The Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini authorities’ continued persecution and detention of Shia clerics merely for exercising their right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
On 24 May 2016, the third criminal court sentencedSheikh Mohammed Al-Mansi to one year imprisonment without bail on charges of inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the Ministry of Interior (MOI). During the previous session on the 19 May 2016, Al-Mansi’slawyer, pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against his client. Sheikh Al-Mansi argued that he was exercising his right to speech and he explained that his speech merely reflected the reality, but under no circumstances did it reflect hatred towards the government or the MOI.
Sheikh Al-Mansi was originally arrested on 15 April 2016, and taken to a police station for interrogation due to a sermon he gave at a Friday prayer which the authority said he was not authorized to. Al-Mansi is a prominent religious figure and a cleric, one of the Shia scholars supporting the opposition and once a member of the now dissolved Islamic Scholar Council. He is known for continuing to speak about demolished Shia mosques, whose destruction was ordered by the authorities in attempts to oppress the Shia Muslim community, and to lead prayers at their sites. Since the pro-democracy protests in 2011, approximately 38 Shia mosques have been demolished by the authorities, yet no one has been held accountable.
Al-Mansi joins at least another 19 clerics who are currently detained as per BCHR records. Since 2014, Bahrain has deported at least 2 clerics after dropping their citizenship without court order. And in 2014, Bahrain dissolved the Islamic Scholar Council, which was the highest religious institute for the Shia community. In addition, a ban on clergy men participation in political decision-making has been applied through a law modification.
BCHR is deeply concerned with the Bahraini authorities’ continuous retaliation against citizens demanding the fulfillment of their fundamental human rights. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as a signatory party, Bahrain must abide to respect and uphold freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
The ICCPR was signed and ratified in 2006 by the government of Bahrain. Within the ICCPR, article 18 and 19 explicitly state the rights to freedom of religion and expression, which have largely been breached by the government in numerous cases. The imprisonment of Al-Mansi disregards his right to freedom of religion. Within the ICCPR, article 18.1 states that all individuals have the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”The charge raised against Sheikh Al-Mansi further contradicts article 19.2 on his right to voice his opinions.
BCHR believes that governmental retaliation against Sheikh Al-Mansi were meant to curtail his influence as a cleric on the Shia Muslim community, and to silence his criticism of the discriminatory behaviour shown by the authorities in relation to this community.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the government of Bahrain to:
- Uphold its commitments to respect and secure the right of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and thus abide by ratified international human rights conventions;
- End the targeting of peaceful religious leaders including Sheikh Mohammed Al-Mansi and 19 other Shia clerics in detention and allow them to freely exercise their right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression;
- End the practice of violating human rights by engaging in discriminatory judicial practices against members of the opposition; and
- Release all those detainees arrested for peacefully expressing their views and opinions.