Bahrain Urged to Dismiss Case Against Human Rights Defender Mohammed Al-Maskati
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged Bahraini authorities to immediately dismiss the politically-motivated case against prominent human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati. A Bahraini court is scheduled to hear his appeal on December 22.
“The charges brought against Mohammed Al-Maskati are crude political intimidation for his legitimate human rights work,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The charges against him are reprisals for exposing Bahrain’s human rights problems to an international audience. We’ve spoken at public events together in the U.S. Congress, and he is a credible, articulate witness to the regime’s repression. That’s exactly what the Bahraini authorities are scared of, and that’s why they’ve targeted him. The U.S. government should immediately and publicly call for the case against him be dropped.”
Al-Maskati is the founder and former president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR). He was detained, interrogated, and charged with allegedly “rioting and participating in an illegal gathering” in October 2012. The charges were in reference to a protest in Manama in which he participated. He was brought to trial in June 2013 and sentenced to six months in prison in December 2014, but he has remained free on bail until now as he prepares for the upcoming appeal. Al-Maskati’s case is named in the U.S. government’s 2014 Country Report on Human Rights Practices as an example of the government’s practice of arresting and harassing local NGO leaders.
The Bahraini government has failed to fully implement the recommendations from the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, which would set the country on a path toward necessary reforms. Human Rights First recently released a new fact sheet detailing Bahrain’s backslide on human rights since the BICI report’s release and urging U.S. policymakers to press its military ally to introduce crucial reforms before the situation in Bahrain deteriorates further. The charges against Al-Maskati are further evidence of Bahrain’s lack of meaningful progress on human rights issues.
Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Bahraini regime to drop politically-motivated prosecutions and promote an inclusive political solution to its crisis. Human Rights First also urges members of Congress to support S.2009 and H.R.3445, legislation that would ban the transfer of small arms to the Bahraini military until the 26 recommendations in the BICI report have been fully implemented.
“As Bahrain continues to intimidate human rights defenders, including through the courts, the U.S. government’s failure to take more vigorous action on the human rights situation in Bahrain is damaging its credibility in the region. The United States should make it known that its military allies in the Gulf do not get a free pass when it comes to crackdowns on civil society,” added Dooley.