Pope Francis, Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa stand at Sakhir Palace, south of Manama, Bahrain, November 3, 2022. REUTERS/Hamad l Mohammed
On 3 November, Pope Francis arrived in Bahrain, kicking off his four-day trip. In his first speech, he urged the country’s authorities to respect human rights, end discrimination based on religion or sex, and eliminate the death penalty, in addition to asking for decent working conditions for immigrants, according to EFE.
After his meeting with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Pope Francis recalled that the Constitution of the country establishes that “there must be no discrimination based on sex, origin, language, religion or creed”, and that “freedom of conscience is absolute” and that “the State protects the inviolability of worship.”
During his visit to the country, numerous NGOs, activists, and citizens of the Shiite community asked the Pope to press for tolerance and dialogue in the Arab kingdom, denouncing numerous cases of torture, repression, and imprisonment of opponents for political or religious reasons, according to AP.
In Bahrain, the majority of its approximately 1.4 million inhabitants are Shiites, but its government is led by an absolute Sunni monarchy, close to Saudi Arabia.
In addition, although without citing the death penalty applied in Bahrain, Francis referred to the need “to defend the right to life, in the need to guarantee it always, also in relation to those who are punished, whose existence cannot be eliminated.”
On 21 October, a report that came out entitled “You Can’t Say Bahrain is a Democracy: Bahrain’s Political Isolation Laws” highlights Bahrain’s use of political isolation in 2018, by preventing political opponents and activists from serving on boards of civil institutions and running for parliament seats.
The report sheds light on how the Bahraini government targets marginalized opposition figures in social, political, civic, and economic sectors, most of whom have their civil rights violated, and stresses that Manama should repeal its political isolation laws, ending practices that violate human rights.
These practices include Bahraini courts and authorities denying legal counsel to political opponents that can be convicted without viable evidence or cause, which has resulted in the government neglecting the political and civil rights of Bahraini citizens.