HRW: Bahrain Intent on Earning Honor of Leading Region in Stripping Citizenship

2018-07-28 - 5:34 م

Bahrain Mirror: Bahraini authorities should restore citizenship to hundreds of nationals whose citizenship they revoked through executive orders or court decisions since 2012, rendering most of them stateless, Human Rights Watch said today.

According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), authorities have, since 2012, revoked the citizenship of at least 738 nationals - 232 in 2018 alone - in a process that lacks adequate legal safeguards. This includes many human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars. The vast majority of Bahraini citizens stripped of citizenship are left effectively stateless, and some have been deported.

"Bahrain seems intent on earning the dubious honor of leading the region in stripping citizenship," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "While authorities claim that these acts are linked to national security, they are in fact punishing many people merely for peacefully voicing dissent."

All known citizenship revocations since January 1, 2018, have been handed down by civil or military courts, BIRD said. Human Rights Watch has documented widespread fair trial violations in both court systems.

In 108 cases prior to 2018, authorities directly revoked a person's citizenship through a royal decree or Interior Ministry order, according to BIRD.

Criminal court decisions are subject to appeal. Royal decrees and ministerial orders are subject to two levels of court appeals. But courts have rarely - if ever - overturned a citizenship revocation ordered by the Interior Ministry or royal decree, a human rights activist who asked to remain anonymous told Human Rights Watch.

The government has deported eight people to Iraq since the beginning of 2018, after courts stripped them of Bahraini citizenship.

In 2015, the Interior Ministry stripped the citizenship of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a prominent Bahraini human rights advocate. He was on a list of 72 persons whose citizenship the Interior Ministry revoked. The group included human rights defenders, political activists, and journalists, whom authorities accused of having "defamed the image of the regime, incited against the regime and spread false news to hinder the rules of the constitution," and "defamed brotherly countries," among other allegations. Alwadaei has since 2012 lived in the United Kingdom, where he is seeking asylum.

In 2016, the government revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Shia cleric regarded as the spiritual leader of the now-dissolved main opposition group to the government, Al-Wefaq. Authorities kept him under house arrest until July 9, then granted him a temporary passport to travel to the UK for urgent medical procedures.

Bahraini authorities have either jailed or exiled the country's preeminent human rights defenders after trials that did not meet basic due process standards. The authorities have also resorted to harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, and prosecution of their family members.

"What Bahraini authorities have done in stripping away hundreds of people's citizenship clearly violates international norms," Goldstein said. "Bahrain should promptly do the right thing and restore citizenship to those victims."

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