We, the undersigned civil society groups located worldwide, write to you to once more condemn the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain and call on you to drop all charges against Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman.
Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman has been called for interrogation at Ministry of Interior on Sunday 14 August 2016 due to exercising his right in defending religious freedom and exposing human rights violations in Bahrain. This latest reprisal is part of a disturbing trend of crackdowns by the Bahraini government against human rights defenders and civil society organizations.
Sheikh Maytham is an internationally respected interfaith leader and human rights advocate. His work focuses on defending religious freedom and countering violent extremism while supporting the right to freedom of expression in accordance with international human rights standards. In October of 2015, Sheikh Maytham was honoured for his work with the Interfaith Communities for Justice and Peace “Advocate for Peace” award.
Bahraini authorities have harassed Sheikh Maytham on numerous occasions in the past, including two separate incidents in 2015 when he was detained for his human rights activities. He was also summoned in connection to the content of a speech he gave on 27 December, the anniversary of the arrest of prisoner of conscience Sheikh Ali Salman, in which he drew attention to the violations of international fair trial standards that took place.
This harassment is in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain has been a signatory to since 2006. It also contradicts the obligations of the state to protect human rights defenders, as derived from their obligation to protect all human rights under Article 2 of the ICCPR.
Rather than ensure their protection, Bahrain has made a habit out of persecuting dissidents and activists. Sheikh Maytham joins other high-profile individuals like BCHR President Nabeel Rajab, activist Zainab al-Khawaja and human rights defender Naji Fateel that have been targeted for their work and denied their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The undersigned call on the Government of Bahrain to allow the important work of Sheikh Maytham and others who bring human rights violations to light to be conducted unimpeded, as provided for under the ICCPR and other relevant international human rights standards by taking the following steps:
- Drop all charges pending against Sheikh Maytham al-Salman for exercising his right to freedom of speech;
- Release all prisoners who have been convicted for their political opinions; and
- Fully comply with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI); particularly those that ensure the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly are respected.