The key focus of my today’spresentation will be on Anti-Terrorist law in Bahrain to revoke the nationalities of citizens. The war against terrorism is internationally accepted and all countries are cooperating to bring peace around the globe which ultimately guarantees individual’s basic human rights including the rightto life, liberty and security of persons under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is consensus on international level that all terrorists and their supporters should be eliminated and to achieve this target, every country has made amendments in theirlegal system to introduce new lawsto counter terrorism andterrorists activities however the situation getsworst when theseanti-terrorismlaws become a weapon to suppress the political opponents and toexpel the human rights activities from the state.
In this scenario, Bahraincan be taken as a keyexample where anti-terrorism laws are being used against the politicians and other human rights activists bythe government just to suppress the anti-government activists and their peaceful protests against the government.
Regrettably, the Bahraini Judiciary is also playing a supportive role toachieve theill-designedagenda of Bahraini government bysentencing the human rights activists on the allegation of terrorism. The sentencing, among other things, involves stripping off the nationality of so-calledterrorists and expelling them to other countries.
It is an open secret that Bahraini judiciary is not an independent judiciary and is not conducting free and fair trials to provide justice. This phenomenon can surely be mentioned as “the justice is absent in judicial system of Bahrain”. It appears that themost of the cases against the politician and human rights activists are fabricated and based on falseallegations of terrorism and related activities.Despite knowing the facts and having no substantial evidence the Bahraini judiciary has been victimisingthe innocent people by death sentences, life imprisonments and revocation of nationalities on false allegations.
The revocation of nationalities from Bahraini government has become a big issue in recent years as more than 72 Bahraini nationals have been deprived ofthe nationalities bythe government of Bahrain in 2015.The vast majority of those being stripped of their nationality are political and human rights activists, media personalities, and opposition figures present abroad that emigrated from Bahrain because of continuous targeting for exercising their activities in support of democratic change. This decree has arisen with the absence of any court cases or trials.
In addition to this, the total number of Bahrainis who are deprived of their nationalities only in 2018 (till June 2018) is 227. Furthermore, since the start of revoking the nationalities of Bahrainis, total 733 persons have been deprived of their nationalities by the Government of Bahrain.
On 6 November 2012 the Ministry of Interior issued the firstlist to revoke the nationality of 31 Bahrainis for very unambiguous and unlawful conditions not fully disclosed to them. Apparently, the decision made in 2012 was carried out under a royal decree which took away their right to access to justice and having a case or trial at all. Surprisingly, the decision to revoke the nationalities was backed by anti-terrorism laws which have been extensively used by Bahraini courts which according to Human Rights Watch, “has played a pivotal role in protecting the repressive regime in Bahrain”.However, the decision to revoke the nationalities originated from political background rather than terrorism concerns.
The exercise of nationality revocation doesn’t end here and this time the courts had to play its part. More recently, the Amnesty International reported that on 15thMay 2018, a Bahraini Court stripped off nationalities of 115 nationals and 53 of them were sentenced on charges of terrorism and related activities.
The trial of 138 people began on 23rdAugust 2016 and 52 of them were absent and the court mostly relied on the ‘confession’ of alleged criminals which was obtained under extreme torture. The Court sentenced ‘53 defendants to life imprisonment, three to 15 years in prison, one to 10 years, 15 to seven years, 37 to five years, six to three years and acquitted 23 others’ as the Amnesty International reported.
The Bahraini courts have ignored the fact that these decisions are violating the founding principles of the Bahraini Constitution, which restricts these types of actions against its own national and not to forget it is an infringement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed and ratified by Bahrain in 2006, which warns of making a citizen stateless and affirms the rights of a citizen to a nationality.
The most importantly, Article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments stipulates that nationality can be revoked if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; if a person helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or if a person causes ‘harm to state security’.
However, bear reading of the Article 10 explains that it has been enacted very broadly and does not clearly define what factors could amount to ‘harm to state security’. It has, therefore, enabled the state to suppressthe legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, to form a political association and as well helping state to strip of its citizens of their nationality, even when revocation renders people stateless and makes it clear infringement against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed and ratified by Bahrain.
Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that.
- Everyone has the right to a nationality.
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.
However, the Bahraini government is contravening all international laws by arbitrarily revoking the nationalities of political opponents through systematic judicial abuse. It has been mentioned in a report by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain that
“the Governments of Bahrainuse threats to national security, like terrorism, to invoke anti-terror laws that restrict human rights, particularly the rights to life and liberty. While terrorism can pose a legitimate threat to people’s lives and to social order, under the pretext of terrorism, Bahrain has enacted anti-terror laws that grant authorities the power to criminalize free expression, association and assembly, as well as to increase detention periods, expand the practice of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances and hand down longer prison sentences and harsher verdicts, including the death penalty”.
I therefore urge the international community to obligateBahrain to:
- Prohibit the future trial of civilians in military institutions.
- Reinstate the citizenship of all Bahrainis arbitrarily denaturalized, and ensure that any future denaturalization proceedings adhere to international standards of fair trials and impartiality.
- Ensure that denaturalized persons and their unregistered children are able to access state services.