“I am in prison, because the beach that I know lies behind this building that I am locked up in, but nobody is able to see it. The sea is one of the most attractive views that distinguish our small beautiful island. However, [its] people are not allowed to reach it today… Like this country, the sea is a blessing granted by Allah to the [whole] people, and it is a right of all people who love it, without any discrimination.”
—SG Sheikh `Ali Salman, “A Letter to My Beloved Daughter,” 20 September 2013
HIC-HLRN reproduces here below the statement of UN experts, condemning the prolonged sentence that a Bahrain court issued today to Sheikh `Ali Salman, a long-time land rights defender.
GENEVA–The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today condemned the sentencing to nine year’s imprisonment on charges of inciting violence of Sheikh Ali al-Salman, the leader of the Wefaq opposition party in Bahrain. The expert’s call comes after a Bahraini court of appeal on Monday more than doubled his prison term, up from an earlier four years.
“The sentencing of Sheikh Ali al-Salman seems to confirm a worrying trend of political repression further shrinking the space for any form of dissent in Bahrain today,” the human rights expert said. “The arbitrary sentencing of such a prominent political leader to nine years of detention inevitably has a strong chilling effect for the entire society.”
“The fact that the sentence against Ali al-Salman was not only confirmed, but doubled following various statements indicating international concern on his trial, is deeply disappointing,” he said while recalling that last September the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had concluded that his detention was arbitrary.
Mr. Kaye’s statement has also been endorsed by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt; and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst. This group of experts, who publicly voiced their concerns on Ali al-Salman case in February last year, have also expressed their willingness to visit the country.
“I reiterate the calls for the release of Ali al-Salman and all other persons detained for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Bahrain,” the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression said.
“Silencing the opposition is never an acceptable or effective response to situations of political instability,” Mr. Kaye concluded.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Bahrain: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/BHIndex.aspx
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Photo: Bahraini opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman displays documents which he claims prove that public land was stolen during a joint press conference with other opposition leaders in Manama, Bahrain, on 03 March 2011. Source: alamy.