Geneva – In a new statement released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor condemned a series of political arrests in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia intended to stifle freedom of expression.

Euro-Med Monitor has documented several arrests and summonses carried out by the Bahraini, Emirati, and Saudi authorities that are apparently linked to individuals expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in light of the ongoing Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

In Bahrain, repressive measures have been taken against pro-Gaza protesters and attendees of popular gatherings that took place in various areas of the country in solidarity with the Palestinian people and demanding an end to the Manama-Tel Aviv normalisation deal.

The Geneva-based organisation has received testimonies documenting the arrest of at least 35 Bahraini citizens since 15 October. Some of them have since been released, while others have had their detentions extended. Euro-Med Monitor reviewed a decision issued by the Bahraini Public Prosecution on Monday 20 November 20 to detain six detainees for 15 days, pending investigation.

The decision by the Bahraini Public Prosecution was issued against Hussein Rabie, Abbas Aqeel Hani, Muhammad Hussein Ahmed, Al-Sayyid Hussein Abbas Al-Alawi, Ali Hassan Al-Ekri, and Abdul Rahman Al-Husseini. These individuals were arrested on 26 October after security personnel suppressed a demonstration that took place on Sitra Island in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Euro-Med Monitor also viewed testimonies and video clips documenting the Bahraini riot and security forces’ use of force against peaceful protesters on several occasions during multiple protests against Israel’s war on Gaza. Pro-Gaza rallies on 2 November were violently suppressed in the Sanabis and Karbabad areas, followed by an arrest and summons campaign resulting in 14 people being detained, while 20 others were summoned for investigation.

In the UAE, the security authorities arrested activist Mansour Al-Ahmadi. Al-Ahmadi, who heads the Al-Quds Youth Committee in the country, was arrested after being summoned by the State Security Service on 19 November. UAE security authorities did not comment on his arrest, detention condition, or charges. However, reports confirm that he was denied legal representation.

Euro-Med Monitor noted that Al-Ahmadi had previously been arrested in October 2012 and sentenced to seven years in prison—yet he remained in jail until April 2021.

The human rights group received additional reports that UAE authorities summoned several academics and social media activists to the headquarters of the State Security Service, warning them against organising any solidarity events with the Gaza Strip or publicly expressing their opinions on the issue.

Euro-Med said that the UAE authorities—especially the State Security Service—are committing serious human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearance, restricting freedom of expression, and detaining government critics in inhumane conditions.

Along the same line, the Euro-Med Monitor has documented the arrest of a number of visitors to the holy places in Mecca and Medina for showing solidarity with the Gaza Strip, including wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh. Saudi authorities detained the British Muslim actor and director Islah Abdul Rahman in Mecca for wearing the keffiyeh and interrogated him without legal basis, the rights group learned.

Agence France-Presse correspondents confirmed on 13 October that they witnessed Saudi police tying up a worshiper who had chanted, “Speak about Palestine; Gaza is under attack,” to the imam during Friday prayers. Police vehicles were positioned in front of other mosques throughout the city, according to the news agency.

The Saudi authorities’ denial of citizens’ freedoms to peaceful assembly and demonstration is notable when it comes to Palestinians and Palestinian solidarity efforts in the country, said Euro-Med Monitor. Saudi authorities have launched campaigns of arbitrary arrests against Palestinians in recent years, and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has confirmed that depriving these people of their freedom is discriminatory as it is based on their Palestinian national origin.

Euro-Med Monitor stated that detaining people on the grounds of freedom of expression violates international agreements and charters and constitutes a clear violation of human rights. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.”

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor called on the Bahraini, Emirati, and Saudi authorities to stop extrajudicial arrest and summons campaigns, release all those detained on freedom of expression charges, stop prosecuting and criminalising peaceful activity, and put an end to any actions that undermine the right of individuals to exercise their legitimate rights.