End The Death Penalty Press release

Bahrain Darts Masters: Reprieve, BIRD call on British champions to speak out in support of human rights

As British darts players Luke Littler, Luke Humphries and others compete in Manama for the Bahrain Darts Masters, Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy call on the players, in the open letter below, to use their platform and influence to publicly speak out in support of prisoners of conscience. It also urges the Professional Darts Corporation to ensure they are not part of sportswashing human rights abuses in a country that has an abysmal record of arresting pro-democracy protesters and torturing death row inmates into confessing.

To:  Luke Humphries (England), Michael van Gerwen (Netherlands), Michael Smith (England), Nathan Aspinall (England), Gerwyn Price (Wales), Rob Cross (England), Peter Wright (Scotland), Luke Littler (England)

17 January 2024

Speak out in support of human rights in Bahrain                            

Dear Player,

We are writing to you ahead of the Bahrain Darts Masters (18-19 January 2024) to raise our serious concerns regarding the use of international sporting events by repressive states to sportswash their abysmal human rights records. ‘Sportswashing’ is now an internationally recognised method by which authoritarian governments seek to utilise sports such as darts to launder their reputation. As professional players with large international audiences, you can use your platform to speak out in support of human rights and positively impact the lives of those suffering injustices at the hands of the Bahraini regime.

Human rights context in Bahrain

Bahrain has an appalling human rights record. It has one of the most repressed civil societies in the world, scoring only 2/40 on Freedom House’s 2023 “Freedom in the World Report” for political rights, 171/180 on Reporters Sans Frontières’ 2023 “World Press Freedom Index,” and 142/167 on the Economist’s 2022 Democracy Index.

After Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement was crushed in 2011, the country’s limited democracy was abandoned, and severe restrictions were imposed on civil society through repressive legislation, a crackdown on the free press, imprisonment of political opposition and reprisals against their families.

The country continues to use thedeath penalty. A report from Human Rights Watch and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) published in October 2022 revealed that Bahraini courts have convicted and sentenced defendants to death following manifestly unfair trials based solely or primarily on confessions allegedly coerced through torture and ill-treatment.There are currently 26 individuals on death row, all at risk of imminent execution. 

Many of those human rights and opposition activists arrested in Bahrain during the pro-democracy uprising in 2011 remain behind bars and have been subject to further human rights violations whilst imprisoned. Last August, hundreds of political prisoners launched the largest hunger strike in Bahrain’s history to demand an end to degrading treatment and better prison conditions.

Cases of concern

Hassan Mushaima is Bahrain’s oldest political prisoner who is serving a life sentence in Bahrain solely for exercising his right to freedom of association and expression. On 11 December 2023, 16 rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, wrote to Bahrain’s King and Crown Prince, raising urgent concerns about his health and the systematic medical negligence he has been subjected to.

Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace is an award-winning human rights defender who has been on a solid food hunger strike to protest the confiscation of his research since 8 July 2021. To mark the second anniversary of his strike, 19 leading rights groups, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, sent a joint letter to the King and Crown Prince of Bahrain. Despite numerous requests, authorities have failed to return Dr Al-Singace’s research to his family.

Since their arrest in 2011, Bahraini authorities have subjected Mr Mushaima and Dr Al-Singace to physical and psychological torture. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment in an unfair trial that has been condemned by international organisations such as Human Rights Watch. Despite being held in a medical facility since July 2021, they have both been subjected to medical negligence and held in prolonged solitary confinement as well as denied access to sunlight.

Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa are now approaching a decade of unlawful imprisonment and have exhausted all rights to appeal their sentence. They were sentenced to death in an unfair trial marred by allegations of torture used to extract forced confessions. Their detention was deemed arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who called for their immediate release, and has been condemned by rights groups, including Amnesty International, 

Our request

Bahrain will seek to use the Bahrain Darts Masters as an opportunity to present itself as an open and tolerant society despite continuing to imprison human rights defenders and opposition activists, sentencing men to death in unfair trials, and cracking down on all dissent.

We have seen the power of professional athletes using their platform to speak up for human rights. In particular, seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has taken the time to understand and speak out against human rights violations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and  in doing so, has made it more difficult for governments to exploit the F1 Grand Prix to distract from their human rights violations and bolster their image on the world stage.

We urge you as professional sports players to stand up for human rights in Bahrain by:

  • Using your platform and influence to publicly speak in support of Hassan Mushaima, Dr Al-Singace, Mohammed Ramadhan and Hassan Moosa and/or directly with the Bahraini authorities in order to secure their immediate release and redress as called for by the international human rights community; and
  • Urge the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) to conduct human rights due diligence and evaluate the risks of host states to ensure that your participation does not contribute to sportswashing of human rights abuses.

Your stance on this will undoubtedly provide hope to those who are facing the most severe violations of human rights, including the right to life.

Yours sincerely,

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)