Bahrain: Call to action

On 1 July 2013 the European Union (EU) – Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting will be held in Bahrain. It is a disturbing sign that the EU has decided to hold the meeting in Bahrain at a time when there continue to be so many restrictions on freedom of expression, and when there is little indication that the Bahraini authorities are serious about implementing promised reforms.

It is imperative that the international community puts pressure on the EU to ensure that freedom of expression is on the agenda of the meeting, and that the Bahraini authorities are reminded to uphold their human rights obligations. In advance of this meeting, PEN International is therefore calling on centres in the European Union to lobby their own governments to raise PEN’s concerns about the situation for freedom of expression in Bahrain. We will also be asking EU delegates to raise concerns about key cases of concern to PEN with their Bahraini counterparts and to press for their immediate and unconditional release.

TAKE ACTION

Please write to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, The Rt Hon William Hague, IMMEDIATELY asking him to call upon the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists, writers and activists held in custody for practicing their right to freedom of expression, including Dr Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and Nabeel Rajab;
  • Fully implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report;
  • Hold perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment accountable and end the culture of impunity by trying those accused of attacking protesters and torturing detainees; and by trying those who ordered and authorized these acts;
  • Renew its commitments to freedom of expression as articulated in the National Action Charter of Bahrain of 2001 by enacting appropriate legislation, including Article 4 of Chapter 1; and
  • Repeal the Press Law of 2002 (Act No. 47) or amend it to eliminate all restrictions upon the freedom of the press, including criminal penalties; lift its monopoly on broadcast media; and remove restrictions on newspaper registration.

[You may wish to write to the authorities using the form below. A sample letter is provided, but we would highly recommend personalising your appeal.]

Appeals to

The Rt Hon William Hague, MP
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA
haguew@parliament.uk

Copies to

Catherine Ashton
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy 
Via Press Officer Nabila Massrali
Nabila.MASSRALI@ec.europa.eu       
 
Her Excellency Alice Thomas Samaan
The Embassy of The Kingdom of Bahrain
30 Belgrave Square
London
SW1X 8QB 
Fax: 020 7201 9183

***Please send appeals before 30 June 2013***

Background

Over two years since the uprisings of 2011, Bahrain still suffers from significant human rights violations, and important structural impediments to freedom of expression remain in place. In spite of much-publicised commitments to reform, the reality on the ground in Bahrain remains largely unchanged and a culture of impunity and fear prevails. Protests continue on an almost daily basis, and the security forces continue to use excessive force to suppress dissent. While PEN welcomes the authorities’ pledge to improve free expression in Bahrain, it is dismayed that little meaningful action has been taken to implement reforms.

Notably:

  • No members of the government or the royal family have been held accountable for their role in the 2011 crackdown.
  • The structural causes for the freedom of expression violations—such as the draconian Press Law of 2002 (Act No. 47)—still remain in place.
  • Those arrested and charged under the Emergency Laws which were lifted on 3 June 2011 have not been released, and further arrests are continuing.
  • Prominent human rights activists remain jailed and are serving lengthy prison sentences, including life imprisonment. Amongst them are academic, blogger and human rights activist Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whose life sentences for their peaceful opposition activities were confirmed on appeal by a military court on 28 September 2011.They were tried with 14 other activists after calling for political reform and reporting on human rights abuses in the country. They also include Nabeel Rajab, the director of Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR), sentenced to three years on 16 August 2012 for illegal assembly and another case related to a Twitter post.

[ecampaign ‘to=haguew@parliament.uk‘ subject=”The European Union (EU) – Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting”]

Dear Foreign Secretary

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers regarding the European Union (EU) – Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting which is due to be held in Bahrain on 1 July 2013.

It is a disturbing sign that the EU has decided to hold the EU-GCC meeting in Bahrain at a time when there continue to be so many restrictions on freedom of expression, and when there is little indication that the Bahraini authorities are serious about implementing promised reforms. Over two years since the uprisings of 2011, Bahrain still suffers from significant human rights violations, and important structural impediments to freedom of expression remain in place. In spite of much-publicised commitments to reform, the reality on the ground in Bahrain remains largely unchanged and a culture of impunity and fear prevails. Protests continue on an almost daily basis, and the security forces continue to use excessive force to suppress dissent.

While PEN welcomes the authorities’ pledge to improve free expression in Bahrain, it is dismayed that little meaningful action has been taken to implement reforms. Notably:

 – No members of the government or the royal family have been held accountable for their role in the 2011 crackdown.

 – The structural causes for the freedom of expression violations—such as the draconian Press Law of 2002 (Act No. 47)—still remain in place.

 – Those arrested and charged under the Emergency Laws which were lifted on 3 June 2011 have not been released, and further arrests are continuing.

 – Prominent human rights activists remain jailed and are serving lengthy prison sentences, including life imprisonment. Amongst them are academic, blogger and human rights activist Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, whose life sentences for their peaceful opposition activities were confirmed on appeal by a military court on 28 September 2011.They were tried with 14 other activists after calling for political reform and reporting on human rights abuses in the country. They also include Nabeel Rajab, the director of Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR), sentenced to three years on 16 August 2012 for illegal assembly and another case related to a Twitter post.

I hope that you will agree that it is imperative to ensure that freedom of expression is on the agenda of next week’s meeting, and that the Bahraini authorities are reminded to uphold their human rights obligations. In particular I would urge you to raise the following demands with the Bahraini government:

– Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists, writers and activists held in custody for practicing their right to freedom of expression, including Dr Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and Nabeel Rajab;

– Fully implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report;

– Hold perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment accountable and end the culture of impunity by trying those accused of attacking protesters and torturing detainees; and by trying those who ordered and authorized these acts;

– Renew commitments to freedom of expression as articulated in the National Action Charter of Bahrain of 2001 by enacting appropriate legislation, including Article 4 of Chapter 1; and

– Repeal the Press Law of 2002 (Act No. 47) or amend it to eliminate all restrictions upon the freedom of the press, including criminal penalties; lift its monopoly on broadcast media; and remove restrictions on newspaper registration.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

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