Updated Report: 16/02/2015
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality; and
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.
It is with regret that some countries still possess a dated mentality of treating their citizens as if they are subjects in a society run by Bedouin rule, whereby the ruler and his tribe enjoy special rights and no responsibilities. This tribal ruler-ship then imposes specific and contrary laws on its citizens and disposes of certain common laws – as is currently the situation in Bahrain.
On the 7th November 2012, coinciding with the day of the American presidential election, the Bahraini authorities passed a decision to strip 31 Bahraini citizens of their nationalities. The decision was aired on Bahrain’s national television channel and on Bahrain’s News Agency website.
The authority cited was the Bahraini Nationality Act 1963, and in particular Article 10(3) which allows for the deprivation of nationality of persons that are causing “damage to the security of the state”. The news report continued to explain that the Interior Minister:
“[…] shall be taking the necessary procedures to carry out this decision in light of maintaining national security and ensuring international agreements are met, with particular regards to the Universal Declarations of Human Rights and International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. And anyone who has an issue with these decisions should take it up with the judiciary.”
The decision came as a complete surprise to the citizens that were subject to this nationality deprivation.
This report will attempt to explore the historical background to this deprivation decision, the implications it has both legally and on human rights, and the rationale behind it. In addition, we will consider the identities of the persons that have been stripped of their Bahraini nationalities, the responses to the decision, and the recommended actions required to ensure these types of decisions are not repeated.
But before we delve into the background of the decision, it should be noted that Bahrain is composed of a number of smaller islands, with its citizens coming from different racial backgrounds, an array of tribes, and whom subscribe to a variety of religious and ideological affiliations. Nevertheless, these differing groups have managed to live together peacefully and harmoniously for a very long period of time. As such, the targeted citizens, that have been described as subscribers to the religion of Twelver Shia Islam with some from Arabic heritage and others Persian heritage, actually settled in Bahrain before the current modern form, before the settling of the ruling family, and ultimately before the introduction of these laws that dictate a citizen’s nationality. Even after the introduction of such laws, these targeted citizens would be expected to possess a right to the Bahraini nationality like all ethnicities and races that have settled in Bahrain.
Such targeted citizens have had an active role in various avenues of society; namely the economy, the community, the political landscape, and in human rights. Some of them had a role in the popular movement that set out in February 2011 the demands of democracy and involvement in the affairs and management of the country, as provided in the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights. The Bahraini authorities have opposed this and imposed a number of punitive measures against the citizens involved in the subsequent protests. This contravenes Article 2 of the International Covenant which states:
“1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
But the reality of the situation and the way it has been for a while is that the Bahraini authorities have carried out numerous arbitrary punitive measures against any political opponent, and specifically persons subscribing to the Shia faction that possess Persian heritage. The Bahraini authorities continue to step-up arbitrary punitive measures whenever there are protests demanding democracy. In general, if citizens from an ethnic or cultural minority are involved in any protests, they will be deprived of Bahraini nationality regardless of their right to it, and the class of ethnicity will be treated as non-nationals for decades. Along with such treatment, basic rights will also usually be revoked, which in reality has resulted in many classes living in harsh living environments for decades, with continuous threats of being stripped of their Bahraini nationality for those that possess it. As a result, pressure to adopt views supportive of the Bahraini authorities whilst being singled out and persecuted has caused scores to migrate from Bahrain.
The stripping of nationality has been an instrument for the Bahraini authorities to punish any political protest in the last century. The first time it was used was in 1954 when a national leader, Abdul-Rahman Al-Bakir, was stripped of his Bahraini nationality for his political activities against the authorities. He was deported along with a number of opposition figures to the Saint Helena Island in the south of the Atlantic Ocean. Whilst in the sixties and seventies, the Bahraini authorities barred a number of people that were considered ‘political opposition’ from returning to Bahrain after studying abroad. This continued into the eighties whereby hundreds of citizens with Persian heritage were forcibly deported to Iran and had their nationalities denied.
At the start of 2001 during the launch of the National Action Charter, the authorities intended to appease large parts of the nation and meet demands set out in regard to those that had been stripped of nationality. Nationality was indeed returned, but only to some. This resulted in many returning to Bahrain hopeful of stability after the agreement by the population to the National Action Charter, whilst the ones that remained outside were continually pressured but at a lower intensity.
This pressure continued with the rise of the Arab Spring in Bahrain in February 2011, where a vast and varied percentage of the Bahraini population moved to push for democracy. When a state of emergency was declared in the country, violations were recorded in the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) which was led by Professor Mahmoud Sharif Bassiouni. Several reports of arrests had sectarian, ethnic and revengeful elements. It appeared that torture and degrading treatment against detainees were meted out solely for involvement in political protest and affiliations. As for the detainees which subscribe to Twelver Shia Islam and have Persian heritage, they were subjected to the worst and harshest forms of torture. An example being the death in custody of the Bahraini businessman, Abdul-Karim Fakhrawi, and others, who were considered to be from the Shia faction.
Alleged Rationales behind Revocation Decision
The following has been reported by the Bahraini News Agency of the Interior Minister’s report:
“The Interior Ministry strips the nationality of 31 individuals – Manama, 6 November
Pursuant to Article 10(3) of the Bahraini Nationality Act 1963, which allows for the deprivation of citizenship of persons that are resulting in damage to the security of the state, the following have all been stripped of their Bahraini citizenship:
1- Saeed Abdulnabi Mohammed Al-Shehabi
2- Ibrahim Ghuloom Hussain Karimi
3- Jaafar Ahmed Jassim Al-Hisabi
4- Ali Hassan Mushaima
5- Abdulrauf Abdullah Ahmed Alshayib
6- Musa Abdali Ali Mohammed
7- Abbas Abdulaziz Nassir Omran
8- Mohammed Mahmood Jaafar Al-khazar
9- Qassim Badr Mohammed Hashim
10- Hassan Amir Akbar Sadiq
11- Sayed Mohammed Ali Abdulridha Al-Musawi
12- Abdulhadi Abdulrasool Khalaf
13- Alawi Saeed Sayed Ali Sharaf
14- Hussain Abdulshaheed Abbas Hubail
15- Hussain Mirza Abdulbaqi
16- Khalid Hameed Mansoor Sanad
17- Kamaal Ahmed Ali Kamaal
18- Ghulaam Khairallah Mohammed Mohammedi
19- Mohammed Ibrahim Hussain Ali Fathi
20- Sayed Abdulnabi Abdulridha Al-Musawi
21- Taymoor Abdullah Juma Karimi
22- Mohammed Ridha Murtadha Ali Abid
23- Habib Darwish Musa Ghuloom
24- Ibrahim Ghuloom Abdulwahab Abbas
25- Maryam Alsayed Ibrahim Hussain Ridha
26- Abdulamir Abdulridha Ibrahim Al-Musawi
27- Ibrahim Khalil Darwish Ghuloom
28- Ismail Khalil Darwush Ghuloom
29- Adnan Ahmed Ali Kamaal
30- Jawad Fairooz Ghuloom Fairooz
31- Jalal Fairooz Ghuloom Fairooz
And the Interior Minister shall be taking the necessary procedures to carry out this decision in light of maintaining national security and ensuring international agreements are met, with particular regards to the Universal Declarations of Human Rights and International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. And anyone who has an issue with these decisions should take it up with the judiciary.”
It is cited in the Bahraini Citizenship Act 1963, as amended by Article 12 for the year 1989 and Article 10 for the year 1981, under the heading “Revocation of Bahraini Nationality”:
Article 10 – It is permissible by order of the Ruler to allow the revocation of the Bahraini citizenship in the following:
Article 10(1): If entering military service in a foreign jurisdiction and remain doing so against the orders of the Bahraini Government to cease;
Article 10(2): If helping or involving in the service of an enemy state; or
Article 10(3): If resulting in damage to the security of the State.
But cited in the Bahrain Constitution is the following:
“The Bahraini nationality is governed by the law, and its revocation is not permissible unless in situations of great national betrayal, and other circumstances determined by the law.”
The Rights and Duties – Article 17
Building on what is stated above, the Interior Minister’s decision is not agreeable with the Constitution or the law governing revocation of citizenships. For he is relying on Constitutional Articles which require the order of the Monarchy for approval – for cases usually reserved for murder – and be as a result of a charge of “great national betrayal”, “affiliation with armed organisations abroad” or “circumstances decided by the law”.
Further, a decision of revocation of nationality coming solely from the Interior Minister is a breach of both the Constitution and laws governing nationality, and essentially void of any consideration of the legal requirement to execute or authority to pass such a decision. As such, the Constitution holds the Interior Minister to be in breach of his delegated powers, positioning himself in a position to pass judgments reserved for the judiciary, and definitely not a person in his position.
It is also confounding that the majority of the deprived citizens were never previously charged with anything which the Interior Minister is relying on, namely the satisfaction of revocation criteria in the Bahraini Nationality Act. There were never any previous communications on the matter of this decision, investigations or even questioning.
Sameera Rajab, a spokesperson and Minister for the Bahraini Government, had stated that:
“It is true that the stripping of citizenship is reserved as a Power of the King, but he has ordered it in this circumstance and given the Interior Minister powers to circumvent the usual procedures.”
She suggested waiting for the Interior Minister to give instructions and describe the procedure required for this circumstance of revocation. The publication of the King’s order that was allegedly given to the Interior Minister allowing him powers to execute such a decision has yet to be seen.
Some of the citizens that this decision was ordered against have attempted to challenge and appeal it, but the judiciary seems unwilling to examine the complaints. The Bahraini authorities have yet to file to the court anything formal in regards to the decision, which seems to strongly indicate that the decision was not passed legally.
Uncertain Fate of Stripped Citizens that Remained
On the 14th and 15th of July 2014, the stripped citizens that have remained in Bahrain, a total of 10, and they are:
Ibrahim Ghuloom Hussain Karimi
Sayed Mohammed Ali Abdulridha Al-Musawi
Sayed Abdulnabi Abdulridha Al-Musawi
Taymoor Abdullah Juma Karimi
Habib Darwish Musa Ghuloom
Maryam Alsayed Ibrahim Hussain Ridha
Abdulamir Abdulridha Ibrahim Al-Musawi
Ibrahim Khalil Darwish Ghuloom
Ismail Khalil Darwush Ghuloom
Adnan Ahmed Ali Kamaal
They have been called in for investigation regarding their legal status and to update their information. They subsequently had a court case made against them accusing them of illegal stay for breaching asylum and residency laws by remaining in the country.
One of the daughters of the 31, called Fatima, has of yet no form of formal identification as she was born after her father, Adnan Kamal, was stripped of the Bahraini nationality. At time of writing, she is two years old.
The Bahraini authorities have aggressively maintained their unlawful campaign against the 31 stripped Bahraini nationals, whereby a recent court judgment on 28 September 2014 ruled that the remaining nationals in the country would be fined 100 Dinars and sentenced to deportation because they are violating asylum laws by staying.
This is a further breach against the international standards, specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Bahrain has signed and ratified, marginalising nationals because of their political, religious and ethnic affiliations and backgrounds.
Amnesty International released a statement on 30 October 2014, commenting that these 10 remaining stripped nationals from the original 31 “are at risk of harassment and intimidation while awaiting the appeal against a court order to deport them.” The appeal session at court will commence on 14 April 2015.
Another Twelve Bahraini Citizens have their Nationality Revoked by the Court
Bahrain’s court on 6 August 2014 stripped a further nine Bahraini citizens, currently imprisoned, of their nationality amidst a controversial decision by the judge of altering their sentence. Judge Ali Khalifa Al-Dhahrani strangely and unjustifiably escalated their sentencing from “illegal gathering” to “establishing a terrorist organization”, allowing Bahrain’s newly-modified and highly controversial terrorism laws to take precedent.
One of the stripped citizens, Ali Hassan Adam, is a student that has been studying in Pune for a number of years and only returned briefly to Bahrain to visit his parents. According to his mother, he was never politically active in his life and he was simply detained because the security forces personnel saw him in his parent’s raided home where the others were arrested.
The names of the nine stripped citizens are:
1. Hamid Jaffar
2. Nidhal Ali
3. Ali Sanghur
4. Hussain Albanaa’
5. Ali Hassan Adam
6. Ali Alasfoor
7. Jalal Ali
8. Mohammed Abbas
9. Sayed Hashim Radhi
In the Appeals Court hearing on January 27 2015, the decision to strip the above nine citizens of their nationality was cancelled by a court ruling because of the occurrence of the alleged acts before the amendments to the “Anti-terrorism Act”, which allows for the deprivation of nationality in case of conviction.
Again, Bahrain’s court on the 29 September 2014, a further nine were stripped of their Bahraini nationality and sentenced to life imprisonment. Their names are found below:
1. Jassim Ahmed Abdulla Ahmed
2. Hussain Ahmed Taher Abdulwahab
3. Sayed Ali Shubar Sharaf Shubar
4. Aqeel Abdulrasool Mohammed Ahmed
5. Hussain Mehdi Mohammed Ibrahim
6. Ali Sabah Abdulmohsin Mohammed
7. Sayed Jafar Shubar Sharaf Shubar
8. Abdulmohsin Sabah Abdulmohsin Mohammed
9. Hamad Jawad Sabah Abdulmoshin
Also, in 20 November 2014, a Bahraini court sentenced three Bahrainis to 10 years in prison and revoked their nationality. They were accused of involvement in the “explosion that occurred in Al-Akr Town” on 4 July 2014. Their names are:
1. Mohammed Abdulamir Abbas Hassan (23 years old)
2. Ahmed Yusuf Jassim (24 years old)
3. Salman Isa Ali Salman (30 years old)
Royal Decree Revoking Nationality of 72 Bahrainis
Bahrain News Agency published on 31 January 2015 a statement revoking 72 Bahraini citizens of their nationality and published on Official Gazette on 5th February 2015 as Royal Decree No. 8 for 2015. Here is the statement:
“Manama, Jan31(BNA) – The Ministry of Interior is responsible for protecting the security and stability of Bahrain. Part of that responsibility is a duty to fight terrorism and identify those who engage, encourage or participate in such acts.
Each citizen of Bahrain has the responsibility to act in ways that do not harm the interests of the Kingdom. Based on article (10/c) of the Bahrain nationality law, with a revision by the Interior Minister and approval of the cabinet, a decree was issued to withdraw the Bahraini nationality of 72 individuals for illegal acts, including:
– Spying for foreign countries and recruiting a number of persons through social media
– Financing groups carrying terrorist operations
– Defaming the image of the regime, inciting against the regime and spreading false news to hinder the rules of the constitution
– Carrying out a series of explosions so as to subvert homeland security and terrorise citizens
– Seeking to form a terrorist group, train them on the use of weapons to commit crimes
– muggling weapons
– Inciting and advocating regime change through illegal means
– Joining terrorist cells to harm the interests of the Kingdom and subvert national stability
– Belonging to terrorist groups fighting abroad.
– Defaming brotherly countries.
1- Mohammed Hassan Ali Hussain
2- Farahat Khursheed Afrah Khursheed
3- Masood Mirza Jaffar Jahrami
4- Hussain Khairallah Mohammed Mahdi
5- Ali Asfandiyar Khadad Mohammed
6- Safa Al Dhawi Al Adawi
7- Sayed Ahmed Mustafa Mohammed Al Wadai
8- Sayed Qassim Majeed Ramadan Alawi
9- Ibrahim Ali Ibrahim Al Aradi
10- Ibrahim Ali Hassan Al Madhoon
11- Ishaq Faheem Ishaq Abdulrahman
12- Ahmed Jaffar Mohammed Ali
13- Ahmed Rashid Hameed Al Jabri
14- Ahmed Ridha Mashaallah Shakeeb
15- Ahmed Mohammed Ali Saleh
16- Ayoub Mohammed Mustafa Al Murbati
17- Turki Mubarak Abdullah Al Binali
18- Jaffar Ahmed Hassan Al Aal
19- Jaffar Ahmed Abdullah Salman
20- Jaffar Yahya Ali Hussain
21- Habib Abdullah Hussain Al Jamri
22- Hassan Ahmed Abdullah Sulaiman
23- Hassan Abdullah Isa Al Ghasra
24- Hassan Abdulnabi Hassan Ali
25- Hassan Ali Mohammed Juma Sultan
26- Hussain Jassim Ahmed Al Hadad
27- Hussain Yousif Mohammed Jassim
28- Hamad Mubarak Juma Habib
29- Khalid Mohammed Abdullah Ali Al Mannai
30- Daij Khalifa Abdullah Al Thawadi
31- Rashid Ahmed Rashid Al Rashid
32- Sami Ahmed Hamad Al Mannai
33- Salman Ibrahim Mohammed Ali
34- Salman Abdullah Darweesh Abdullah
35- Salman Alyan Turki Al Ashban
36- Saber Ali Ahmed Al Salatna
37- Dhafer Salah Ali Saleh
38- Obada Adel Hassan Hamad
39- Abas Hassan Ali Abusafwan
40- Abdulamir Jaffar Rashid Al Aradi
41- Abdulaziz Nazar Ali Al Jowder
42- Abdulghani Isa Ali Al Khanjar
43- Abdullah Ibrahim Ahmed Al Saleh
44- Abdullah Abdulrahim Abdullah Fakhro
45- Aqeel Ahmed Ali Mahfoodh
46- Aqeel Jaffar Ahmed Ridha
47- Ali Ahmed Ali Abdullah
48- Ali Hassan Abdulrahman Fakhro
49- Ali Hassan Abdullah Abdulimam
50- Ali Mubarak Abdullah Al Binali
51- Ali Mahmood Jaffar Al Kharaz
52- Ammar Ahmed Ali Saqer Al Atawi
53- Omar Jassim Mohammed Buzaboon
54- Omar Abdullah Mohammed Ali Al Qahtani
55- Isa Abdullah Isa Al Sarh
56- Kareem Isa Ali Al Mahroos
57- Maher Othman Saleh Abadi
58- Mohammed Ali Ahmed Al Tal
59- Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali
60- Mohammed Mubarak Abdullah Al Binali
61- Mahmood Nasser Juma Mushaima
62- Murtadha Majeed Ramadan Al Sindi
63- Muhanad Yousif Hussain Al Harmi
64- Maytham Omran Hussain Al Jamri
65- Mirza Mohammed Ali Ramadan
66- Naji Ali Naji Qassim Al Ruqaimi
67- Nawaf Mohammed Ahmed Saif
68- Yasser Abdulhussain Ali Al Sayegh
69- Yasser Abdullah Isa Al Ghasra
70- Yahya Ali Yahya Al Hadid
71- Yousif Ahmed Hamad Abdullah Al Mannai
72- Yousif Omran Jassim Omran
Proper legal procedures will be taken by the Interior Ministry to implement this decision.”
The majority of those on the revocation-list are political activists, media personalities, human rights defenders and opposition members that are living abroad because of persistent targeting. They have maintained their activism politically and in the media, supporting the democratic reform demands. A small minority on the list have joined armed forces abroad.
On the list, there is a former Member of Parliament, 8 religious scholars, 5 bloggers and media personalities, an academic, and a human rights defender. Considering that, this revocation decision has come without court trials or sentencing, and follows the revocation decision that emanated on 6 November 2012 from the Interior Minister on baseless grounds and unlawful reasons. The number of those subject to a revocation decision without a case since November 2012 reaches 103 Bahrainis, with an addition of 12 who were subject to nationality revocation by the “Anti-Terrorism Laws”. This has played a pivotal role to protect the suppressive regime in Bahrain, according to Human Rights Watch.
It should be noted that the nationality revocation ruling against 9 imprisoned Bahrainis on 6 August 2014 was canceled. The Appeals Court on 27 January 27 2015 voided the decision against them. Thus, this takes the total number of victims of nationality revocation to 115 Bahraini citizens. .
Deportation of Al-Najati
On 23rd April 2014, the Bahraini authorities have proceeded through the Ministry of Interior to forcefully deport Shia cleric Hussain Al-Najati after direct and unrelenting pressure posed against him to leave the country. The Ministry of Interior in its statement admitted that Al-Najat, 52 years old, was born in Bahrain along with his parents. This latest decision trails another whereby Al-Najati is among 30 others who were stripped of their Bahraini nationalities in 2012. This forceful deportation, after the illegal stripping of his nationality, is a serious violation and a grave crime. These decisions posed against Al-Najati are part of a longer line of decisions intended to instigate sectarian tension and pressure on Shia Bahrainis in their lines of work, education, and religious expressions – the first of which was the destruction of numerous Shia mosques.
Deportation of Bahraini Citizen Farhat Khorsheed
The Bahraini authorities on 5 February 2015 detained Farhan Khorsheed and his family in Bahrain’s airport after their return from abroad. They were held for long hours at the airport, and Mr Khorsheed was prevented from entering Bahrain, as he was one of the Bahrainis that had their nationality stripped in the new list released on 31 January 2015. Mr Khorsheed was told that has to leave to another country, and was forcibly deported to Qatar. His family though were allowed to enter Bahrain.
Case of a defendant of the revocation decision that was brought to court
The lawyer, Mohammed Isa Al-Tajir, representing a citizen subjected to this revocation decision, Ibrahim Ghuloom Hussain Karimi, stated in defence of his client, that:
“The decision of the stripping of citizenship was issued in contravention of the [Bahrain] Constitution and the laws governing nationality, does not possess the necessary legal requirement for such an administrative decision, and is considered a jurisdictional defect.”
Karimi’s case description displayed two defendants: the General Administration for Nationalities, Passport and Asylum Issues, and the Interior Minister in his role in the Ministry of Interior. Karimi describes the Interior Minister as a defendant for the executive decision of stripping him of his nationality describing Karimi as a reason for “damage to the security of the State”; while claiming the General Administration as the other defendant for carrying out the process of revocation. Karimi as such was confirming his right to challenge the decision by taking it to the judiciary, as was suggested by the Interior Minister’s statement.
Al-Tajir continued to explain that the rules binding governing administrative bodies cannot be circumvented, whether it is a decision coming from the authorities or not. Thus the administrative decision can be challenged with no restraint on the timing period for bringing a claim and the judge can use his own prerogative on challenging jurisdictional matters without being asked.
Al-Tajir stated that the revocation decision was derived solely from the Interior Minister, and that no consultation was done with the King, making the decision itself tainted with a fraught jurisdictional defect as it came from a person that has no powers to pass such a decision, and no delegated powers to do so either.
Al-Tajir in the statement presented to the court reminded the court that a nationality is a legal and political link between a citizen and the State, which is solely governed by the nationality laws that regulate the process of how it is obtained, how it is revoked, and how it is reinstated. And if it is agreed that nationality is a right of an individual, then there must be clear and precise methods to protect this right in such events, and a clear and precise process to pass such decisions. Further, allowing decisions like these to stand exposes the laws’ ineffectiveness and hence should be repealed for being unlawful. As for the legal requirements, they are not simply routine commonalities, rather they are an insurance against any administration errors or unwise decisions against individuals’ rights and freedoms, forcing administrations and authorities to effectively study a case before passing a decision. Moreover, Article 15 of the laws governing passports has in itself expounded on the dangers and warns of stripping a person of his nationality, as it pertains to an individual’s personal rights.
The decision is and of itself a breach of laws that protect the administration process – which require a decision to go through the relevant process within the administration ladder to finally pass – and would have allowed to flesh out any potential issues and legal discrepancies, and put in place the foundations to effectively carry out the decision. Article 10 of the Bahraini Nationality Act 1963 explicitly states the relevant and rigid circumstances, and exhaustively lists where a revocation decision would satisfy the law (2).
Dismissal of Appeal Case of One of the 31
The 31 were advised by some members in the international community to first exhaust the national judicial system – to appeal their case in Bahrain’s courts. This has been carried out by one of the victims, Ibrahim Karimi, who appealed his case on 28/2/2013 and was dismissed on 29/04/2014. The court verdict for the dismissal unsatisfactorily stated “[…] the State has the right to take appropriate measures” as the reason for allowing the decision to stand. This now leaves them with no more avenues to pursue in Bahrain’s judicial system, which leaves only the international community to appeal to and beseech justice.
Contravention of the International Covenant for Civil and Political rights
The revocation decision is a stark denial of international laws and a grave abuse of human rights. Bahrain has both signed and ratified the International Covenant for Civil and Political rights, which further ties the party of the covenant to ensure the obligations set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Within both the treaty and the declaration, the denial and revocation of nationality is warned of.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality; and
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
In the preamble of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is stated that:
“Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.”
Further, under Article 2 it is added that:
“1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
“2. Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.”
Finally under Article 5:
“1. Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant.”
The Effects of the Revocation Decision
The revocation decision has severely impacted on the victims and their families and put a strain on many facets of their lives and endeavours; be it social, political, legal, employment and even their safety, as a direct result of this decision. Some of the struggles are summed up below:
Deprivation of their right to identity, documents of legal proof, and exposed to issues with immigration laws and asylum;
A loss of feeling of security and a sense of perennial threat, especially in search points and country borders;
Deprivation of new-borns of the victims from a nationality;
The barring of the use of many services previously available to them as citizens, which include:
Hospital and housing services
The loss of right to deal with personal assets
The services provided for pensions and pecuniary benefits
The right to work, especially in governmental positions. Note that the majority that were working in such positions were immediately terminated from employment
The interaction with the local authorities
The right to benefits for housing, inflation, and application for housing and social insurance.
The barring of travel, and with that the inability to deal with their work outside of the country;
The sense of anxiety from the fathers among the 31 who have children still in school and families to maintain;
The separation of family, as the decision resulted in parts of the family being in Bahrain, and the other part outside;
The difficulty of maintaining living expenses, specifically those that were made redundant;
The inability to return back to Bahrain of those that were originally abroad to pursue their interests; and
The inability to enjoy their human and civil rights, such as to vote and elect oneself.
National and International Reaction
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (3)
A spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed to journalists in Geneva that the High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, expresses her disappointment for the revocation decision which reportedly left 16 of the 31 completely without any nationality. She urged the Bahraini Government to:
“[…] re-examine the decision, which clearly breaches Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states: everyone has the right to a nationality, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.”
It was added that it is expected of countries to adhere to the procedural standards set to ensure any decisions regarding the deprivation of nationality does not contain any arbitrary elements.
Human Rights Watch (4)
Human Rights Watch stated that the Bahraini Authorities should rescind the revocation decision of the 31 stripped citizens that have been accused of damaging the security of the State. The decision affects political activists, human rights activists, and lawyers. The decision was imposed without the correct legal procedure and has left the majority of them completely without a citizenship.
Joe Stork, Deputy Director for Middle-East and North Africa in Human Rights Watch, stated that:
“The Bahrain government’s summary decision to deprive 31 people of a nationality seems to completely disregard their basic rights. There is no justification for equating political dissent with damaging Bahrain’s security.”
Human Rights Watch suggested that the lack of consideration to the legal procedures disregards the Bahraini citizen’s basic and international right. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights is cited and is considered an embodiment of the customary international law that “everyone has the right to a nationality, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” Also, the decision impinges on other rights, including Article 17 of the International Covenant, which Bahrain is a party to, that states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence”.
The Interior Minister’s decision includes previous members of parliament, lawyers, activists, and religious scholarly figures, and at least 10 of them are now outside of Bahrain. Defence lawyers for some of the victims and human rights activists reported to Human Rights Watch that only 6 of the 31 have other nationalities, which would leave the majority absolutely stateless.
One political opposition activist reported to Human Rights Watch that “none of the individuals were previously prosecuted for criminal offences, let alone damage to security of the State.”
One of the victims, Taymor Karimi, who is a lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that he did not learn of the decision until he read it in some media outlets. He added: “I did not learn of any legal procedure being taken against me, and I was not notified officially regarding the decision.”
Taymor Karimi’s latest detention happened on the 31st of March 2011, the day a state of emergency was declared which lead to protesters demanding for democracy to be attacked. Karimi remained in prison for 6 months for allegedly “releasing false news” and “joining in unlawful gatherings”. On 2nd January, he was sentenced to 4 months for “joining in unlawful gatherings” by the Lower Criminal Court. Numerous appeals for his case to the higher courts have been attempted.
Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East Programme, strongly remarked:
“Stripping away the nationality of government critics shows that the Bahraini authorities continue to lash out and discredit anyone they deem a threat. Instead of addressing the criticism levelled against them, the authorities have found no other way to respond than depriving Bahraini citizens of their nationality.
“The Ministry of Interior must rescind its earlier decision urgently and restore the Bahraini nationality to all 31 opposition activists. Such retaliation has a chilling effect on peaceful dissent and freedom of expression, and has serious human rights implications for everyone in Bahrain.”
Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society
Al-Wefaq confirmed in a report it released that the decision to revoke nationalities is unlawful and does not conform to any legal procedures or court orders. It came as a purely political calculation which only resulted in the deterioration of political and human right processes in Bahrain. It seems the situation is likely to further decline after twenty months of political setbacks due to the hardening of the political establishment, and its refusal to come forth for dialogue and negotiations to move out of the dark shadow that Bahrain is living under.
Al-Wefaq stated that the nationality, which is a basic right of the Bahraini citizen, is a core national responsibility of the country, and not the opposite. It further added that the true issue, which represents a catastrophic situation in the topic of nationality, is the hysterical naturalisation of vast groups of Arabs and non-nationals for more than 10 years. This has led to changes in the demographic make-up of Bahrain, continues to cause a drain on the public funding and natural resources, and is destroying the societal foundations on all levels.
Al-Wefaq demands of the international community the need to move and rescue the current humanitarian situation, take steps to prevent the deterioration, and involve in correcting the political and humanitarian situation in Bahrain. It concluded its report that the case of the people of Bahrain ties with the need for true democracy, and that it is the only exit to this political crisis.
Al-Wefaq also confirms its solidarity with the victims of this decision and their families, and asks all members of society to stand by their brothers that have had their nationality revoked through unlawful means for revengeful intentions.
Finally, Al-Wefaq demanded the expedited rescission of this revocation decision for the contravention of the Constitution and international treaties protecting basic human rights. The decision should also be reversed because the victims are innocent and have had their nationality revoked oppressively, have never been accused of criminal offences, nor have they ever been found guilty of any crime in a just court of law.
Former Member of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Sir Nigel Rodley (6)
In an interview with Al-Wasat Bahraini newspaper one year after the publication of the BICI report, Sir Nigel Rodley stated that he was admittedly surprised when he read that activists were deprived of their Bahraini nationalities after brief procedures. He considered it a “slap in the face of human rights” and a “provocative step to poison the political atmosphere”.
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights consider that the withdrawal of the nationality of 31 Bahraini citizens by Bahraini authorities, under the pretext of damaging the state security, is a violation of National Constitution texts and Bahraini laws, especially the Citizenship law issued in 1963, as it forms a violation of the materials of international law based on the protection of basic and authentic rights of citizens, particularly the right to citizenship.
The Forum called on the international community, the United Nations and international human rights organizations to take strict punitive measures against the Bahraini authorities explicitly violating international contracts related to nationality rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and covenants that Bahrain has committed before international bodies.
Bahrain Forum for Human Rights assure that those who have been stripped of their nationalities are representing an important category that has its religious, political, cultural and economic clout in Bahraini society, where two religious figures have been targeted: Ayatollah Sheikh Hussein Najati, and Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammed Sanad, as well as two Bahraini clerics, and two former MPs, and thirteen of the political figures who demanded political change and democracy, in addition to other activists in different domains such as traders and attorneys.
The Forum pointed out that this decision is an explicit violation of the law of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 15, which states that persons shall not be deprived arbitrarily of their nationalities, in addition to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states in article number 16 on the recognition of legal personality of citizens.
The Forum added that the state is not entitled to drop the nationality without a court order of constitutional reference, pointing out that the dropping of the nationality of a number of citizens by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior is a violation of Article number 10 of the Nationality Law which requires an order from the governor in order to drop nationality. The decision has no justifications or controls because it did not prove damage of those citizens to national security, in addition that some of those targeted have nothing to do with politics.
The Forum concluded its statement by saying that the decision represents a threat to the social structure and cultural components of the Bahraini society, especially by targeting specific elements of community which hits the equality of people before law, pointing out that the decision of dropping nationality has a bad future effect on young children whose fathers’ nationalities were dropped; where they will lose their citizenship because of this decision.
In June 2014, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a joint statement of 47 countries, which includes the UK, regarding Bahrain’s human rights violations. The joint statement branded the human rights situation in Bahrain as an “issue of serious concern”, where the members continued to state that they are “troubled by continuing reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities” and “concerned that there is insufficient accountability for human rights violations.”
A report released by Human Rights Watch in May 2014 revealed that Bahraini authorities identify classic peaceful protest tools as acts of terrorism. Thus, the majority of the population could be sentenced under Bahrain’s arbitrary and newly-modified terrorism laws, which allows for revocation of nationality, hence the stripping of citizenship weapon hangs over the heads of any person that has previously expressed criticism of the Government – regardless of whether it was reasonable.
The Bahraini authorities have so far stripped the nationality of 115 Bahraini citizens, from activists to opposition members, and a further two forcibly deported from Bahrain. This represents a gross infringement on the civil rights of the Bahraini citizen.
The decision to strip Bahrainis of their nationality did not satisfy any legal requirements or pass through a correct procedure. Such a decision to remove a citizen’s nationality is reserved only for scenarios of “great national betrayal”, “affiliation with armed organisations in foreign jurisdictions” or “scenarios determined by the law”. None of these have been satisfied, and the revocation in its essence is a contradiction of the Constitution, does not comply with any legal requirements, and ultimately a case like this should be decided by a just and independent judiciary and not a governmental authority.
Superimposing such a decision on an international level exposes it to be in breach of signed and ratified international treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – specifically under Article 2 which has been incorporated under Bahraini law number 56 from the year 2006. The process also breaches the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Along with the jurisdictional defects of the decision and the breaches to national laws and international treaties and declarations, the decision was solely coming from a political background, for purposes of suppressing the opposition.
This all leads to a conclusion that the Bahraini authorities must revoke all the decisions it has carried out in regards to strip the 31 citizens of their nationality, and fully and retrospectively compensate all the victims from the point of passing of this unlawful decision.
1- Demand the Bahraini Government rescind the revocation decision due to its breach of the Constitution, the laws governing citizenship in Bahrain, and its contravention of international treaties and declarations that Bahrain has signed and ratified.
2- That the Bahraini Government takes swift steps to reverse decisions and procedures the Bahraini authorities have already taken to pass the unlawful revocation decision.
3- Commence international proceedings to push for the rescission of the decision, and to compensate the victims of this decision. Consideration of compensation should be taken retrospectively from the time of passing of the decision.
4- Demand of the Bahraini authorities to rescind and compensate the victims urgently and expeditiously; and in the event such is not done, a case would be submitted to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
5- Declare a decision to restrain the Bahraini authorities from ever using a revocation of nationality as a means to punish political opponents.
6- Demand of the Bahraini authorities to accept and allow the visits of the UN Special Rapporteurs to meet with those that have been victims of the stripping of nationality.
8- In the event that the Bahraini authorities refuse to accept such demands from the international community to rescind the decision, a ban on flight to any country should be imposed on the officials behind the decision.
9- A call for human rights organisations to push the Bahraini authorities to correctly comply with signed and ratified international treaties and declarations which confer on a citizen of Bahrain the right to a nationality.