United Nations Human Rights Council: Session 15
Item 5 General Debate
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
21 September, 2010
Delivered by: Laila Matar
Thank you Mr. President,
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies is deeply concerned about the escalation of reprisals in the Middle East against human rights defenders that engage with international mechanisms.
A full-fledged human rights crisis is taking place in Bahrain. During the past month alone approximately 250 political prisoners, including many well known human rights defenders, have been held in incommunicado detention, denied access to lawyers, and many have been subject to torture. Bahrain’s vaguely worded counter-terrorism law (58/2006) is being used as a means to dissolve or severely limit the activities of any and all political opposition and human rights organizations. These charges are also used to specifically target individuals that cooperate with UN mechanisms.
Two Human Rights Defenders from Bahrain, Layla Dashty and Nabeel Rajab, were supposed to be here today. One of them, Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been living in eminent threat of imprisonment and torture after being accused of terrorism for his engagement at UN human rights mechanisms including this Council in March of this year. He is unable to sit here today due to eminent threats of further reprisals. Layla Dasthy was also invited by CIHRS to be here, but was prevented from leaving the airport in Bahrain on Saturday. She has still not been given any reasons for the de facto travel ban. This is not the first incident of its kind; two years ago another prominent Bahraini HRD was put on trial two months after he has participated in the UPR of Bahrain.
Whilst Bahrain yesterday withdrew the official charge of “engaging with international mechanisms” against those currently detained, in practice, reprisals continue against all those imprisoned, threatened, or silenced, as a consequence of their engagement with the UN.
The Human Rights Council has a duty to protect human rights, but more importantly in this context, the human rights council has a particular responsibility to protect those that engage with it and with other UN mechanism. CIHRS urges this council, and its member states, to give the issue of reprisals the attention it deserves and to address the escalation of reprisals in Bahrain.
Thank you Mr. President.
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