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Bahrain

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The following is a letter calling on the Bahrain Royal Family to release jailed human rights defenders and netizens, including the founder and president of IFEX member Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. The signing organisations further call on the UN Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and all concerned governments to exert their influence on the ruling family to stop violating human rights in Bahrain:

Freedom House opposes the Obama Administration’s decision to resume the sale of arms to government of Bahrain and calls on Congress to withhold approval on the transfer until the Bahraini government ends systematic rights abuses, allows unfettered access to media and international observers, and implements meaningful political reform.

I was supposed to be in Bahrain this past weekend to lead an international freedom of expression mission with representatives of several prominent advocacy groups,  including the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Committee to Protect Journalists, PEN InternationalIndex on Censorship, and Reporters Without Borders. However, after approving our mission in early April, and even offering to arrange meetings with relevant officials, Bahrain’s Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development decided to deny permission for the joint mission just days before we were to depart, meaning our organizations had already incurred travel and other expenses. The letter we received cited “new guidelines” that prohibit more than one organization from visiting at a time, and assured us that this was “merely an organizational matter.” But given that this is the second time this year that Freedom House has been denied entry to Bahrain, the ministry’s explanation seems rather dubious.

Freedom House calls for the release of Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab who was arrested May 5 upon his return to Manama, Bahrain from Beirut, Lebanon. Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was detained on previous charges of ‘inciting illegal rallies and marches online’ using social networking websites and posting ‘defamatory’ depictions of security forces.

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