SHAFAQNA – The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its grave concern as the authorities continue to restrict activists, including human rights defenders, who uncover human rights violations against citizens demanding freedom and self-determination. In the latest incident, the authorities banned human rights defender Ghada Jamsheer from travel after she attempted to travel via Bahrain International Airport to receive medical treatment.
Jamsheer told BCHR that she travelled to Bahrain International Airport on the morning of Saturday 14 March after she decided to seek medical treatment in France, travelling via Dubai. Jamsheer has informed BCHR that on her arrival to the airport’s security office she was told by an official that she is banned from travel according to an order issued by the prosecutor general. Jamsheer went to the prosecutor’s office immediately, accompanied by her lawyer, and demanded a meeting with the prosecutor’s deputy, Mihna al-Shayaji. Shayaji refused to meet her, instead demanding that she request a review on 15 March. Jamsheer was stunned by the decision, which backtracked on a decision taken by the Ministry of Migration and Passports a week prior to her attempt to travel. The Deputy Interior Minister, Rashid Bin Khalifa, had assured her that she would be allowed to travel. Based on her discussion with him, Jamsheer booked her ticket and arranged a date with the doctors who would be treating her in Paris.
It should be mentioned that Jamsheer is a women’s rights activist and head of the Women’s Petition Council that includes a group of female Bahraini activists who hope to reform family laws in the country. Jamsheer has previously been summoned for an investigation by the electronic crimes department of the criminal investigations bureau over tweets in which she described corruption at the King Hamad University Hospital, which is run by members of the ruling family. She was subsequently detained. Jamsheer’s Twitter account was closed two weeks after her arrest. On 29 October 2014 Jamsheer appeared before the Third Criminal Court to answer charges of libel using Twitter. The court ruled to release her in return for the payment of bail, despite the fact that she was kept detained under the auspices of two other libel cases for two and a half months. BCHR published a report at the time including the details of those cases.
BCHR believes that the government of Bahrain is attempting to clamp down on activists and restrict their movements. This has resulted in recent years in a media blackout enacted by the government, as well as the accompanying repression and use of excessive force. Jamsheer is not the only person who has been subjected to this; BCHR has previously documented a large number of such cases, such as that of the activist and blogger Ahmed Rida, the female activist Ahlam al-Kheza’i and others. Added to this is the case of Nabeel Rajab, head of BCHR, who remains subject to a travel ban according to a court decision issued after his recent arrest. He was detained over a tweet in which he criticized the Interior and Defence Ministries. The court ruled to detain him for 6 months based on the case. BCHR considers this decision to ban him from travel a clear transgression of the principles of human rights to which Bahrain has signed up, especially those contained in Article 12 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that “freedom of movement is a condition that must be followed”. Consequently, depriving any person of the right to travel is an assault against his/her basic rights.
Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations as well as all other allies and other relevant international organisations to put pressure on the Bahraini government to:
- Allow activist Ghada Jamsheer to pursue her proposed treatment abroad, and abrogate the charge leveled against her based on her practicing of her right to freedom of expression.
- Cease targeting and pursuing activists and human rights defenders.
- Drop all charges leveled against activists based on practicing their right to freedom of expression, according to what is stipulated by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and stop pursuing Twitter users for their views.
- Immediately abrogate all laws that restrict freedoms and violate basic human rights as stipulated by the International Declaration of Human Rights.
- Reform the Bahraini judicial system according to international standards regarding to legal proceedings and fair trials.