We, the undersigned civil society groups working to promote and defend freedom of expression worldwide, write to you to condemn the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain and call on you to drop all charges pending against Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman. 

Sheikh Maytham is an internationally respected interfaith leader and human rights advocate. His work focuses on defending religious freedom and countering violent extremism while supporting the right to freedom of expression in accordance with international human rights standards. In October of 2015, Sheikh Maytham was honoured for his work with the Interfaith Communities for Justice and Peace “Advocate for Peace” award. 

Bahraini authorities have harassed Sheikh Maytham on numerous occasions, including two separate incidents in 2015 when he was detained for his human rights activities. He was most recently summoned in connection to the content of a speech he gave on 27 December, the anniversary of the arrest of prisoner of conscience Sheikh Ali Salman, in which he drew attention to the violations of international fair trial standards that took place. 

After being interrogated at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) Sheikh Maytham was accused of “expressing views regarding a case still in court” and “inciting hatred against the regime”. The levelling of such accusations is part of an ongoing effort to silence human rights defenders through restrictive measures aimed at punishing those who speak out on political or social issues. 

These measures are in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain has been a signatory to since 2006. It also contradicts the obligations of the state to protect human rights defenders, as derived from their obligation to protect all human rights under Article 2 of the ICCPR. 

Rather than ensure their protection, Bahrain has made a habit out of persecuting dissidents and activists. Sheikh Maytham joins other high-profile individuals like BCHR President Nabeel Rajab, activist Zainab al-Khawaja and human rights defender Naji Fateel that have been targeted for their work and denied their right to freedom of opinion and expression. 

The undersigned call on the Government of Bahrain to allow the important work of Sheikh Maytham and others who bring human rights violations to light to be conducted unimpeded, as provided for under the ICCPR and other relevant international human rights standards by taking the following steps:

  • Drop all pending charges against Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman for exercising his right to freedom of speech;
  • Release all prisoners who have been convicted for their political opinions; and
  • Fully comply with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI); particularly those that ensure the right to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly are respected.


Bahrain Center for Human Rights 

ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency 

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain 


Association of Caribbean Media Workers 

Bytes for All 

Cambodian Centre for Independent Media 

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression 

Cartoonists Rights Network International 

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility 

Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia 

Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP 

Freedom Forum 

Gulf Centre for Human Rights 

Independent Journalism Center – Moldova 

Index on Censorship 

Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey 

Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information 

Journaliste en danger 

Maharat Foundation 


Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance 

Media Foundation for West Africa 

National Union of Somali Journalists 

Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA 

Pacific Islands News Association 

Pakistan Press Foundation 

PEN American Center 

PEN Canada 

Social Media Exchange – SMEX 

Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique 

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC 

Aman Network for Rehabilitation and Defending Human Rights 

Amman Center for Human Rights Studies 

Bahrain Forum for Human Rights 

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy 


Columbia Global Freedom of Expression 

European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights 

European Centre for Rights and Democracy 

Global Human Rights Group 

International Centre for Supporting Rights and Freedoms 

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) 

International Service for Human Rights 

Justice Human Right Organisation 

Khiam Rehabilitation 

Ligue Algerienne Pour La Defense Des Droits De L’homme 

Media Monitoring Group (Tunis) 

Nidal Tagheer Organization for Defending Rights, Yemen 

No Peace Without Justice 

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights 

Sentinel Human Rights Defenders 

Tunisian League for Human Rights 

World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) 

Yemen Organization for Defending Rights & Democratic Freedoms
Source: ifex