“The teachers played an important role in the 14 February uprising… a role that the authorities did not expect”, said the President of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA).
On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the dissolution of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), 7 April 2011, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the Bahraini authorities to reconsider the dissolution of NGOs after exercising their basic rights of expression and participation in movements. The Bahraini authorities have not only dissolved political societies since 2011 and restricted them, arrested most of their leaders, but also have tended to practice restrictions on civil organizations and prosecute those in charge of them.
The Center considers that the dissolution of BTA is a violation of human rights, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. This violation is endorsed in Bahraini laws, as registered associations are subject to broad prohibitions on their activities and remain subject to government takeover or arbitrary dissolution. For example, article 18 of the Law of Associations says that organizations “may not get involved in politics”. Under Articles 23, 47, and 50, the Ministry of Social Development can permanently dissolve or temporarily close NGOs if they think the NGOs are “unable to achieve the objectives [they were] established for… or if they violate the association law, public order and norms.” This is the law that was used to dissolve BTA.
The Center believes that the violations extended to reach activists in civil organisations and NGOs, and subjected them to prolonged arrests, through a combination of restrictive laws. The authority exercised these violations against the founder of Bahraini Teachers’ Association, Mahdi Abu Deeb, as he was arrested at dawn on 6 April 2011 and sentenced to 10 years in prison – which was reduced to five years after an appeal. As well, the vice-president, Jalila Al Salman, was arrested and tortured and prevented from traveling. The president of BCHR, Nedal Al-Salman, said, “the series of official decisions that allowed the dissolution of many civil organizations, the most important of which was the BTA, led to the accumulation of problems in Bahrain through the policy of silencing the organizations that express their views.”
BCHR expresses its deep concern about the issuance of more circulars that would restrict the work of the remaining associations and NGOs in Bahrain. Thus, the Bahraini authorities will violate more rights related to the freedom of association, and we may be facing more decisions to dissolve some associations. The Center also calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- adhere to their international obligations with regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- lift the overt and implicit restrictions on the activities and work of NGOs;
- end exerting pressure against their leaders and members.