BAHRAIN: BHRC raises concerns of judicial harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders in letter to King

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) has raised concerns regarding the prosecution and judicial harassment of a number of lawyers and human rights defenders in Bahrain in a letter to the King sent today.

The letter follows the recent conviction and sentencing of human rights lawyer Abdullah Al-Shamlawi on 30 June 2020 with regards to comments made on Twitter. An appeal is currently scheduled for 25 August 2020.

The letter also raises concerns regarding the ongoing prosecution of lawyer Abdulla Hashem.

The prosecutions and disciplinary measures taken against Mr Al Shamlawi and others amount to unwarranted restrictions on freedom of expression for members of one section of the community, and those perceived to be critical of the government, in contravention of both the Bahrain Constitution and international conventions and instruments to which Bahrain is a signatory.

BHRC has previously drawn attention to and expressed its concern with regard to persistent and substantial curbs on freedom of expression of lawyers and human rights defenders in Bahrain, including the case of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

“All lawyers performing professional duties according to the law should be free from fear of retribution or reprisals by the State. A State which subscribes to the rule of law must protect lawyers and ensure that they are not subject to arbitrary or improper prosecution or other harassment. BHRC is concerned that the continued persecution of lawyers, including through criminal prosecution, represents a threat to the rule of law in Bahrain and places Bahrain in breach of its international legal obligations.”

BHRC Letter to the King, 19 August 2020.

The letter calls on the relevant authorities in Bahrain to:

  • Review the case of Mr Al-Shamlawi and not to oppose the forthcoming appeal.
  • Discontinue disciplinary proceedings against Mr Al-Shamlawi.
  • Review the prosecution of Mr Hashim.

In the absence of such reviews, BHRC urges the King of Bahrain to pardon Mr Al-Shamlawi and to ensure that constitutional rights are upheld and Bahrain respects its international obligations.

The letter was sent by Stephen Cragg QC, Vice-Chair, Pete Weatherby QC, Executive Committee Member, and Zimran Samuel, Executive Committee member.