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EU, rights groups urge Bahrain to end crackdown on dissidents

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Bahraini protester throws back a tear gas canister during clashes with regime forces following a demonstration in the village of Bilad al-Qadeem on the outskirts of the capital Manama on February 13, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

The EU and the 35-member UN Human Rights Council have urged Bahrain to end its heavy-handed crackdown on political dissent.

Slovakia’s permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva Fedor Rosocha, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, voiced concerns “about measures against Bahrain’s opposition political society.”

Brussels is alarmed with the “dissolution of the opposition al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the 9-year-long prison sentence handed down to its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman, detention and travel bans on human rights activists, and the re-arrest of Nabeel Rajab,” he said.

Rosocha read a statement to a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Wednesday, saying the EU is troubled by the “revocation of nationality of Bahraini citizens, including prominent figures such as Sheikh Issa Qassim.”

The UN human Rights council also condemned the Bahraini regime’s crackdown on dissent, calling for comprehensive reforms to bring stability to the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Bahraini protesters hold a placard bearing the portrait of top Shia cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim during a rally against the revocation of his citizenship near his house in Diraz, June 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Bahraini authorities revoked Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship on June 20. They had earlier dissolved al-Wefaq besides the Islamic Enlightenment Institution, founded by the 79-year-old cleric, and the al-Risala Islamic Association.

Rosocha said the EU and other world states are “worried about allegations of torture” in Bahrain, and want Manama to extend an invitation to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment Juan E. Mendez.

‘Free Rajab’

Meanwhile, 22 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, have sent letters to 50 states, urging them to pressure Bahraini authorities to release Rajab.

Prominent Bahraini human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab (Photo by Reuters)

The rights groups asked the addressees to “speak out on Bahrain’s continued misuse of the judicial system to harass and silence human rights defenders.”

Rajab, who has been repeatedly detained for organizing anti-regime demonstrations and publishing Twitter posts deemed insulting to Bahraini officials, was pardoned for health reasons last year, but he was re-arrested on June 13.

The 52-year-old activist is going to stand trial over tweets he posted in March 2015, criticizing Manama’s involvement in the Saudi aerial bombardment campaign against Yemen in addition to mistreatment and torture at Bahrain’s notorious Jaw Prison.

He also faces fresh charges after the US daily The New York Times published an op-ed by the activist about the Manama regime's repression. Rajab faces up to 12 years in prison in Bahrain.

Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis, calling on the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.

Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been deployed to the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protests.

Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the Bahraini crackdown on the anti-regime activists.

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