Bahrain: Alarming spike in expulsion of citizens arbitrarily stripped of their nationality
Eleven people could face imminent expulsion from Bahrain tomorrow if their deportation orders are upheld in two separate appeal hearings, as Bahrain’s authorities increasingly resort to the extreme measure of banishing individuals after revoking their citizenship, said Amnesty International.
Two people were already forced to leave Bahrain last month, while a court confirmed a third deportation order yesterday on 6 March.
“The increasing tendency to resort to expulsion of individuals who have had their nationality arbitrarily revoked is a chilling development that points to the wider erosion of human rights in Bahrain in recent years. Expulsion increasingly appears to be the Bahraini authorities’ weapon of choice when it comes to casting out ‘unwanted’ individuals and silencing dissent,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
“Instead of depriving citizens of their rights by banishing them and forcing them to leave the country in violation of international law, Bahrain’s authorities must halt all planned expulsions, allow those already expelled to return and reinstate their nationality. They should also halt any revocation of nationality that would render an individual stateless.”
Last year Bahrain witnessed a 10-fold increase in nationality revocations with 208 people stripped of their nationality in 2015, compared to just 21 in 2014. In recent weeks the rising number of deportations has raised fears that 2016 will see a steep upsurge in the number of people expelled from Bahrain.
On 6 March a Bahraini court confirmed the deportation order of Masaud Jahromi, a university lecturer, who is one of a group of 72 Bahrainis who were arbitrarily stripped of their nationality by the Ministry of Interior in January 2015 for their involvement in broadly defined “illegal acts” which included advocating for “regime change” and defaming “brotherly countries”. He is at imminent risk of expulsion.
If expelled, Masaud Jahromi will be the third member of the group of 72 to be deported in just over two weeks. On 21 February Muhamad Hassan Ali Hussain Khojasta, a Shi’a cleric, was deported to Lebanon just three days after the court upheld his deportation order on appeal. On 24 February Hussain KhairAllah Mohamed Mahmood was forced onto a Gulf Air plane to Lebanon- the day after his deportation order was upheld. Eyewitnesses said they saw him being beaten by security officers after he initially refused to board the plane.
On 8 March at least one more person from the same group of 72 will also be at imminent risk of being expelled if their deportation order is upheld.
A separate appeal hearing will take place on the same day to contest a deportation order for 10 other Bahraini citizens -- nine men and one woman- who were stripped of their nationality. If upheld they will also be at immediate risk of expulsion. The 10 are from a group of 31 people including former MPs, lawyers, human rights defenders and opposition activists who had their nationality revoked by the Ministry of Interior for “harming” state security in November 2012. The 10, who were rendered stateless, have remained in Bahrain since the decision and were issued with a deportation order and fine in 2014 after being accused of residing in the country illegally. One of the 31, Sheikh Hussain al-Najati was expelled in April 2014.
All individuals who have had their nationality revoked are forced to hand in their passports and ID documentation and apply for a residency permit as a foreigner - or leave the country. Those who have not been granted a residency permit and have remained in Bahrain have been charged with “illegally residing” in the country and given a deportation order.
“Arbitrarily stripping citizens of their nationality on the basis of vague allegations is an outrageous breach of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations. It is shocking that citizens of Bahrain are being rendered stateless and being deprived of the right to reside in their own country,” said James Lynch.
In addition to decisions by the Ministry of Interior to revoke nationality, judges have also increasingly handed down sentences in recent years that included the revocation of nationality particularly in court cases involving terrorism-related offences.
Amendments to Bahraini law in recent years have also broadened the reasons for which an individual could have his or her nationality revoked. This now includes “anyone whose acts contravene his duty of loyalty to the Kingdom”. The new amendments also empower the Minister of Interior to revoke the nationality of any Bahraini citizen who takes up another nationality - except that of another Gulf state - without prior permission.
The right to a nationality, which must not be deprived arbitrarily, is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Bahrain is a state party. The 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness also prohibits, bar a very small number of tightly drawn exceptions, any loss of nationality which results in statelessness. Subsequently, the obligation to avoid statelessness has been recognized as a norm of customary international law. International human rights law and standards also prohibit arbitrary deportation and the exiling of persons from their own country.
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