US Commission Demands its Government to Apply “Global Magnitsky Act” on Bahraini Officials Involved in Discrimination against Shia

2018-05-02 - 8:24 م

Bahrain Mirror- Exclusive: US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that religious freedom conditions did not improve for the majority Shi'a Muslim community amid an ongoing stifling of dissent and a deterioration of human rights conditions generally.

The commission indicated in its annual report on religious freedoms in the world that a significant crackdown in May 2017 resulted in the deaths of five Shi'a Muslim demonstrators, injuries to dozens, and the arrests and detentions of civilians and religious leaders. In addition, during the year, authorities continued to deny some Shi'a clerics access to specific mosques and banned others from conducting Friday prayers, sermons, and other religious services.

It stressed that discrimination against the Shi'a community in government employment and some public and social services continued and that the Bahraini authorities targeted Shia clerics and some religious events during the campaign they launched against freedom of expression, assembly and assembly. The government continued to target and prosecute Shi'a Muslim political figures, some affiliated with Al-Wefaq. In addition, authorities continued to deny Shi'a clerics and worshippers access during Friday prayers to the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in Diraz.

In many of these cases, the Bahraini government has used charges of insulting religious symbols and/or religion, illegal gathering, unlawful protesting, engaging in political speech in sermons, and supporting terrorism.

The report noted other practices against Shia including interfering with some Ashura commemorations. Security forces removed religious banners and posters from 21 predominantly Shi'a Muslim neighborhoods, met protests with tear gas and live ammunition, and arrested 12 civilians. Bahraini officials claimed they were forced to intervene.

USCIRF issued a number of recommendations to the US administration including encouraging the Bahraini government to address religious freedom concerns both privately and publicly, and report openly on the government's success or failure to implement genuine reforms, including by making public an annual assessment of Bahrain's progress, or lack thereof, on implementing BICI recommendations; and urging it [the Bahraini government] to continue to make progress in implementing the BICI recommendations, including those related to freedom of religion and belief, sectarian incitement, and accountability for past abuses against the Shi'a community.

It also 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 demanded to apply the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, Executive Order 13818, or other relevant targeted tools, to deny U.S. visas to and block the U.S. assets of specific officials and agencies identified as responsible for violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief.

It also recommended ensuring clear and consistent messaging at all levels of the U.S. government regarding Bahrain's human rights and religious freedom obligations under international law; as well as increasing support for rule of law, community policing, and countering violent extremism programs.

USCIRF also demanded assistance in the training of government entities, including security officials, prosecutors, and judges, to better address sectarian violence and incitement through practices consistent with international human rights standard.

It also demanded to include Bahraini civil society and religious leaders in exchange and U.S. visitor programs that promote religious tolerance, interreligious understanding, and interfaith dialogue and urged the Bahraini government to pass a law in the Shura Council addressing incitement to violence in the media, and ensuring compliance with international human rights standards.

The recommendations also included urging the Bahraini government to cooperate fully with international mechanisms on human rights issues, including by inviting visits from the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Arabic Version