Welcome, parliamentarians, to a state that has persecuted MPs and limits their rights

London / Beirut

2 February 2023

Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) – 146th Assembly, Manama, Bahrain:

Welcome, parliamentarians, to a state that has persecuted MPs and limits their rights

The GoB has violated the human rights of 15 former parliamentarians, including 3 while they were serving as parliamentarians. These cases are set out below, in alphabetical order, based on the spelling of the last name in English. Their cases illustrate the extent the Bahraini authorities restrict freedom of expression. All 18 al-Wefaq Islamic Society parliamentarians collectively resigned in 2011 in protest to the GoB unwillingness to seriously address demands for accountability and transparency made in the course of unprecedented mass demonstrations in 2011.

The IPU,  the global organisation of national parliaments convenes its 146th Assembly in Manama, Bahrain, 11-15 March, 2023.

Parliamentarians taking part must understand that the Government of Bahrain (GoB) has delegitimised, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and stripped former parliamentarians of their citizenship. The GoB restricts freedom of expression and association by banning political parties and former parliamentarians from standing for parliament or even from voting, on the basis of conduct that often does not constitute an internationally recognisable criminal offence

In a separate statement, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) provides further information about the human rights situation in the country and urges parliamentarians attending the Assembly to join with other parliamentarians from across the globe to call on the Government of Bahrain (GoB) to:

  • Rescind provisions that restrict parliamentary life, and MPs’ freedom of expression and association;
  • Resolve the two outstanding cases that the IPU’s own  Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CoHRP) has lodged with the GoB;
  • Implement in an objectively verifiable manner, all recommendations arising from the GoB’s human rights treaty obligations; as many recommendations as possible arising from the 2022 UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and those made by the UN’s Special Procedures; and
  • Examine the cases of 15 former Bahraini parliamentarians whom the government has targeted, including by way of arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trial and imprisonment, and arbitrary stripping of citizenship.

This briefing provides further information on the 15 former parliamentarians.


Taken together, the GoB’s violations of former parliamentarians include the following:

  • 11 – Arbitrarily detained or for reasons that may amount to arbitrary detention based on the basis of arrest: (1), (2), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (10), (11), (13), (15)
  • 11 – Charged with an offence not necessarily internationally recognisable as criminal or arbitrary: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (10), (13), (15)
  • 10 – Sentenced for an offence under Bahraini law that does not appear to constitute an internationally recognisable criminal offence: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (13), (15)
  • 2 – Tortured: (6), (10)
  • 4 – Deprived of citizenship: (5), (6), (9), (10)
  • 6 – Now residing outside the country: (3), (5), (6), (9), (10), (15)
  • 2 – Currently imprisoned: (7), (13)
  • 2 – Cases raised by the IPU (that is, taken up while the individuals were MPs): (6), (10)



(1) Abdel A’al, Khaled (2012-2014)

In June 2014, following his term in office, the Bahraini authorities questioned and later charged Abdel A’al in connection with tweets that allegedly “insulted” the Ministry of Interior. In May 2015, a court of first instance – a lower court – sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment in connection with these tweets. On 1 February 2016, an appeal court upheld the conviction.

(2) al-Ashiri, Ali (2010-2011)

No longer an MP, on 18 April 2018 the authorities sentenced al-Ashiri to six months’ imprisonment under the vaguely worded charge of “illegal gathering”, which often criminalises the protected conduct of association and assembly. He opposed participation in the 2018 parliamentary election, before which the authorities held him, 13-27 November 2018.

(3) al-Aswad, Ali (2010-2011)

A member of the al-Wefaq bloc that resigned en masse in 2011, in November 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld vaguely framed, national-security based charges relating to “communicating with the State of Qatar” that do not amount to internationally recognisable criminal offences. It sentenced al-Aswad to life imprisonment in absentia. He now resides in the UK where he provides commentary on events in Bahrain.

(4) al-Dairi, Sheikh Hamzah (2006-2010)

A cleric and long term political rights activist, Sheikh al-Dairi faced deportation in 1994. A report from the Bahrain Mirror stated that he avoided a planned deportation by the GoB to Syria for advocating a return of parliament by travelling to London. No longer an MP, in July 2016, Public Prosecution charged him with “inciting hatred against the government”. In January2018, a court upheld a one year in prison, after he was convicted of the charge of “solidarity with Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qasim” for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Diraz, where the senior cleric resides. The GoB released him in January 2019.

(5) Fairooz, Jalal (2006-2011)

One of Parliamentarians who resigned en masse in 2011, in November 2012, the authorities charged Jalal Fairooz with the vaguely worded charge of “damaging state security”. At the same time, in contravention to international human rights practices, the GoB stripped him of his citizenship. His wife was targeted in her workplace and his daughter’s university scholarship was revoked as retaliation for his activities. As he was in the UK on business when the GoB revoked his citizenship, forcing him into exile there with no prior  notice. He was the focus of a November 2012 BBC report, which began by asking “What must it be like to find out second-hand, with no warning or explanation, that the country in which you were born and bred has suddenly stripped you of your nationality?”

(6) Fairooz, Jawad (2006-2011)

Security forces raided Jawad Fairooz’s home in 2011 and detained him on the vaguely worded allegation of “incitement against the government” and “dissemination of false news”, neither of which amount to internationally recognisable offences. The GoB held him in solitary confinement for 43 days and denied him access to a lawyer. Officials tortured him and stripped him of his assets, including his pension, when they revoked his citizenship in 2012. Founder of the human rights and democracy organisation, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, he resides in the UK. His is one of of the two cases raised by the IPU with the GoB

(7) Isa (Marzooq), Sheikh Hasan (2010-2011)

A 52-year-old cleric, Sheikh Isa Marzooq was the former MP for Sitra Town. On 18 August 2015, the GoB detained him at Bahrain International Airport’s passport control on return from a family vacation, on allegations of “funding terrorism”. They forced him to sign papers without knowledge of their contents. They later used those documents in court against him as a “confession”. A 2018 report stated that “After three days of detention at the CID [Criminal Investigation Department], officers transferred him to the Isa Town police station, where he remained for nearly two years, during which he was held in a cell alone, separate from other detainees. On 29 March 2017, he was sentenced to ten years in prison, despite providing evidence of his innocence. He was transferred to Jau Prison, where he currently remains.”

(8) Kadhim, Sayed Jameel (2006-2011)

The one-time head of al-Wefaq’s consultative council, on 23 October 2014, security officials questioned Jameel Kadhim about a tweet shared two weeks earlier, in which he reflected on the ways the GoB was attempting to manipulate November 2015 elections, paying opposition MPs to run. On 28 December 2014, officials detained him on charges of “attempting to overthrow the incumbent regime and collaboration with foreign powers”. On 13 January 2015 a lower Criminal Court found him guilty of “disrupting” the November 2015 elections and sentenced him to six months in jail in addition to paying a BD500 (around US$1320) fine. On 15 February 2015, an appeal court upheld the six-month prison sentence and on 27 July 2015, the authorities freed him.

(9) Khalaf, Abdulhadi (1973)

A 78-year-old academic (b. 1945), Khalaf served in Bahrain’s first parliamentary session in 1973. The authorities expelled him from the assembly only months after it convened, reportedly citing a pretext that because he was under the age of 30, he was ineligible. Officials reportedly arrested him for “supporting” banned political groups. The GoB released him in 1975, rearresting him in 1976. According to his blog, he tried to enter Bahrain in 1992 but despite international human rights law, which prohibits banning someone from returning to their homeland, the GoB “prevented me from entering Bahrain and deported me once again from the country after detention and interrogation sessions for several hours in one of the security cells at Bahrain Airport […]” He was amongst the first of those to have his citizenship arbitrarily stripped by the GoB. He currently lives in Sweden.

(10) Matar, Matar Ebrahim Ali (2010 – 2011)

Following the mass resignation of al-Wefaq MPs in 2011, Matar spoke against Bahraini authorities’ human rights violations and advocated for the establishment of a democratic system. On 1 May 2011, security officials detained him, held him in solitary confinement, and tortured him. Like others stripped of their citizenship, the authorities removed his right to have assets, including a pension. He currently resides in the US. His is one of the two cases raised by the IPU with the GoB.

(11) Marzooq, Khalil (2006-2011)

Once Deputy Secretary General of al-Wefaq, Marzooq joined the March 2011 mass resignation (see above). On 6 September 2013, he gave a public speech calling for political reform. Authorities detained him the following day for “inciting violence” and promoting “terrorist crimes”. Amnesty International called for urgent action over his arrest. As a result, the GoB imposed a travel ban on him. On June 25, 2014, he was acquitted of charges related to “incitement” of terrorism. On 26 December 2015, he delivered a public speech alongside other activists in solidarity with al-Wefaq’s Secretary General, Sheikh Ali Salman (see below), whom the authorities had also detained. On 3 January 2016, the authorities summoned him in connection with the speech. Following an investigation, the authorities released him.

(12) al-Sabea, Majeed (2010-2011)

A civil engineer and part of the March 2011 mass resignation, the authorities detained al-Sabea for several days in 2012 following his participation in peaceful demonstrations. He was not charged.

(13) Salman, Sheikh Ali (2006-2010)

Aged around 57, Secretary General of al-Wefaq, Sheikh Salman led the largest opposition bloc in Bahrain’s Parliament. The GoB arrested him on 28 December 2014 in connection with statements he had made in speeches in 2012 and 2014, including his speech at the party’s General Assembly meeting two days earlier on 26 December 2014.

He had addressed the party’s determination to obtain power in Bahrain via democratic, peaceful means, to achieve the demands of the 2011 uprising, hold those responsible accountable for committing human rights abuses, and the need for equality among all Bahrainis, including the ruling family.

Charged, his trial before the High Criminal Court began on 28 January 2015. International observers attended. The content and context of his speeches formed a basis of dispute in court and his lawyers complained that the excerpts of his speeches presented were taken out of context and asked for the complete versions to be played to the court, including the sections relating to the peaceful nature of his party’s demands. The judge repeatedly rejected this request as well as demands by the lawyers to call defence witnesses to testify in court. The judge arbitrarily interfered in the defence team’s cross examination of key witnesses, including of the officer who carried out the investigation into Sheikh Ali Salman, by objecting to their questions or rephrasing them. During the last trial session, the judge allowed the prosecution to submit additional pleading in writing but suspended the hearing after a few minutes without allowing the defence lawyers to submit further documents as evidence.

On 16 June 2015, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment following an unfair trial. He received two years’ imprisonment for “public incitement to loathing and contempt of a sect of people which will result in disrupting public order” and “publicly insulting the Interior Ministry”, and to another two years in prison for “publicly inciting others to disobey the law”. The court acquitted him of “incitement to the promotion of the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means”. The Prosecution appealed the acquittal.

An appeal hearing opened before the Court of Appeal in Manama on 15 September 2015. The prosecution called for the maximum penalty and for the acquittal to be reversed. During a prison visit ahead of the first session of the appeal, prison officers prevented Sheikh Salman from discussing his case in private with his lawyers. During the second appeal hearing on 14 October 2015, the judge once again denied his lawyers’ request to play video recordings of Sheikh Salman’s speeches to demonstrate that the excerpts used as evidence to sentence him were taken out of context, without giving any basis for this denial. His lawyers submitted their defence pleading in writing and then in court but were interrupted throughout the hearing by the Public Prosecution.

Sheikh Salman was allowed to make a 15-minute statement to the court, in which he denied all the allegations against him and said that he was seeking political and constitutional change through peaceful means and was being prosecuted for his beliefs.

On 30 May 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction and extended his prison sentence from four to nine years, thus reversing his earlier acquittal. His appeal was marred by irregularities, including violations to the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence.

In September 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Bahraini authorities to release Sheikh Salman immediately and to grant him adequate compensation. On 17 October 2016, the Court of Cassation ordered him retried by the Court of Appeal, but on 12 December 2016, it upheld the nine-year prison sentence. On 3 April 2017, the Bahrain’s Court of Cassation reduced the prison sentence to four years in prison for the second time.

In November 2017, the GoB charged him and two others (Ali al-Aswad, above, and Sheikh Hassan Sultan, below) with maintaining intelligence contacts with Qatar, revealing national defence secrets, and accepting financial sums to undermine the “political, economic position and national interests with the purpose of overthrowing the regime” in Bahrain. The charges were based on recorded telephone conversations he had with the-then Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al Thani, in 2011. Bahrain’s state broadcasters aired the recording in August 2017. On 21 June 2018, the High Criminal Court acquitted him and the two others. The three had sought to explore options on resolving then political differences between Qatar and Bahrain.

On 4 November 2018, following an appeal by prosecutors, the Bahrain High Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and convicted all three men to life imprisonment. SALAM DHR believes that Sheikh Salman is a prisoner of conscience. While he is normally held at Jau Prison, on 1 February 2023, al-Wefaq stated that he had been transferred to hospital due to deteriorating health, possibly in connection with a hunger strike he had undertaken since 15 January 2023, to protest his detention with two criminals.

(14) Sultan, Sheikh Hassan (2006-2011)

One-time member of the General Secretariat of al-Wefaq, like Ali al-Aswad and Sheikh Ali Salman, Sultan was accused of vaguely-worded security charges in connection with an engagement with Qatar (see above). Tried in absentia in 2017-18 with Ali al-Aswad and Sheikh Ali Salman (see above). As noted above, on 4 November 2018, an appeal court sentenced him to life imprisonment in absentia on charges including “communicating with the State of Qatar”.  Earlier, on 31 January 2015, amongst a list of 72 people, the authorities revoked his citizenship. A report stated that in June 2017, officials summoned and detained a son, whom they ill treated prior to imposing a travel ban on him.

(15) al-Tamimi, Osama (2012-2014)

Expelled from parliament in May 2014 following a speech and a controversial act in parliament, in November 2016, al-Tamimi was sentenced to a month in prison on charges of “insulting a police officer”. In 2017, he was released upon payment of the equivalent of around US$66,000. On 6 August 2019, officials detained him. Shortly after, al-Tamimi reportedly suffered from a stroke while in police custody. Granted bail, the authorities prevented him from leaving the country where he reportedly continues to face harassment, intimidation, and attacks.


Background information

SALAM DHR is an independent non-governmental organisation that aims to promote and protect human rights and democracy across the Gulf region, with a particular focus on Bahrain.

The IPU, which has had Permanent Observer Status with the UN since 2002, comprises 178 member parliaments yet its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CoHRP) has 741 cases of violations of parliamentarians’ human rights under consideration, of which two are from Bahrain.

At the IPU’s 146th Assembly in Manama, parliamentarians will address, amongst other issues, promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies and fighting intolerance.