22 March 2021 – A disciplinary board in Bahrain has arbitrarily revoked the legal licence of prominent Bahraini defence lawyer Abdullah Al-Shamlawi for one year, amid a government crackdown on defence lawyers and other prominent civil society figures, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) stated today.
The decision to prohibit Al-Shamlawi from practicing law comes six months after a judge at Bahrain’s Third High Criminal Court handed him a suspended sentence over posts made on social media in 2019 in which he expressed critical views on religious practices related to Ashura, an important Shi’a festival. Prior to the verdict, BIRD and Human Rights Watch issued a joint-statement condemning Al-Shamlawi’s prosecution, citing “a campaign of judicial harassment against defense lawyers and human rights defenders” by Bahrain’s government.
The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC), who reviewed the proceedings against Al-Shamlawi, also called for the charges against him to be dismissed, stating that “the prosecutions and disciplinary measures taken against Mr Al-Shamlawi and others amount to unwarranted restrictions on freedom of expression… on those perceived to be critical of the government,” in violation of Bahrain’s international obligations.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning human rights violations in Bahrain which noted that “several public figures have been prosecuted merely for their social media activity, including prominent lawyers Abdullah Al-Shamlawi and Abdullah Hashim.” Al-Shamlawi is renowned in Bahrain for his defence of prominent opposition figures, including Sheikh Ali Salman, the imprisoned leader of Bahrain’s largest opposition group, Al-Wefaq.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) commented: “Bahrain’s corrupt judiciary has already unfairly punished Al-Shamlawi over tweets which clearly fell well within his right to freedom of expression. Now they are going after his licence, sending a clear message to lawyers who dare to defend opposition figures.”