Geneva – The Bahraini authorities' policy of revoking the citizenship of opponents and arbitrarily deporting them has resulted in another dilemma as their children cannot acquire citizenship rights as well, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement.
Most of the children who were born after their fathers were stripped of their nationality have become effectively stateless, given that the Bahraini nationality is transmitted only through the male line.
Denying a child the citizenship of the country to which he/she belongs because the authorities revoked his/her father's nationality for predominantly political motives is unjustified. The Anti-Terrorism Law and its 2014 amendments allow revoking the citizenship of anyone accused of “harming the interests of the Kingdom or acting inconsistently with the duty of loyalty to it,” which none of the children in question did.
The Bahraini authorities revoked the citizenship of about 985 opponents and activists between 2011 and 2019, through judicial rulings and royal and ministerial orders. Although the authorities restored citizenship to 551 of them over various periods, the other 434 remain stateless. Some of these individuals are serving prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment while others were forcibly deported after serving their sentences.
As for their children, they were not granted official documents, including identity cards, except birth certificates. This complicates their access to basic rights such as education, health, and various services.
Mrs. H.B., the mother of Bahraini child A.B., told Euro-Med Monitor, "About a year after my husband's citizenship was revoked, I had a child, but I did not know that the journey of suffering would begin at the time. The authorities refused to grant the child Bahraini citizenship since his father was not Bahraini at the time of my child’s birth. They only gave him a birth certificate."
"Since then, I contacted the General Administration of Passports, which demanded the approval of the Minister of Interior. I addressed the Minister repeatedly, but I did not receive any response. After four years of trying without success, the Ministry informed me that my child does not deserve citizenship because his father does not have citizenship,” she said in her statement, which was confirmed by an official document.
“The General Administration of Passports also disavowed responsibility and said that the decision to grant citizenship rests solely with the King.”
The mother explained the difficulties she faces in obtaining the basic rights of her child, saying: "I face great difficulties in treating him in government hospitals, which require a smart card that my child does not have since he does not have citizenship. I also faced many challenges trying to register him in kindergarten because he does not have an ID card and I do not know whether I will be able to enroll him in school now or not. My child always feels inferior and asks me why he does not have an identity like other children, including his sister who has Bahraini citizenship."
Most of the judicial decisions by which hundreds were stripped of their citizenship did not guarantee their right to legitimate self-defense through appeal procedures. This made them final rulings that can only be remedied by royal orders or by an order of the Minister of Interior.
Bahraini activist, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, told Euro-Med Monitor, "There are children over the age of seven who have not been able to get in school until now because they do not have citizenship."
She said that it gets more complicated when some of those stripped of their nationality get married. These marriages are usually carried out by an unauthorized magistrate because it is not possible to document the marriage contract with the official authorities. This causes other problems after childbirth since the marriage contract is not originally documented.
Few parents succeeded in extracting the right of their children to obtain citizenship despite the existence of provisions to revoke the father's citizenship, but this happened by illegal methods, such as bribery, she said.
In some cases, some children were denied citizenship just because their parents were deported from the country but not stripped of their citizenship. In other cases, the authorities tried to blackmail some deported activists whose children were denied citizenship, so they would return to the kingdom and turn themselves in in exchange for granting their children citizenship.
Legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, Youssef Salem, said, “Depriving children of citizenship despite the absence of a judicial decision or ruling to revoke the citizenship of their parents constitutes an explicit violation of the Bahraini Nationality Law of 1963, which stipulates in Article 4 the conditions for obtaining the Bahraini nationality, which applies to these children.”
“Depriving children of acquiring a nationality because it was stripped from their parents explicitly violates Paragraph b of Article 20 of the Bahraini Constitution, which stipulates that ‘punishment is personal,'” he said.
“The fact that some children obtained Bahraini citizenship - albeit by illegal means - despite the revocation of the father's citizenship, reveals the absence of a sound legal basis for the authorities to deprive them of citizenship,” Salem added.
Bahraini children in question face a different situation than the Bidoon, as they are victims of a legislative gap in the Bahraini Nationality Law of 1963, which allows the Minister of Interior to strip the citizenship of those who enjoy it in vague charges.
Article 24 bis of Decree-Law No. 20 of 2013 amending some provisions of Law No. 58 of 2006 regarding the protection of society from terrorist acts, states that “In addition to the specified penalty, the person who is convicted of the crimes stipulated in articles (5) to (9), (12) and (17) of this law shall be sentenced to citizenship deprivation.” The aforementioned articles include all terrorist acts that may harm Bahrain’s interests in a vaguely worded manner that makes it easy to strip the citizenship of any opponent under made-up charges.
Bahrain's unjustified revocation of citizenship from its citizens constitutes a clear violation of its obligations under international human rights law, especially Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international standards related to the avoidance of statelessness, the prohibition of discrimination, and the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality, among other human rights considerations.
The Bahraini authorities should reconsider their policy of depriving children of those stripped of their nationality from acquiring citizenship and enabling them to obtain citizenship and enjoy their natural rights similar to their Bahraini peers.
The authorities should repeal Article 10 of the Bahraini Nationality Law, which grants the Minister of Interior the right to strip citizens of their citizenship, respect relevant international human rights law standards, and stop deporting opponents and arbitrarily.