The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern for the Bahraini authorities’ continued policy of incriminating the exercising of freedom of expression and peaceful gathering. The authorities summoned 65 year-old cleric Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed Al-Jidhafsi for interrogation at the police station after he participated in a protest calling for the right to self-determination organized by one of the opposition political parties. The right to self-determination is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Part 1, Article 1: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
In the morning of 14 July 2014, Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi received a summon to appear immediately at Al-Khamees police station. An hour after he arrived, he was referred to the Public Prosecution. While at the Public Prosecution, Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi had to wait for three hours, despite being an elderly man who suffers from heart disease, and was also prohibited from performing his prayers. He was interrogated about raising the victory sign and about attending an event that was unlicensed by the Ministry of Interior in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He was released in the afternoon.
The summoning of Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi is not the first time that activists have been targeted due to exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful gathering, as guaranteed by several international conventions. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers the authorities’ continuing pursuit of individuals through interrogation, trials, and imprisonment as a result of using peaceful means to exercise freedom of expression a direct 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,” as well as Article 20 which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies and international institutions to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to:
- Drop the charges against Sheikh Ali Al-Jidhafsi and put an end to the prosecuting of activists and individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression, and to immediately release all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
- Put an end to all forms of harassments and restrictions that threaten the Bahraini citizens' rights to freedom of expression and peaceful gathering;
- Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental liberties in all circumstances in accordance with the international standards of human rights and the international instruments endorsed by Bahrain.