BahrainBahrain and the USBICI ReportBlogfreedom of expressionNabeel Rajabreligious freedomSheikh Ali SalmanSheikh Isa QassimUSCIRF

USCIRF Designates Bahrain as Tier 2 Country for Third Consecutive Year in Annual Report

30 April 2019 – Yesterday, the USA Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2019 Annual Report, categorizing Bahrain again as a Tier 2 nation “for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, egregious’ standard for designation as a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).” This marks the third yr in a row that USCIRF has categorized Bahrain as a Tier 2 nation. People for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) welcomes USCIRF’s ongoing commitment to highlighting spiritual discrimination in Bahrain and helps USCIRF’s recommendations to the USA (US) government. Nevertheless, ADHRB stays involved for USCIRF’s reward of some of Bahraini initiatives which were utilized in whitewashing ongoing systematic discrimination towards the Bahraini Shia.

The USCIRF report included a mess of suggestions for the US, including recommendations for the US to urge Bahrain to implement the Bahrain Unbiased Commission of Inquiry (BICI) suggestions; urge the Bahraini government to make clear phrases and the enforcement of amendments to the 2005 Political Society Regulation; strain the government to implement legal guidelines prohibiting spiritual discrimination in employment; strain the federal government to move a pending invoice in search of accountability for previous abuses towards Bahrain’s Shia group; and urge for the release of prisoners of conscience and non secular freedoms activists.

In the course of the reporting interval, USCIRF noted that Bahrain had did not enact a draft regulation “that would curb incitement to violence, hatred, and sectarianism,” but that it had been referred to Bahrain’s Ministerial Committee for Social Providers, Communication and Media. Legislation together with the Penal Code continued to use nebulous language pertaining to “falsified” or “untrue” reviews, leaving interpretation open to violating the proper to free expression. Though Penal Code Articles 309 and 310 criminalize insulting a acknowledged spiritual group and its practices, no recognized convictions occurred underneath the Penal Code during USCIRF’ reporting. Along with legislation, USCIRF further reported the government’s concentrating on of human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab, whose five-year prison sentence was upheld by Bahrain’s Courtroom of Cassation in December 2018. USCIRF famous that the Bahraini authorities did not permit members of the delegation to go to Nabeel Rajab in Jau Jail. The report noted that Ebrahim Sharif was summoned in December 2018 for tweets essential of the Sudanese President.

While USCIRF noted some progress over the reporting period for broader spiritual freedom circumstances, “[a]t the same time, a USCIRF visit to Bahrain in March 2019 found that the government continued its discrimination and repression of the Shi’a Muslim community on the basis of their religious identity in certain areas.” For instance, ahead of Bahrain’s November 2018 elections for the lower house of parliament, Shia candidates faced limitations to participation and ongoing discrimination. The dissolution of Al-Wefaq in 2016 prohibited Shia Al-Wefaq candidates from collaborating as candidates – a problem additional compounded by an amendment to article 5 of the Regulation 14 of 2012 banning individuals who acquired at the least a six-month jail sentence from pursuing workplace. This amendment subsequently barred many Shia activists and oppositions figures from operating for an elected position. The report highlighted discrimination towards members of Al-Wefaq, including the society’s Secretary-Common Sheikh Ali Salman who was sentenced to life in jail solely three weeks earlier than the elections. Furthermore, when some Shia activists, including, former Al-Wefaq parliamentary member Ali Rashed al-Asheeri referred to as for a boycott of the elections, they have been arrested.

The report emphasised ongoing harassment of Shia clerics and the disruption of Ashura commemorations by safety forces. It discovered that “[a]s in previous years, in September 2018 Bahraini security officials clamped down on peaceful Shi’a Muslim religious rituals during Ashura observances.” Safety forces “destroyed banners and signs advertising Ashura rituals claiming that the displaying of banners across streets posed a safety hazard.” Additionally, the federal government summoned and interrogated greater than 15 Shia clerics and orators in relation to sermons throughout Ashura. ADHRB has additional documented that security forces arrested and charged funeral-goers for “illegal gathering,” together with outstanding pro-democracy activist AbdulMajeed Abdulla Mohsen. In addition to clerics focused during Ashura, USCIRF noted that Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s main Shia cleric, faced additional backlash from the Bahraini authorities. After releasing statements important of Bahrain whereas in Iran, officers claimed his presence in Iran supported the accusations that Sheikh Isa Qassim backed Iran’s alleged activities in Bahrain.

USCIRF additional reported ongoing discrimination towards Bahraini Shia in the lively army and safety forces, stating “members of Bahrain’s Shi’a Muslim community reportedly still cannot serve in the active military, only in administrative positions, and there are no Shi’a Muslims in the upper levels of the Bahraini government security apparatus, including the military and police” aside from one Bahraini Shia serving as a brigadier basic. Bahraini Shia employed in the public sector who have been dismissed after collaborating in the 2011 protests have been noticeably reemployed at lower-level positions, in instances outdoors of their specialization, or to positions without substantive obligations. As just lately as March 2019, during a USCIRF go to to Bahrain, activists raised that “the government refused to track the exclusion of Shi’a Muslims from employment in the military and government” for supposed privacy causes.

Regardless of noting ongoing systematic discrimination of the Bahraini Shia inhabitants, USCIRF highlights several establishments and their roles in whitewashing systematic discrimination, claiming that they promote inclusion overseas. Particularly, USCRIF cites the creation of the King Hamad Chair for interfaith dialogue and coexistence at Italy’s La Sapienza College and the work of the King Hamad International Middle for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence as constructive developments for spiritual freedom in the dominion. USCIRF further referred to as consideration to Bahrain’s announcement of the appointment of an Ambassador-at-Giant for Peaceful Coexistence and Spiritual Freedom on the Department of State’s inaugural Ministerial to Advance Spiritual Freedom in 2018. Whereas USCIRF famous that Bahrain had did not fill the place by the top of the reporting interval, it still framed these initiatives as “positive developments.” Nevertheless this remedy of these our bodies solely serves to whitewash widespread and systematic spiritual discrimination in Bahrain. Moreover, the Commission additional cited follow-up from establishments including the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), and Ministry of Inside (MOI) Ombudsman’s Office as constructive developments, despite international criticism of the independence and effectiveness of these establishments.

With regard to US coverage, the USCIRF report describes US prioritization of geopolitical considerations, noting that “the Trump administration has prioritized a close defense relationship with Bahrain in order to counter Iran’s influence in the region and attempts to destabilize Bahrain.” The State Department finally authorised continued arms gross sales to the kingdom, together with $300 million in rocket launchers in November 2018. Regardless of this, the State Division’s 2016 report on the BICI discovered that Bahrain had not absolutely carried out all the recommendations, although no current reporting by the State Division has been carried out. During an early 2019 go to to Bahrain, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly mentioned “religious coexistence and freedom of religion” with the king, crown prince, and overseas minister, while State Department officials “have emphasized freedom of religious expressions for Shi’a clerics and prisoners in conversations with Bahraini officials” and proceed to advocate for reform.

“USCIRF’s annual report again highlights some of the more concerning aspects of Bahrain’s systematic discrimination of the Bahraini majority Shia population, ranging from restrictions on participation in political life to violations of the right to belief,” says ADHRB Government Director Husain Abdulla. “While the report notes some critical developments in 2019, there is still cause for concern on its stance on Bahraini attempts to whitewash broader religious discrimination against the Bahraini Shia. Noting many of these initiatives as “positive developments” finally continues to lend false credibility to Bahrain’s marketing campaign to advertise a picture of spiritual tolerance abroad while concurrently discriminating towards a majority of its inhabitants at house.”

Whereas the 2019 USCIRF Annual Report on Bahrain accounted for some key tendencies in systematic discrimination towards the Bahraini Shia population, USCIRF’s proposal of the declaration of an Ambassador-at-Giant for Peaceable Coexistence and Spiritual Freedom, the work of the King Hamad International Middle, and the chair at La Sapienza  as “positive developments” finally further lends itself to whitewashing discrimination towards the Bahraini Shia. With this in thoughts, the US government must take USCIRF’s suggestions under consideration, and the Bahraini government should take action to offer for the promotion and safety of spiritual freedom for all Bahrainis, together with the Shia group.

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