The UN has censured Bahrain’s crackdown on demonstrators, warning â€œserious consequencesâ€ in anticipation of a protest planned for August 14, a statement reads.
â€œThey also provide for banning sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama,â€ spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, CÃ©cile Pouilly, said in a statement.
The stricter penalties for protests, which were enacted on July 31, are amendments to the 2006 Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism. The revisions also include increasing the detention period for committing or inciting an act of terrorism.
But critics believe the toughened laws will be used against peaceful protesters â€“ not just those committing â€œterroristâ€ activities.
The UN expressed concern that the amendments â€“ which are supposedly intended to protect the population from terrorism – may negatively impact human rights.
â€œWe reiterate that the right to nationality is a fundamental right protected by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality,â€ said Pouilly.
â€œArbitrary deprivation of nationality may also lead to statelessness with serious consequences.â€
A joint open letter signed in anticipation of next Wednesdayâ€™s protests was co-signed by international NGOs and five Bahrain-based human rights groups. It described the human rights situation in the country as having â€œrapidly deterioratedâ€ ahead of the demonstrations.
â€œWe urge international human rights organizations to attempt to visit Bahrain over the coming week, in order to document and monitor ongoing protests, especially on August 14 when Bahrain is expected to come under lockdown,â€ the letter stated, calling for authorities to hold back from forceful restraint or the use of birdshot and tear gas.
Pouilly also urged â€œrespect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.â€
The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive anti-government demonstrations.