Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Front Line: Human rights defenders in Bahrain are facing increasing restrictions on their activities

Posted on 2009/02/03

Human rights defenders in Bahrain are facing increasing restrictions on their activities.

The authorities have sought to target independent human rights organisations including the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and restrict human rights activities. Human Rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, fabricated judicial proceedings, threats and harassment.Further InformationAccording to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), during the last two years the Government, represented by the Ministry of Development, has waged a campaign against local NGOs registered under Law 21/1989.
Most human rights organisations refer to this law as one of the obstacles hindering the work of local NGOs in Bahrain. In addition, the Ministry of Development has launched another campaign against unregistered committees and NGOs that have refused to be registered according to such a defective law that hinders their social work.The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights submitted its request for a license in 2005. However, the Ministry is still refusing to grant the license without any reasonable grounds. The Government has targeted the leaders of the organisation on several occasions and has attempted to suppress its activities.Also, the Ministry of Development has rejected the registration request by the Child Association for reasons that contradict the provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Bahrain is a signatory. The Convention stipulates that children have the right to establish their own organisations to protect their rights. The Association submitted its application in 2004.The NGOs that have been threatened by the Government are :
1.The Committee of the Unemployed and Low-paid workers.
2. The Committee of those Returning from Exile
3. The Committee for Adequate Housing
4. The Committee of Feminist Petition
The officials of these committees have stated that these are temporary committees that will end their work once the Bahraini Government solves the problems handled by each committee.There is therefore an ongoing trend of repression of human rights defenders, and continuous attempts made by the Government to stop human rights organisations from functioning, contrary to the international laws that Bahrain has signed.Also, freedom of expression is in danger. There there have been many orchestrated media attacks on human rights organisations and their members. The recent media campaign against human rights defenders started on 16 October 2008 in the form of inflammatory articles written by members of the elected house of representatives, writers, and editors of some local newspapers concerning some human rights defenders. These articles were published in the local Arabic newspapers Alwatan, Al-Ayam, Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Alwaqt and Al-Bilad, as well as in the regional newspapers Al-Khaleej and The Khaleej Times.These articles described the human rights defenders as “traitors to Bahrain and stooges of the United States,” and interpreted the participation by human rights defenders in a briefing, held on 15 October 2008 in Washington DC., USA, on the theme of, the “Impact of Political Reform on Religious Freedom in Bahrain,” as a call for foreigners, specifically the United States Congress, to interfere in local affairs. Furthermore, these newspaper articles called for the Bahrainian authorities to take action against the same human rights defenders.It appears that the media harassment of human rights defenders is due to their legitimate peaceful activities in defence of human rights in Bahrain, in particular their participation in the briefing concerning the “Impact of Political Reform on Religious Freedom in Bahrain.


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