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Press briefing note on Bahrain

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location:  Geneva
Date:  30 December 2014
Subject:  1) Bahrain

We are seriously concerned at the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition movement, Al Wefaq, as well as the continuing harassment and imprisonment of individuals exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

According to credible information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Sheikh Salman was arrested after being summoned for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department on Sunday, only two days after his re-election for a fourth term as the Secretary General of Al Wefaq. His lawyers say he is accused of a number of serious charges that carry hefty prison terms, including calling for the overthrow of the government.

We urge the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Sheikh Salman, as well as all other persons convicted or detained for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.  Should Sheikh Salman be brought to trial, the Government of Bahrain should guarantee a fair trial. We also call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately implement the recommendations put forward during the country’s Universal Periodic Review in 2012, as well as by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011, to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

Opposition parties are fundamental pillars of any democracy and Sheikh Salman’s arrest risks intensifying the fraught political scene that has seen anti-government protests for nearly four years. Peaceful constructive dialogue is the only way out of Bahrain’s current crisis.

For further information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466  or + 41 79 752 0488 / ethrossell@ohchr.org )

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