Bahrain: Bahrain: More human rights defenders banned from travel and prevented from engaging in UN advocacy

30.08.16

The government of Bahrain continues its relentless crackdown on human rights defenders, jailing them, banning them and sending them into exile. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has publicly stated that he does not respect the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which resumes in September for its 33rd session, and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the international community to take actions.

Once again, human rights defenders have been prevented from traveling to Geneva and other locations in advance of the UNHRC. This follows bans imposed in June and July on dozens of human rights defenders and other members of civil society from traveling to the UNHRC’s 32nd session and elsewhere.

“This is a systematic procedure designed by the highest authorities in the country which is aimed at cutting the links between the human rights movement in Bahrain and various international mechanisms and in particular the UN system,” said GCHR Co-Director Khalid Ibrahim, noting that recent travel bans are taking place just prior to the UNHRC33, which runs from 13-30 September 2016, with pre-sessions beginning on 01 September.

The Bahrain Minster for Foreign Affairs reportedly said, “We will not pay attention to any voice which hustle us from abroad, especially UN Human Rights Council,” according to the news reports from Bahrain. This is particularly worrisome when Bahrain is up for review during the UN’s Universal Periodic Review in 2017.

On the evening of 29 August 2016, Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) reported that she was not permitted to leave the country. “I was informed by a police officer at Bahrain International Airport that the public prosecution has issued a travel ban against me,” she said. Al-Salman was on her way to participate in the UN HRC 33, in particular in pre-session events at the beginning of September to call attention to the recent crackdown on human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR and Founding Director of GCHR, who has been imprisoned since 13 June in violation of his right to free expression. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1313

On 27 August 2016, Bahrain’s authorities banned two human rights defenders from leaving the country, across the King Fahd Causeway that connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Human rights defender Ahmed Al-Saffar, a member of the European-Bahraini organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), said that the authorities prevented him from leaving via the Causeway, along with human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Sayegh, a member of Salam organization for Democracy and Human Rights. Al-Saffar noted that the ban was issued by the Public Prosecution’s office, according to a staff member of the Passport Department.

On 24 August, the security authorities at Bahrain's International Airport prevented Essa Al-Ghayeb, director of Lualua Center for Human Rights from leaving Bahrain. The authorities reportedly told Al-Ghaib that he is denied the right to leave Bahrain based on an order issued by the security apparatuses. Al-Ghaib was heading to Georgia.

On 23 August 2016, the authorities again stopped prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer from traveling at Bahrain International Airport. They did not give any reason for the ban and told him that the order was issued by the Public Prosecutor. Al-Tajer was previously banned from traveling to Saudi Arabia on 08 July 2016. When he queried the passport and immigration authorities, he was not provided with any official confirmation or justification for the ban.

GCHR welcomes the attention from the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, who said in June, “In a further intensification of their crackdown on dissent, Bahraini authorities have in recent weeks detained a prominent human rights defender and subjected several others to travel bans; deprived individuals of their nationality; and dissolved three organisations, including the country’s largest opposition group.”

GCHR condemns the systematic and repeated attempts by the Bahraini government to target human rights defenders and other activists who are co-operating with international mechanisms and in particular the UN system. We reiterate our belief that this recent intensified trend of targeting all individuals who have any links with the international community is a very serious development aimed at isolating the Bahrain human rights movement from having any co-operation with the international community.

We call on the UN and the European Union, and all member states and allies of Bahrain, to strongly condemn the restrictions arbitrarily imposed on human rights defenders in a clear pattern aimed at silencing them, particularly in advance of the next session of the UNHRC.

Therefore, GCHR repeats its calls for the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Uphold the right to freedom of movement guaranteed in Bahrain’s constitution and allow human rights defenders to travel freely in the pursuit of their work, particularly when they are engaging with the UN system, and drop travel bans against them;
  2. Abide by its commitments made during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry; and
  3. Immediately release all human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab, and ensure their protection from reprisals including harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities.