The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the continued targeting of freedom of expression and religious freedom by authorities in Bahrain. Maytham AlSalman, the Head of Religious Freedom section at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, was summoned following a press conference about religious freedom violations during Ashoura. AlSalman was accused of inciting hatred against the regime and calling for an unlawful gathering.
On 18 November 2013, a press conference was held at the Bahrain Transparency Society that highlighted violations against religious freedom committed by the authorities during the month of Muharram; a religious month when Shia muslims commemorate the killing of the Prophet's grandson.
Following the conference, Maytham AlSalman, Head of the Religious Freedom Section in BHRO, was summoned by the Ministry of Interior for interrogation. The interrogation was focused on three charges brought against AlSalman: inciting hatred against the regime, insulting a governmental body and calling for an unauthorized assembly. AlSalman was released pending trial.
AlSalman has been active in reporting locally and internationally on the attacks on religious freedoms. Last June he communicated a full report on these attacks to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The authorities in Bahrain continued to use sectarianism as a tool by attacking Shia religious rituals, processions and matams (Shia religious centers). Many pictures and videos were disseminated through social media of religious processions and Shia religious centers getting attacked and tear gased resulting in injuries and suffocation of children and elderly commemorating the "killing of Imam Hussain" (More details: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6565). Following these events the BCHR documented at least 30 summons of religious clerics, religious singers and organizers of matams who were called for interrogation on issues related to freedom of expression (Read more:http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6613).
The BCHR believes that the summoning of AlSalman is part of the authorities attack on freedom of expression and religious freedom which has escalated in the month of Muharram in an attempt by authorities to provoke sectarian tensions.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and other allies and international institutions to pressure the Bahraini authorities to:
- Immediately release all persons who are detained for practicing their right to freedom of speech and expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drop all charges against them.
- Repeal the laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise to the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Guarantee the right to religious freedom and practice for all in Bahrain, immediately end targeting based on sect.