Oct. 31 (EUROPA PRESS) –
Human Rights Watch warned on Monday that Bahrain is using its political isolation laws and other tactics to keep activists and former members of opposition parties out of public forums and other aspects of public life.
In a report released Monday, the NGO notes that “Bahrain cannot be called a democracy” since it has spent the last decade “suppressing peaceful opposition.” For this reason, they point out that the next parliamentary elections are a mockery, as they cannot be free or fair when “any political opposition is illegal.”
The country’s judiciary dissolved the country’s two main political parties, Al Wifaq and Wadad in 2016 and 2017 and the subsequent introduction of political isolation laws have carried individual punitive consequences for members of these groups for life.
Human rights activists and defenders are also affected by this regulation, many of whom were arrested in the repression launched during and after the pro-democracy and anti-government uprising of 2011.
HRW points out that lawyers and civil society have interpreted these laws since their application to be directed against those who “disturbed” Bahrain’s constitutionalism or who resigned or boycotted their elected positions to protest against the government’s repressive policies.
During the November 2018 parliamentary elections, the first elections during which political isolation rules were in force, Bahrain’s Ministry of Justice barred at least 12 former opposition figures from running, while many others believed they would be victims of the law and boycotted the elections.
The report also documents the continued arrests and citations of Bahraini citizens for speech-related offences. A former Bahraini journalist stated that due to “continuous arrests from 2011 to 2017, fear became part of what people experience on a daily basis. It became normal for people to self-censor and silence themselves before reacting.”
HRW has urged the government to repeal this regulation, end the practice of denying certificates of good conduct to punish opponents, and restore full legal, political and civil rights to all Bahraini citizens. In addition, he has called on Western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the 27 of the European Union to pressure for an end to these practices.
“Bahrain’s once-vibrant civil society and opposition coalition are being eliminated by laws that codify government repression. No one should be under the illusion that Bahrain’s ‘democratic institutions’ are anything more than a sham, concludes the researcher from Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa, Joey Shea.