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University student penalised for distributing pamphlets calling for reform

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned about the deterioration in the status of freedom of expression in Bahrain to include university students as the recent victims of attack on the practitioners of that right.

The administration of the University of Bahrain (UOB) - the only national university - produced a resolution to punish Noor Husain, a business student, by revoking a semester of her academic record in reprisal for "distribution of papers constituting abuse to the university and its administration, as well as inciting and provoking students against the university regulations."

Husain, 22, is the Student Affairs Officer at the Bahrain Youth Society and is active in the UOB. She was involved in the distribution of a statement issued by the Student Unity bloc and circulated among university students on Bahraini Student Day, on 25 February 2009. The statement calls for "setting guiding regulations for private universities under the auspices of the UOB responsible for embracing all Bahrainis, warned of a systematic policy within the University which may force students to abandon it to private universities known for its inferior quality of education". The UOB administration considered the statement to be abusive, tarnishing its reputation and provocative to students against its regulations.

In response, the university formed a committee of five members to investigate into the matter. Husain was interrogated and her case was dealt with as a security matter which threatens the security of the country in terms of the nature of the questions. She was asked for her political affiliation, the political parties which support her and the type of relationships she has with other students. Husain was informed that the UOB regulations prohibit the distribution of this type of publication.

Husain, on the other hand, expressed her commitment to the regulations of the university and her quest to, peacefully and democratically, develop them. She has affirmed her belief in the content of the said statement which calls for introducing reform in the educational system in Bahrain and providing sufficient funds to the budget of the UOB to ensure its development.

The committee's report confirmed the charges against Husain and exhibited sensitivity to the fact that she appeared insistent and "did not show remorse or regret for the content of the statement, rather expressed determination to issue similar statements". Husain refused to sign the minutes of the meeting, which contained many points that were not referred to or discussed, considering its falsification of facts which did not occur.

BCHR believes that punishing Husain for exercising her right to freedom of expression is a blatant breach of Bahrain's international obligations as a member of the Human Rights Council and a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Bahrain in September 2006. In particular, ICCPR Article 19 which refers to "the right to hold opinions without interference, the right to freedom of expression; which includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice".

BCHR calls on the University of Bahrain to immediately revoke the penalty against Husain, or any other penalties related to exercise of her right to freedom of expression or student activities. BCHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to support student activities in various dimensions: political, cultural, social and human rights, instead of looking at it from the security perspective only.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini authorities to:

1 - abolish the penalty imposed on Noor Husain, not to harm her academic record or impose any other sanctions because of her stance.

2 - give more space for freedom of expression in the University of Bahrain and eliminate any form of penalties for its students or employees - administrators or academics - for exercising their natural right to freedom of expression.

3 - amend the laws and regulations of the UOB to conform with the right to freedom of expression as outlined in the international covenants ratified by Bahrain.

4 - encourage all forms of activity among students (political, cultural, social and human rights) and stop the traditional dominance on those activities, as well as treating them as issues of security.


APPEALS TO:

Dr. Majed Ali Al-Nuaimi
Minister of Education and President of Board of Trustees
of the University of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1768 0161, 1768 4493
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Dr. Ebrahim Ahmed Aljanahi
President of University of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1744 9900

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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