The general situation
Bahrain is one of the Gulf countries that witnessed the most important implication of the youth in different movements and activities that sought to change the political situation of the country from an authoritarian state to a more democratic one.
The general situation of human rights in Bahrain had always been controversial for a long time, but it has severely deteriorated since 2011 when the massive public protests began. Although the Constitution of Bahrain stipulates the protection of fundamental human rights, the government of Bahrain has taken a series of repressive and restrictive measures that constitutes dangerous violations of human rights.
The government have constrained rights to freedom of expression and assembly and implemented new restrictive regulations. In addition, there has been a marked increase in the number of arbitrary arrests in the country targeting human rights defenders, activists, religious and political figures, and members of civil society. Bahraini authorities have also violated the religious freedoms and have increasingly discriminated against the country’s Shia majority. The repression of the protests has led to the death of several citizens. Furthermore, Torture and mistreatment are commonly used in prisons.
Consequently, the youth have been the principal target of the violent repression of the government as they widely took part in the peaceful demonstrations and activities that asked for more democracy in the country.
What are the difficulties encountered by the youth in Bahrain?
Bahrain’s youth cannot get plenty involved in the political process of the country and the defence of their rights if they constantly encounter harassment, difficulties and obstacles by the government.
In Bahrain, one of the main concerns of the youth is freedom of expression. Indeed, the government continued to severely restrict freedom of expression, arresting and prosecuting everyone who uses public gatherings or social media as Facebook or Twitter in order to criticize the government and the situation has considerably deteriorated in the last five years. We can mention the case of the young activist Zainab al-Khawaja who was sentenced to 3 years in prison for various charges, including tearing pictures of the King. Her imprisonment was widely condemned. The government released her in May 2016 and then she subsequently left the country.
Concerning freedom of assembly, the government maintained their ban on all public gatherings in the different cities and villages of country the capital. The security forces use excessive and violent force to disperse some protests, firing shotgun pellets and tear gas, and arresting protesters who are mostly young and even sometimes children.
Moreover, the youth are eager to take part in the political process but they are not helped or supported by the government of Bahrain which took decisions that blocked any windows for national dialogue or democratic solution to break the deadlock. The most significant political figures of the opposition are arrested and imprisoned. Ali Salman, for instance, the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq, the most important political group in Bahrain, has been in prison, being accused of inciting hatred and insulting public institutions. In July 2016, the Bahraini Court ordered Al-Wefaq to be dissolved.
At the same time, the young people who work in the field of human rights in ngos and those who work in the press and media are facing similar difficulties with travel ban, illegal detention and constant harassment even though the government of Bahrain accepted the recommendations of the second UPR in 2012 pertaining the abandonment of restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists. These recommendations have not been respected and the activities of human rights defenders have never been as difficult as today.
Furthermore, the young people encounter also sectarian discriminations when it comes to job opportunities. Indeed, some of them are not equally available to all, especially in the public sector and national official institutions where employment discrimination is institutionalized whereas in the private sector, skills and professional qualifications are more important than sectarian identity.
Concerning the religious freedoms, there have also been severe violations against the rights of the Shia majority of the country where religion is an important component of the identity of the youth. For instance, the government has forbidden the organisation of Friday prayers in mosques for months.
Finally and more recently, in January 2017, the government has executed three citizens that were condemned to death. Two of them were very young. It has been widely reported that the government tortured them to extract false confessions and evidences of mistreatment were ignored during the trials. There are other detainees, including Mohammed Ramadan and Hussain Ali Moosa, who may face the same sentence in the following weeks or months.
To sum up, the government of Bahrain still failed to meet the commitments to its international human rights obligations and the recommendations of the last UPR. Instead, it only escalated the use of criminal charges and restrictive legislation to silence human rights activists, political opponents, religious scholars and civil societies in the country.
To sum up, the human rights situation in Bahrain has significantly deteriorated since the second UPR. We consider that among many other points, the following are extremely important to be discussed for the third UPR in May 2017:
• The Bahraini government should make serious commitment to its international human rights obligations and the recommendations of the second UPR of 2012.
• By cancelling the death sentences, the Bahraini government should comply with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which ensures the right of fair hearing by impartial court as well as Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prevents arbitrary deprivation of one’s life.
• The government of Bahrain should cancel the dissolution of Al-Wefaq and to guarantee all the opposition groups the right of exercising peaceful political activities without any pressure, restriction or threat.
• We call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, activists, human rights defender, journalists, political dissidents, religious leaders and those detained for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
• The government of Bahrain should respect the religious freedoms of the Shia majority, by giving them the right to perform their religious rituals including Friday prayers and stop to put pressures and restrictions on their religious leaders.
• The UN Special Rapporteur need to be invited to visit Bahrain to investigate deteriorating human rights conditions.
• The Bahraini authorities should amend its Penal Code that has been used to prosecute individuals for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly or association, and bring its laws into line with international standards established by the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.
• National dialogue should be resumed, bring together all relevant parties, to prevent unnecessary conflict and violence.
The general situation