Bahrain: Award given to Bahraini Prime Minister in Norway criticised for rewarding perpetrator of human rights violations

13.09.19

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and partners are dismayed by reports that the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, received an honorary award at an event organised by the 14 August Committee last month, in the presence of the Norwegian Prime Minster, Erna Solberg.

GCHR led a joint communication addressed to H.E. Solberg; which was endorsed by nine Norwegian and international human rights organisations. The letter highlights the travesty of this prize being awarded to a figure representing the Bahraini government despite the human rights violations committed by the authorities for decades. The letter reminds the Norwegian government of its human rights principles, including its own recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) third cycle; which confirm the Norwegian government’s full awareness of the abuse, torture and reprisals practiced by the Bahraini authorities against human rights defenders.

Women Human Rights Defenders and women’s rights are always at the top of the Norwegian government’s agenda, human rights plans and funds. Yet, as the joint letter states, “Women human rights defenders have been constantly targeted by the authorities for exposing human rights abuses, violence and corruption via social media, leading to detention and torture. The undersigned groups have documented severe torture at Isa Town Women’s Prison, including of women human rights defenders. Many women are currently living in exile in order for them to continue their activism and defense of human and women’s rights in Bahrain.”

The joint letter also highlights the unjust imprisonment of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who have been mistreated and tortured in prison; as well as ongoing attacks on journalists and media freedom. It further notes that two young men were executed following severe torture only three weeks prior to Bahrain’s Prime Minister receiving the ‘Norwegian Guest of Honour’ award 2019, “in recognition of his efforts to promote regional and global peace, security, tolerance and harmony." The letter states: “It is also worrisome that the Norwegian government may condone an award to an individual who should be held directly accountable for this blatant disregard for human rights and human life.” Al- Khalifa has been Prime Minister of Bahrain since 1971.

GCHR and partners continue to encourage the Norwegian government to push for the implementation of its recommendations to enhance the human rights situation in Bahrain and to unconditionally release all imprisoned human rights defenders. We urge the Norwegian government to further engage positively in accountability mechanisms supported by human rights organisations; rather than taking part in a controversial award ceremony that only contributes to whitewash a legacy of human rights violations and foster its propaganda.

The letter was signed by GCHR, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS, Index on Censorship, English PEN, Norwegian PEN, PEN International, and FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The full letter is available here.
Photo source : 14 August Committee facebook page