The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns the authorities in Bahrain for targeting and prosecuting political opposition members. On 28 June 2015, Bahrain’s criminal court sentenced Fadhel Abbas the Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society (Al-Wahdawi Opposition Society) to five years in prison for “spreading false information that could harm the military operations of Bahrain and its allies” in Yemen.
On 26 March 2015, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced that Bahrain had joined Saudi Arabia and other Arab States in air strikes in Yemen. Following the announcement, the MOI issued a statement warning that it would take steps against all those expressing his/her opinion “against the approach that Bahrain has taken” in the military operations against Yemen; and immediately following this warning the MOI announced the arrest of two people including Fadhel Abbas. Abbas’ arrest came shortly after the society released a statement on Twitter condemning the war against Yemen.
Fadhel Abbas was charged and convicted by the court based on Article 133 of the Bahraini Penal Code that sentences anyone to up to 10 years in prison who “deliberately announces in wartime false or malicious news, statements or rumours or mounts adverse publicity campaigns, so as to cause damage to military preparations for defending the State of Bahrain or military operations of the Armed Forces, to cause people to panic or to weaken the nation's perseverance.”
The sentencing of Fadhel Abbas and the article of law that his conviction was based on are in direct and clear violation of the right to free expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Bahrain is a signatory, which states that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”
Based on the above, BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately release and drop the charges against Fadhel Abbas and other people who have practiced their right to freedom of expression;
- Respect Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which it is a signatory; and
- Repeal laws that infringe upon the internationally protected right of free expression.