Our country stands today in the face of many challenges: security-related, political, social and economic challenges. We are going through a time that demands much greater effort from Bahrain to build bridges between various political parties in order to end the deteriorating political and economic situation, in addition to pulling the rug from under those who wish to inflict harm upon our nation.
As we go through these trying times, the Public Prosecution decided on the 28 July 2015 to renew the detention period of fellow activist Ebrahim Sharif for an additional 15 days after the lapse of the initial 15 day period of his remand in custody which commenced on the 13 July. This decision represents additional escalation from the authorities, which has continued from the very morning of 17 March 2011, when Sharif was first arrested following his political activism during the popular peaceful political movement commencing on 14 February of that same year.
As a political leader in an authorised political organisation working within the framework of political society laws, Ebrahim Sharif has the unequivocal right to fully express his views, including the political statements he made and upon which he was arrested a second time. In the statements that led to his re-arrest, Sharif called for genuine reform and real dialogue as means for ending the political crisis that has been sweeping through the country for the past four and a half years.
Sharif called for the establishment of a civil, democratic state that respects human rights and freedom of opinion and expression; a civil, democratic state that guarantees the type of genuine democracy based on an elected legislative authority with full legislative and supervisory powers, an elected government that is representative of popular will with a just electoral system and fair distribution of electoral districts, where all votes are equal in representation regardless of their origin or geographic location in the country. Sharif called for a civil, democratic state that guarantees the safety of everyone and enhances civil peace and social stability, with an independent and fair judicial system whose personnel are chosen based on the standards followed by other democracies – a judicial system that fights against financial and administrative corruption and prevents all forms of marginalisation, discrimination and exclusion in the country.
These calls made by Sharif are the very same demands and goals of the National Democratic Action Society (Waad) and of all the national democratic powers in the country. They are demands that spring from the National Action Charter, which promised a constitutional democracy resembling the well-established democracies around the world; a democracy that is based on the Bahrain constitutional provision that, “[t]he people are the source of all powers.” These demands coincide with the Crown Prince’s seven-pillared initiative launched on 12 March 2011 to resolve the political and constitutional crisis.
We, along with Sharif, who has always been an advocate of peace and reform, consider peaceful protest and peaceful political movement strategic choices from which we do not depart. We see the steps that have been taken by the Public Prosecution to be inconsistent with the foundations concerning freedom of expression and political opinion upon which a civil and modern state should be built. We see his re-arrest and detention as a violation of the main principles of the Bahraini Constitution and the National Action Charter, and a clear violation of international agreements on human rights, general freedoms and freedoms that are normally guaranteed under the auspices of genuine modern democracies. In addition, his re-arrest and detention is a violation of the freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Cultural and Economic Rights.
Accordingly, The renewal of Sharif’s detention period comes as part and parcel of a general trend towards further restricting the type of political work that has long been public and peaceful in Bahrain. It comes as an attempt to eliminate the national democratic opposition in the country, of which Waad is an integral part of, and a continuation of plunging the country deeper into an era of security measures, a technique that has consistently proven to be futile and incapable of resolving the problems that are facing our nation over the past four and a half years. This political and now economic crisis has accelerated public debt, which the Government now attempts to relieve by withholding basic subsidies. This only means further deterioration of living standards, further aggravation of the housing crisis and the exasperation of unemployment – a phenomenon that began years ago but increased dramatically in the past couple of years - along with continued marginalisation and discrimination policies in academic scholarships.
In order for Bahrain to exit this period of political, economic, social and security crises, there is an immediate requirement to loosen the security grip and to genuinely implement all the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) founded by His Majesty King Hamad following the 2011 crisis. We require the implementation of the recommendations of the International Council for Human Rights and translating the recommendations by releasing all prisoners of opinion and conscience who have been arrested following the political events, including the release of all political leaders and human rights activists imprisoned today. The country needs to begin a serious dialogue that is able to create sustainable solutions to the political crisis in a manner that positively reflects on all components of society. It needs to begin a national reconciliation process. It must enhance national unity, which is the backbone of all societies, in order to achieve the civil peace and social stability that becomes the safety valve for the country in the face of all foreign intrusions and regional chaos.
For Bahrain to overcome this period of crisis, it must restrain hate speech and sectarian provocation and instead, promote tolerance, respect and acceptance amongst all factions, creating a strong platform from which we could launch a sustainable development plan that puts the country on the road towards development and true progress.
In light of all the aforementioned, we demand the immediate release of political activist, Ebrahim Sharif, and the striking-off of all the accusations mobilised against him by the Public Prosecution, as these accusations are inconsistent with the values of freedom of political expression.
The National Democratic Action Society Waad
29 July 2015