The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy is seriously concerned about the arrest and detention of dozens of peaceful protesters from the village of Duraz this week. The move comes after the village experienced a significant increase in police activity, with teams of security forces building on the village outskirts. Police activity has also been reported at the site of the month long protest.
Since 20 June, thousands of protesters have peacefully gathered outside the home of a prominent cleric, Sheikh Isa Qasim, after the Ministry of Interior ordered the revocation of his nationality. In the days after the government’s decision, which made him stateless, police established blockades closing off most of the roads leading into and out of Duraz. All major entrances into the village have been sealed off and the internet has been throttled every night.
On 22 July, BIRD received credible reports that dozens of individuals had been arrested after leaving Duraz. The Bahrain News Agency, a government run body, later announced that several individuals had been questioned by the Public Prosecutor and detained for their alleged participation in the peaceful Duraz sit-in. At least nine are being charged for taking part in an unauthorised assembly according to the Bahrain News Agency.
On 19 July, several police vehicles temporarily surrounded protesters at the location of the sit-in. The move further increased tensions and provoked an angry reaction from the protesters. Protesters have previously vowed that they would not disperse despite the heavy policy presence around the village.
As a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain has an obligation to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. BIRD condemns the intimidation, persecution and arrest of individuals for charges related to peaceful assembly and expression.