Bahrain: Human Rights Council should act to condemn violations and protect defenders


The UN Human Rights Council should adopt a resolution condemning ongoing serious human rights violations in Bahrain and calling on authorities to uphold the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

(Update - 10 June 2014) - A group of 46 States has used the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council to express serious concern about the human rights situation in Bahrain, including in relation to 'the repression of demonstrations' and 'the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists'. 

Responding to civil society calls for the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on Bahrain (see below), the joint statement, which was delivered by Switzerland, 'urges the Government [of Bahrain] to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders', 'to appropriately address reports of ill-treatment and torture of prisoners' and to 'allow the OHCHR to establish a country office with a full mandate'. 

According to ISHR Director Phil Lynch, 'This joint statement is an important acknowledgment of the serious human rights situation in Bahrain and should send a powerful signal to the authorities in that country that the world is watching and impunity will not prevail.'

'This statement will assist to ensure that Bahrain remains on the agenda of the world's peak human rights body and increase pressure on the Government to repeal repressive laws, release human rights defenders, investigate allegations of ill-treatment in detention, and respect the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly,' Mr Lynch said.


(Geneva) - The UN's top human rights body should urgently condemn ongoing serious human rights violations in Bahrain and call on officials to respect and uphold the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, according to an open letter sent to States by a coalition of leading human rights organisations.

In the letter, the NGOs (which include ISHR, Human Rights Watch, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) express 'deep concern at ongoing serious human rights violations in Bahrain.'

The letter says that such violations include 'the politically motivated imprisonment of high-profile opposition activists and human rights defenders after grossly unfair trials, continued reports of torture, excessive use of force, regular denial of freedom of association and assembly, and a persistent failure to hold government actors to account for rights violations.'

In light of these violations, the letter calls on Member States of the UN to support the passage of a resolution on Bahrain at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council.

'The time has come for States that are committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law to hold Bahrain to account for its gross failings on those fronts at the Human Rights Council,' said ISHR Director Phil Lynch.

'ISHR is particularly concerned at the continued harassment and imprisonment of human rights defenders solely for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. We are also concerned at the continued incidence of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders who seek to raise their concerns about Bahrain with the UN,' Mr Lynch said.

'A Human Rights Council resolution would increase international pressure on Bahrain to repeal repressive laws and to investigate and ensure accountability for acts of torture and ill-treatment. It would also show solidarity and support for the many brave human rights defenders and activists in the country whose work is so essential to democratisation and development.'

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, on + 41 76 708 4738 or

Photo: Courtesy of the Middle East Institute


  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • Bahrain