Responding to the news that a court in Bahrain yesterday revoked the citizenship of 115 people and handed 53 of them life sentences on terrorism-related charges, Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said:
“The sheer scale of this mass trial is ludicrous; it is hard to believe that justice can have been delivered through a fair trial process when this number of people are simultaneously sentenced.
“This is one of the most severe rulings yet, and is further proof that the Bahrain authorities have no regard whatsoever for international fair trial standards.
The Bahraini government is using revocation of nationality – rendering many of its citizens stateless in the process – and expulsion, as tools to crush all forms of opposition, dissent and activism.Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Director at Amnesty International
“The Bahraini government is using revocation of nationality – rendering many of its citizens stateless in the process – and expulsion, as tools to crush all forms of opposition, dissent and activism.
“Arbitrarily depriving citizens of their nationality, turning them into stateless people and banishing them by forcing them to leave the country is a violation of international law.
“Bahrain’s authorities must immediately halt all planned expulsions and allow those it has already expelled to return to the country and reinstate their nationality.”
The trial of 138 people, including 52 in their absence, began on 23 August 2016, and relied at least in part on ‘confessions’ extracted under torture. The fourth High Criminal Court in Manama sentenced 53 defendants to life imprisonment, three to 15 years in prison, one to 10 years, 15 to seven years, 37 to five years, six to three years and acquitted 23 others. Amnesty International has documented one case of torture and ill-treatment that resulted in ‘confessions’.
Since 2012, a total of 718 individuals have been stripped of their Bahraini nationality, including 231 since the beginning of 2018. In most cases these individuals were rendered stateless. Some have subsequently been forcibly expelled from Bahrain.
All individuals who have had their nationality revoked are forced to hand in their passports and ID documentation and apply for a residency permit as a foreigner, or
leave the country. Those who have not been granted a residency permit and have remained in Bahrain have been charged with ‘illegally residing’ in the country and given a deportation order.
Article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments stipulates that nationality can be revoked if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; if a person helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or if a person causes ‘harm to state security’.
This paragraph is framed too broadly and does not clearly define what could amount to ‘harm to state security’ – thus enabling the state to crush the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly through revocation of nationality, even when doing so renders people stateless.