On November 5, thirty-one Bahrainis were deprived of their citizenship arbitrarily, without notice and without judicial process, contrary to customary international law. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to a nationality and no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. The victims can appeal these decision, but there is no point. The king has absolute power to grant or rescind citizenship, and the courts wouldn’t dream of overturning his decisions.
No wonder that hundreds of Bahrainis demonstrate against the government every day. Even after a total ban on meetings they continue to turn out after Friday prayers. The ruling family’s assault on the rights of the people provokes their hatred, and they are calling for regime change.
The ancestors of the royal family came from Zebara in the 18th century, so the chant on the streets is;
Your visit is finished – go back to Zebara
In Arabic it rhymes:
Intahat Ziyara, Oodoo illa Zebara
The US State Department repeat their call to the government of Bahrain to create a climate that is conducive to reconciliation, to meaningful dialogue, to reform, to bring peaceful change. Britain also calls for peaceful dialogue, but many of the leaders of the opposition are serving life sentences in prison, among them Hassan Mushaima, leader of the Haq movement and Abduljalil al-Singace, the head of its human rights bureau; Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist.
Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is imprisoned for three years for a remark he made on Twitter.
The Bassiouni Commission, which examined hundreds of human rights abuses following the uprising that began in February 2011, recommended that political prisoners should be freed and compensated for the torture they suffered.
Prince Salman, the Crown Prince, gave the Foreign Secretary William Hague a personal commitment to an inclusive political dialogue. This can’t happen while most of opposition are behind bars. Now the provocative and unlawful deprivation of these people’s citizenship, with the threat of more to come, makes it harder than ever to start a dialogue.
Our Government needs to tell the hereditary autocrats of Bahrain that the long-term peace and stability of Bahrain can’t be achieved by killing, torturing and arbitrarily imprisoning human rights and political activists. Bahrain and the other Gulf monarchies need fundamental reforms that transfer power from permanent autocrats to the people, as in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and soon we hope, Syria.
Britain should line itself up with the future, and not with anachronistic family oligarchies.
* Eric Avebury is a Liberal Democrat Peer, and the former Liberal MP for Orpington. He has campaigned on minority rights across the globe over many years.
* Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury, is a working peer, and Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Human Rights Group. He blogs here.