The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over the ongoing practice by the government of Bahrain to silence dissident voices and suppress freedom of expression through harassment and arrest of activists and politicians who take an opposition stand from the regime. On Sunday 12 July 2015 at dawn, police forces arrested opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif following a political speech that he had delivered at a peaceful gathering.
Just last month, Ebrahim Sharif was released on 19 June 2015 after completing over four years in prison. On 10 July 2015, he delivered a speech at a gathering in which he criticized the violence of the authorities and called for real political reforms. Less than 48 hours after the speech, Bahrain authorities responded by arresting Sharif at dawn. He was taken to the Muharraq police station and he was interrogated without his lawyer on charges of “inciting to hatred of the regime.” The public prosecution decided to keep him in detention for 48 hours pending investigation.
The arrest of Sharif is in violation of the conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory, including 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.” This act comes as part of a systematic approach to punish those who stand against the authorities and adopt opposition opinions, as they regularly get accused of incitement to hatred of the regime, as illustrated in several previous well-known cases.
Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and concerned international institutions to exercise real pressure on the government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif and all prisoners of conscience;
- Halt further harassment of opposition members and those who seek to express opposition opinions; and
- Protect all human rights in Bahrain, including the right to freedom of expression.