UN experts urge Bahrain to end crackdown on Shia Muslims
A number of United Nations-appointed independent experts have called on the Bahraini regime to halt its heavy-handed crackdown on the country’s Shia community, stressing that it is in violation of basic human rights in the tiny Persian Gulf island.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the UN specialists said the kingdom should stop “arbitrary” arrests and summons, and release those who put behind bars for exercising their rights.
They further called on Manama to “lift the restrictions on movement” imposed on Shia religious leaders and human rights campaigners.
“The intensified wave of arrests, detentions, summons, interrogations and criminal charges brought against numerous Shia religious clerics and singers, human rights defenders and peaceful dissidents is having a chilling effect on fundamental human rights,” the statement read.
Pointing to the recent dissolution of al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main opposition group, as well as restrictions on the practice of religious rites, peaceful assemblies and Internet access, the UN specialists concluded that the “Shias are clearly being targeted” in the island state.
They further accused the Al Khalifah regime of bringing a wide range of “groundless” charges against the Shias in a bid “to hide a deliberate targeting” of the majority religious community in the country.
Additionally, the experts expressed concern over the authorities’ practice of stripping Shia figures of their citizenship, saying, “People are being left stateless and are facing deportation from Bahrain.”
Top Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, had his citizenship revoked by authorities in June, with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry accusing the clergyman of seeking the “creation of a sectarian environment.” Sheikh Qassim has rejected the accusation.
Bahraini rulers have come under fire both at home and abroad for ramping up their crackdown on dissent.
Amnesty International and several other international rights organizations have also denounced the regime in Bahrain for rampant human rights abuses against opposition activists and anti-regime demonstrators.
Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has seen a wave of anti-regime protests since mid-February 2011.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded or detained amid Manama’s ongoing crackdown on dissent and widespread discrimination against the country’s Shia majority.