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Special security forces prevent people from holding public seminar

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concerns over the deterioration in the level of freedom of expression as exemplified by the deployment by the local Authorities to Special Forces to prevent people and organizers from attending and holding a public seminar on16 May 2009. The seminar was focusing on what is locally dubbed as "political naturalization in Bahrain" referring to granting the Bahraini nationality on a wide scale to achieve a political agenda. The organizers are six political societies, namely the National Democratic Action Society "Waad", Progressive Forum, Al-Wefaq, Amal, National Coalition and Al-Ekhaa. The seminar was supposed to be held in Arad village, in the premises of the "Waad" branch in Muharraq Island.

The Special Forces were present at the seminar venue early in the afternoon, besieging the building where it was to be held at and preventing organizers, participants or any of the audience from entering the building. The exception was for "Waad" members who showed their membership identification. It is worth mentioning that this is the second public seminar prevented by the use of force on the grounds that "no permission was granted to the organizers" to hold it. The last banned seminar was on 22 April in "Waad" headquarters, on the theme of "National Dialogue".

In a press communiqué signed by the six societies and released late on the evening of the ban, they stated that: "Based on the decision to ban the seminar on 'Combating Political Naturalization' and the threat of use of force to prevent the occurrence of the event, the six political organizing societies studied the implications of the decision which is considered part of infringement procedures on freedom of opinion and expression in the time of reform."

The president of BCHR, Mr Nabeel Rajab, commented on this episode that: "We are really surprised of this act by the Authorities which coincided with the arrival of the UN Secretary General - Ban Ki-moon - to Bahrain to participate in a world event on Disaster Risk Reduction. " He added: "Over 300 representatives of the international community who include the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Programme Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, GCC secretary-general Abdurrahman Al Attiyah and other senior officials and foreign delegates, were present in Bahrain to attend the launch of UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. This high profile public activity did not deter the Authorities from using Special Forces to ban people from peacefully organizing and participating in a seminar about public issue, like the political naturalization".

The Bahraini Authorities are not only using laws, like the Gathering Code, a locally as well as internationally condemned law, to suppress all forms of assembly and freedom of expression, but also blatantly breaching the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain signed in September 2006. "This is too disappointing," Mr Rajab concluded.

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