The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern in regards to the ongoing attacks on freedom of expression in Bahrain demonstrated in the recent destruction and banning of an art exhibition of the Bahrain Revolution.
On 30 Oct 2013, police forces in Bahrain stormed one of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society’s buildings where an exhibition of the Bahrain revolution was on display. No warrant was shown. This came two days after the opening of the exhibition, which included scenes and life-size panels from the uprising, such as demolished mosques, torture inside prisons, police attacks with tear gas and riot police running over a young boy. The police destroyed the panels and confiscated the exhibition items including some personal items that belong to the families of victims of extrajudicial killings over almost two years and a half.
The building was under lockdown by security forces for around nine hours and the AlWefaq lawyer was not allowed in to talk to any of the officials inside the building. The surveillance cameras inside the building were covered at the start of the raid and journalists were not allowed in the area.
The Ministry of Interior attempted to justify the attack on the exhibition by stating that they “found material meant to incite hatred” and “ordered the confiscation of the material that included objects and images that insulted a statutory body.” It added that “possession of such items is punishable by law.” Some of these confiscated items are “clothes” that belonged to victims of extrajudicial killing.
Subsequently, the General Secretary of AlWefaq society, Shaikh Ali Salman, was summoned for interrogation on 3 Nov 2013 for “humiliating the Interior Ministry in an event during which showcased models, miniatures and drawings of policemen’s systematic use of inhuman practices and human rights violations” as stated by the public prosecution. Salman was officially charged with “humiliating a government body” and was released pending further investigation.
The BCHR believes that the attack on the exhibition is in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Furthermore, the allegations of the MOI of the illegality of possession of clothes of victims of extrajudicial killings, as well as miniatures and drawings of human rights abuses is a confirmation of the culture of impunity that goes as far as covering all traces of the committed violations.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemn the continued use of ambiguous charges by the Government of Bahraini, such as “inciting hatred” and “insulting the authority” that can be arbitrarily used to restrict freedom of expression.
Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah, Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, stated: “All societies and groups have the right to freedom expression, whether they are supporters of the Government of Bahrain or in opposition. Freedom of expression is not to be used selectively, but rather guaranteed to all.”
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally return all confiscated items of the exhibition to the organizers of the event, and pay all required compensations for the destruction and damages.
- Drop all charges against the General Secretary of AlWefaq Society and stop the use of ambiguous charges to restrict freedom of speech.
- Put an end to the worsening culture of impunity and bring all perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.
Personal belongings of families of victims of extrajudicial killings – confiscated
Other Scenes from the exhibition:
The destruction and damage made by the police