Fadhel Abbas, who was sentenced to five years in prison over a statement in which his society condemned the war in Yemen; and al-Wefaq’s General Secretariat member Majeed Milad, who was arrested for a speech in which he demanded fair electoral districts, a democratic State, and self-determination for the people. The government has also summoned other political leaders for interrogation over similar accusations, chiefly including al-Wefaq General-Secretary’s Political Assistant Khalil Marzooq.
BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD believe that the arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa is in contravention of international legal protections, including his right not to be deprived arbitrarily of liberty as set forth in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD urge the Bahraini government to:
- Immediately release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa, and all other prisoners of conscience detained on charges of free expression;
- Take concrete steps towards resuming a national dialogue, including the release of all members of the Bahrain 13, other prominent opposition leaders including Sheikh Ali Salman, and human rights defenders like Naji Fateel; and
- Cease all reprisals taken against individuals peacefully exercising their right to free expression as guaranteed by Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On the United Nations and its Member States to:
- Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa;
- Pressure the Government of Bahrain to end all harassment of political opposition leaders and take concrete steps towards resuming national dialogue;
- Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, compelling the Government to urgently implement all recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations;
On the United States to:
- Reapply and immediately put into effect the recently lifted arms suspension on the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard;
On the United Kingdom to:
- Reassess the current program of assistance to the Government of Bahrain in light of the ongoing abuses;
- List Bahrain as a Country of Concern in the next FCO Human Rights Report;
On the European Union to:
- Condemn the re-arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa and adopt the recommendations outlined in the European Parliament’s Urgent Resolution of 9 July 2015 on Bahrain.