Human Rights First: Bahrain Should Release Dissidents Jailed for Free Expression Immediately

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Last week the State Department released its long overdue assessment of Bahrain’s implementation of the recommendations laid out in the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. The BICI report was the product of an investigation into the regime’s crackdown on the 2011 democratic uprising. The Bahrain government had committed to following the report’s recommendations, but sadly, that progress has yet to be seen.

Recommendation 1722h requires the government to free those imprisoned on charges that violate their freedom of expression. Cherif Bassiouni, the commissioner of the BICI report, cited this as one of Bahrain’s “top priorities.” While Bahrain has no shortage of problems to address, Bassiouni is right to call out this issue. Bassiouni cites “16 high-level persons” convicted on the basis of “their political beliefs and actions, based on freedom of opinion and expression.”

While he does not explicitly name the 16 high-level persons, they are thought to include the political opposition and civil society leaders jailed in 2011. And over the last year, Bahrain has continued to convict and sentence people for peacefully expressing their views, often falsely accusing them of inciting violence.

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