US Affiliated Commission Categorizes Bahrain for First Time among Counties that Violate Religious Freedoms
2017-04-28 - 9:02 م
Bahrain Mirror: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stressed that the religious freedom for the majority-Shi'a community deteriorated, stating that there was a sharp increase in the number of interrogations, arrests, convictions, and arbitrary detentions of Shi'a Muslim clerics, in particular most senior Shi'a cleric in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose citizenship was arbitrarily stripped by authorities in June.
Due to deteriorating religious freedom conditions, Bahrain is included on Tier 2 in 2017 for the first time. In 2017, USCIRF places the following 12 countries on Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.
Tier 2 is defined by USCIRF as nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the "systematic, ongoing, and egregious" CPC standard.
Between 2012 and 2016, Bahrain was covered in the Other Countries Monitored section of the Annual Report.
USCIRF pointed out in its annual report that there was a sharp increase in the number of interrogations, arrests, convictions, and arbitrary detentions of Shi'a Muslim clerics, mostly on unfounded and unsubstantiated charges. These arrests and convictions have influences and effects on the religious freedoms.
The commission urged the Bahraini government to cease its targeting of individuals, particularly religious leaders, on the basis of religion or belief or advocacy of human rights and religious freedom.
It also called to address religious freedom concerns with the Bahraini government both privately and publicly and report openly on the government's success or failure to implement genuine reforms.
The report stated that the authorities denied some Shi'a clerics access to specific mosques and banned others from conducting Friday prayers, sermons, and other religious services, stressing that discrimination against Shi'a Muslims in government employment and other public and social services continued, as did inflammatory, sectarian rhetoric by pro-government media.
USCIRF urged to press for at the highest levels and work to secure the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and religious freedom advocates, and press the country's government to treat prisoners humanely and allow them access to family, human rights monitors, adequate medical care, lawyers, and the ability to practice their faith.
The report noted that although the government continued to make progress in implementing some recommendations from the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), it has not fully implemented recommendations that would redress past abuses against Shi'a Muslims and further improve religious freedom conditions, and urged the Bahraini government to implement fully the BICI recommendations, including those related to freedom of religion and belief, sectarian incitement, and accountability for past abuses against the Shi'a community.
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