2019 Roundup: Citizenship Restored to Hundreds of Bahrainis, Legal Amendments Withdraw from Judiciary Power to Revoke Citizenship
2020-01-21 - 4:38 am
Bahrain Mirror (2019 Roundup): Unlike 2018, 2019 ended with imposing limits on the judiciary's power to revoke citizenships and halting their drive to strip hundreds of dissidents of their nationality under the pretext of terrorism. In 2019, the citizenships of more than 50% of people were restored.
Amendments to the Citizenship Law passed by the King withdrew the judiciary's power to revoke citizenships of those sentenced under the Terrorism Act. Although the amendments gave the Government the power to revoke citizenship, the problem was that it started to expand as citizenship revocation included 11 conditions after they were only 3.
Even though the royal decree to restore the nationalities of 550 citizens was welcomed by a number of political and social figures and parties, this became meaningless after the withdrawal of this power from courts, after which dozens of dissidents who were stripped of their citizenships had them reinstated.
2018 ended with the citizenship revocation of 298 citizens, according to human rights organizations. The number of stateless citizens reached 807. Meanwhile, the authorities continued to revoke citizenships of dissidents in 2019. The madness of authorities intensified as they revoked the citizenship of 138 citizens in one case (Bahraini Hezbollah case), which was met with severe criticism from international and human rights groups.
First-Instance Courts (175 Cases)
On February 6, 2019, the Fourth High Criminal Court withdrew the nationality of 11 citizens, including Zakiya Al-Barburi.
On February 19, the Fourth High Criminal Court issued its ruling in 3 political cases, and ordered citizenship revocation of five defendants accused of training in Iraqi Hezbollah camps. It also revoked, in a separate case, the nationality of 17 defendants accused of assembling, burning tires and possessing Molotov bombs in Al-Ekr. Three defendants, in the case of harboring wanted persons and fleeing of others outside the country, also had their citizenship revoked.
On February 28, a Bahraini court sentenced activist Ali Al-Shuweikh to life imprisonment with citizenship revocation, after The Netherlands refused to grant him political asylum and extradited him to Bahrain.
On April 16, the Fourth High Criminal Court withdrew the nationalities of 138 defendants in the Bahraini Hezbollah case.
Appeal and Cassation Courts (184 Cases)
On January 28, the Court of Appeals upheld the citizenship revocation of 88 citizens in the Zulfiqar Brigades case. On January 31, the Court of Appeals upheld the execution of Mohsen Al-Majed in the case of murdering Jordanian officer Ali Zureikat and also upheld a citizenship revocation verdict against him. On February 8, the Appeals Court upheld the citizenship revocation of a defendant in a case that included 10 people accused of acquiring weapons and attempting to murder a policeman in Nuweidrat.
On February 12, the Court of Appeals upheld the citizenship revocation of a defendant accused of joining the February 14 Coalition. On February 25, the Appeals Court ordered the execution of Hussein Abdullah Marhoun and ordered the withdrawal of his citizenship in the case of murdering a policeman in a bomb blast in Diraz.
On February 25, the Court of Cassation upheld the citizenship revocation of nine defendants in the Sitra blast case, in which Mohammed Al Toq and Mohammad Radhi Abdullah were sentenced to death. On February 26, the Court of Appeals upheld the citizenship revocation of Zeinab Marhoun. On March 6, the Appeals Court ordered revoking the citizenship of a defendant accused of assembling and acquiring Molotov bombs in Karzakan. On March 19, the Appeals Court upheld the citizenship revocation of a defendant accused of detonating a bomb targeting a police patrol in Abu Saiba. On March 23, the Appeals Court upheld the citizenship revocation of 11 appellants over charges of possessing firearms and aiding wanted persons to flee. On May 6, the Cassation Court upheld the citizenship revocation of 48 defendants, including martyrs Ali Al-Arab and Ahmad Al-Malali (who were later executed). On the same day, the court upheld the citizenship revocation of 15 defendants in Al-Basta group case.
On May 30, the Appeals Court upheld the citizenship revocation of a defendant accused of transferring funds to the families of prisoners and wanted persons in political cases, and on June 19, the Appeals Court upheld the citizenship revocation of five defendants accused of training on the use of weapons in Iraq.
On April 16, the citizenship revocation of 138 citizens led to a political earthquake and public outrage. Amnesty International said on April 16 that the mass denationalization of Bahrainis is a mockery of justice. Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, condemned the mass trial and citizenship revocation. She said 17 of those convicted are believed to be minors between the ages of 15 and 17. She added that deprivation of nationality must not be arbitrary, especially on discriminatory grounds such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
A few days later, on April 21, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa reinstated nationality to 551 people, who were stripped of their citizenship by courts. The law stipulates that citizenship revocation, like a death penalty, requires the King's ratification to be executed.
The King's move was welcomed. Prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghuraibi sent a thank you letter to the King after he restored the citizenship of 551 Bahrainis, local Al-Ayyam newspaper reported.
On June 27, the King issued a decree amending the citizenship law, removing the power to revoke citizenship under the Terrorism Act from civil courts.
However, the amendments gave the Government powers to revoke citizenship in 11 cases, 7 related to "terrorism", and 4 "if one enters military service of a foreign country and continues to serve despite an order issued by the Governmet to cease service; if one helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; if one causes harm to the security of the State; or takes action contradicting the duty of loyalty."
Since the amendments were passed, Bahraini courts have begun restoring the citizenships of convicts in "terrorism" cases. The citizenships of 92 defendants in the Bahraini Hezbollah case were restored by the Court of Appeals on June 30. The nationality of 55 defendants in the Zulfiqar Brigades case were reinstated by the Court of Cassation on July 2. A number of defendants in other cases had their citizenship restored by appeal Courts.
Although the passports of a number of those whose nationalities were reinstated by the King have been returned, activists say that the Interior Ministry is still stalling the process of adjusting the status of those reinstated by refusing to renew their expired passports or issue their IDs in some cases.