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- 02/10/14--05:04: _Bahrain: Continued ...
- 02/10/14--23:00: _Bahrain: Dissolving...
- 02/14/14--00:10: _Fidh: Failed Promis...
- 02/14/14--03:46: _Reporters Without B...
- 02/14/14--07:08: _Amnesty Int'l: Bahr...
- 02/14/14--07:53: _DW: Bahrain's PR sh...
- 02/14/14--09:01: _CPJ: Attacks on the...
- 02/15/14--02:00: _Bahrain: Continued ...
- 02/16/14--11:33: _Bahrain: A Poet And...
- 02/17/14--00:51: _On Anniversary of U...
- 02/20/14--17:39: _ AMNESTY INTERNATIO...
- 02/22/14--08:22: _Bahrain: Ahmed AlAr...
- 02/23/14--10:27: _Bahrain: The Author...
- 02/24/14--09:09: _Democracy Now: Bahr...
- 02/28/14--01:12: _Bahrain: The Author...
- 02/28/14--07:55: _Bahrain: More State...
- 03/01/14--03:59: _Bahrain: Death of D...
- 03/01/14--04:47: _CEDAW: Concluding o...
- 03/02/14--05:08: _U.S. Department of ...
- 03/02/14--10:15: _Press Release: Join...
- Release all political prisoners, especially those who should be taking part in any dialogue.
- Immediately stop the indiscriminate excessive use of force, and allow people the right to practice their right to free expression and assembly.
- Drop all politically motivated charges against civilians targeted for participating in the pro-democracy protests.
- The immediate withdrawal of all remaining Saudi and UAE forces deployed in Bahrain.
- Initiate a process of accountability for those involved in serious human rights violations against civilians in Bahrain, especially those with administrative responsibility. This would include but not limited to accountability for:
- Extrajudicial killings
- Systematic torture
- Enforced disappearances
- Systematic indiscriminate excessive use of force against protesters
- Unfair trials and use of confessions extracted under torture
- Put pressure on the Authority in Bahrain to take into account and maintain human rights especially those related to freedom of religion and practicing rituals.
- Trialing Bahrain internationally for the continuous and repetitive violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which it had endorsed and its violations of what it had pledged.
- Stop targeting religious freedoms;
- Respect the right to establish societies and stop assaulting and battling non-government institutes;
- Put an end to the policy of sectarian discrimination.
- 02/14/14--00:10: Fidh: Failed Promises in Bahrain: Human Rights Violations Linger On
- 02/14/14--07:53: DW: Bahrain's PR sheen can't hide abuse allegations
- 02/14/14--09:01: CPJ: Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the Front Lines in 2013
- Immediately and unconditionally release Zainab Al-Khawaja and all the other detained human rights defenders and the prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
- Put an end to all sorts of harassments including the politicized trials against human rights defenders in Bahrain;
- Put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
- Drop the charges against the poet Ayat Al-Qurmuzi and the journalist Abbas Al-Murshid and stop prosecuting them for expressing their opinion, and release all the prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
- put an end to all forms of harassments and restrictions that threaten freedom of expressing opinion;
- guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental liberties in all circumstances according to the international standards of human rights and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
- Immediately and unconditionally release Ahmed AlArab, along with all other detainees held on politically motivated charges due to the ongoing popular movement for freedom and democracy.
- Urgently provide Ahmed AlArab with medical treatment for the injuries sustained due to reported torture.
- Immediately end the use of torture as a method to obtain confessions, and provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees.
- Hold all those who have been implicated in torture accountable, especially those in high positions who have ordered or overseen the use of torture;
- Immediately release all prisoners in cases where the only evidence presented against them in court were confessions obtained under torture;
- In criminal cases, allow independent and neutral observers to be involved in the proceedings to guarantee due process and to confirm that the crime took place.
- Put pressure on the authority in Bahrain to take into consideration and maintain human rights, especially freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly;
- trial Bahrain internationally for its continuous and frequent violations of international treaties and conventions which it had already endorsed, specifically in regards to freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly;
- stop fighting freedom of opinion and expression;
- allow citizens to exercise human rights and political work without any restriction or pressure;
- hold accountable and question all those implicated in the violations whether through supervision and / or order, specifically the ones with higher ranking posts.
- Put pressure on the authority in Bahrain to take into consideration and maintain human rights, specifically those related to freedom of press and dissemination of information;
- Trial Bahrain internationally for its continuous and frequent violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which it had endorsed, and specifically Article 19 concerned with freedom of expression.
- Immediately release Ahmed Al-Mousawi and all the detained photographers and allow them to practice their right without any restrictions or harassments;
- Stop the policy of systematically targeting photographers, journalists and bloggers;
- hold accountable and question all those implicated in the violations and torture whether through supervision and / or order, and especially the ones in high ranks;
- Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in the ongoing trials.
- Immediately and unconditionally release Mohammed Al-Sheikh and Mohammed Al-Oraibi and all the other detainees who have been arrested for politically motivated charges due to the current public movement for freedom and democracy;
- Provide medical treatment for Mohammed Al-Sheikh and Mohammed Al-Oraibi for the injuries they suffered as a result of the torture inflicted upon them;
- Put an immediate constrain to practicing torture as a means to extract confessions, and to provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees;
- Question and hold accountable all those implicated in torture, specifically the higher ranking ones who ordered or supervised the practice of torture.
- Immediately initiate and impartial and independent investigation into the death of Jaffar AlDurazi, as well as others who have died in custody.
- Schedule a visit for the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to Bahrain as soon as possible.
- Immediately halt the use of systematic torture as a methodology to extract confessions, and to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of those in custody.
- Hold to account all those implicated in torture, including those who hold administrative responsibility.
- To sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture opcat (OPCAT), which states that there should be a committee which supervises prison conditions and allows for surprise visits.
- Immediately allow access to adequate medical treatment for all prisoners as stated in Article (22) of the “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: “Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.”
- Improve the daily living conditions as stated in Article (60) of the “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners:: “ (1) The regime of the institution should seek to minimize any differences between prison life and life at liberty which tend to lessen the responsibility of the prisoners or the respect due to their dignity as human beings.” And article (10): “All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.”
Humanrights violations must end in order to create a platform for a dialogue.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern about the ongoing violations despite the announcement of a new dialogue led by Crown Prince Salman Alkhalifa. Salman Alkhalifa met with AlWefaq opposition society on the 14th of January 2014 to discuss the possibility of initiating a new National Dialogue between the government and representatives of the opposition.
The BCHR reiterates that in order for any dialogue to be successful, the Government of Bahrain must end the ongoing human rights violations to create the platform for the dialogue, and for the dialogue to have any chance at succeeding. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
Since the 14th of January 2014, and until today, the BCHR has documented 117 arrests. Of those arrests, 46 of them were during house raids carried out by masked security forces in civilian clothing. Amongst those arrested, at least 5 were children and 3 were women.
Furthermore, since the 14th of January 2014, dozens of civilians were sentenced to more than 350 years imprisonment in cases that were politically motivated, were not in line with international standards to fair and independent trials, and lacked due process.
In regards to torture complaints, since the 14th of January 2014, the BCHR received tens of complaints from families about their loved ones being subjected to torture in order to extract confessions. The BCHR also received more than 6 complaints about civilians subjected to enforced disappearance, which is when it is most likely for torture to occur. One example of this is Ahmed AlArab, a 22 year old nursing student who was arrested on 9 January 2014 and was subjected to enforced disappearance for 21 days. He was then moved to Jaw prison despite not being convicted in any cases. AlArab’s family told the BCHR that he was subjected to various types of torture during his enforced disappearance, including hanging for long periods and deprivation of sleep for at least five days.
It is important to note here that the majority of the torture complaints received by the BCHR reportedly took place at the Central Investigation Directorate, an official office belonging to the Public Prosecution. This creates a conflict of interest since the ombudsman who is meant to investigate torture complaints and mistreatment is also under the Public Prosecution.
Since the 14th of January 2014, at least 4 defendants were kicked out of the courtroom during their own hearing after reporting to the judge that the public prosecutor present in the courtroom took part in their torture to extract confessions. One example of this is the case of Sajjad AlAlawi who was kicked out of the courtroom on 28 January 2014 then charged with contempt for reporting that the public prosecutor had taken part in forcing him to confess to false charges.
Fadhel Abbas Muslim, 19 years old, and two of his friends were subjected to violent arrest. They were reportedly chased by security forces who opened fire on them, injuring two including Muslim. No information pertaining the whereabouts and wellbeing of Muslim was provided to his family for more than two weeks. On 26 January, the Ministry of Interior announced him dead. The injuries the deceased suffered from clearly indicate that he was shot from behind, which does not corroborate the claim of self-defense made by the Ministry.
In addition to the abovementioned violations, the BCHR documented dozens of injuries; at least 3 of them were serious. Security forces continue to use indiscriminate excessive force against protesters, in one case injuring a 12 year old boy in the face with pellets while he was looking out from his home window.
The BCHR also published a report on the continuation of abductions and severe beatings as a tool to create fear and prevent protests, especially in the villages. The report documented 3 sample cases of abductions since the 14th of January.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, stated in May 2011:
"The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis."
Those mentioned in Obama’s speech continue to be imprisoned, along with thousands of other political prisoners. If the government of Bahrain is to be taken seriously about initiating a political dialogue, they must:
It is important to note that the BCHR included Crown Prince Salman Alkhalifa as an individual who is “Wanted for Justice” due to allegations made against him for having administrative responsibility for certain human rights violations that have occurred over the past three years. The BCHR has called for anneutral and independent investigation into these allegations, and a fair and independent trial according to international standards for Salman Alkhalifa.
Based on all of the above, the BCHR concludes that the Government in Bahrain has not displayed any intention of creating an environment which can allow a dialogue to succeed. As long as widespread, grave human rights violations continue to occur on an almost daily basis, this will create more distrust between the public and the government, thus condemning any dialogue to imminent failure.
The BCHR also reiterates that basic civil and human rights are NOT to be used as a bargaining chip between the government representatives and the opposition. These are rights guaranteed to every citizen and resident of Bahrain, and cannot be negotiated.
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” – Article (22) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the persistence of the Authority in Bahrain in taking measures that will restrict religious liberties and the right to establish societies, and its persistence in provoking a sect of the society by closing down and liquidating the highest religious institute for the Shiite community in Bahrain. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled in a court hearing on Wednesday 29 January 2014 to dissolve the Islamic Olamaa Council and liquidating its funds, following a lawsuit from the Minister of Justice that the Council “practices political institutional activities that are immune from any legal control and which deviated in practicing this activity to the extent of incitement of violence”. The Court based its ruling on some of the Council’s statements in which it expressed its support for political and religious bodies or support for the popular revolution for freedom and democracy.[i] This ruling came at a time when the tension between the security authorities and the religious body increased on the subject of the demolished mosques after the Authority had announced that it will change the location of some of these mosques or turning them into other facilities and prevented people from performing prayers in these locations and arrested some of them[ii]. The Authority had demolished more than 30 mosques in 2011 out of revenge for the public revolution.[iii]
Worth mentioning that the Islamic Olamaa Council is a religious body that is not registered among the Law of Associations as required by the Bahraini Law to publicize and give a work permit to the social and political institutes. However, the Court’s ruling was based on the provisions of Law No. 26 of 2005 regarding establishing political societies which allows the Minister of Justice to demand dissolving the political societies and liquidating its funds whenever it commits a grave violation of the provisions of the Constitution and law.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that this ruling is a part of a continuous campaign to restrict and break up non-government organizations and societies since 2011, the most recent was dissolving the Islamic Action Society[iv] in July 2012 and it is a political society that is registered under the political societies’ law. Prior to that was cancelling the elections of the Bahrain Lawyers’ Society and replacing its elected board of administration in December 2011, and dissolving the Teacher’s Association and suspending the board of directors of Bahrain Medical Society in April 2011.[v]
It also dissolved the highest religious body that represents the Shiite sect in the country in the scope of the policy of systematic discrimination against the sect. It also constitutes a blatant violation of Article (18) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. The Strategic Affairs Advisor at the Cabinet “Salah Al-Bandar” revealed in a confidential report published in 2006 and known as “Al Bandar Report”the mechanisms of eliminating the Shiite sect such as distribution of power and wealth and the religious and cultural condition in the country.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the US, UK, UN and all the regime’s close allies and relevant international institutes to:
It also calls on the Authority in Bahrain to:
The regime forces alongside the Peninsula Shield Forces carried out a campaign to demolish the mosques of the Shiite sect in 2011 after suppressing the massive protest in the Pearl Roundabout and declaring a state of emergency which established a new era of suppression and abuse against the Bahraini people. That period beheld demolishing approximately 35 Shiite mosques[vi], and among them were historical mosques that were more than 400 years old in defiance and provocation of the feelings of a sect of a society. The report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)[vii]– Bassioni’s Committee that was appointed by Bahrain’s ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa - indicated that demolishing mosques is considered a collective punishment that targets a particular sect:
“…the fact that these were primarily Shia religious structures, the demolitions would be perceived as a collective punishment and would therefore inflame the tension between the GoB and the Shia population”.[viii]
Every now and then Bahrain is witnessing clear incitements of the history of the original people and its sect, where several mosques were subjected to deliberate shots and vandalism[ix], and some of them were targeted with teargas merely out of revenge and vengeance. The Authority in Bahrain promotes sectarian incitement by fabricating cases that aim at making the components of the society clash among each other as had happened in the case of the alleged bombing in Riffa[x] mosque. This had happened in several occasions in religious processions, the last of these was obstructing a mourning (Azza) procession on 20 December 2013 when the people holding the procession were commemorating a Shiite occasion[xi].
[viii] BICI report, clause 1334
On the occasion of the third anniversary of the popular uprising that started on February 14, 2011, FIDH urges the Bahraini authorities to take immediate measures to restore the rule of law, to put an end to ongoing human rights violations and to comply with their reiterated pledges before the population of Bahrain and the international community.
“Three years have passed since the protests started and yet the Bahraini authorities continue to fail in their promises of implementing the BICI recommendations, including the release all prisoners of conscience, ending torture and arbitrary detention, and bringing officials responsible for human rights violations to justice”, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH president.
Release of prisoners of conscience
While human rights defenders  are serving long-term prison sentences after unfair trials, human rights defenders in Bahrain continue to be targeted by the authorities where they face arbitrary arrests, detention, judicial harassment and in several cases, ill-treatment or torture. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, remains detained after having served ¾ of his three year sentence. The Bahrain Court of Appeals has refused to grant early release contrary to provisions of the Code of Criminal Proceedings. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s opinion considering Rajab’s detention as arbitrary has not been taken into account by the Government of Bahrain. Zainab Al Khawaja, human rights defender and democracy activist, who has been tried in more than 13 cases and has been detained since February 2013, was sentenced again in January 2014 to a further four months’ imprisonment on the charge of “destroying government property”. In September 2013, Naji Fateel, a board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYHRS) was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act. He was previously sentenced for “illegal gatherings”. Fateel was reportedly severely tortured during his detention. Masooma Al Sayed, human rights activist, was sentenced in May 2013 to six months’ imprisonment for “illegal gathering”, “assaulting a female officer” and “inciting hatred against the regime”. Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of BYSHR, who appeared before a court on charges of “participation in illegal protests” in June 2013, was summoned in October 2013 and interrogated on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime”, after a speech he made on September 8, 2013 on the concept of non-violence while demanding the respect of universal human rights .
The government of Bahrain should immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and other prisoners of conscience detained for merely exercising legitimate rights and must put an end to all acts of harassment including at the judicial level in conformity with the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent commission of Inquiry (BICI) of November 2011 and all those addressed at the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review in September 2012.
Lift recent anti-terrorism measures and other laws which violate human rights obligations
Rather than implementing BICI and UPR recommendations, the government of Bahrain decided to strengthen its legislative arsenal that allows further restriction of rights and freedoms. Among the 22 anti-terrorism measures adopted in August 2013, several measures amount to State of emergency measures including through granting the authorities excessive powers and then allowing them to arbitrarily restrain fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of association. Among others, this legal reform formally legalized the possibility to revoking Bahrain citizenship from those who “commit the crime of terrorism or incite” to it which was used earlier against political activists. Several of these measures were swiftly implemented. In November 2013, the parliament amended the law on public gatherings so that all organizers are required to seek official permission to hold assemblies in Manama which constitutes in practice a ban of any sit-in, gathering or demonstration in the capital. In September 2013, the parliament also amended the law for political societies so that political groups must obtain permission from the government prior to meeting with any foreign diplomats in Bahrain or abroad. The measures also increase the penalty against all those who use websites to publish “false” information and pass them on to foreign agencies.
Put an end to torture and duly investigate torture cases
The practice of torture during arrests and in detention continue to be regularly denounced. However, allegations of torture have been largely ignored by judges, very few investigations have been ordered into such cases and alleged authors of such crimes have not been brought to justice. In this context, there is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the situation such as a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. After agreeing to the visit of the Special Rapporteur in 2012, the Bahraini authorities have postponed that visit twice at very short notice, without providing an alternative date. FIDH urges the Bahrain authorities to investigate cases of torture and bring perpetrators to justice and to strengthen its cooperation with UN mechanisms and in particular to schedule a visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture without any further delay.
Gross human rights violations including excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, arbitrary detention and torture committed since 2011 have largely gone unpunished. Despite the pledge by the King of Bahrain made on the occasion of the release of the BICI report “that there will be no impunity”, no senior official has been held responsible for the human rights violations committed since 2011; only four low-ranking officers and one first lieutenant have been convicted in the deaths of two protesters and serious injury to a third. In another case, the appeals court reduced the sentence of a lieutenant sentenced to seven years imprisonment for the murder of a protester to six months. The government of Bahrain should urgently implement the BICI recommendations no. N1716 and N1722(a)(b) according to which effective investigations of complaints of torture, ill-treatment, excessive use of force, and other abuses at the hands of the authorities must be conducted.
12 February 2014
The 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index spotlights major declines in media freedom in such varied countries as the United States, Central African Republic and Guatemala and, on the other hand, marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa.
The same trio of Finland, Netherlands and Norway heads the index again, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions.
“The World Press Freedom Index is a reference tool that is based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions.”
Reporters Without Borders head of research Lucie Morillon said: “This year, the ranking of some countries, including democracies, has been impacted by an overly broad and abusive interpretation of the concept of national security protection.
“The index also reflects the negative impact of armed conflicts on freedom of information and its actors. The world’s most dangerous country for journalists, Syria, is ranked 177th out of 180 countries.”
The index’s annual global indicator, which measures the overall level of violations of freedom of information in 180 countries year by year, has risen slightly. The indicator has gone from 3395 to 3456 points, a 1.8% rise. The level of violations is unchanged in the Asia-Pacific region, but has increased in Africa.
The index is available in print for the first time. An enhanced version is being published (in French) by the French publishing house Flammarion in its Librio collection. The index, together with regional and thematic analyses, continues to be available in English, French and other languages on the Reporters Without Borders website (rsf.org). Reporters Without Borders has also introduced a three-dimensional visualization of the performances of the 180 ranked countries.
This year’s index covers 180 countries, one more than the 179 countries covered in last year’s index. The newcomer is Belize, which has been ranked in the enviable position of 29th.
Armed conflicts, political instability and national security
The 2014 index emphasizes the negative correlation between armed conflicts and freedom of information. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals or targets for groups or individuals trying to control news and information in violation of the guarantees enshrined in international conventions.
Syria (177th) is rubbing shoulders with the last three countries in the index. Around 130 professional and citizen-journalists were killed in connection with the provision of news and information from March 2011 to December 2013. They are being targeted by both the Assad government and extremist rebel militias. The Syrian crisis has also had dramatic repercussions throughout the region.
In Africa, Mali continued its fall and is now ranked 122nd. Progress in the conflict in north of the country has stalled, preventing any real revival in media activity. Central African Republic (109th) has followed suit, falling 43 places. In Egypt (159th), President Morsi’s ouster by the army led by Al-Sisi freed those media that the Muslim Brotherhood had gagged ever since coming to power, but it marked the start of a witchhunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Brotherhood.
Far from these conflicts, in countries where the rule of law prevails, security arguments are misused as grounds for restricting freedom of information. Invoked too readily, the protection of national security is encroaching on hard-won democratic rights.
In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world’s leading power. The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) has followed in the US wake, distinguishing itself by its harassment of The Guardian.
There are many examples of governments abusing the “fight against terrorism.” In Turkey (154th), dozens of journalists have been detained on this pretext, above all those who cover the Kurdish issue.
In Israel (96th), which regained some of the places it lost in the previous index because of Operation Pillar of Defence’s impact on freedom of information, the territorial integrity imperative often suppresses freedom of information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Sri Lanka (165th, - 2), the army shapes the news by suppressing accounts that stray too far from the official vision of “pacification” in the former Tamil separatist strongholds.
A few noteworthy developments
Central Africa Republic, currently the site of a violent conflict, suffered the biggest fall, losing 43 places after a year marked by extreme violence and repeated attacks and threats against journalists.
Aside from the 13-place fall by the United States (46th, -13), Guatemala’s dizzying plunge (125th, -29) was due to a sharp decline in the safety of journalists, with four murders and twice as many attacks as the previous year.
In Kenya (90th, -18), the government’s much criticized authoritarian response to the media’s coverage of the Westgate Mall attack was compounded by dangerous parliamentary initiatives. Chad (139th) fell 17 places after distinguishing itself by abusive arrests and prosecutions in 2013.
Suffering from the effects of the economic crisis and a surge in populism, Greece (99th) fell 14 places.
Violence against journalists, direct censorship and misuse of judicial proceedings fell in Panama (87th, +25), Dominican Republic (68th, +13), Bolivia (94th, +16) and Ecuador (94th, +25), although in Ecuador the level of media polarization is still high and often detrimental to public debate.
The past year was marked by laudable legislative developments in some countries such as South Africa (42nd, +11), where the president refused to sign a law that would have threatened media freedom.
Contrasting with South Africa’s improvement, other countries regarded as regional models registered no progress or even significant declines.
There are fears that the Bahraini authorities may use violence to quash planned demonstrations on 14 February, said Amnesty International, when thousands are expected to take to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising.
“The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.
In July 2013 Bahrain’s King issued a draconian decree banning demonstrations, sit-ins and public gatherings in the capital, Manama, indefinitely.
In the three years since the authorities crushed the mass demonstrations of 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has continued to deteriorate. Prominent human rights defenders and opposition activists have been rounded up, in many cases merely for calling for peaceful anti-government protests.
“Bahrain has witnessed a continuous downward spiral of repression over the past three years, with the space for freedom of expression and assembly rapidly reducing,” said Said Boumedouha.
“The authorities are losing credibility. Repeated promises of reform have been broken. Until concrete steps are taken to show they are serious about respecting its international obligations, it is unlikely Bahrain will make genuine progress on human rights”.
As yet, the authorities have failed to implement key recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011.
Among several children who have been detained for participating in demonstrations in the past year are 10-year-old Jehad Nabeel al-Samee’ and 13-year-old ‘Abdullah Yousif al-Bahrani, who were arrested by riot police on 16 December 2013 during a rally outside Manama. They were charged with “illegal gathering and rioting” and “attacking a police patrol with stones”.
‘Abdullah said that he was beaten, threatened with electric shocks and forced to sign a “confession”. He denied taking part in the march or throwing stones at the police. The boys have been released but will remain under supervision until a verdict is issued in their case.
Many others including journalists and human rights activists have also been targeted.
Ahmad Fardan, a Bahraini photojournalist, was arrested during a raid on his home west of Manama on 26 December 2013. He has been charged with “participating in a public gathering” after attempting to cover a demonstration in the village of Abu Saiba’ as a photographer. He was slapped on the face, and beaten including on his genitals while in custody. Medical examinations revealed he also sustained two broken ribs.
Last week, a two year prison sentenced was upheld against Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, for his participation in “illegal gatherings” and for “disturbing public order” between February and March 2012. Another activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to four months in prison last month for “destroying government property” after she ripped a picture of the King of Bahrain. She has been in prison serving different sentences for different court cases since February 2013.
Amnesty International believes that both Nabel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja are prisoners of conscience who have been targeted for their human rights work and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.
Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture in detention centres in Bahrain.
“The anniversary’s protests are a test for the authorities to demonstrate internationally that they are committed to protecting human rights. They must allow the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly and release all prisoners of conscience,” said Said Boumedouha.
On 15 January the Bahrain Crown prince reinitiated talks with opposition groups as part of the National Dialogue. The National Dialogue had been suspended since the arrest of Khalil al-Marzooq, the Assistant Secretary General of al-Wefaq, the registered political association representing the majority Shi’a population in Bahrain, and former Head of the Legislative and Legal Committee in parliament, on 17 September, when opposition groups withdrew.
As Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that was crushed by government and Gulf troops, a new law says anyone who publicly insults the king will be sentenced up to seven years in prison.
Three years ago this week, Bahrainis joined the wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world and took their long harbored grievances to the streets. Their demonstrations were cut short when a Saudi-led Gulf force rolled in to help silence them. And although the foreign tanks and troops have long since left, the silencing has endured.
Since the beginning of 2014, the Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR) has documented 146 unwarranted arrests, many of which were made during the systematic night raids on the homes of those who refuse to drop the baton in the struggle for economic and political reform. That figure could easily rise in the coming days, not least because in the run-up to the anniversary, the penalty for publicly offending King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini flag or emblem has been increased to between one and seven years behind bars. The offense also now carries a fine of up to $26,000.
"They are looking for everyone who is fighting for justice, freedom and democracy," Said Yousif al-Muhafda, BCHR head of documentation, told DW. He has spent the past three years travelling his country recording testimony from the thousands of people beaten, harassed and tortured by regime forces.
Said Yousif al-Muhafda in Manama. He was alone and on twitter and imprisoned for 35 days for tweeting information the authorities did not approve of information deemed
Arrested seven times during the same period, the activist accuses the government of "looking for anyone fighting for justice, freedom and democray," and says up to 3,000 Bahrainis are currently being held as prisoners of conscience. They include BCHR co-founders Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab who have been jailed for life, and two years respectively.
Al-Muhafda is certain he would have faced a similar, if not worse fate, had he not opted to flee for safer shores. He made his decision following the response to a BCHR campaign called "Wanted for Justice," which published the identities of officials activists hold responsible for human rights violations. "We named them and attached evidence from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and even testimony from the victims themselves," Al-Muhafda said.
He knew the campaign would not meet with a warm reception - not least because his list included members of the royal family and the prime minister of Bahrain, who has held the post for more than four decades. But he had not reckoned with the barrage of tweets so blatantly calling for his arrest, torture and even death.
"A well-known torturer used twitter to threaten to kill me, and he even used his own name and photograph which shows how confident he is in the culture of impunity," the activist said. Accountability is one of the many things Bahraini human rights defenders want to see introduced into their society.
Bahrain Centre of Human Rights co-founder Nabeel Rajab is currently in prison. Activists are campaigning for his release
Article one of the Constitution of Bahrain says it is ruled by a hereditary constitutional monarchy, but that sovereignty is "in the hands of the people, the source of all powers."
Reda al-Fardan of the human rights group Bahrain Watch argues that little could be further from the truth. The country is divided along sectarian lines, with the Shi'ite majority ruled by the Sunni minority. "All the power is with the king and the royal family, and there has been no accountability in Bahrain in modern history at all."
Positive spin can’t hide reality
Among the most telling stories to emerge from the Arab world in the tumultuous days of early 2011, are those which described Bahraini security forces preventing doctors and nurses from treating injured protesters. Many who did were arrested and sentenced to lengthy jail terms, and although the majority have since been acquitted or released, says some medical professionals remain behind bars.
But the government appears to operate on an out-of-sight, out-of-mind basis. Bahrain Watch has published figures suggesting that in the years and months since the revolt, the ruling Khalifa family has paid US and UK public relations companies as much as $30 million to lend its country a sheen so glossy that the mere suggestion of human rights violations would slide right off it. Brian Dooley of Human Rights First says the spin isn’t working.
"In terms of the PR battle, I don’t think the government is doing very well," Dooley told DW. "I think it is due a refund, because although it makes it very difficult for journalists to get in, it is failing to smother the story."
Given the widespread, if reluctant, acknowledgment that human rights violations in Bahrain are ongoing, and given also that Bahrain evidently cares how it is viewed by the outside world, Al-Fardan says the international community - and the US and UK in particular - is missing an important trick. "We have seen in the past that the government best responds to pressure from international organizations and from its own allies." Like many activists, he would like to see sanctions imposed on human rights abusers.
Pay now or pay later
Yet Dooley, who is author of the report "Plan B for Bahrain - What the United States Government Should Do Next," says Washington has mixed feelings about how to behave toward the Gulf island nation. On the one hand it is an outspoken advocate of the importance of democracy and liberty, but on the other, it has strategic military interests in the country that accommodates its Fifth Fleet - interests it is keen to protect.
The failure to act with conviction suggests that American policy makers believe they have to choose between their national interests and the sanctity of human rights. "I think that is wrong," Dooley said. "I think it is in the US interests to promote human rights in Bahrain because long-term that is what is most likely to bring about stability."
Activists say the West should stop trying to avoid the issue and get tough with the Bahraini government
As it is, a continued willingness to supply Manama with arms - of any description - would appear to demonstrate a preference to prop up another dictator in the name of maintaining a shaky status quo. And that, many say, is short-sighted. Not only does it send a message of complicity, which emboldens the regime, but it also increases the likelihood of lasting anti-American sentiment.
Dooley, who describes Bahrain as a problem "on a constant simmer," says he doesn’t believe the US will take any action until the problem has become much worse and possibly so bad that they can no longer be effective in helping to solve it. "It is a question of pay now or pay later," he said.
Despite King Hamad’s praise for the press as the “cornerstone of human rights and a mirror of our fledgling democracy,” the Bahraini government continued to crack down on anyone challenging the official narrative. Journalists covering opposition protests were harassed, detained, and deported, while some were attacked by opposition protesters who considered them biased. The government arrested at least threebloggers and photographers in the lead-up to a major opposition protest on August 14. A court upheld the acquittal of a policewoman accused of torturing a journalist in 2011. Authorities continued to clamp down on online expression by blockingwebsites, infiltrating social media accounts,prosecutingcitizens who insulted officials, and considering restrictions on Internet-based telecommunications services. Bahraini blogger Ali Abdel Imam, convicted on anti-state charges, was forced to flee into exile after hiding for two years from Bahraini authorities.
Continue reading on https://www.cpj.org/2014/02/attacks-on-the-press-in-2013-bahrain.php
Zainab Al-Khawaja was released from prison on 16 February 2014. She still has many open cases against her, and is scheduled for her next court hearing on 19 February 2014.
The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their deep concern for the on-going targeting of the detained activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja by the Bahraini authorities who continue their efforts to fabricate new charges and issuing new sentences that aim at extending her detention period in prison and preventing her from exercising her peaceful work in the field of human rights.
The human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja who is spending an imprisonment sentence for several cases in Isa Town Women Prison since 27 February 2013, is subjected to an ongoing judicial harassment that has never stopped. The Criminal Court issued on 27 January 2014 a new sentence in absentia against Al-Khawaja where she was sentenced to 4 extra months of imprisonment in two new cases in which she was accused of destroying property of the Ministry of Interior during her detention at Isa Town police station last May, in an indication to her ripping the photo of Bahrain’s King Hamad Isa Al-Khalifa.
Al-Khawaja mentioned that she was informed about the trial an hour before holding it, and she was only able to call her lawyer 5 minutes before the trial which was not enough time for the lawyer to attend the hearing. Before issuing this sentence, it was set that Al-Khawaja finishes her previous sentence on 24 February 2014.
Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested on 27 February 2013 to serve a prison sentence for two charges: “entering a restricted zone which is the Pearl Roundabout” and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration”. While in prison, additional prison sentences were issued against her in several cases on alleged charges that include “assembling”, “insulting a public employee” and “ripping the King’s photo” where the total issued sentences against her reached 12 months and which was supposed to end in 24 February 2014. (Please refer to the list of cases and sentences against the activist Al-Khawaja on this link
In addition to the new sentences, Al-Khawaja is still facing another case on the charge of publicly cursing and insulting the police, because of defending another prisoner in June 2013. The First Lower Criminal Court postponed the session from 5 February 2014 to 26 March 2014 to hear the defense witnesses, this is at a time when Al-Khawaja is still boycotting the court sessions in protest against the politicized sentences against her and the blatant disregard for the guarantees of a fair trial and not adhering to the international standards by the Bahraini Courts.
It is also feared that the Bahraini authorities may deliberately stirs further cases again against the activist Al-Khawaja when her release date approaches or in the near future. Noteworthy, Al-Khawaja is suffering from degrading and maltreatment since her detention by depriving her from family visits for several months due to refusing to wear the prison uniform, and then depriving her from going out in the prison yard to get exposed to the sun, and placing her with prisoners who are infected with Hepatitis type A and B, that is without giving her any vaccination against the infection. Last December information was received about her being subjected to humiliating treatment when she had to receive medical treatment at the prisoners’ clinic. She also suffered from a lot of harassments to prevent her from meeting the representative of the Danish Embassy who was forced to wait outside prison for an hour despite having a prior appointment for the visit.
The GCHR and the BCHR believe that ripping the King’s photo is a means of peaceful expression of opinion, and that passing imprisonment sentences by the court under this charge is a direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.
Although Al-Khawaja was legally set to be released on 13 February 2014, according to the official records, but she was not released on this date. Despite constant calls and inquiries by the lawyer, the prison administration kept delaying the processing of her paperwork until after hours. This once again proves the systematic targeting of Zainab Al-Khawaja due to her peaceful and legitimate human rights work.
The GCHR and the BCHR believe that the constant judicial harassments and maltreatment in prison that the human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja is being subjected to aims at keeping her for the longest period possible in detention, and which forms a systematic and continuous revenge by the Authorities for her past peaceful activities and her set defense for the rights of the people of Bahrain without any exception. One of the reasons behind these systematic violations is the absence of concrete international pressure on the Bahraini government to compel it to respect the conventions it signed in respect to protecting human rights defenders.
The GCHR and the BCHR urge the international community and especially Bahrain government’s close allies to put pressure on the Bahraini government in order to:
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the continued criminalization of freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain under implausible pretexts such as the charge of ‘insulting the King’. In this context, the poet Ayat Al-Qurmuzi was interrogated regarding one of her poems, and the journalist Abbas Al-Murshid was summoned to court.
On 3 February 2014, the Bahraini poet Ayat Al-Qurmuzi (23 years old) was summoned for interrogation at the Central Governorate Police Station regarding a poem[i] she recited on 24 January 2014 at an opposition rally in the area of Sitra. The poet said that the interrogators, who were a male and a female police officers had asked her about the ‘meanings of the verses and people or bodies intended by them’, while no name, person or body was mentioned in the poem which generally addressed injustice.[ii] The lawyer was not permitted access to the interrogation room although she was present at the police station. The poet was charged with two accusations ‘insulting the King and incitement to hatred against the ruling regime’ before she was released and after signing a pledge to appear before the police station upon request and with referring the case to the Public Prosecution. Worth mentioning, the complaint against the poet Ayat Al-Qurmuzi came as an order from the Office of the Deputy of Public Security.
The Bahraini poet Ayat Al-Qurmuzi had faced arrest in March 2011 on the background of the poems she recited amid the public gathering in Pearl Roundabout in February 2011, she was sentenced to a year in prison in June 2011 by a military trial, however she was released in July in 2011 under massive pressure from human rights organizations. Al-Qurmuzi stated after her release that she was subjected to torture[iii] and maltreatment during her arrest by officers, one of them is a member of the ruling family named Noura Al-Khalifa. Although a show trial had taken place for the officer Noura Al-Khalifa on the charge of ‘assaulting the integrity of the body of (torturing) Ayat Al-Qurmuzi’ since 2012, yet a verdict has not been made in the case so far.
The independent journalist and writer Abbas Al-Murshid received a summoning to appear for trial on the charge of ‘insulting the King’ on 27 March 2014, although he was not interrogated before by any official body regarding the charges against him. Al-Murshid publishes his articles and studies that criticize the political condition in Bahrain on several electronic websites, among them the Bahraini electronic newspaper (Bahrain Mirror) which has been blocked in Bahrain. Al-Murshid had been arrested in May 2011 where he stayed in detention until July 2011 when he was released under international pressure from human rights organizations. Prior to that, and for years, Al-Murshid was a frequent target for harassments by the Bahraini Authorities; his electronic newspaper, which he was the editor-in-chief of (Al-Manama Newspaper), was closed by the Ministry of Information in 2002, and he faced rubber bullets which injured him in the eye by the riot police in 2009. They banned his books from being sold and published in Bahrain.
The BCHR had mentioned in a previous report documenting approximately 30 cases in 2013[iv] where individuals were charged with ‘insulting the King’ due to speeches they gave, or writing on social media networks on the Internet, or even for sticking the King’s picture on the ground and walking on it, among them are seven people who were sentenced with a total of 7 years in prison, while the majority of them face trial with the same charge.
The BCHR believes that criticizing the country’s King falls within the framework of freedom of opinion, and pursuing individuals with trials and prison under a broad charge such as ‘insulting the King’ as a result of using peaceful means to express opinion is a direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges the international community and especially the close country allies of the government of Bahrain to pressurize the Bahraini government to:
Friday, February 14th, marked the third anniversary of the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets over the weekend to demand their right to freedom and democracy. The government responded with a heavy use of teargas and the use of shotguns loaded with pellets. The BCHR documentation team confirmed that at least 50 people were injured during the protests. The BCHR documented 94 arrests in the days leading up to the protests, and throughout the weekend - from 10 February through 16 February.
The largest pro-democracy protests came on Saturday, February 15th for a peaceful demonstration. The official estimate from Al-Wefaq for the size of the protests on Saturday was 300,000.
Over the course of the last three years, the government's excessive use of force has resulted in 93 death - the leading cause of death is the excessive use of teargas, which the government continues to abuse. There are still more than 2,200 political prisoners in detention, and the courts are regularly used as a political tool to punish dissidents. After three years of promises from the government that they will begin working towards real reform, torture remains widely practiced on a systematic level, and Bahraini people are subjected to enforced disappearance on an almost daily basis.
Further information on UA: 21/14 Index: MDE 11/009/2014 Bahrain Date: 20 February 2014
AHMED AL-ARAB NOW NEEDS MEDICAL ATTENTION
Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab now requires urgent medical attention for injuries he says he sustained during torture at the National Security Agency.
Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab saw his family for the first time on 10 February, a month after he was arrested, and again on 18 February. During the visits Ahmed al-Arab told his family that he was still suffering the effects of shoulder injuries, especially on his right side, which he said he had sustained as a result of severe beatings at the National Security Agency headquarters in the capital, Manama, and being hung from his wrists while they were twisted behind his back and handcuffed. He also told his family he had numbness in his hands and a tooth which was broken during the beating was bleeding every day. He said he had not received any medical attention for any of his injuries. He told his family that he had been severely beaten, on his genitals and elsewhere, at the National
Ahmed al-Arab told his family that he was sleeping outside in the courtyard of the prison because of overcrowding in the prison cells, and inside in the prison corridors when it rained. He said that he had a constant headache and sore throat from staying out in the cold. He has not been brought to any of his court hearings and has not been able to meet his lawyer despite repeated requests at each court hearing that he be brought to the hearing. During one session, the court also denied his lawyer’s requests for information regarding the cases against Ahmed al-Arab on the grounds that the suspect was absent from court.
Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:
Urging the authorities to provide Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab with any medical attention he may require, as a matter of urgency;
Calling on them to ensure Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, immediately investigate allegations that he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated and bring those responsible to justice;
Calling on them to provide Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab with access to his lawyer and bring him to his court hearings in line with international fair trial standards.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 3 APRIL 2014 TO:
Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying)
Salutation: Your Majesty
Minister of Interior
Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1723 2661
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1753 1284
lso send copies to diplomatic representatives
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 21/14. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/008/2014/en
AHMED AL-ARAB NOW NEEDS MEDICAL ATTENTION
Ahmed Mohammad Saleh al-Arab was arrested on 14 February 2012 during demonstrations to mark the first anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain. He was kept in a police vehicle for several hours and repeatedly beaten. Afterwards, he was taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where he was beaten until he passed out. He was interrogated about his relationship with the “14 February Movement” and was beaten again when he denied any connection with the movement.
His family had no news of him for two days despite requests to the Public Prosecution Office, the CID and the police. Late on the second day of his arrest, he phoned his family to tell them that he was in the prison hospital. On 17 February 2012, his father received a phone call to come to pick him up.
Following the uprising in Bahrain in February 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by Royal Order on 29 June 2011, was charged with investigating and reporting on human rights violations committed in connection with the 2011 protests. At the launch of the BICI report in November 2011, the government publicly committed itself to implementing BICI’s recommendations. The report recounted the government’s response to the mass protests and documented wide-ranging human rights abuses. Among its key recommendations, the report called on the government to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations, including torture and excessive use of force, and carry out independent investigations into allegations of torture.
The establishment of BICI and its report was considered to be a groundbreaking initiative, but the promise of meaningful reform has been betrayed by the government’s unwillingness to implement key recommendations around accountability; this includes its failure to carry out independent, effective and transparent investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force, and to prosecute all those who gave the orders to commit human rights abuses. For further information see the November 2012 report Reform shelved, repression unleashed, http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/062/2012/en.
Bahrain’s parliament held an extraordinary session on 28 July 2013, after which it submitted 22 recommendations to the King, Shaikh Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa. The recommendations toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law. A few days later the King issued several decrees further curtailing the right to freedom of expression, including banning all protests, sit-ins and public gatherings in Manama indefinitely and giving the security forces additional sweeping powers.
A joint statement signed by 47 countries at the UN Human Rights Council on 9 September expressed serious concern about the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain.
Name: Ahmed Mohammed Saleh al-Arab
Gender m/f: m
Further information on UA: 21/14 Index: MDE 11/009/2014 Issue Date: 20 February 2014
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the wellbeing of the detainee Ahmed Mohammed Saleh AlArab (22 years old ), who has been reportedly subjected to torture and still suffering from resulting injuries. According to his family, AlArab is not being allowed access to medical care, or to see a doctor. AlArab was arrested on the morning of January 9, 2014, and held in enforced disappearance for 21 days. His family was not allowed to see him until a month after the date of his arrest, and his lawyer is still unable to meet him. (For further details please refer to BCHR previous statement http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6701).
Throughout the period of his enforced disappearance, AlArab was not allowed to contact his family except for sporadic calls that lasted no longer than a few seconds, during which he was not allowed to give any info on his whereabouts. When his family inquired about him at Budaiya police station, the Public Prosecution, and at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), they all denied his detention and any knowledge of his whereabouts. During the period of his disappearance, the court held several hearings in cases against him, and although he was in custody, he was not brought to the court. Instead, court summons were sent to his house requesting his presence during court hearings. On January 23, 2014 the court denied the presence of AlArab in custody and asked his lawyer to provide proof of his detention. At another court hearing on January 29, 2014 the judge refused to allow AlArab’s lawyer to speak in court unless AlArab presents himself to the court. The practice of the court in the case of Ahmed AlArab reveals the complicity of the judicial system and the public prosecution in covering up the practice of enforced disappearance committed by the CID, which amplifies the violations suffered by the detainee.
“They stripped me naked, then handcuffed me from the back. They then hung me from my wrists, while they would move me from my feet to cause more pain… They covered my face with a cloth, then poured water on me. I thought I would drown to death every time..”
On January 29, 2014, AlArab called his family to tell them that he has been transferred to the central prison of Jaw on the previous night. AlArab was not informed of his sentence or the charges he was convicted of, in a violation of his right to know the reason for his detention and denial of freedom. When his lawyer requested information regarding the conviction, the court denied him that on the basis that the defendant is absent. The lawyer was able to obtain information on six cases which the court has not issued any verdicts in. Thus, the family was surprised that their son was taken to Jaw, instead of the Dry Docks prison where people are held pending sentencing. Alarab has still not been taken to any of the court hearings of the cases against him and his lawyer is still not able to meet him even though he repeatedly requested at each court hearing that AlArab be brought from prison.
AlArab’s family faced exceptional difficulty in obtaining visits while other prisoners were allowed visits during the same period. The family was able to see him for the first time a month after his arrest on February 10, 2014 for a period of 15 minutes only. He looked dehydrated and his hands were shaking most of the time. They reported seeing marks and bruising on his face, black marks on his wrists and he was wearing a prison uniform with long sleeves so they were unable to inspect the rest of his body.
According to information received by BCHR, AlArab was reportedly subjected to torture from the time of his arrest on 9 January 2014. On that day and while blindfolded, he was beaten to confess to possession of weapons, forcing him to eventually say that the weapons were at his family’s home in Bani Jamra. He was taken to his family’s home along with large group of security forces on the same day where they searched the house and dug a hole in the back yard; while his family was forbidden from watching the search. AlArab said he was beaten the entire time while the search was ongoing, and was beaten more severely when nothing was found at his home. He was reportedly beaten during the entire car ride with the security forces.
During the time of his enforced disappearance, he was reportedly detained at the criminal investigation department (CID), where Alarab reported being subjected to torture. He said he was stripped naked and hung from his wrists while they were handcuffed behind his back. According to his testimony, he was repeatedly beaten all over his body, he was pulled from his feet over and over to twist and hurt him while he hung from his wrists. He was insulted and assaulted continuously and deprived from sleeping. He was threatened that they would hurt his sister, telling him that she had been arrested. His face was covered with a cloth and water was poured into his mouth to insinuate drowning. He stated that he believed he would die every time. When he was finally allowed to go to the bathroom after begging, AlArab said his face was so swollen he could not recognize himself, and his facial hair (beard) would fall on its own with bits of his skin. At times, he was kept standing in the corridor and when he complained of being tired, they made him lie down so that everyone walks on him as they pass. He said that he was subjected to continuous verbal abuse and psychological torture including keeping him in the dark for long periods and forcing him to listen others being tortured. AlArab added that during the night he was moved to a prison in Riffa, where ice was poured on him while he was hung, and this routine continued for five or six days. He told his family that he feared that some of the sensory nerves in his right arm may be damaged where sometimes it cannot be lifted and he doesn’t feel them.
Alarab was reportedly told that he would be charged in 17 cases, and he will never be released. He was forced to sign papers without reading the content. He also reported getting sexually abused, and that he was hit on his genital area deliberately and threatened with rape.
After six days, he was moved to a solitary cell in a prison, where he was surrounded by 7 policemen at all times and he was forced to stand for hours and to sit for hours upon their orders. This continued until the time of moving him to Jaw prison on 29 January 2014.
On the day of his arrest, AlArab was taken to see a public prosecutor who reportedly threatened to send him back to torture unless he confesses to all the listed crimes against him.
On February 18, 2014, his family was able to visit AlArab for the second time, and he was still suffering from the pain of his injury resulting from being tortured, according to his testimony, and was not provided any medical treatment. He said that the state of his right arm is getting worse as it took him several minutes to feel the water temperature, and his broken tooth continued to bleed.
The BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies and international institutions to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to:
69 Protestors Arrested in 3 Days and Tens of Injuries
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the persistence of the authority in Bahrain to adopt security solutions as the only means to suppress the protests which demand democracy and self-determination. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights had documented several injuries caused by the abuse of police against the protestors and the arbitrary arrest of more than 50 citizens among them children during the three days (13, 14, 15 February) in which the Bahraini people commemorated the anniversary of the revolution which had begun on 14 February 2011 of which the main area of protests was the Pearl Roundabout before Bahrain’s ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa announced a state of emergency and the Peninsula Shield Forces intervened to disperse the peaceful protest which lasted for a month, in addition to demolishing the memorial which has become the symbol of Bahraini’s revolution.
Starting from 14 February 2011, demonstrations and protests were organized in Bahrain demanding further democracy. The movement was inspired by the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt – what was known as the Arab Spring – however the authorities in Bahrain dealt violently with these demonstrations and protests, and it brutally attacked the peaceful demonstrators in the Pearl Roundabout[i] and in all the streets of Bahrain, and it announced a state of national safety (emergency law) on 15 March[ii] 2011, the army was deployed in the streets and the Peninsula Shield Forces[iii]– which is mostly made up of Saudi forces – were sent to intervene and impose the state of emergency, and they deployed the security and military forces that roamed the areas and villages which were defying the authority, and they set up check points in many of the areas of protests. More than 80 people have fallen victims to the attacks of the security forces and army against the protestors until the date of writing this report, in addition to the arrest of more than 4000 detainees in the months subsequent to imposing the state of emergency. As a result of the continuing policy of impunity there are more than 3000 individuals in prison, either detained or convicted. More than 50 people have lost their eyes or parts of their bodies as a result of directly being targeted at by the regime forces.
13, 14, 15 February 2014: the regime forces attack the demonstrations and suppress all forms of protests:
Public forces announced organizing protests on the third anniversary of the public protests for three days starting on Thursday 13 February 2014 and ending on Saturday 15 February 2014, the calls included a comprehensive civil disobedience excluding the medical sector, and closing shops, and organizing peaceful protests in various areas of Bahrain, in addition to heading towards the first main area of protests at the Pearl Roundabout which is still besieged by the military forces.
The BCHR had documented the arbitrary arrest of 69 cases, 17 of them were released at a later time, and among those were 15 children. The BCHR had also documented tens of injuries that were mostly treated in field hospitals or homes as the protestors feared arrest if they had gone to receive treatment in public hospitals. Among the injuries, was the shotgun pellet that hit the citizen Mahdi Jawad Al-Qaffas (17 years old), eye-witnesses stated that the security forces were practicing collective punishment against the area of Sanabis, close to the Pearl Roundabout, where it used teargas and shotgun pellets against the protestors of the area, among those that were injured and arrested was ‘Al-Qaffas’; the regime forces surrounded him and transferred his wounded body via an ambulance to the BDF hospital which denied his presence when his parents went to ask about him[iv]. The Ministry of Interior mentioned on its official account on the social network Twitter that its forces were confronted with an attack from a group of terrorists which forced them to do the necessary. Al-Qaffas’s family were unable to meet him after arrest until amid a serious concern for his health, especially that he lost a lot of blood, as was seen by his family in the pictures posted by activists on social media networks. On 19 February 2014 his family was able to see him at the military hospital. His family said that he appeared in a bad condition, unable to move, and that he has lost a part of his leg due to the shotgun injury. The family added that Al-Qaffas told them he was beaten by the security men after arrest until he reached hospital covered with blood.
On Saturday 15 February 2014, the regime forces attacked a group of protestors who were attempting to reach the Pearl Roundabout. The youth Hameed Al-Muwali (18 years old) was hit with shotgun pellets, Twitter users said that the regime forces attacked his wounded body before arresting him and transferring him via an ambulance to hospital.
The Head of Monitoring at the BCHR, Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda said on his official account on Twitter that Al-Muwali was shot with shotgun pellets that situated in his head and eye[v]. Many protestors were arrested in an arbitrary and brutal manner[vi], and women were assaulted[vii] in an attempt to discourage them from participating in protests. Some villages witnessed the widespread of armed civilian militia that are supported by the regime forces. Activists uploaded a video on YouTube that shows armed civilian militia[viii] supporting the regime forces in chasing the protestors and attempting to arrest them in the area of Abu Saiba on Friday 14 February 2014.
Political bloggers and activists and other users mentioned that telecommunication companies in Bahrain proceeded to reduce the Internet speed[ix] from Thursday afternoon 13 February 2014 in conjunction with the calls by the Bahraini opposition to address the US president Barack Obama and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by mentioning their accounts in Tweets on the social media network Twitter. Activists believed that the telecommunication companies received orders from supreme bodies to reduce the Internet speed in an attempt to prevent Bahrainis from reaching out to the international community and posting the violations practiced by the authority and that which it will practice in the three-day event. Despite that, the Bahrainis were able to achieve the mission and challenge all the obstacles imposed by the authority.
Imam Al-Sadiq mosque – in Duraz – was subjected to an assault on Friday 14 February by firing teargas canisters at it in a blatant violation against places of worship.
Bahrain’s ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa in a televised speech: criminalizes criticizing him and annuls the opposition’s demands:
The state television broadcasted a speech by Bahrain’s ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa on the occasion of the National Action Charter’s anniversary, 14 February[x], in which he stressed that there is no revolution in Bahrain, and that the people, all the people, have spoken when they voted for the National Action Charter, in disregard to the fact that he did not live up to his promises, as well as requesting several foreigners to write a Bahraini constitution that was opted for by the public groups and political opposition forces. He also neglected all the international and UN[xi] calls in relation to improving the condition of human rights in Bahrain and practicing political and peaceful human rights work without any harassments or restrictions. This speech comes days after Hamad Al-Khalifa’s endorsement of a law that criminalizes criticizing him[xii] and approves imprisoning whoever does so with a period no less than 7 years, and a fine of ten thousand Bahraini dinars in a clear and explicit combat against freedom of opinion and expression.
Worth mentioning, many citizens who are protesting the policy of the ruler Hamad Al-Khalifa had deliberately put his photo on the ground and walked on it while others wrote his name on the streets as an expression to condemn the role of impunity which he exercises and his contribution in the demographic change through illegal naturalization for a large number of foreigners.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior announced on its account on Twitter[xiii] on 15 February 2014 the death of one of its members as a result of injuries he sustained in a ‘terrorist bombing’ which it had announced about the previous day in the area of Al-Der. While the BCHR cannot validate the claim of the Ministry of Interior amid the absence of independent investigation bodies, it confirms its call on all parties to commit to peaceful action.
Based on the aforementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the US, UK, UN and all the close allies of the authority and relevant International institutes to:
It also calls on the authority in Bahrain to:
Finally, worth mentioning, the recommendations of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights do not in any form mean marginalizing or annulling any of the vital recommendations and which are the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
n Monday, Democracy Now! spoke to human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja upon her release from prison by the Bahraini government after nearly a year behind bars. At that time she faced a return to prison pending her appearance in court today on charges of damaging police property, defacing
The U.S.-backed monarchy is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for all naval forces in the Gulf. Alkhawaja’s release came on the heels of rallies marking the third anniversary of the pro-democracy protests that began on February 14, 2011. Protests against the Sunni regime have been crushed by martial law and a U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian forces. Scores of people were arrested ahead of protests on Friday, when police fired bird shot and tear gas at demonstrators. Tens of thousands of people defied the crackdown to march on Saturday.
AMYGOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEENSHAIKH: In Bahrain, human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been released after nearly a year behind bars. Her release came on the heels of rallies marking the third anniversary of the pro-democracy protests that began on February 14th, 2011. Protests against the Sunni regime have been crushed by martial law and a U.S.-backed Saudi Arabian forces. Scores of people were arrested ahead of protests on Friday, when police fired bird shot and tear gas at demonstrators. Tens of thousands of people defied the crackdown to march on Saturday.
AMYGOODMAN: For more, we go to Bahrain, where we’re joined by Zainab Alkhawaja. She’s joining us by Democracy Now!
Zainab, it’s great to have you back. First of all, how does it—
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: It’s great to be back.
AMYGOODMAN: How does it—how does it feel to be free?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Wow! It feels like a dream. I keep expecting to wake up and see myself inside my cell.
AMYGOODMAN: Talk about your time in prison. You’ve been in prison for almost a year.
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Mm-hmm. Well, what I feel about prison is that it’s a place where they try to break a person. It’s a place where you feel like you can be humiliated at any minute and on any given day. So, it can be a very stressful situation if you don’t look at the bigger picture and the cause that you’re sacrificing for.
My time in prison was a little bit difficult. The prison in Bahrain is a very, very dirty, filthy place. Seeing cockroaches and bed bugs and all kinds of insects is a daily thing. The number of prisoners inside the prison is way too many. We have people sleeping on the ground. There’s not enough beds. The rooms are very small. We cannot move in and out of our cells a lot. And also, we had a very difficult time convincing them to let us go out and get some air and get some sunlight. So, actually, for the first six months in prison, I was not let out of the prison. So sometimes it does feel like a grave.
But when I came out, the first thing I did say was, one year in prison is nothing. And I say that because it’s nothing compared to what we’re willing to sacrifice for our goals, for democracy in our country.
NERMEENSHAIKH: And, Zainab Alkhawaja, you’ve described the conditions in the prison. Now, the prison you were in only housed political prisoners, is that correct?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Oh, no, there are a lot of prisoners. We’re a minority. And I’m separated, actually, from the other political prisoners. So, the prisoners that share a cell with me and share the same ward with me are actually not political prisoners.
NERMEENSHAIKH: And, Zainab, what do you expect will happen on Wednesday? There’s some concern that you might return to prison? And could you outline what precisely you’ve been charged with?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Well, what happened since I was imprisoned is because they have very small cases against me. I keep getting new cases, two- to three-month sentence, two to three months. And I think this time I got out basically just on a technicality, on a glitch. And they’re just preparing the new cases against me. Tomorrow, I do have court, and my lawyer has told me that I might get arrested from court and taken back to prison. And that’s why, actually, I’ve left all my things in my cell in prison, and I’m expecting that I might have to go back tomorrow.
AMYGOODMAN: And what are your feelings about that?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Well, my feelings are—I mean, even coming out, I have very mixed feelings, coming out from prison. I miss my daughter a lot. This year has been very difficult being away from her. I always dream about just the smallest things—reading her a bedtime story, taking her to kindergarten, giving her a hug. You know, it’s not the same when you have to meet her once a week with police sitting next to you, watching you, hearing every word you say. But at the same time, when I came out from prison, I realized that I left a lot of people back in prison. I left half my family back in prison—my brothers, my uncles, my father, all the revolutionaries who are sacrificing for all of us before they’re sacrificing for themselves. So, we’re willing to make these sacrifices, and I’m willing to go back. And I want the government in Bahrain to realize that their prisons don’t scare us. I’m going to go to court tomorrow, and if they arrest me, that’s fine. I’ll go back to my prison cell. And we’re going to continue on this path. We started on a path, and we’re determined to continue on it until we reach our goal.
AMYGOODMAN: What is your goal? What are you calling for?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: We’re calling for a country where every Bahraini is respected, every Bahraini is treated equally. We’re calling for a country where we feel we have rights, where we feel we have dignity, where people can’t step all over us, can’t torture and kill and get away with these things. We’re living in a country, basically, where the criminals are the most powerful people in the country, and where a lot of us actually feel proud when we’re in jail, because we know that in Bahrain, when you go to jail, it means you did something right and not wrong. It should be the other way around. It should be that people who are activists, people who are calling for rights, they should be the ones who are on the outside and working, and criminals, people who are killing, people who are torturing, they’re the ones who should be in jail. But it’s all the other way around. But at the same time, I say that in Bahrain I do not feel pity for all those people who are in prison, all the injured protesters. I feel proud when I see them. I feel pity for our oppressors, because what they do is breaking them inside. We’re not broken. We sacrifice, but we feel proud, and we hold our heads up high.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Zainab, how do you respond to criticism of the anti-government movement that claims that it’s being funded exclusively by Iran in an attempt to make the region more Shia-sympathetic? Just today in The New York Times there’s an op-ed by someone called Sarah Bin Ashoor titled "Bahrain’s Hijacked Reform Efforts," which makes exactly that claim. Do you see this struggle as a sectarian one?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Definitely, definitely not. I mean, in Bahrain, Sunnis and Shias have lived side by side for generations. There’s intermarriage. We have—like, all friends are Sunnis and Shia, and we usually can’t even tell each other apart. The people who are trying to make it into a sectarian thing is the government. They’re the ones who are really trying, putting all their effort into making it a sectarian thing. Another thing is that Bahrainis are very proud Arabs. We have nothing to do with Iran. We started this revolution calling for our rights. I mean, we’ve lived under the same monarchy for more than 200 years. It’s actually—it’s really strange that nothing has happened before. This revolution is long overdue. People are supposed to stand up and call for their rights. It’s the 21st century. Everywhere we go, we see democracy, we see freedom, in other countries. We see civil liberties. And over here, we’re supposed to keep quiet just so that nobody accuses us of doing something just because we’re Shia. I think it makes a whole lot of sense what’s happening in Bahrain. We’re inspired by—we were inspired by what happened in Egypt, and we consider our Egyptian brothers our brothers. And they started this, and the Tunisians, and we’re doing the exact same thing. We’re calling for our rights. We’re calling for a country where we can live freely and with our dignity. This has nothing to do with Shia and Sunni. We want these rights for all Bahrainis, whether they are Shia or Sunni.
AMYGOODMAN: Zainab, I want to ask you about Bahrain practice of jailing some of the children who have been at protests. Last month, Bahrain’s juvenile court ordered the release of 10-year-old Jehad Nabeel AlSameea and 13-year-old Abdulla Yusuf AlBahrani, who were arrested for throwing stones at police during a demonstration outside the capital. Zainab, your sister, Maryam Alkhawaja, tweeted a photo of two more young boys, Hussain Jameel and Mohammed Alshofa, who were arrested Saturday in Salmabad.
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: The government in Bahrain is actually trying to punish everybody for this revolution that has happened, this uprising that has happened in Bahrain. They do not differentiate between children and grown-ups, men and women, activists and otherwise. To them, everyone just needs to be controlled and to be put in a state of fear. Throughout these three years, we’ve seen a lot of this. We’ve seen a lot of children being beaten, being tortured, being imprisoned. We’ve seen children in courts who did not even understand what their crime was, who did not even understand what the judge was saying. This is one of the things that actually really hurts us when we see that. We don’t want the children to suffer. We, as human rights activists, want there to be some kind of protection. But as you know, in countries like ours, in dictatorships, sometimes there’s no differentiation at all. I mean, if even doctors get punished for treating people, children get punished for going on the street. And, I mean, it’s only—a lot of these children who are going on the streets are children of detainees, are children of martyrs, people who were killed during clashes. And you can understand why they would be angry. But I could never understand why the government would target children in their—in trying to just achieve this crackdown on the people of Bahrain.
NERMEENSHAIKH: Zainab, what do you see is the role of Saudi Arabia in this conflict? And what do you think the U.S. should be doing?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Well, one of our biggest problems here in Bahrain is Saudi Arabia, because sometimes it feels like we’re not just trying to rise up against the al-Khalifa regime here, but the small population of Bahrain is trying to rise up against the Gulf states with all their dictators. And this is what makes it very difficult. Even though the Bahraini people are united, even though they’re rising in very big numbers, but the Saudis are standing very strong behind the al-Khalifa regime, supporting them in all they do. And, actually, the Americans are doing the same thing. The American government is doing the same thing and supporting the Bahraini regime, despite all what’s happening, despite all the evidence that’s going out on a daily basis from Bahrain about the mistreatment, about the human rights conditions, about the, I think, now almost 3,000 political prisoners in Bahraini prisons. And still, the American administration are standing beside the Bahraini government and supporting them and considering them allies.
AMYGOODMAN: Zainab, talk about your father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who is in prison. He has a life sentence now?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Yes. My father is sentenced to life in prison. He has now been in prison for almost three years. My father is my rock. He’s one of the strongest persons I have ever known. I have never seen him weak. After three years in prison, he’s as strong as ever. And my father has always been my role model. He’s been a human rights activist for almost all his life. He has been trying to do something not only for our country, but for the region, as well. He had been, before the revolution, been going from country to country throughout the Arab world training people on human rights, on how to write reports about human rights abuses. My father tries to put seeds in the ground, so that some day those seeds would grow into something that would benefit our region and our world. And I really believe in his work. He has been working very hard for the past maybe—more than 20 years. It’s not something that he started doing today and yesterday.
And this is why he’s one of the people that the government has been targeting for a long time and has used this situation now to just give him a life sentence, put him behind bars, so they could silence him. My father is one of the most outspoken people in the country talking about what’s happening here, about conditions here. So, putting him behind bars, I think the only reason for that is to silence him, like they’ve done with other activists, like Nabeel Rajab, for example. They’re behind bars so that there’s no one to represent the people of Bahrain.
But I think what makes us proud is, even though almost all human rights activists are either out of the country or in jail, even though a lot of the civil society leaders are in prison, a lot of the activists are in prison, still the Bahraini people go out, and they protest, and they demand their rights, which is very difficult. When you’re standing there with activists, you know that there’s someone covering what you’re doing, someone there who might try to protect you. But even without this protection, on this past February 14, we saw very, very big numbers of people go into the streets, still making the same demands, showing that they’re not backing down.
NERMEENSHAIKH: And what are the prospects, Zainab, for any kind of change in Bahrain? What is the state of negotiations between opposition groups and the government? And what prospects do these political prisoners—3,000, you said, including many of your family members—have of being released or having their jail sentences diminished?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Well, here’s the thing. Prison can be difficult. Actually, it is very difficult. And a lot of people, they want to get out of prison. They want to go to their families. But this is not the end goal. We don’t just want to get out of the small prison into the bigger prison we call Bahrain. Bahrain is a big prison for us. A lot of Bahrainis don’t feel safe until they’re on a plane heading outside of their country, because here in this country you might be arrested on any day. You might get beaten up on any day. So, as a Bahraini, you do not feel safe. So, our end goal—a lot of prisoners say this. They say, "We don’t want to just get out of prison. After three years of suffering, of giving, of doing as much as we can, we want real results. We want democracy. We want to be represented. We want rights."
And I think that’s why if the government tries to solve the situation just by releasing some political prisoners, that’s not going to be the real solution. The government must give up some of the power and control that they have. And, I mean, the people of Bahrain, they want ultimately to have a full democracy. They want a country where they can vote for a president. The al-Khalifa regime is a regime that has been forced on the people of Bahrain. The al-Khalifa regime is just—is a hereditary regime, and we have no choice in who’s ruling this country. And I think this is one of the biggest problems. This is not something that the people here accept.
AMYGOODMAN: Zainab, we’ve talked about Iran, about Saudi Arabia, about, you know, Bahrain itself. What about the United States, a major force? It has the Fifth Fleet there. What is the role of the United States with the Bahraini monarchy?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: I mean, my sister Maryam has been going to the States, meeting with officials, trying to speak to them about the situation here, about what the people of Bahrain are going through. And I think the conclusion she reached is she’s lost a lot of hope in them. She says, "I haven’t lost hope in humanity, but I have lost hope in the foreign governments, who tend to speak a lot about human rights and about democracy, but when you come on the ground, you see them taking the side of the dictators, especially in Bahrain." And they do that for self-interest. They have to make a choice. I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the revolution. You either stand with the people who want democracy, who want freedom, and you try to protect them, or at least you stop supporting the dictators and the oppressors who are torturing them, who are killing them, just so that they can remain in power.
America, unfortunately, in Bahrain has a very, very bad name. They have a very bad reputation. They stand by the regime. They sell them weapons. They stand aside and watch what’s happening to the people of Bahrain. And I think maybe a lot of people here did have hope in the beginning that the Americans would stand with freedom and justice and human rights and all those things that they talk about a lot, that the American presidents always talk about, but unfortunately now I think that no one has that hope anymore. They see that America only acts upon their—what they think is their interest in Bahrain.
NERMEENSHAIKH: But what interests of the U.S. are served by supporting the al-Khalifa regime in Bahrain?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Of course, as you said, the Fifth Fleet is a big part of this. And the relationship between the U.S. and the al-Saud regime, they want to be on their good side, I guess. So, a lot of things together just, they—I guess they don’t see how supporting human rights in Bahrain is going to do them any good. And that’s not how the government of America should be thinking. If they feel like they represent freedom and democracy, they should be thinking first about the people and about the freedom that they’re demanding, about the democracy that they’re demanding, not thinking first about how their interest in the region is served by supporting dictators.
AMYGOODMAN: Zainab, if you are not sent back to prison, will you stay in Bahrain or leave?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: I will stay in Bahrain. I was born in exile. I lived in exile most of my life. The first time I saw my country, I was a 17-year-old. And I love my country so dearly. I prefer prison to exile. I prefer, you know, living with a daily risk of injury, of getting arrested, all those things, rather than leaving my country. I’m staying here alongside my people, and I’m going to fight with them for as long as it takes. And I’m going to risk—I’m going to take the risk just as they do. I don’t think that I can leave my country. It’s very difficult.
NERMEENSHAIKH: And, Zainab, very quickly, before we conclude, could you talk about the significance of the terrorism law in Bahrain, when it was introduced and how it’s been used to prosecute protesters and those involved in the demonstrations?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Well, in a lot of countries in the region, not just Bahrain, the terrorism law and the terrorism, just the word itself, has been used so much to punish people who are justly calling for their rights. And a lot of times—and there’s obviously no proof. And as you know, the justice system here in Bahrain—I mean, there’s no real courts. They just keep using the courts and the justice system to just punish activists. So this word "terrorism" is being thrown all over the place, even though the revolution in Bahrain is one of the most peaceful revolutions. People go out on a daily basis with nothing in their hands. All they do is shout slogans. And yet, they are being sent to prison. One of those people is my father and the rest of the leaders who are with him in prison right now. They call for human rights. They teach people how to go out and demand those rights. And then suddenly they’re in prison for charges that have to do with terrorism or trying to overthrow the regime, which they consider as terrorism. In this day and age, everybody should know that trying to change a regime is a people’s right. It’s not considered terrorism. But I guess they’re using what’s happening in the world—fear, the fear that people have of terrorism—they’re using that word to—as an excuse to punish people who are calling for their just demands.
AMYGOODMAN: Zainab, how many members of your family are in prison?
ZAINABALKHAWAJA: Right now, my father and my uncle are in prison.
Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, winner of 127 international awards and more than 50 certificates in the area of photography
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the authorities in Bahrain continuance of targeting photographers who transmit with their cameras the violations practiced by the authority against the public protests. The security apparatuses had recently arrested Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi (25 years) after raiding his house at dawn on Monday 10 February 2014.
Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi’s father stated that the former was arrested with his brother from their home at dawn after a group of civilians backed up by regime forces raided the place. He mentioned that they tampered the house and violated its privacy as well as confiscating Al-Mousawi’s private belongings which are: a phone, 4 hard disks, a laptop and other equipment. Al-Mousawi was taken to an unknown destination and he was in an enforced disappearance for a period exceeding 5 days; he called his family after that to inform them of his presence in the Dry Dock prison.
Ahmed’s father said that his son told him that he was subjected to severe torture at the Criminal Investigation Department. The torture included hanging him on the door and electrocuting him, and beating him on his testicles, in addition to forcing him to stand for four continuous days and stripping him off his clothes. He added that the Criminal Investigations did not allow the lawyer to attend the interrogation with Ahmed in the Public Prosecution building.
Worth noting, Al-Mousawi has memberships in many institutes and unions related to photographers and media workers, among them are his memberships in the United Photographers International (UPI), the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and the Federation of International Art photography (FIAP). Al-Mousawi had won two international awards from Greece in the area of photography after his arrest, the awards are an honourable mention and a diploma which brings the total of awards he won to 127 international awards, and more than 50 certificates in the area of photography and photojournalism.[i]
The BCHR believes that arresting Al-Mousawi is part of the systematic campaign led by the authority in Bahrain against photojournalists and media workers. They are arrested to continue the media blackout practiced by the authority to conceal the violations which are revealed by the photographers who convey the reality and expose the regime’s violations of human rights in Bahrain.
The Freedom Press Index released by Reporters without Borders[ii] had mentioned four Bahraini photographers among a list that included 178 detained journalists worldwide. The organization had included in the list announced on Wednesday 18 December 2013 the names of the following photographers: Qassim Zen-el-deen, arrested on 2 August 2013, Hussein Hubail, arrested on 31 July 2013, Ahmed Humaidan, arrested on 29 December 2012, and Hasan Matooq, arrested since 12 May 2011.
Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda– Vice-president of the BCHR – denounced arresting photographers, and considered it a blatant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 19 which states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.
Based on the aforementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations and all the authority’s close allies and relevant international associations to:
It also calls on the authority in Bahrain to:
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses it deep concern for the continuous practice of torture in Bahrain as a means of extracting confessions, especially in the Criminal Investigation Department, while the policy of impunity is a factor of not holding its perpetrators accountable.
Sunday evening 2 February 2014, the security authorities arrested Mohammed Al-Sheikh and Mohammed Al-Oraibi (a photographer) upon their arrival at Bahrain International Airport when they were returning from a religious visit to the shrine of Sayeda Zaynab, daughter of Imam Ali bin Abu Talib, granddaughter of the Prophet (pbuh) in Syria. Their families were not able to find out the reason behind their arrest or any other information regarding their whereabouts for several days. They were also not admitted a lawyer.
Their families were able to visit them on 12 February 2014, and according to the information received, Mohammed Al-Sheikh stated that the was subjected to torture for five days in the Criminal Investigation Department, and sexual assault by inserting a wooden stick twice in his anus and electrocuting him more than once in all parts of his body including his testicles. He stated that the electrocution marks are still visible. He added that he lost consciousness for four hours the first time he was electrocuted, and was taken to hospital as a result of that; however he was still subjected to further torture by the use of electrocution after that. He was also tortured by using the Falaqa (hanging him from his legs) and hanging from his hands in a manner he described as the ‘scorpion’ where the hands are tied to the legs and then he is hung; he was also beaten with a rod and was subjected to kicks and hand slaps on the face. He was stripped off his clothes and cold water was poured on him in a cold temperature. He was forced to stand for hours while being blindfolded and handcuffed from behind.
Information was also received regarding Mohammed Al-Oraibi who was subjected to the same type of torture by using electrocution and sexual assault. Statements indicated that torture took place under the supervision of the officer Isa Al-Majali who had numerous torture complaints documented against him by the BCHR.
Their houses were also raided by masked civilians without showing a permit from the Public Prosecution. The charges against them are not clear; however, the Public Prosecution ordered their detention for 60 days pending investigation. It is feared that they get subjected to more torture during their detention period.
The BCHR condemns the continuation of systematic torture in the detention centers, which is a result of the policy of impunity obviously practiced by the Public Prosecution and judicial apparatuses in Bahrain, and at the highest governmental levels. The Prime Minister had visited the officer accused of torture, Mubarak bin Huwail, at his home and thanked him for his work. It is quite apparent that none of the recommendations related to holding the perpetrators of the human rights violations accountable and questioning them, with their varying roles and responsibilities, have been implemented, and which is one of recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Statements from detainees are still being received after transferring them from the torture center ‘the Criminal Investigations’ to the detention center regarding them facing torture by beating, electrocution, harassment and sexual assault.
Worth mentioning that the government of Bahrain had in fact called off an expected visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and which was supposed to take place in May 2013.
In light of the aforementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations, European Union and the close allies and international institution to put pressure on the Bahraini Authorities in order to:
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for an independent and urgent investigation into the death of 23 year old Jaffar AlDurazi during detention. The BCHR received information that AlDurazi was subjected to torture and the bad conditions of the prison as well as ill-treatment. The BCHR also calls for an independent investigation in all the deaths that have occurred in detention, which have now reached four deaths since December 2013.
On the 26th of February 2014 the head of the Rehabilitation and Corrections Department announced the death of Jaffar Mohammed Jaffar AlDurazi while receiving medical treatment at the Salmanniya Medical Complex. The statement said that AlDurazi, who has the Sickle Cell Anemia Disease (SCD) was “admitted to the hospital on February 19. He died this morning at around 3:15am.”
The Public Prosecution stated: “The death resulted from complications caused by the sickle cell disease which led to a lung clot, according to a medical report issued by the hospital. The Public Prosecution's coroner affirmed that the death was natural away from any criminal suspicion.”
Jaffar AlDurazi was arrested at the end of December 2013, after he and a group of other people who caught on a boat attempted to escape Bahrain via sea according to the Ministry of Interior. AlDurazi was wanted by the Bahrain authorities, although not clear on what charges. AlDurazi told his family during a visit that he had been subjected to severe torture during his detention at the Criminal Investigations Directorate after his arrest. He reported being subjected to severe beatings with bare hands as well as with plastic hoses, kicking, electric shocks, forced to stand for long hours, stripped naked, threatened with sexual assault, and put in the “freezer” (a very small room that is extremely cold) after having cold water poured on him. During his detention, AlDurazi’s family were not allowed to bring him warm clothes, as has been the case in general with all prisoners political and criminal, despite the cold weather and his health condition. His family stated that they had no information about his whereabouts or situation for seven days after his arrest until he was moved to the Dry Docks prison. They added that the SCD crises symptoms started after that, and that he looked thin and fragile when they saw him at Salmaniya Medical Complex.
“Stress, dehydration, pain and subjection to cold weather are main causes of the Sickle Cell Anemia crises complications” – SCD Doctor.
AlDurazi’s father told the BCHR that his son’s SCD symptoms were never severe; he usually would only be subjected to a crises once a year, when he would visit the hospital to receive IV treatment. Since his arrest though, he was moved to the hospital three times due to SCD crises, the final time lasting one week in the hospital before he passed away. AlDurazi was in the emergency room for the first five days during which his family was not allowed to see him. When they finally visited him in the ward, he complained of medical negligence, stating that his IV would finish and he would repeatedly ask for it to be changed but was ignored by the hospital staff. The AlDurazi family publicly stated that they hold the authorities responsible for their son’s death due to the torture, they submitted an official complaint to the Khamees police station as well as the ombudsman’s office.
According to the official records, the death of the detainee Jaffar AlDurazi is the fourth death of people in custody since December 2013; a death was announced on the 26th of December 2013 due to “ailment”, another on the 8th of February 2014 due to “heart disease”, followed by the death of Jaffar AlDurazi on the 26th of February, and finally the last case on the 28th of February 2014, when a defendant charged in a criminal case died due to “hepatitis”.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented in numerous statements and reports the unsanitary and bad prison conditions at the Dry Docks prison as well at Jaw Central prison. Furthermore, numerous cases were documented voicing serious concern about the lack of access to medical treatment for political prisoners; for example in the case of deceased detainee Yousif AlNashmi in October 2013, who was reportedly tortured then refused adequate medical treatment. Another such case was detainee Mohammed Mushaima who also died reportedly due to lack of access to adequate medical treatment having suffered from SCD. The BCHR continues to receive cases and complaints about torture at the CID during which victims are usually subjected to enforced disappearance. In the absence of independent investigations into these cases, and the lack of transparency and supervision of the detention centers, the BCHR holds the Ministry of Interior completely responsible for all the deaths and health crises that occur during detention.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reiterates the importance of the international conventions related to the protection of individuals subjected to incarceration, specifically “all prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings”.
Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and relevant institutions to apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:
Finally, it is important to note here that these recommendations regarding prison conditions do not in any form or shape eliminate the main issue that all political prisoners must be immediately and unconditionally released.
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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Bahrain*
1. The Committee considered the third periodic report of Bahrain (CEDAW/C/BHR/3) at its 1187th and 1188th meetings, on 11 February 2014 (see CEDAW/C/SR.1187 and 1188). The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/BHR/Q/3 and the responses of Bahrain are contained in CEDAW/C/BHR/Q/3/Add.1.
2. The Committee welcomes the third periodic report of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which took into account its previous recommendations. It also expresses its appreciation to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by its pre-session working group. It welcomes the oral presentation of the delegation and the further clarifications provided in response to the questions posed by the Committee during the dialogue.
3. The Committee commends the State party for its high level delegation, headed by Shaikha Mariam Bint Hassan al Khalifa, the Deputy President of the Supreme Council for Women, which included experts from relevant ministries, the Parliament and the judicial authority involved in the implementation of the provisions of the Convention. The Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue that took place between the delegation and the members of the Committee.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the consideration in 2008 of the State party’s combined initial and second periodic reports (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2) in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of:
a. Law No. 36/2012, Labour Law in the private sector;
b. Royal Orders 46/20009 on the establishment of the National Human Rights Institution and 28/2012 amending certain provisions; and
c. Law No. 35/2009 to support the children of Bahraini women married to foreigners.
5. The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to improve the institutional and policy framework aimed at accelerating the elimination of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality, through the adoption of:
a. The National Plan for the Advancement of Bahraini Women (2013-2022) and its implementation strategy;
b. The vocational and technical training strategic plan 2008-2014, which widens training opportunities for girls in non-traditional fields;
c. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Supreme Council for Women and the Information Affairs Authority to boost women’s role in the media (2011); and
d. The National Model Integrating Women’s Needs in Development (2010).
6. The Committee welcomes the ratification by the State party of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 22 September 2011.
7. The Committee welcomes the State party’s expressed willingness to review some of its reservations to the Convention, with a view to withdrawing them or amending their content and the fact that a bill on the matter has been referred to the Parliament.
C. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
8. The Committee stresses the crucial role of the legislative power in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention (see CEDAW statement on ‘The relationship of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women with Parliamentarians’, 41st session, 2008). It invites the Parliament, in line with its mandate, to take the necessary steps regarding the implementation of the present concluding observations between now and the next reporting period under the Convention.
9. The Committee takes note of the assurances provided by the State party delegation in its opening statement and during the dialogue regarding the possibility of withdrawing or amending some of its reservations in relation to articles 2; 9 (2); 15 (4); and 16 of the Convention. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned that no timeframe has been set to undertake the review of these reservations. The Committee reiterates that their withdrawal or narrowing is essential for the full implementation of the Convention in the State party and considers that the reservations to articles 2 and 16 are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention (see Committee’s statement on reservations, A/53/38/Rev.1).
10. The Committee calls upon the State party to expedite, without delay, the review of its reservations to the Convention, with a view to withdrawing them or narrowing their scope, in line with the Convention, within an established timeframe and with the full participation of women’s civil society groups. It especially calls upon the State party to withdraw its reservations to articles 2 and 16, which are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
Definition of discrimination against women
11. The Committee acknowledges that the Bahraini Constitution, in its articles 4 and 18, stipulates that equality is guaranteed by the State, that all citizens are equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination based on sex, as well as the fact that the Convention has the status of law in Bahrain. Nevertheless, the Committee reiterates the need for an explicit prohibition of discrimination against women in the State party’s domestic legislation, as defined in article 1 of the Convention.
12. The Committee calls on the State party to prohibit and sanction discrimination against women, encompassing both direct and indirect discrimination, in line with obligations under articles 1 and 2 of the Convention. It recommends the State party to strengthen education and training programs, in particular for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel, on the Convention and its direct applicability in domestic courts and on the forms and scope of discrimination. The Committee also encourages the State party to strengthen awareness-raising and education measures to enhance women’s knowledge of their rights under the Convention.
13. The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to review and revise discriminatory legislation, including its Penal Code and Nationality Law. The Committee notes information from the State party delegation concerning draft laws presented to the chambers of Parliament. However, the Committee is concerned that the law reform process experiences long delays, that many amendments are still in the process of being drafted, and that bills that have been drafted have yet to be adopted.
14. The Committee calls upon the State party to give high priority to its law reform process and to modify or repeal, without delay and within a clear time frame, discriminatory legislation, including discriminatory provisions in its Penal Code and Nationality Law, as well as in family matters. The Committee recommends the State party to increase its efforts to sensitize the chambers of Parliament, religious and community leaders, civil society organizations and the general public on the importance of supporting the acceleration of legal reform.
National machinery for the advancement of women
15. The Committee notes the restructuring of the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), the many awareness raising activities and training carried out, and the establishment of equal opportunity units in various ministries and government bodies. Nevertheless, the Committee reiterates its concern about the limited support provided by the SCW to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
16. The Committee recalls its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 19) and recommends that the SCW strengthen its cooperation with all stakeholders, in particular by supporting women’s civil society groups and non-governmental organizations.
Temporary special measures
17. The Committee reiterates its concern about the lack of understanding of temporary special measures which are considered by the State party to be contrary to the Constitution and discriminatory. The Committee notes with concern that no temporary special measures, including a system of quotas aimed at accelerating equality between women and men, have been adopted or are envisaged in the near future as part of a strategy to accelerate the achievement of de facto or substantive equality between women and men in all areas of the Convention.
18. Recalling its general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, the Committee notes that such measures adopted and implemented by States parties under the Convention do not constitute discrimination. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 21) and urges the State party to:
a. Inform and train relevant officials on the non-discriminatory nature of temporary special measures within the meaning described in article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, as interpreted in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25;
b. Adopt and implement temporary special measures, including time-bound goals and quotas, directed towards the achievement of de facto or substantive equality between women and men in areas where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, including in political life, decision-making bodies and the private sector; and
c. Include in its legislation provisions to encourage the use of temporary special measures, in both the public and private sectors.
19. The Committee appreciates the efforts of the State party to re-examine the stereotyped content of school curricula and books and to provide vocational education to both girls and boys, including in non-traditional fields. The Committee welcomes the efforts of the State party in partnership with the media to increase the participation of women and to show a positive and diverse image of women in public life. However, the Committee remains concerned about the persistence of traditional stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in society and, particularly, within the family.
20. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 22) and encourages the State party to continue implementing measures to bring about change to the widely shared stereotypical roles of women and men, including awareness-raising and training programs and campaigns, and the promotion of equal sharing of family responsibilities and the equal status and responsibilities of women and men in the private and public spheres.
Violence against women
21. The Committee notes the existence of a bill to combat domestic violence drafted since 2007, and assurances by the State party delegation that the bill is currently under consideration by the chambers of Parliament. Nevertheless, the Committee is deeply concerned about the slow process of adopting specific legislation to eliminate violence against women in all settings, including a definition of violence and provisions on remedies and sanctions. The Committee reiterates its concern that several provisions in the Penal Code condone acts of violence against women by exempting perpetrators from punishment. In particular, it regrets that the Penal Code excludes marital rape, that article 353 of the Penal Code exempts perpetrators of rape from prosecution and punishment if they marry their victims and that article 334 of the Penal Code reduces the penalties for perpetrators of crimes committed in the name of so called honour. It also notes the absence of statistical data on the incidence of violence against women as well as the absence of any rape complaints to the SCW or the police.
22. In the light of its general recommendation No. 19 (1992) on violence against women and its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 25), the Committee urges the State party to put in place a comprehensive national strategy and program to address all forms of violence against women, and:
a. Expedite the adoption of the bill to combat domestic violence, criminalizing violence against women and providing for effective remedies and sanctions;
b. Revise the Penal Code, repealing any provisions contained therein which condone acts of violence against women, such as articles 334 and 353, and including provisions to criminalize marital rape;
c. Provide mandatory training to judges, prosecutors and the police on the dynamics of violence against women and on gender-sensitive procedures to deal with women victims of violence;
d. Systematically collect data on violence against women and girls, disaggregated by sex, age and relationship between the victim and perpetrator;
e. Ensure that women and girls victims of violence, including domestic violence, have access to effective protection and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished;
f. Take measures to ensure that the lack of reported cases of rape is not due to victims’ fear of retribution or stigma or a sign of lack of confidence in the police and judicial authorities; and
g. Address the traditional cultural attitudes preventing women from reporting cases of violence, including through educational and awareness-raising programs to the general public about the criminal nature of all forms of violence against women.
23. The Committee welcomes information on the existence of a shelter for women victims of violence. The Committee is nevertheless concerned about the insufficient support services for victims of violence as well as the absence of data on their reintegration and rehabilitation.
24. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a. Increase the numbers and capacity of shelters and services for victims of violence against women, in collaboration with and through adequate funding for NGOs; and
b. Take measures to increase collection of data with a view to ensuring access and availability of reintegration and rehabilitation for women victims of violence.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
25. The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts through the “National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons,” increased labour inspections, bilateral cooperation with countries of origin, and the provision of psychological assistance and physical protection of victims. However, the Committee reiterates its concern about the prevalence and extent of trafficking of girls and women into the State party for purposes of forced labour and/or sexual exploitation. The Committee is particularly concerned about:
a. The absence of a comprehensive national strategy to address trafficking;
b. The lack of information on the number of women victims who have benefited from existing programs as well as on prosecution and punishment of perpetrators in cases of trafficking;
c. Reports that fear of retribution by employers and the risk of being detained or deported prevent women victims of trafficking from filing complaints; and
d. The lack of information on the extent and the scope of prostitution, and the fact that mainly migrant women trafficked into the State party are particularly vulnerable to exploitation of prostitution.
26. The Committee reiterates its recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 27) that the State party:
a. Adopt and implement a national strategy against trafficking that includes criminal justice measures to prosecute and punish traffickers as well as protection and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking for purposes of forced labour and/or sexual exploitation;
b. Provide statistical data on cases of trafficking for purposes of forced labour and/or sexual exploitation, as well as on victims who have benefited from existing programs;
c. Strengthen training and awareness-raising programs for the police, border control and other law enforcement agencies as well as labour inspectors on their role in preventing and combating trafficking in women and girls;
d. Undertake measures to ensure access to legal aid for victims and to the necessary assistance, support and protection, including facilitating provision of residence permits where appropriate;
e. Raise awareness about the risks of trafficking and exploitation of women for forced labour and prostitution, with a focus on migrant women; and
f. Provide comprehensive information on the issue of prostitution, including measures adopted by the State party to discourage demand for prostitution and to prosecute and punish those who exploit prostitution.
Participation in political and public life
27. The Committee welcomes the initiatives undertaken by the State party to encourage women’s participation in leadership positions. However, it regrets that despite their high levels of education and economic empowerment, women continue to be underrepresented in political and public life, in particular in the National Assembly and local councils and in decision-making positions.
28. The Committee reiterates its recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 29) and calls upon the State party to take measures, including temporary special measures in the form of quotas, with benchmarks and concrete timetables, to increase the number of women in political and public life, at all levels and in all areas, including in the National Assembly and local levels of government, in the light of its general recommendation No. 23 (1997) on women in political and public life. It recommends the State party to promote women in leadership positions and foster a political and social environment conducive to women’s promotion in all sectors.
Women human rights defenders
29. The Committee notes the statement from the State party that 19 of the 26 recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report have been implemented and that steps are being taken to achieve their full implementation. However, the Committee is particularly concerned about allegations that in the aftermath of the February/March 2011 political events, some women experienced ill-treatment and intimidation by law enforcement officials as well as dismissals, suspensions, and downgrading of professional positions from the public and private sectors, as well as various other forms of retribution for their civic engagement including detention, revoking of nationality, and that a number of women are still in detention.
30. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a. Expedite the implementation of all the BICI recommendations to their full extent;
b. Ensure that any sanctions against women who peacefully participated in, or appeared to support, the events since February 2011 are immediately discontinued, that women do not suffer the impact of their political affiliations and are immediately reinstated in the posts they occupied, compensated and rehabilitated;
c. Ensure that women activists are able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association and that the July 2013 revision of the Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism (2006) does not have a negative impact in this regard; and
d. Ensure the representation of women and the inclusion of women’s issues in the ongoing national dialogue.
Civil society and non-governmental organizations
31. The Committee notes the information provided by the State party that it is in the process of revising the draft law on civil organizations and institutions currently before the chambers of Parliament for consideration. The Committee welcomes assurances that the State party adopted measures to increase access to funding for civil society associations. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that under the current Law of Associations (Law 21/1989):
a. Women’s freedom of association is hindered by lengthy registration procedures and excessive supervision, as well as the need to channel international funding requests to the Ministry of Interior; and
b. Women associations are prohibited from engaging in political activities.
32. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a. Take concrete steps, including through legal amendments to create and ensure an enabling environment in which women’s civil society groups and NGOs working on gender equality and women’s empowerment may be freely established and can freely raise funds and operate. It also recommends the State party to strengthen its consultation with civil society in this regard; and
b. Ensure that the draft law on civil organizations and institutions enables women’s non-governmental organizations and associations to engage in the public and political life of the country, in line with article 7 (c) of the Convention.
33. The Committee welcomes the Royal Order of 2011 granting Bahraini nationality to 335 children of Bahraini women married to foreigners and notes with appreciation the Cabinet decision of January 2014 granting Bahraini nationality to the children of Bahraini women married to foreigners subject to certain conditions. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that women still do not enjoy equal rights to nationality, since men automatically confer their nationality to their children, which is not the case for Bahraini women. The Committee notes the slow pace of adoption of the draft amendments to the Nationality Law and is especially concerned that such amendments will not automatically grant children of Bahraini women married to foreigners the nationality of their mothers, but will only codify the present system according to which, women, upon request and royal decision, can transfer their nationality to their children. In addition, the Committee is concerned about the situation of stateless persons, including the possibility of children of Bahraini women married to foreigners becoming stateless.
34. Recalling its recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 31) and in the light of the State party’s commitment during its latest Universal Periodic Review, the Committee urges the State party to expedite the amendments to the Nationality Law, to bring it into full compliance with article 9 of the Convention, and to withdraw its reservation to article 9 (2). Further, it recommends the State party to consider acceding to international instruments to address the situation of stateless persons, including the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
35. The Committee commends the State party for the advances made in education of girls and women and the importance given to their enrolment in non-traditional vocational training. Nevertheless, the Committee notes the persistence of traditional attitudes and stereotypes which affect the educational paths followed by women, in particular in the scientific and technical disciplines.
36. The Committee recommends the State party to take coordinated measures to further diversify the educational and vocational choices of girls and boys and provide in its next periodic report, tabulated data, disaggregated by sex, on the above, indicating the respective levels at which courses are pursued.
37. The Committee notes with appreciation that the participation of women in the workforce continues to grow. However, the Committee is concerned that women are disproportionately affected by unemployment and discrimination related to work and that:
a. A persistent wage gap between women and men exists, in practice;
b. Neither the Penal Code nor the Labour Law in the private sector (Law 36/2012 or Labour Law) specifically define or criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace; and
c. The Labour Law allows for prohibitions on women’s employment and gives the Minister powers to determine the occupations in which employment of women is prohibited.
38. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a. Adopt effective measures to close the wage gap between women and men;
b. Consider ratifying ILO Convention No. 100 (1951) on Equal Remuneration;
c. Adopt legislation criminalizing all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace and ensure that such provisions are enforced; and
d. Ensure that ministerial decisions placing restrictions on women’s work concern only pregnancy and maternity protection and do not perpetuate occupational segregation or stereotypes on women’s roles and capabilities.
Female migrant workers
39. The Committee welcomes the commitment expressed by the State party delegation to adopt legislation that will confer rights and legal protection to domestic workers. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned about the limited scope of application of the Labour Law (No. 36/2012) to domestic workers despite many cases of violence, abuse and exploitation experienced by women migrant workers who are mainly employed as domestic workers in the State party. The Committee commends the State party for the adoption of Decision No. 79 (2009) reforming the sponsorship system but is concerned that conditions in employment contracts set by employers could undermine the purpose of the decree. The Committee notes with concern the lack of information on the availability of support services and programs for protecting women migrant domestic workers from violence, abuse and exploitation, and on the availability of legal and administrative remedies to complain about cases of violence against them.
40. Recalling its general recommendation No. 26 (2008) on women migrant workers as well as its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, para. 35), the Committee calls upon the State party to:
a. Strengthen the legal protection of women migrant workers, in particular by amending legislation to make its provisions applicable to women migrant domestic workers;
b. Ensure that the objective of Decree No. 79 is not undermined by discriminatory or abusive provisions in employers’ contracts;
c. Continue taking steps with a view to effectively abolish the sponsorship system, and seek technical assistance from ILO;
d. Prosecute and sentence violent, abusive and exploitative employers and recruitment agents;
e. Raise awareness of labour rights among women migrant and domestic workers; and
f. Ensure women migrant workers’ effective access to legal aid and complaint mechanisms and provide victims of exploitation and abuse with the necessary protection and assistance, including immediate access to shelters and rehabilitation services.
41. The Committee commends the State party for reversing the practice requiring a husband’s consent before a caesarean operation is performed on his wife. However, the Committee is concerned that:
a. Female migrants workers have difficult access to free emergency health services;
b. Abortion is criminalized even when a woman is a victim of rape or incest.
42. The Committee recommends the State party to:
a. Take appropriate measures to ensure that female migrant workers have access to free emergency medical services; and
b. Consider undertaking legal amendments to allow abortion in cases of rape and incest with a view to protecting the best interests of the victim, and to remove punitive measures imposed on women who undergo abortion in such cases, in the light of its general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health services.
Marriage and family relations
43. The Committee takes note of the State party delegation’s assurances that polygamy and early marriage are not common in the State party. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned that women continue to be denied equal rights with men with regard to family relations, in particular marriage, age of marriage, divorce, child custody, guardianship, and inheritance under the existing laws. The Committee notes with interest the adoption of the Law of Family Rulings (Law No. 19 of 2009), Part 1, pertaining to family issues within the Sunni community. However, the Committee remains concerned that the lack of a uniform family code and the fact that the law does not apply in Shiite courts, leaves Shiite women unprotected by a codified personal status law.
44. The Committee encourages the State party to build on the progress achieved concerning Part 1 of the Family Law (2009) and expedite the adoption of Part 2 of the Law, with a view to adopting a unified family law that provides for equality and effective access to justice in family issues. In this regard, it recommends the State party to:
a. Take steps to ensure access to justice in family issues for the Shiite community;
b. Raise awareness about the need of a unified family law that ensures women’s rights under the Convention; and
c. Draw on the examples of other countries with similar religious backgrounds and legal systems that have reconciled their domestic legislation with the legally binding international instruments they have ratified, specifically regarding equal rights for women and men concerning marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.
d. The Committee also reiterates its recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHR/CO/2, par. 39) that the State party raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18 years, to be equal to that of boys and to take concrete measures to end the practice of polygamy. The Committee calls upon the State party to reassess its reservations to articles 15 (4) and 16 of the Convention with a view to their withdrawal.
Economic consequences of divorce
45. The Committee notes the information provided by the State party on contemporary divorce practices. However, it is seriously concerned about the discrimination and legal restrictions that women continue to face in the context of divorce. The Committee reiterates its concern about the negative economic consequences on women as a result of divorce, including obligations to return dowry, pay compensation, and accept limited alimony.
46. In the light of its general recommendation 29 (2013) on the economic consequences of marriage, family relations and their dissolution the Committee calls on the State party to fully harmonize the Family Law with the Convention, so as to eliminate restrictions on and discrimination against women in matters related to divorce. The Committee encourages the State party to expedite the study on the economic consequences of divorce on women and to adopt legislative measures to remedy possible adverse effects of existing rules of property distribution and ownership.
National human rights institution
47. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR). Nevertheless, the Committee notes that, to date, it has not applied for accreditation with the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. It also notes the absence of information regarding its mandate and available resources.
48. The Committee recommends the State party to encourage the National Institution for Human Rights to apply for accreditation with the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; strengthen its independence, effectiveness and visibility in line with the Paris Principles; and provide it with sufficient human and financial resources and a specific mandate on gender equality and women’s rights as well as a complaints mechanism enabling women to complain about violations of their rights under the Convention.
49. The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
50. The Committee calls upon the State party to utilize the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, in its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention.
Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development framework
51. The Committee calls for the integration of a gender perspective, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, into all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and in relation to the post-2015 development framework.
52. The Committee recalls the obligation of the State party to systematically and continuously implement the provisions of the Convention. It urges the State party to give priority attention to the implementation of the present concluding observations and recommendations between now and the submission of the next periodic report. The Committee therefore requests that the present concluding observations be disseminated in a timely manner, in the official language of the State party, to the relevant State institutions at all levels, in particular to the Government, the ministries, the National Assembly and to the judiciary, to enable their full implementation. It encourages the State party to collaborate with all stakeholders concerned, such as employers’ associations, trade unions, human rights and women’s organizations, universities and research institutions and the media. It further recommends that its concluding observations be disseminated in an appropriate form at the local community level so as to enable their implementation. In addition, the Committee requests the State party to continue to disseminate the Convention and relevant jurisprudence, as well as the Committee’s general recommendations, to all stakeholders.
Technical Assistance and Visit of Special Procedures Mandate Holders
53. The Committee welcomes information provided by the State party delegation regarding the technical cooperation agreement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which reflects the commitment of the State party to continued cooperation and assistance in the development and implementation of a comprehensive program of human rights, including the implementation of the Convention. The Committee also notes with appreciation information provided that, in addition to the OHCHR scoping mission for the development of a technical cooperation program, discussions to set an appropriate date for the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture will take place with the Rapporteur. The Committee also encourages the State party to continue its cooperation with specialized agencies and programs of the United Nations system.
Ratification of other treaties
54. The Committee notes that the adherence of the State party to the nine major international human rights instruments would enhance the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms in all aspects of life. The Committee therefore encourages the State party to consider ratifying the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from enforced Disappearance.
Follow-up to the concluding observations
55. The Committee requests the State party to provide, within two years, written information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 26 and 44 above.
Preparation of the next report
56. The Committee invites the State party to submit its fourth periodic report by in February 2018.
57. The Committee requests the State party to follow the “Harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties, including guidelines on a common core document and treaty-specific documents” (HRI/MC/2006/3and Corr.1).
* Adopted by the Committee at its fifty-seventh session (10 – 28 February 2014).
 The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa, the head of state, appoints the cabinet consisting of 29 ministers; 13 of those ministers, excluding the deputy prime ministers, are members of the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family. The parliament consists of an appointed upper house, the Shura (Consultative) Council, and an elected Council of Representatives. Approximately 17 percent of eligible voters participated in parliamentary by-elections for 18 seats vacated by the political opposition societies in September 2011. Independent human rights organizations did not consider the by-elections free and fair. In May 2012 the king ratified constitutional amendments broadening the powers of the elected chamber of parliament. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Security forces committed human rights abuses.
The most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention; and lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, medical personnel, teachers, and students, with some trials resulting in harsh sentences.
Other significant human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life; lack of consistent accountability for security officers accused of committing human rights violations; arrest of individuals on charges relating to freedom of expression; reported violations of privacy; and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. The government at times imposed and enforced travel bans on political activists in conjunction with arrest charges. The government maintained the revocation of citizenship for 31 individuals and issued a decree regulating communications between political societies and foreign entities, which had not been enforced by year’s end. Discrimination continued against the Shia population, as did discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, and nationality. There were reports of domestic violence against women and children. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign workers continued to be significant problems.
Beginning in 2011 the country experienced a sustained period of unrest including mass protests calling for political reform. In 2011, 52 persons died in incidents linked to the unrest, and hundreds more were injured or arrested. The government prosecuted and sentenced some police personnel implicated in abuses committed during the year and dating back to 2011; however, authorities had not completed legal proceedings against security personnel, and it was unclear if security personnel were held in jail. Authorities reported that accused police officers were held in a special jail, apart from other detainees. The government took some steps to address the “culture of impunity,” which the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report identified, including establishing the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman’s Office and a Special Investigative Unit (SIU) in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, reconstructing mosques destroyed during the 2011 unrest, re-instating nearly all dismissed workers, and acquitting medical personnel accused of crimes during the 2011 unrest. Additionally, in February the king relaunched the National Dialogue, which served as a forum for the government, legislature, and political societies to discuss a political solution. Following the arrest of senior al-Wifaq leader Khalil Marzooq, the opposition societies announced on September 18 they were suspending their participation in the dialogue. They pledged to re-evaluate this temporary boycott based on conditions on the ground; the opposition had not returned to the dialogue by the end of the year.
On 14 January 2014, a group of NGOs sent a joint letter to the Mr. Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter urged Mr. Todt to suspend the 2014 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix until an inquiry by its Ethics Committee can investigate the impact the Grand Prix has on the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter was signed by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Institutes for Rights and Democracy, Bahrain Watch, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights. FIA has failed to offer any response.
The letter points to the direct correlation between intensified crackdowns on civilians and protesters in the lead up to and during previous Formula One events in the country. Restrictive measures used in the past to target activists include enclosing villages in barbed wire, setting up an excessive amount of police checkpoints, firing a disproportionate amount of tear gas into residential areas, and imprisoning protesters. In 2012, security forces killed protester Salah Abbas Habib on the first day of the Bahrain Grand Prix. There are currently more than 3,000 political prisoners behind bars in Bahrain, and there is no indication that such measures will not be used again during the 2014 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
In addition to targeting protesters, the Bahrain government’s restriction on free speech has led to the ongoing practice of denying journalists access to the country. The list of journalists denied access to or deported from Bahrain during the time of the Grand Prix includes a news crew from the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, who were deported in 2012, and an ITN news team, who were deported in 2013.
The decision to hold the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain has provided the Government of Bahrain with the pretext to increase its systematic crackdown on protesters, journalists and human rights defenders. As such, FIA bares a unique ethical and moral responsibility to safeguard the integrity and reputation of motor sport worldwide by cancelling the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix until such abuses cease to exist.
Please contact Maryam AlKhawaja (Tel. +4581757959 or email Maryam.Alkhawaja@bahrainrights.org) for further information.