Seventy-three years ago today, the world’s nations came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proclaiming the fundamental human rights of every person—regardless of race, religion, sex, political affiliation, or other status. We celebrate this milestone occasion to remember and reaffirm the importance of protecting human rights around the world. Today, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) celebrates Human Rights Day with the brave Bahraini activists who, often at great personal risk, fight to uphold the values of justice, human dignity, and our fundamental freedoms.
In commemorating this year’s theme of “Equality,” it is necessary to reassess the situation in Bahrain. It is widely understood that a government’s moral authority is derived largely by its willingness to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens, such as those enumerated in the UDHR. Unfortunately, Bahrain has not fully demonstrated this willingness.
This year in particular, the expansion of digital technology into all areas of our lives have created new threats to human rights everywhere. In August, an investigation by Citizen Lab and Amnesty International’s Security Lab revealed that the phones of several Bahraini activists, including five members of the BCHR team, have been hacked by the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. Pegasus, which surreptitiously infects digital devices, gives the spyware operators full access to the contents of one’s mobile phones.
The use of Pegasus by the Bahraini government is only the latest scandal in its ongoing campaign to silence dissidents and close space around civil society. More than a decade after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded its investigation, the Bahraini government has yet to meaningfully enact its recommendations and address these human rights concerns as shown in our latest report. As a result of the Bahraini authorities’ use of torture, spyware, and other forms of human rights violations to silence dissidents, hundreds of human rights defenders remain arbitrarily detained. This includes human rights advocate and member of the “Bahrain 13” Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, who is on his fifth consecutive month of his hunger strike since 8 July 2021 to protest against the ill-treatment and harassment of detainees in Jau Prison.
Today, we at BCHR recommit ourselves to protecting and supporting the fundamental and essential freedoms enumerated in the UDHR and, in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, we call once again for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Bahrain.