Bahrain’s move against Shiite leader unjustified: UN

Anti-government protesters hold posters of Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim during an anti-government protest organised by Bahrain's main opposition group Al Wefaq, in Budaiya, west of Manama, Bahrain May 17, 2013. Bahrain has stripped the spiritual leader of the kingdom's Shiite Muslim majority of his citizenship, state news agency BNA reported on June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

GENEVA, June 21 – Bahrain’s decision to revoke the citizenship of the spiritual leader of the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim majority is “clearly unjustified” under international law, a spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office said on Tuesday.

“Given that due process was not followed, it cannot be justified,” Ravina Shamdasani told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

The move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim was the latest taken by Bahrain – where a Shiite majority is ruled by a Sunni monarchy – against Shiite figures, in what appears to be an escalating campaign against dissent in the Western-allied Gulf kingdom.

Shamdasani said deprivation of nationality was permitted under certain conditions but it had to serve a legitimate purpose, be proportionate to the interests protected and there had to be some recourse to appeal.

“Given the numbers that we’re talking about in Bahrain, we’re talking a minimum of 250 people who have been deprived of their nationality, but there are some estimates that go much higher than that, given that, it is clearly unjustified,” she said.

“We are very concerned at this intensified crackdown on the freedoms of expression and association and the right to a nationality.”

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