Turning citizens into stateless people and banishing them by forcing them to leave the country is a violation of international law.
The Bahraini government expelled four of its citizens whose nationality was revoked in 2012, in yet another display of the kingdom’s steady and sustained disregard of its own citizens and for human rights and international law more broadly, said Amnesty International.
Brothers Ismail and Ibrahim Darwish were expelled to Iraq at 09:00am on 28 January 2018, followed by Adnan Kamal and Habib Darwish on 29 January 2018. Four other people, Mohammed Ali, Abdul Amir, Abdulnabi Almosawi and his wife Maryam Redha, who also had their nationality revoked that same year, were told they would be forcibly deported to Iraq on 1 February 2018.
“The Bahraini government is using revocation of nationality – rendering many of its citizens stateless in the process – and expulsion, as tools to crush all forms of opposition, dissent and activism,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle-East Research Director at Amnesty International.
“It is doing so with little to no pushback from the international community, including key allies such as the United Kingdom that could use their leverage to publicly condemn these actions.”
“Turning citizens into stateless people and banishing them by forcing them to leave the country is a violation of international law. Bahrain’s authorities must immediately halt all planned expulsions and allow those it has already expelled to return to the country and reinstate their nationality.”
The four men who were expelled are part of a group of 31 Bahraini citizens who were stripped of their nationality on 7 November 2012 on grounds that they had caused “damage to state security”. The 31 people, who were never officially notified of this decision and learned about it from the media, include activists who are now in exile, a lawyer, Shi’a clerics, two former members of parliament and other individuals with no political or religious affiliation.
Since 2011, the Bahraini authorities have revoked the nationality of over 550 people, including at least 150 in 2017
Article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments stipulates that nationality can be revoked if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; if a person helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or if a person causes harm to state security.
This paragraph is framed too broadly and does not clearly define what could amount to “harm to state security” – thus enabling the state to crush the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly through revocation of nationality, even when doing so renders people stateless.
On 28 October 2014 a lower court in the capital, Manama, ordered the deportation of 10 out of the 31 people whose Bahraini nationality was arbitrarily revoked on 7 November 2012 and fined them 100 Bahraini Dinars.
On 29 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld the citizenship revocation and the one-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, of Sheikh Isa Qassem, the country’s most prominent Shi’a cleric and spiritual leader of the al-Wefaq opposition party, who is also now at risk of being forcibly expelled.