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Human Rights Commissioner Kofler on the human rights situation in Bahrain

16.06.2016

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on 16 June on the latest developments in Bahrain:

I am concerned about the Bahraini Government’s latest measures against the opposition party, Al Wefaq. I also view the rearrest of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and the increased prison term imposed on the Secretary General of Al Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, with concern.

These measures are an unfortunate step backwards as regards freedom of association and the rule of law in Bahrain. Banning the largest opposition party does not fit in with a country whose parliamentary tradition dates back over 40 years. Marginalising the opposition entails the risk of further polarisation in society and thus makes it harder to restart the national dialogue. We therefore call on the Bahraini Government to reconsider these measures. Rule‑of‑law principles must be upheld.

Background information:

On 15 June 2016, the Bahraini Administrative Court suspended the opposition party Al Wefaq at the request of the Ministry of Justice. Two weeks previously, the prison term imposed on the Secretary General of Al Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, was increased from four to nine years in an appeal hearing. He had originally been sentenced to four years in prison for calling for the violent overthrow of the political regime, defaming the public authorities and inciting sectarian hatred. On 13 June 2016, the internationally acclaimed human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was pardoned by the King of Bahrain last year, but was still banned from leaving the country, was rearrested on charges of spreading false information and rumours. On the same day, three members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights were stopped at the airport and prevented from flying to Geneva, where the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council is currently taking place. Al Wefaq represents the interests of the Shia community, the largest population group in Bahrain. The royal family is Sunni. Al Wefaq boycotted the last elections, which took place on 22 November 2014.

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