SHAFAQNA – Insulting the King, the country’s flag and institutions or even a foreign country can lead to seven years imprisonment in Bahrain. One activist, Zainab Al-Khawaja, faces three years in prison for tearing apart a picture of the King. Another, Nabeel Rajab was sentenced in January to six months for ‘insulting public institutions (Ministries of Interior and Defence)’ on twitter and is currently arrested on a separate investigation. Student and son of a POC Ahmad Mshaima is now serving a one year prison sentence for reading a poem considered offensive to the King. The list goes on, with tens of prisoners of conscience continuing to be held behind bars since 2011 for peacefully expressing dissent.
This is Bahrain in 2015, sadly, the levels of repression against dissenting voices, including activists and political figures, have intensified. Those who speak up against the government or its rulers are now routinely targeted. With new restrictive legislation prohibiting gatherings, people are increasingly resorting to social media and are being punished for doing so.
Sign the petition and say freedom of expression isn’t a crime!
Comments deemed offensive against heads of state or institutions are not recognisable crimes under international law. Scores of people including Saeed al Samahiji, Ahmad Mshaima, Zainab al Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab and others are currently held behind bars or facing trials in Bahrain for merely peacefully criticising Your Majesty or national institutions, in contravention to international standards. The respect for human rights that Your Majesty promised when launching the BICI report, is still a far distant reality in Bahrain, as long as dissent and freedom of expression continue being clamped down.
Your Majesty, I urge you to:
– Immediately order the release of all prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully expressing their opinion.
– Repel laws that criminalize the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and contravene international standards, especially articles 214, 215 and 216 of the Bahraini Penal code.
– Drop charges against all those people currently on trial on freedom of expression charges such as criticising a foreign country, Your Majesty or national institutions.
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