The Bahraini authorities summoned the human rights defender and scholar Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman to be present at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) for interrogation on Sunday, 14 August 2016. The authorities did not declare the reasons over which Al-Salman is going to be interrogated. We strongly condemn the targeting and prosecution of Al-Salman, and other human rights defenders and activists.
Al-Salman is an international spokesperson and a human rights defender focused particularly on topics related to freedom of religion, anti-extremism, anti-violence and strengthening positive relations between cultures and religions. He is the head of the Religious Freedom unit at at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, the founding member and current coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Civil Society Coalition to Counter Incitement to Hatred; a multi-stakeholder platform and the Director of Bahrain Inter-Faith, a non-profit organization seeking to prevent religious and social discrimination and sectarianism, and working to encourage and support interfaith dialogue. Al-Salman also serves on a committee of the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.
He has taken part in a number of human rights conferences, as well as meetings with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Recently he has released a video statement about the recent crackdown on civil society in Bahrain and called for the international community to support efforts to end the crackdown.
Al-Salman has been a target of repeated harassment by the authorities. In 2011, security forces arrested and subjected him to torture. The court sentenced him to four months in prison for inciting hatred against the regime. However, he was detained for six months before he was finally released. Since then, he has been repeatedly summoned and arrested over his human rights work. With each arrest, the authorities interrogated him over his activism and participation in international human rights conferences and forums. He was summoned several times during the past year, the latest in March 2016, when he was accused of allegedly “insulting religious figures.” The authorities have confiscated his passport since then. He has been prevented from traveling which hindered his ability to do his human rights work, and deprived him of attending the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law this summer.
The targeting of Al-Salman and other human rights defenders, including President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab, is an example of the government of Bahrain’s attempts to restrict the space of human rights organizations and civil societies. We call upon the government of Bahrain to stop summoning and arresting human rights defenders and activists, release all detained defenders and drop charges against them, and provide civil societies with the space to practise their jobs without fear of reprisal.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)