Move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim comes less than a week after a court ordered Bahrain's main opposition al-Wefaq group closed
Bahrain's decision to revoke the citizenship of the spiritual leader of the kingdom's Shi'ite Muslim majority is "clearly unjustified" under international law, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office said on Tuesday.
"Given that due process was not followed, it cannot be justified," Ravina Shamdasani told a UN briefing in Geneva.
The move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim was the latest taken by Bahrain - where a Shi'ite majority is ruled by a Sunni monarchy - against Shi'ite 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."