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Bahrain

    April 15, 2016
    Prisoner of conscience and former president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, Mahdi Abu Dheeb, was finally released on April 4th and reunited with his family after 5 years in prison. Another prisoner of conscience and one of the 13 opposition activists, Salah al-Khawaja, was also released from prison on March 19th after completing his 5 year prison sentence. He is now back with his family, but his brother Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life prison sentence and niece Zainab al-Khawaja, who is serving a 3 year and 1 month prison sentence with her 15 month old son, continue to be prisoners of conscience. As Mahdi Abu Dheeb's jail term came to an end in Bahrain, activists around the world made sure authorities released him by keeping up the pressure with a ten day countdown. The #FreeAbuDheeb countdown sent a clear message: set him free and keep him safe.

    There is a problem with Bahrain’s jails and courthouses: they have revolving doors. Too many human rights defenders are caught in cycles of judicial harassment, arbitrary detention, and restrictions on travel, or worse.

    March 14, 2016

    Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested and taken into custody today along with her baby son Hadi, Amnesty International said.

    “Zainab Al-Khawaja and her family have been relentlessly targeted by Bahraini authorities for speaking out against human rights violations,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Her convictions are for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

    15 police jeeps arrived at Zainab Al-Khawaja’s home this afternoon to arrest her, closing down the entire street, according to her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja.

    March 07, 2016

    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.

    February 24, 2016

    The sentencing of Bahraini political activist Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison simply for making a speech calling for reform is yet another example of Bahrain’s intensified crackdown on peaceful critics, said Amnesty International.

    “The sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif to yet another year in prison simply for calling for reform in a speech is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the latest example of the Bahraini authorities’ insidious clampdown on government critics. No one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out, serving as a warning to all dissidents, and must be quashed immediately,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    February 11, 2016

    Five years after a wave of protests demanding widespread reform rocked Bahrain, hopes for progress on human rights and accountability for past and present abuses have faded, said Amnesty International.

    The mass protests which began on 14 February 2011 were met with violence by the security forces, who shot dead and injured protesters. Others died in custody after being tortured.

    “Five years since the uprising, torture, arbitrary detention and a widespread crackdown against peaceful activists and government critics have continued. Today in Bahrain, anyone who dares to criticize the authorities – whether a human rights defender or political activist – risks punishment,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    October 21, 2015

    Today’s appeal verdict against Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, confirming her conviction on charges of “insulting” the King of Bahrain and reducing her three-year prison sentence to one year, is the latest example of the authorities’ total disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    The verdict, confirming a conviction for ripping up a photo of the King in court in October 2014, coincides with Zainab Al- Khawaja’s 32nd birthday and leaves the mother of two facing a prison sentence of a year and at risk of immediate re-arrest

    Zainab Al-Khawaja's family have told Amnesty International that if she is imprisoned she intends to keep her baby son - just under a year old- with her while she serves her sentence.

    August 21, 2015

    The prosecution of Ebrahim Sharif, a political activist detained after making a speech calling for reform in Bahrain, demonstrates the authorities’ dogged determination to quash dissent and curtail freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International ahead of the start of his trial on 24 August.

    Ebrahim Sharif, who is a former Secretary General of a secular political opposition party, the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was arrested in July 2015 after giving a speech at a public gathering to commemorate the death of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by riot police in 2012.

    “Speaking freely is not a crime – the fact that Ebrahim Sharif is going on trial for giving a speech calling for reform is absurd. The Bahraini authorities are clearly punishing him merely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “This is yet another example of the Bahraini government attempting to quash the slightest sign of political. All the charges against him should be dropped.”

    July 15, 2015

    Amnesty International called today on the Bahraini authorities to release political activist Ebrahim Sharif and end his ongoing prosecution on charges brought solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression following a speech he gave last Friday.

    Ebrahim Sharif, former Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was arrested at 2.30am on 12 July at his home by security officers and remanded in custody for 48 hours for questioning at the Criminal Investigations Directorate of the Ministry of Interior in connection with statements he made in a speech at a public gathering on 10 July.

    On 13 July, the Public Prosecution interrogated Ebrahim Sharif on charges of “incitement to hatred and contempt of the regime” and “incitement to overthrow the regime by force and illegal means”, under Articles 165 and 160 of the Penal Code. He denied all the charges against him. The prosecution ordered his detention for 15 days pending further investigation. 

    June 16, 2015

    The verdict against Sheikh Ali Salman today, sentencing him to four years in prison for inciting disobedience and hatred, demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ consistent disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.

    “Today’s verdict is shocking. It is yet another clear example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for its international obligations. Sheikh Ali Salman has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “For a country that has expressed outrage at criticism of its human rights records, Bahrain has not hesitated to suppress political opposition and muzzle critical voices at every opportunity. The authorities must release Sheikh Ali Salman immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed.” 

    May 14, 2015

    The appeal verdict against Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab confirming his sentence of six months in jail for insulting government institutions on Twitter, demonstrates the Bahraini authorities’ complete disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today.

    “Today’s verdict shows once again that Bahrain is brazenly flouting its international obligations. Nabeel Rajab has been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his opinion, the Bahraini authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally, and ensure his conviction is quashed,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    “The Bahraini authorities have expressed outrage at criticism of their human rights record, claiming they have introduced a series of reforms in recent years. However, this case provides further proof that these reforms amount to little more than empty gestures. Bahrain today remains a country where exercising freedom of speech is treated as a crime.”

    April 16, 2015

    This weekend, Bahrain will host the Formula One Grand Prix. But behind the shiny fast cars and super-sized champagne bottles lies a government that is willing to stop at nothing to punish those who dare to speak out about the tragic human rights situation in the country.

    Here are five facts you should know about the Gulf Kingdom ahead of one of the most glamourous events in the sporting calendar.

    April 15, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 16 April 2015

    A new report by Amnesty International details the rampant abuses including torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics, which continue to take place in Bahrain four years after the uprisings that rocked the Gulf kingdom in 2011. 

    Behind the Rhetoric: Human rights abuses in Bahrain continue unabated, demonstrates that the authorities have failed to deliver crucial reforms to end repression, despite repeated assurances to their Western allies that they are truly committed to human rights. The report is being published days before the world gathers in Bahrain for the Formula One Grand Prix tournament this weekend.

    “As the world’s eyes fall on Bahrain during the Grand Prix this weekend, few will realize that the international image the authorities have attempted to project of the country as a progressive reformist state committed to human rights masks a far more sinister truth,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 18, 2015

    On the fourth anniversary of the arrests of 13 leading opposition activists and other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release and urges the authorities to ensure that the rights of all prisoners, including those held in Jaw prison, are fully respected.

    Four years ago, starting on 17 March 2011, security officers in Bahrain raided the houses of several opposition activists, took them to unknown locations and detained them incommunicado for several weeks. Amongst them were 13 opposition activists, ‘Ali al-‘Ekri, a medical doctor, and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association.

    January 20, 2015

    The Bahraini authorities must quash the conviction of prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, who has today been sentenced to six months in prison for posting comments online which were considered insulting to the Ministries of Interior and Defence, Amnesty International said.

    “Nabeel Rajab is being unjustly punished simply for posting tweets deemed insulting to the authorities. His conviction is a blow to freedom of expression – it must be quashed. He should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    Ahead of today’s verdict Nabeel Rajab told Amnesty International:

    “The unjust and relentless targeting of myself by the authorities provides just one example of what many other human rights defenders from across the Gulf region are subjected to. We are not only the victims of the repression of our own governments but also the victims of the silence, hypocrisy and double standards of the international community. Our people, who are hungry for freedom and social justice, are being forced to pay the price.”

    December 04, 2014

    A court in Manama has today handed down a three-year prison sentence and a 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. US$8,000) fine to prominent activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, for allegedly “insulting the king” when she tore up a photograph of him in a court in October.

    She and her family have been continually targeted by the Bahraini authorities. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, is currently serving a life sentence. Just three days ago, her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is living in exile, was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison.

    “Tearing up a photo of the head of state should not be a criminal offence. Amnesty International is calling for this and all of Zainab Al-Khawaja’s other convictions to be quashed and all outstanding charges to be dropped,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

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