Bahrain’s parliamentary elections, due to take place on 12 November, are being held in an environment of political repression following a decade in which the authorities have infringed upon human rights, curtailed civil society, banned political opposition parties and shuttered independent media, Amnesty International said today.
From 2016 onwards, the Bahrain authorities ramped up a campaign to eliminate political opposition, banning opposition political parties that had existed legally before the uprising in 2011. The government has outlawed major opposition parties and independent media, and also imprisoned prominent opposition leaders. Consequently, Bahrain today lacks any non-imprisoned political opposition leaders or independent media willing to sharply criticize the government in public.
“Over the past 11 years, the Bahraini authorities have crushed all forms of dissent and severely clamped down on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
In Bahrain today, there is no genuine, political opposition and no independent media, while critical human rights organizations are unable to operate freely inside the country.Amna Guellali, Amnesty International
“In Bahrain today, there is no genuine, political opposition and no independent media, while critical human rights organizations are unable to operate freely inside the country. Holding this general election will not address the atmosphere of repression and the denial of human rights that has gripped Bahrain for years.”
At least 12 prisoners of conscience, including protest leaders from 2011 and Ali Salman, the head of major opposition party al-Wefaq, are currently languishing in prison.
Bahrain will hold parliamentary and municipal elections on 12 November. It is the second time such elections have been held since authorities banned political opposition parties from functioning and blocked the candidacies of their members.
In July 2016, the government outlawed al-Wefaq, a Shia-led political opposition party that has had the most electoral success of any party under Bahrain’s current constitution. Between 2012 and 2017, the authorities also outlawed Amal, an opposition party that had competed with al-Wefaq for Shia voters, and the non-sectarian opposition party Wa‘d. Members of these political parties have also been banned from holding leadership positions in civil society organizations.
Since the authorities shut down the independent newspaper al-Wasat in June 2017, all television, radio and newspaper outlets in the country are either pro-government or directly government controlled.
For further information, take a look at Amnesty International’s full public statement on the elections.