Revoking citizenship of 138 people: ‘a mockery...
The High Criminal Court of Bahrain chaired by judge Bader Abulatif Al Abdullah, has convicted 139 people on terrorism charges in a mass trial involving a total of 169 defendants, sentencing them to prison terms of between three years and life in prison. In total, 138 of those convicted were arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship, and a further 30 were acquitted.
This is the second flagrantly unfair mass trial in Bahrain in weeks. In the last case in February 2019, 167 people were convicted, primarily for participation in a non-violent sit-in. In May last year, 115 people were also stripped of their citizenship following a single trial, their sentences were upheld in January 2019.
“With these outrageous sentences, Bahrain’s authorities have once again demonstrated their complete disregard for international fair trial standards. The trial makes a mockery of justice and confirms an alarming pattern of convictions after unfair mass trials in Bahrain.” Said Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf.
“This trial also demonstrates how Bahrain’s authorities are increasingly relying on revocation of nationality as a tool for repression – around 900 people have now been stripped of their citizenship since 2012.Arbitrarily stripping people of their citizenship and rendering citizens stateless are blatant violations of international law. Bahrain’s authorities must immediately stop relying on these unlawful measures as punishment.”
So far in 2019, about 160 people have been stripped of their citizenship. In 2018, around 300 people had their nationalities revoked. 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.
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.
In the years since the ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, which began on 14 February 2011, the stripping of citizenship has emerged as one of the most disturbing methods used to silence dissent. The first exercise of this power was in November 2012, when the Minister of Interior revoked the nationality of 31 opposition activists, ex-MPs and members of civil society.
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’.
According to Amnesty International, 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.