12th Nov, 2013 –

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has recently been awarded the Norwegian RAFTO Foundation’s prestigious award for human rights. Since their establishment in 2002, the BCHR has operated as an apologetic vehicle for militant opposition groups in Bahrain, rather than a genuine human rights organization. This award poses a serious threat to Bahrain’s security and has several implications that may cause potential risks to Bahrain’s stability in the near future.

We will briefly cover some of our main concerns with RAFTO’s decision to grant the BCHR their esteemed human rights award.  

·      In 2006, a research paper published by the European University Institute entitled Avenues of Political Participation in Bahrain describes the BCHR as “the most radical opposition group currently found in Bahrain… this group has chosen to organize as an NGO, although with political goals.”

·      Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, the main founder of the BCHR, founded the organization after receiving amnesty from King Hamad for his involvement in the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (the IFLB was a militant organization primarily responsible for the failed 1981 coup d’état and several other attacks on Bahraini soil).  

·      According to a 2007 statement released by the BCHR, “Mr. Alkhawaja had been a member of the Islamic Front and consequently an active member of the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB).”

·      Being an active member of a known militant organization (that was fairly unheard of outside the GCC) and simultaneously part of a global human rights organization allowed Al Khawaja and his IFLB colleagues to portray themselves as victims to international audiences while actively encouraging militancy to local audiences.    

·      According to the research paper mentioned above, “The BCHR and its allies address two main audiences and hence employ two different rhetoric strategies: Pro-democracy rhetoric is directed mainly to US and UK audiences. The Bahraini audience on the other hand is addressed mainly in sectarian terms.”  

·      Concurrent to establishing the BCHR, Al Khawaja helped establish the Islamic Action Society in 2002, or AMAL Political Party, as a direct successor to the IFLB, whose spiritual leader, Ayatollah Hadi Al Modarassi, openly called for King Hamad’s assassination during the 2011 unrest.

·      This strategy has allowed Al Khawaja and the BCHR to build develop their extensive network of human rights defenders, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Frontline Defenders who have lobbied tirelessly on their behalf and were undoubtedly influential in the RAFTO foundation’s decision to grant the BCHR the prestigious RAFTO award.

We kindly request the RAFTO Foundation to consider these facts in light of their recent decision and to revoke the award from the BCHR if sufficient grounds for a repeal is provided. Granting the BCHR such an award allows them to continue violating Bahraini security laws and putting Bahrain’s stability at risk.

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