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  The Observatory: Bahrain: Obstacles to the freedom of association of BHRS


BHR 003 / 0410 / OBS 052

Restrictions to freedom of association


April 27, 2010



The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.


Description of the situation:


The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the recent restrictions imposed by the authorities to the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), an organisation that promotes human rights in Bahrain.


According to the information received, on April 19, 2010, BHRS received a letter from the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) denying them the permission to organise a workshop on capacity-building on human rights, scheduled to be held from May 27 to May 29, 2010 in collaboration with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT). The agenda intended to cover issues such as the monitoring of preventive detention, admission to places of detention, human rights in the period of detention with a focus on the basic rules for the treatment of prisoners, managing preventive visit to detention places, Istanbul Protocol, the use of international human rights mechanisms, and the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture.


Indeed, on March 21, 2010, BHRS had sent a letter to MoSD urging them to facilitate their visa request for their foreign participants to the workshop. Indeed, since several months, the Directorate of Immigration and Passports (DoIP) is reportedly no longer able to deliver visas without the approval of MoSD. This approval was denied for BHRS participants on the ground that the workshop contradicts with the Bahraini Law of association[1], which provides that “the association may not get involved in political activities”. The BHRS wrote to MoSD to ask them to reconsider their decision.


The Observatory denounces the recent restrictions on freedom of association in Bahrain applied by the MoSD and considers that the concept of “political activities” as defined in the law is unclear and that its general prohibition lead to impede NGOs from carrying through their activities in violation of the right to freedom of association guaranteed by the Bahraini Constitution[2] and by the international instruments ratified by Bahrain.


The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to ensure BHRS, as well as all human rights defenders, the ability to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances conforming to the Bahraini's legislation.  


Actions requested:


The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to: 


i.         Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;


ii.       Put an end to any kind of harassment - including administrative - against the above-mentioned organisation’s as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;


iii.      Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and its article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; 


iv.     Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain. 




·         Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587

·         Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032

·         Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284 

·         Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch 


Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.



Paris-Geneva, April 27, 2010


Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.


The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.


To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80 

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29


Publisher: FIDH


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