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    Press freedom campaign launch timed to Formula One race in Bahrain

    New York and Paris, April 3[tk], 2014—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have launched a joint social media campaign calling on the Bahraini government to allow journalists to work freely during the Formula One Grand Prix race in Bahrain on April 6, 2014. Using the social media tool Thunderclap, the “Bahrain Racing in Circles” campaign participants will call for press freedom in Bahrain at the exact start of the Formula One race. As of April 2, the campaign had gained a potential audience of 2.6 million people, twice the population of Bahrain.

    “It’s clear that it’s not only F1 cars that are racing circles in Bahrain, as we see the same cycle of protests, repression, and censorship every year,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Every year, the Bahraini government hopes the roar of Formula One cars will drown out criticism of the regime’s human rights violations,” said Soazig Dollet, head of RSF’s Middle East and North Africa desk. “This year, we’re calling on everyone to join our F1 campaign to make sure that does not happen.”

    CPJ and RSF have documented a consistent attempt by the Bahraini government to censor the press since the launch of a mass protest movement on February 14, 2011. Most recently, on March 26, freelance photographer Ahmed Humaidan was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on charges of attacking a police station in 2012. Humaidan was at the station to document the incident as part of his coverage of unrest in the country.

    To get more information and to join the campaign, please visit the campaign website at: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects....

    ### CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
    Reporters Without Borders promotes and defends the freedom to be informed and to inform others throughout the world

    Media contacts:

    New York, USA:
    Samantha Libby
    Communications Associate
    Committee to Protect Journalists
    slibby@cpj.org
    212-300-9032. Ext 124

    Paris, France:
    Soazig Dollet
    Head of Middle East and North Africa Desk
    Reporters Without Borders
    Tel: 33 1 44 83 84 78
    Email: moyen-orient@rsf.org

     

    https://en.rsf.org/bahrain-bahrain-racing-in-circles-04-04-2014,46090.html

     

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    Published on Wednesday 26 March 2014.

     

    Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 10-year jail sentence that a Bahraini court passed today on Ahmed Humaidan, a well-known press photographer who has been held since December 2012 in connection with an alleged attack on police in Sitra on 8 April 2012.

    Humaidan was at the police station at the time, but was there just to take photos of the use of violence by the security forces

    “We condemn this shocking sentence and voice complete solidarity with this photographer and his family,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

    “The Bahraini authorities have yet again demonstrated their contempt for freedom of information. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Humaidan and all other photojournalists being held in connection with their work.”

    Now aged 26, Humaidan was arrested on 29 December 2012 after months of continual harassment by the security forces. Around 15 plainclothes policemen took him by force to a detention centre where, handcuffed and blindfolded, he was interrogated for two days and then placed in solitary confinement for the next five days.

    He told his family and his lawyer that his interrogators subjected him to psychological torture and threatened to kill him. The trial began on 12 February 2013 but dragged on until today because hearings kept on being postponed.

    His lawyer repeatedly but unsuccessfully requested an independent investigation into his client’s allegations of torture. His requests to the prison authorities to let his client be examined by a doctor were also unsuccessful.

    The Bahraini authorities stop at nothing to gag dissident news and information providers. Nine journalists are currently detained and two others are being prosecuted.

     

    http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-news-photographer-gets-10-years-in-26-03-2014,46046.html

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    PRESS RELEASE

    Tuesday 1 April 2014

    As the eyes of the sporting world turn to Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International urges the country’s authorities not to quash peaceful protests surrounding the event.

    The Formula One racing tournament is due to take place in Bahrain from 4-6 April. In previous years, the authorities have taken severe repressive measures against pro-reform demonstrators, activists opposed to the Royal family and human rights campaigners during the event.  

    “Bahrain’s authorities must not repeat past mistakes by restricting freedom of movement or crushing protests. The rights of people in Bahrain to peacefully to express their opposition to government policies and voice human rights concerns are legitimate and must be respected,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    Opposition activists calling for a boycott of the Grand Prix have already been branded “traitors” by the government. There are fears that the authorities may use recent unrest, including terror attacks on police, to justify imposing further restrictions during the Grand Prix, such as preventing people from leaving their villages and clamping down on peaceful protests.

    During previous Grand Prix events, foreign and local journalists were barred from covering protests, with some deported from Bahrain for attempting to do so without permission.

    "Rather than continuing to resort to security measures to deal with anti-government protests, Bahrain’s authorities should mark the Grand Prix by announcing concrete steps to address the dire state of human rights in the country,” said Said Boumedouha.

    Three years on from the 2011 uprising, Bahrain has seen only cosmetic changes and empty promises of reform. Arbitrary arrests, crackdowns on protests and torture in custody continue unabated. Using the Grand Prix to boost Bahrain’s public image is little more than a blatant attempt to gloss over mounting abuses with the hype of an international sporting event.”  

    Compounding ongoing abuses, there is also a complete absence of accountability for past violations, with a host of victims and their families still awaiting justice for killing and torture that occurred during previous Grand Prix events.  

    Grand Prix injustice

    Two years after Salah ‘Abbas Habib’s death during the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, his family is still awaiting justice. The 37-year-old was shot dead by security forces on 20 April 2012 following protests in Manama. His family was prevented from seeing his body for three days. In November 2013 a policeman was acquitted of involvement in his killing because of lack of evidence and contradictory testimonies from witnesses. No one else has been prosecuted in relation to his death.

    During last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Nafeesa al-‘Asfoor, 31, and Rayhana al-Mousawi, 38, were arrested after they attempted to enter the Formula One circuit to protest against the imprisonment of political activists. Both have been charged with the intent to commit terrorist acts and possession of explosives. Their trial is ongoing. Last September Rayhana was sentenced to five years in prison in a separate case for links to the “14 February Coalition”, a youth movement which was named a terrorist organization by the authorities in March 2014.

    The women claim they were tortured and ill-treated during interrogation and were forced to sign “confessions” which they later withdrew. Amnesty International is calling for a thorough and independent investigation into the women’s allegations of torture and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

    This year’s Grand Prix also marks three years since the arrest of Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, former president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA). He spent 64 days in solitary confinement and was beaten and tortured in custody even after he had signed a forced “confession”. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience arrested solely for the peaceful expression of his views and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release and for his torture allegations to be investigated.

    A number of human rights activists, including Nabeel Rajab and Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja, and hundreds of other political prisoners are languishing in prison solely because they peacefully led or called for anti-government protests.

    “The entrenched culture of impunity within Bahrain’s security forces means that, time and again, those responsible for torture and other serious violations are allowed to walk free. Instead of addressing current abuses, Bahrain’s authorities continue to seek international recognition through pursuits such as the Grand Prix while brazenly flouting the rights of their own people,” said Said Boumedouha.

     

    Link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/fears-renewed-government-crackdown-ahead-bahrain-grand-prix-2014-04-01

     

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    On the morning of the Grand Prix race which will take place today at 6pm in Sakhir; BCHR (Bahrain Center for Human Rights), BIRD (Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy) and BYSHR (Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights), note their concern for the growing violations against civilians in Bahrain.

    It has been evident that in the months preceding the race, many civilian protesters have taken to the streets to protest the FIA’s decision to schedule Bahrain for the Grand Prix. Protesters have taken up various methods to express their anger towards the race going ahead. One video posted on YouTube shows the incineration of F1 tickets, as well as people burning pictures of F1’s Bernie Ecclestone and Bahraini King, Hamad Al-Khalifa. Messages of protest have also taken to social media as well. Many pictures and statuses like this one were posted on Twitter and Facebook. Some protesters have even appealed to the international community by deploying more heartfelt messages. This video posted on YouTube, shares the voice of a Bahraini child who asks: “does the Grand Prix matter more than human beings?”. Unfortunately, as the race goes on, the world has come to the conclusion that it just might.

    Reports of human rights violations have steadfastingly been reaching international NGOs in the run-up to the race. On the 1st of April, a video was leaked of a child being arrested by security forces. The boy was hit twice in the face with the officer’s gun and dragged away from a distraught woman who called after him. On the following day, 5 civilians were sentenced to 5 year sentences for illegal gathering and arson - their trial being neither fair, nor independent. On the 3rd of April, the first day of GP practices in Sakhir, people gathered in march for 20-year old deceased boy Hussain Sharaf’s funeral procession, an event which was interrupted and attacked by security forces. The procession took place in Eker village, where three photojournalists, Hamad, Amer and journalist Mazen Mahdi reported being shot with bird pellets. People on the ground not only reported the use of birdshot but also an exorbitant use of teargas as well. The account given also reported that mercenary forces came back with their jeeps to try and run over the crowd of protesters. On the same day, there were also reports of pellet shot injuries in Malkiya village protests, teargas reports on the streets of Al Qarya, and reports on the use of teargas in Bahraini homes.

    On the first day of the training race, civilians faced similar conditions. Approximately 10 civilians were arrested at dawn during house raids on Friday. Two of these arrests were children, young Mohsen Zaher and Mohsen Jassim. An additional 16 people were arrested throughout the day in the towns of Eker, Nuwaidrat and Sitra, without any presentation of an arrest warrant. Yesterday, protesters took to the streets again as the qualifying stage of the GP proceeded. Protests took place all over the country including in the villages of Muharraq, Sanabis,Salmabad, Ghuraifa, Musalla and Bilad Al Qadeem. In the village of Saar, an anti-F1 protest was attacked by security forces who used tear gas against the masses. Additionally in the village of Banjimrah, civilians reported multiple pellet injuries perpetrated by Bahraini forces. In Maameer and various other villages, a similar situation was reported, with teargas and bird pellet being used as the main weapons against protests.

    On the morning of the Grand Prix Race, and to the time of publishing this report, house raids started at dawn and are still ongoing in Malkiya, Aali, Sitra and Daih, with eight reported arrests so far.

     

    BCHR, BYSHR and BIRD will continue to follow protests in Bahrain and will be watching developments on the ground closely during the race.

     
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over the continued culture of impunity and lack of justice in Bahrain in the prosecution and sentencing of a shooting victim, without evidence, while his attacker was never held accountable for the crime.

    On 22 February 2013, Sayed Majed Sayed Hasan, 18 years-old, was shot with another young man with live ammunition by an individual in a civilian car in the village of Buri, where a pro-democracy protest was taking place. The two young men were immediately taken to the hospital where Sayed Hasan underwent a surgery to stabilize his condition, although the bullet was not removed.

    On 25 April 2013 at dawn, Sayed Hasan’s house was raided and he was arrested without warrant, his house was searched and private property in the house was vandalized. His family stated that he was forced to stand for long hours at the Criminal Investigation Department, and whenever he became tired and sat down, he would be beaten. He was interrogated by the public prosecution without the presence of his lawyer and was charged with “illegal gathering, rioting, and assault of policemen”. He was then ordered to 45 days detention pending further investigation.

    On 05 January 2014, after more than nine months from the initial shooting incident, Sayed Hasan underwent a surgery to remove the bullet from his chest. He was transferred from the hospital after only one day to be taken back to the dry dock detention center in a clear disregard for his well-beng by both the hospital staff and the prison administration.

    He was sentenced on 27 March 2014 to fifteen years imprisonment. Although, defense witnesses stated that after he was shot, and at the time that Sayed Hasan was accused with committing the charges against him, Sayed Hasan could not exert much effort as the smallest movements would leave him exhausted as a result of the bullet that remained in his chest at the time. His lawyer argued that Sayed Hasan could not possibly perform what he was accused of. His lawyer stated that the investigation, which took only three days, lacked seriousness and should not be considered. However, the verdict was issued by the judge only 48 hours after presenting the defense’s argument. It is worth mentioning that Sayed Hasan was the only one arrested and sentenced in this case, while the public prosecution stated that the alleged crimes were committed by a group of people.

    The shooter in this case was never held accountable, despite all the information available about him. Sayed Hasan was interrogated about the incident when he was first taken to the hospital to receive treatment. Moreover, eyewitnesses gave a detailed description of the shooter’s car and recorded the number on the license plate, which was a three digit number; such numbers are typically assigned to ‘VIP’ people by the government.

    The BCHR believes that this case clearly demonstrates the widespread culture of impunity in Bahrain, where criminals are seldom held accountable for their crimes, and where peaceful protesters are sentenced to lengthy prison sentences in hearings that usually the lack basic standard of a fair trial. Sayed Hasan’s case is also representative of dozens of prisoners who are subject to deprivation of their right to adequate medical treatment by the authorities and especial prisons’ administration.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the following:

    • Immediately launch an independent investigation into the incident and bring the responsible party of the shooting of the two boys to justice.
    • Put an end to the culture of impunity and bring those accountable for the protection of criminals to justice, including officials in the public prosecution.

     

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    International and Local Civil Society Groups Call for Immediate and Unconditional Release of Bahraini Human Rights Defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on the Third Anniversary of His Arrest

     

    The undersigned civil society organizations express their serious concern for the health and well-being of imprisoned Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. Mr. Al-Khawaja was arrested three years ago today, on 9 April 2011, and continues to require medical attention for injuries sustained during his arrest and subsequent torture.

    Former president  and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Mr. Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 by a military court as part of a group of human rights activists and political leaders known as the Bahrain 13. We believe that Mr. Al-Khawaja is being unjustly persecuted for his legitimate human rights activity.

    In its September 2012 decision, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Mr. al-Khawaja’s arrest was due to his exercise of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. According to the Working Group, the charges against Mr. al-Khawaja—including membership in a terrorist organization— were “vague” and “raise doubts as to the actual purpose of detention.”  The Working Group also concluded that throughout Mr. Al-Khawaja’s arrest, detention, and trial, “the Government violated numerous international norms to the right to fair trial.”

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) further concluded that Mr. Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment during his arrest and detention. Mr. Al-Khawaja was severely beaten, resulting in a broken jaw, and later spent two months in solitary confinement where he was subjected to physical, psychological and sexual torture. A full testimony from Mr. Al-Khawaja regarding his torture can be found here.

    Mr. Al-Khawaja continues to be denied adequate medical attention and suffers from severe medical complications as a result of his mistreatment in detention. Mr. Al-Khawaja has reported that he has cramps in his facial muscles from metal plates and screws that were set in his jaw after it was broken by security officials in four places in 2011. Mr. Al-Khawaja also continues to experience acute pain due to an injury to his coccyx sustained during torture in 2011.

    Mr. Al-Khawaja and his family have repeatedly requested that the various operations he is in need of are performed by an independent doctor due to legitimate concerns about the impartiality of the doctor appointed by the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital, Dr. Al-Muharraqi, who in 2011 stated that Mr. Al-Khawaja was not subjected to torture. It is also deeply alarming that during his most recent examination, Dr. Al-Muharraqi informed Mr. Al- Khawaja that his entire medical file had gone missing from the system. Mr Al-Khawaja’s lawyers have been requesting a copy of his medical files since 2011, as it would serve as evidence of the multiple injuries and medical conditions caused by torture.

    Despite his incarceration, Mr. Al-Khawaja and his colleagues continue to be the target of defamation campaigns. On the 27 February, 2014, a 12 minute video published on YouTube accused Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, BCHR President Nabeel Rajab and BCHR Acting President Maryam Al-Khawaja of inciting terrorism, “taking the country hostage” and branding them as racists. The video included footage that could have only been obtained from official authorities, including the use of an interview with a police officer which requires the approval of the Ministry of Interior. The video unjustly targets the four human rights defenders as a result of their legitimate activities and could be seen to incite violence against them given the accusations presented.

    In an attempt to test the legal procedures of combating defamation of human rights defenders in Bahrain, Mr. Al-Khawaja submitted a complaint to the Jaw Prison Administration which was then submitted to the Public Prosecutor in response to a degrading article  about Mr. Al-Khawaja published on 28 May 2013 in the Gulf Daily News (GDN). In response, the GDN published a letter on 22 May 2013 accusing Mr. Al-Khawaja of “instruct[ing] rioters to attack military bases in Bahrain and is one of the master planners for an armed military coup.” Nearly a year later, no steps have been taken to address Mr. Al-Khawaja’s complaint.

    The undersigned civil society organizations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja as well as immediate access to independent medical examination and treatment. In addition, we urge the Bahraini authorities to cease harassment and persecution of human rights defenders including unwarranted defamation campaigns.

     

    The co-signed organizations are:

    1. AMAN Network for Rehabilitation and Defending Human Rights
    2. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    3. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    4. Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)
    5. Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)
    6. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    7. Bahrain Interfaith
    8. Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO)
    9. Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
    10. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    11. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
    12. CEARTAS – Irish Lawyers for Human Rights
    13. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    14. European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
    15. Front Line Defenders
    16. Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
    17. Gulf Civil Society Associations Forum (GCSAF)
    18. Human Rights First (HRF)
    19. International Media Support (IMS)
    20. Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture
    21. Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
    22. LuaLua Center for Human Rights (LCHR)
    23. No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ)
    24. PEN American Center
    25. Pen International
    26. The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)
    27. The National Lawyers Guild International Committee
    28. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH)
    29. Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression
    30. Vivarta
    31. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
    32. Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO)
    33. The National Lawyers Guild International Committee
    34. The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND)
    35. Bahrain Press Association
    36. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    37. ASF Network, Réseau Avocats sans Frontières
    38. Redress
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    The undersigned civil society organizations would like to first express gratitude for the important role that the OHCHR has and continues to play in addressing human rights violations in Bahrain. Bahraini civil society has and will continue to work closely with the OHCHR to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain.

    It is with disappointment that the undersigned independent civil society organizations in Bahrain have collectively decided to not attend the event organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly with with the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) and relevant government agencies. It is important to note that the NIHR does not meet the Paris Principles, namely the requirements to guarantee pluralism and independence.

    This initiative comes at a time when the Bahraini government continues to carry out attacks against and/or severely restricts the space and ability of independent human rights defenders and organizations working in Bahrain.   The majority of independent Bahraini human rights organizations, including the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, have been dissolved or prevented from registering as formal organizations in the country. Many independent Bahraini human rights defenders have been imprisoned for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression, and many have also been forced into exile for fear of attacks or imprisonment. This includes prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, both of whom are still serving arbitrary prison terms for their work. Furthermore, in 2013, a draconian draft law on civil organizations was sent to Parliament. If approved, it will work to further restrict and control the work of civil society organizations.

    Human rights defenders continue to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, ill treatment, defamation campaigns, harassment, unfair trials and incarceration.  We strongly believe that to have a genuine dialogue, the voices of these actors would need to be included in any process.  All the while, larger patterns of human rights violations are still rampant in the country, and no genuine accountability measures have been taken by the government to address past and ongoing violations.

    In this context, the OHCHR has regrettably not invited civil society organizations to participate in the series of events that have been organized alongside the NIHR.   Instead, persons have been invited in an individual capacity.  We believe this to be a highly dangerous concession by the OHCHR for the holding of these meetings, as it begins a process within a framework that denies independent human rights defenders their fundamental right of association, which includes the freedom to join and create organizations.

    We fear the adoption by the OHCHR of this framework is very likely to be used to justify and legitimize the repressive policies of the Bahrain government.   Moreover, by organizing this meeting, the OHCHR has greatly undermined our confidence that our voices will be respected and listened to within the proceedings of the meeting on an equal footing as the government.

    This is especially disappointing considering that several civil society organizations members specifically highlighted this issue and the need for recognition of human rights organizations within any OHCHR event in a meeting with OHCHR representatives during the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

    Civil society in Bahrain is more than willing to participate in OHCHR organized events for the sake of promoting human rights in the country. We cannot, however, do so under circumstances that appear to propagate the systematic problems that have led to the current human rights crises within Bahrain.

    We urge the OHCHR to ensure that any activities it is involved with are organized in a manner that fully respects the fundamental rights of human rights defenders.

     

    With Assurances of our Highest Consideration,

     

    Signed:

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Hope Defenders

    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

    European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights

    Ebtisam Alsaegh – Independent activist

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    The trial of student Ahmad Mshaima’ has resumed in Bahrain although his torture allegation is not known to have been investigated. He told the judge on 10 April that he had been tortured in detention, and told his family his health was deteriorating.

     

    Ahmad Hassan Ali Mshaima’, who was arrested on 28 December 2013, has been charged with “illegal gathering with an intent to commit crimes and disturb public security” following protests to mark the second anniversary of the uprising on 14 February 2013. His trial started before the Lower Criminal Court in Manama on 13 March 2014. He denied all charges. His trial resumed on 10 April. Sources close to the defendant told Amnesty International that during the session Ahmad Mshaima’ told the judge that he had been tortured while he was detained but the judge did not allow him to give any details, claiming the lawyer could do so in future sessions His lawyer asked that he be released on bail, but the request was rejected. The next session of the trial is scheduled for 16 April.

    Ahmad Mshaima’ has only been allowed to meet his lawyer during his questioning at the Public Prosecution Office and during his two court hearings. According to information received by Amnesty International, he continues to be denied full access to his lawyer to allow him to prepare adequately his defene. He is being held at the Dry Dock prison.

    He had told his family when they visited him that he had been tortured when he was interrogated during the first hours he had been detained. This had included being beaten, kicked in the legs, forced to insult his father (one of the 13 prominent opposition activists and a prisoner of conscience) and his religion, and coerced into signing documents. He has complained to his family in recent prison visits about pain in his knees and problems walking. His family have submitted a formal complaint about his allegations of torture to the Special Investigations Unit, who have not yet responded.

    Please write immediately in English or Arabic:

    Urging the authorities to release Ahmad Mshaima’ immediately and unconditionally if he is held solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly;

    Urging them to allow Ahmad Mshaima full access to his lawyer, order an immediate and independent investigation into his allegations of torture and bring those responsible to justice;

    Urging them to provide him with any medical attention he may require, including access to specialized hospitals.

     

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 22 MAY 2014 TO:

    King

    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

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    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

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

    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 5/14 Further information: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/003/2014/en

    URGENT ACTION

    STUDENT PROTESTOR’S TRIAL RESUMES

    Additional Information

    Ahmad Mshaima’ is the son of Hassan Mshaima’ who is serving a life sentence in Jaw Prison on the outskirts of Manama, as one of 13 jailed opposition activists. Since March 2013, Hassan Mshaima’ has been denied adequate medical care and family visits for refusing to wear the prison uniform. For further information please see UA 139/11, Index: MDE 11/025/2013, http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/025/2013/en and its follow-up.

    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 its 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 account those responsible for human rights violations, including torture and excessive use of force, and carry out independent investigations into allegations of torture.

     

    Over two years have passed since the BICI report, and the government has yet to fully implement the report’s key recommendations. Prisoners of conscience, including some arrested during the protests, remain behind bars and the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly is still being curtailed. More people have been jailed for denouncing the ongoing human rights violations, whether via Twitter or on peaceful marches. Bahraini courts have appeared more concerned with toeing the government line than offering effective remedy to Bahrainis and upholding the rule of law.

     

    The establishment of BICI and its report was considered a groundbreaking initiative, but the promise of meaningful reform has been let down 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 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 2013 expressed serious concern about the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain.

     

     

    Name: Ahmad Mshaima’

    Gender m/f: m

     

     

     

    Further information on UA: 5/14 Index: MDE 11/013/2014 Issue Date: 10 April 2014

     

    Link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/013/2014/en

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    Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 30-month jail sentence that a Bahraini court passed on the bloggerAli Maaraj on 8 April on charges of "insulting the king" and “improper handling of information technology".

    RWB condemns these absurd charges and demands his immediate release and the quashing of his sentence. The Bahraini authorities have yet again demonstrated their contempt for freedom of information and their mistrust of publication tools.

    The police arrested Maaraj at his home on 7 January, seizing his computer. His brother was simultaneously arrested at his workplace. He was released six weeks later.

    Maaraj posted articles critical of Bahrain’s monarchy on the Luluwa Awel blog. He also posted reports and other information about Bahrain’s anti-government demonstrations.

    The prosecutor said"he intentionally caused trouble to other people as a result of improper handling of information technology.” He was given six months in prison for this, plus two years for "insulting the king". No defence witnesses were allowed to testify at the trial, which was took just three hearings to complete, despite the severity of the sentence.

    The Bahraini authorities often target news providers and human rights defenders. The 26-year-old photographer Ahmed Humaidanwas sentenced to 10 years in prison on 26 March for allegedly taking part in "an attack on a police station in Sitra" in April 2012 although he was at the scene just to photograph the use of violence by the security forces.

    Bahrain is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. It is also on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet".

    Link: http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-blogger-gets-jail-time-for-11-04-2014,46132.html

     

     

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    The BCHR is concerned for the health and well being of Mohammed Abdullah Ali Al-Tajer, 25 years-old, who was arrested on 06 August 2013 during an evening house raid. He is currently being held in prison where he is being denied adequate medical attention. The BCHR believes that Al-Tajer’s detention is arbitrary, and his arrest is an act of reprisal against his cousin – the lawyer and human rights defender of the same name – Mohammed Al-Tajer.

    On 06 August 2013, Al-Tajer’s sister reported that she heard a knock on the door of their home. A Bahraini officer told her through the door that it was the police. She asked the officers to wait because she was not wearing her head scarf, but the officers broke into the house regardless. There were four police vehicles and a civilian car outside. Some of the police officers jumped over the fence, while others came in through the garage door. He was taken away by the police in the civilian car, and was not allowed to put on his shoes. The family confirmed that the police failed to present a warrant to enter the house. The family was not given information about where Al-Tajer was being taken.

    The family immediately went to the Samaheej police station where they were told the police knew nothing of his whereabouts. The family then learned that four other men were arrested from the same neighborhood at the same time, and that one of them lived just a few houses down the road. The family then returned to the same police station to inquire again. This time they were kicked-out of the police station, and informed that the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). 

    Al-Tajer was subjected to enforced disappearance for almost one week, as well as the four other individuals arrested at the same time. During this time, the family went to Samaheej police station, Muharraq police station and the CID, but no information was provided.

    After a week since his arrest, Mohammed called to tell his family “I’m fine and I'm in the CID.” Two days later, the family received another call from him telling them he was in the Dry Dock prison. A couple of days later, he called again to inform his family about a date when they could visit him.

    The first visit to see Al-Tajer in the prison was on 25 August 2013. His brother stated following the visit, "He looked fine to us when we saw him. I asked him if anything had happened to him, he didn’t respond. There were some small bruises visible but not much. We asked him what his charge was, he said he didn’t know".

    Approximately one month after his arrest, Al-Tajer informed his family about the torture he was reportedly subjected to in the CID. He said he was beaten and electrocuted many times. Al-Tajer also stated that officers would tell him to confess, and when he asked what he should confess to, they would say just demand that he generally confess. He was also reportedly coerced to sign papers without being allowed to read them, and not knowing their content.

    On 2 December 2013, Al-Tajer’s trial began. He was not taken to the public prosecution until one day before his trial. Al-Tajer denied all of the charges against him at the public prosecution, and informed the prosecutor that he was tortured into making the confession. The prosecutor reportedly told Al-Tajer that he can not drop the charges, or officially state that he was tortured. The prosecutor reportedly stated that he would include in the official records that Al-Tajer was punched one time (which was put on the lawsuit record).

    Al-Tajer was again reportedly made to sign papers under duress. He was reportedly informed by the public prosecutor that if he did not sign, then he would be brought back again to the same office to sign. Al-Tajer signed the papers out of a fear that what reportedly happened to him before, would happen again.

    Al-Tajer’s lawyer attempted to meet with him to receive authorization to legally represent him, but he was only given the chance to receive this authorization during the second hearing when he informed the judge that he had made several unsuccessful attempts. However, to date, the lawyer has not been allowed to meet his client in private, although he made a request during every court session. Al-Tajer’s lawyer submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman (see below) regarding this, however, he has yet to receive a response.

    Health Issues

    Mohammed Al-Tajer has two health issues. The first is that he suffers from severe headaches. Al-Tajer’s friends have reported that his headaches would be so severe that they would, at times, result in his passing out. Al-Tajer would be taken to the hospital, but was always only told that his blood sugar is low. He reportedly suffers from the same pains in the prison, and has reportedly fainted on at least 6 occasions. Al-Tajer reports that the authorities take him on occasion to the prison clinic where he is given pain killers, but never adequate treatment.

    His second medical condition is related to the fact that he used to suffer from serious constipation before he was imprisoned, which has since led to further complications. Al-Tajer reports that he used to have pain and would drink a large amount of water in order to feel better. However, while in prison in December 2013, Al-Tajer started to bleed when passing stools, and believed that he had hemorrhoids. At times, he reported that he would not be able to sit or sleep as a result of the severe pain he was suffering from. He was taken to the clinic and, as usual, provided with painkillers.

    After a short period, his condition further worsened and he started to bleed more frequently, and in larger amounts.

    On one occasion, he was taken to the Salmaniya hospital but was not allowed to see a doctor. The prison authorities explained this by stating that they arranged for an appointment with a doctor on 11 March 2014.

    On the evening of 20 February 2014, Al-Tajer fainted as a result of the bleeding, and was again given painkillers by the prison clinic. At night, he fainted again, and the prison authorities decided to take him to Salmaniya hospital; he reached the hospital at 1:00 am. Hospital staff collected blood from him to run blood tests, and he was seen by a doctor called Dr. Kamal. One of Al-Tajer’s brothers went to Salmanya when he learned that Mohammed was there. The brother stated that Al-Tajer lost a significant amount of weight (more than 10 KG) and looked pale. The doctor reportedly informed the brother that Al-Tajer needs surgery, but he is not allowed to operate on him, or admit him in the hospital. His brother asked the pharmacy what medicines were prescribed for him, and was told that he is receiving a suppository and more painkillers.

    Al-Tajer was suffering from slight hemorrhoids (pile) before his arrest. He dealt with this problem by maintaining an appropriate diet and using a specified cream. After his arrest, the problem developed quickly due to the type of food he is given and lack of adequate medical care. In prison he started to suffer from bleeding when he passed stool.     

    The BCHR believes that the condition of the prison may have contributed in worsening his condition. The quality and kind of food the prisoners are given is poor, there is a general lack of hygiene in the prisons, and most importantly, he is being denied adequate medical treatment.

    He attended his appointment in Salmaniya on 11 March 2014. The doctor prescribed medication, a specific diet, and a salt-and-water bath for the infected area. His family was allowed to provide him with these items only after taking his case to the local media.

    The family filed a complaint at the Ombudsman (see below) but received no response. The Ombudsman visited Mohammed in detention and listened to his complaints, but the family and lawyer were not called in to provide further testimony.

    The other three men arrested with Mohammed Al-Tajer are still in detention, and the final hearing in their case is scheduled for 23 April 2014. Their names are:

    Sayed Mazin Sayed Hashim Sayed Ali, aged 34;

    Sayed Mohammed Sayed Adnan Sayed Hussain, aged 36; 

    Mohammed Oun Ali, aged 26.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • immediately release Mohammed Al-Tajer and launch an independent investigation into his reports of torture and the denial of medical treatment;
    • provide all prisoners with adequate medical attention;
    • end the culture of impunity that pervades through the police forces, the office of the public prosecution, and throughout the highest ranks of the Bahraini government, and bring to justice those found by an independent judiciary to be responsible for torture and other human rights abuses.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the Bahraini authorities’ continued practice of arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against journalists, photographers, and human rights activists. On Wednesday, 26 March 2014, the Third High Court issued a 10-year prison sentence against photographer Ahmed Humaidan [1] in a trial that lacked due process.

    A reputed freelance photographer, Humaidan has won 163 awards internationally for his contributions to the field. After his arrest for alleged arson in December 2012, he stated that he suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the torture he was reportedly subjected to by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) [2]. Humaidan was reportedly subjected to various methods of torture, including being forced to stand in a cold room for hours whilst handcuffed and blindfolded. Humaidan informed his family that while he was blindfolded and handcuffed at the CID, he was reportedly forced to carry an object that his interrogators told him was a live bomb. He was made to hold the object for several hours under duress and strict surveillance. Additionally, Humaidan stated that he was psychologically intimidated during questioning in order to extract a false confession. Interrogators reportedly threatened to bring charges against his siblings on fabricated crimes if he refused to confess.

    Fadhel Al-Sawad, Humaidan’s lawyer, stated that no incriminating evidence was presented in court against Humaidan, except for the confessions that were reportedly extracted under torture and reports from anonymous sources from within the CID. Humaidan was subjected to an unjustified delay in his trial that continued for more than a year because key witnesses from the Ministry of Interior evaded and declined to attend the court proceedings for six months. There were numerous inconsistencies in witness testimony throughout the trial, particularly in regards to the location of the alleged crime [3]. Although Al-Sawad submitted substantial evidence in support of Humaidan’s innocence during the yearlong trial, the court delivered the maximum sentence against Humaidan, whilst simultaneously acquitting two fugitive defendantsthat lacked defense and proof of innocence [4]. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers the decisions of this court to be arbitrary, and politically motivated.

    The BCHR has documented attacks on photographers and journalists since the beginning of the pro-democracy movement in 2011. More than ten members of the media have been sentenced to prison [5]; some of them were reportedly subjected to torture. The blogger Zakariya Al-Ashairi [6] was documented in the BICI report as having been tortured to death. Others have faced extrajudicial killings, including photographer Ahmed Ismail Hasan [7]. During the three-month state of emergency in 2011, several photographers and members of the media were documented to have been summarily dismissed from their jobs and arrested during house raids; their families were reportedly intimidated, and some of their personal photography equipment was reportedly stolen. The government has failed to independently investigate these incidents, and has failed to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable. On the contrary, in a recent case, the police officer Sara Al-Moussa [8] was acquitted of all charges in which she reportedly tortured the journalist Nazeeha Saeed (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6260).

    The authorities in Bahrain continue similar practices today. Many members of the media, including photographers such as Ahmed Fardan and Jaffar Madhoon, are subjected to enforced disappearance and reportedly tortured in order to extract false confessions [9]. Others, such as photographer Hussein Hubail and blogger Jassim Al-Noaimi, are reportedly subjected to torture, and then denied access to adequate medical attention [10]. The Bahraini authorities also target specific members of the press, such as journalist Mazen Mahdi and photographer Mohammed Al-Sheikh. On 26 February 2014, Mahdi was shot directly in the leg with a tear gas canister while filming a protest. The angle at which the shot was fired and the deliberate aiming of teargas directly at photojournalists confirms that the targeting was specific and intentional[11].

    International human rights institutions and organizations have condemned the practice of targeting photographers and members of the media and subjecting them to enforced disappearance and torture. Reporters Without Borders has condemned the government’s practice of using arbitrary arrests as a means of intimidation to restrict the flow of information out of Bahrain [12].

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, United Nations and all close allies to the government of Bahrain to pressure Bahraini authorities to:

    1. Immediately release Ahmed Humaidan and all other arbitrarily arrested members of the media and photographers;
    2. Uphold Article 19 concerning the freedom of expression as a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
    3. End the systematic targeting of photographers, journalists, and bloggers, and allow all members of the media to carry on their work free from restrictions and harassment;
    4. Commission an independent investigation into the allegations against those implicated in human rights violations and acts of torture against imprisoned photographers, journalists, and bloggers.

    [1]http://www.alwasatnews.com/4219/news/read/870181/1.html

    [2]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/5608

    [3]http://manamavoice.com/news-news_read-19338-0.html

    [4]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3803/news/read/735384/1.html

    [5]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/6771

    [6]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/5737

    [7]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/5143

    [8]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3943/news/read/787380/1.html

    [9]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/6683

    [10]http://bchr.hopto.org/ar/node/6609

    [11]http://www.bahrainpa.org/?p=199

    [12]http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-news-photographer-gets-10-years-in-26-03-2014,46046.html

    [13]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3773/news/read/728056/1.html

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the Bahraini government’s refusal to inform imprisoned political leader Hasan Mushaima and his family of his medical test results. His family has repeatedly expressed concern about the condition of his health and possible deprivation of urgent medical treatment.

    Hasan Mushaima, 65 years old, is a former cancer patient. Since his arrest in August 2011, he has been deprived of adequate medical treatment and proper follow up and checkup on his case. His family stated that after pressure from Amnesty International, Mushaima was taken to the hospital to have Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan which was more than seven months overdue. The doctor told him that result would be ready within 48 hours. Despite this, more than month later, neither Mushaima nor his family have received the results.

    Mushaima’s family has expressed grave concern as Mushaima is suffering from similar symptoms he had when the cancer was first discovered in 2010. He has difficulty breathing and has fainted several times in prison. Moreover, Mushaima was told that he has deviated septum in his nose that requires a surgical operation to treat it. However, he has never been taken for surgery.

    This is not the first time the authorities have denied Mushaima and his family information about his medical condition. In August 2011, Mushaima’s lawyer repeatedly asked for information about the treatment he had received in detention; however, only blood pressure and diabetes test results were given along with some information about a previous ear surgery. He was also reportedly told that his cancer had returned as a method of psychological torture. On 4 November 2012, he had surgery to take a sample of a tumor to be tested and was given 10 days until results would be available, however, the deadline elapsed for months. Similarly, on 22 December 2012, Mushaima underwent a second biopsy procedure. Although, he was told that the results would be ready in two weeks, the results were not revealed until after more than three months (Read more: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5614). 

    The BCHR believes that the continued denial of information is a method of psychological torture and harassment used by authorities against prisoners of conscience. Mushaima’s family, as well as the BCHR, is gravely concerned over the prevention of adequate medical treatment and the withholding of test results. These factors, when combined with Mushaima’s health history, potentially put his life at great risk.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States, and all other close allies of the Bahraini government to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • immediately release prisoner of conscience Hassan Mushaima who is imprisoned for practicing his right to freedom of speech, and provide him with access to the necessary medical examinations and treatments that he requires in order to avoid further risk to his life;
    • provide all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment;
    • end the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation, and punishment for exercising their human rights.

    The BCHR holds the Bahraini authorities responsible for the life and well-being of Hassan Mushaima.

     

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    Press releases

    17 April 2014

     

    Bahrain’s government must end its intimidation of a Shi’a Muslim cleric who was stripped of his nationality, said Amnesty International. 

    Shaikh Hussain al-Najati was reportedly given 48 hours to leave the country on Tuesday and warned that his family may be harmed if he failed to do so. He is among 31 opposition activists – all Shi’a Muslims - who were stripped of their Bahraini nationality by the Ministry of Interior in November 2012 on national security grounds. The 48 hour deadline ended this morning.  After he failed to leave, he received a call from a state security officer saying he would pay for his decision. If deported, he will become stateless. 

    “This campaign of threats, harassment and intimidation against Shaikh Hussain al-Najati is unacceptable and must stop immediately. Forcing him out of his own country would render him stateless.” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. 

    “The decision to strip Ayatollah Sheikh Najati of his nationality, along with 30 others in 2012 was little more than an arbitrary attempt to silence all government critics. It should be rescinded immediately.” 

    Shaikh Hussain al-Najati’s office was raided by plainclothes police on Sunday. Two days later, he was questioned by intelligence officials without his lawyer before security officers gave him a 48-hour deadline to leave. 

    Background:

    Under the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments, Article 10 stipulates that nationality can be revoked (Paragraph A) if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; (Paragraph B) if he helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or (Paragraph C) if he causes harm to state security. There is no further definition or detail of what could amount to “harm to state security”.

     

    Link: http://amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/bahrain-end-threats-shi-cleric-stripped-nationality-2014-04-17

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the authorities continued practice of applying an excessive use of force against protesters, resulting in extrajudicial killings. Specifically, the BCHR has documented that protesters continue to be targeted by police officers firing tear gas canisters and shotgun pellets at close range at their upper-bodies. On 23 February 2014, AbdulAzizMoussa Al-Abbar (27 years-old) was shot in the head with a tear gas canister during a protest and spent the last two months in a coma; his family confirmed this week that he passed away after suffering from a critical brain injury.

    The family stated that Al-Abbar was shot directly hit in the head with a teargas canister in addition to being hit with shotgun pellets when the riot police used an excessive use of force to suppress a protest on Sunday evening on 23 February 2014 following a peaceful funeral procession for the media worker Ali Al-Mousawi in the village of Saar. According to information available to the BCHR, Al-Abbar suffered critical brain injuries in addition to complications from two shotgun pellets; one of which penetrated his eye and the other penetrated his brain and caused serious damage as the blood vessels were damaged and which resulted in internal bleeding in the brain. For more details please refer to the previous statement http://bchr.hopto.org/en/node/6794

    The original death certificate issued by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior stated that the cause of death was internal bleeding in the brain, but failed to mention the reason for his injury. The family refused to sign the death certificate and has therefore, at the time of writing this statement, not been allowed to collect the body.

    Protesters uploaded to YouTube a video clip of the first minutes following Al-Abbar’s injury[1] when he was taken to a private home for medical treatment out of fear of arrest at the government hospital. However, it soon became apparent that his injuries were very severe, and he was taken to Salmaniya Medical Complex.

    Based on the aforementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all the close allies and relevant international institutions to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • end the practice of using excessive force against peacefully assembled protesters;
    • end the policy of extra-judicial killing, whether it be torture that leads to death or intentionally aiming tear gas canisters and shotgun pellets at protesters upper-body, and firing from a close range;
    •  end the culture of impunity that allows human rights violators to continue these practices without fear of punishment;
    • immediately initiate an independent investigation into the shooting of Al-Abbar and the excessive use of force documented to be practiced by the police against other victims of extra judicial killings;
    • hold accountable all those implicated in human rights violations, and bring before an independent judiciary those who gave the orders to illegally fire on peaceful protesters.
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    For Earth Day, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights requested a report from the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project (GTHR), a part of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), out of serious concern for the environmental changes happening in Bahrain since 1983; this report is the first of its kind with a focus on Bahrain. The BCHR has observed changes impacting access to clean water and the coastline by non-affluent citizens; massive, urbanization, including land reclamation projects; and changes to the vegetation of the island. The report has observed “major changes in the land use and land cover of Bahrain that will impact the environment in as yet unknown ways.”

    Using satellite imagery from the last several decades, AAAS found substantial changes in vegetation patterns, including the loss of vegetation and conversion of land into agriculture and landscaped vegetation. The island itself has been expanded by 12.5 percent, from approximately 650 km2 to 730 km2.

     

     

     

     

    The BCHR has expressed concern that land reclamation and development projects are not benefitting all Bahraini citizens, but rather fueling government corruption. Instead of using the reclaimed land to provide affordable housing, the projects cater exclusively to wealthy Bahrainis and foreigners [1]. A 2007 BBC article stated that, “a leaked government report revealed that the public has access to less than 3% of the coastline of this small island nation. Ownership of the coast allows access to reclaimed land. It is sold on to the highest bidder to build business complexes or tourist resorts. For the ruling family, land has become the new oil” [2].

    The BCHR has documented the arrests of environmental activists and whistleblowers about the drawbacks of land reclamation such as Ghazi Al-Mirbati and Najiya Abdul-Ghaffar [3]. Excessive police force has also been used to disperse peaceful protests staged by fisherman whose harbor was lost to land reclamation [4].

     

    Link to the full report:

    AAAS Report, Land Cover and Land Use Change in Bahrain, 1987-2013

     

    For more information on environmental rights in Bahrain, see:

    BCHR video, Land of Victims

    BCHR video, Land of Deaths

    Bahrain's Shifting Sands

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    [1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/us-bahrain-gfh-idUSTRE75F4LF20110616

    [2] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/1337, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/6908274.stm

    [3] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3131

    [4] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/2218

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the health and well-being of Hassan Sabah Al-Banaa, Redha Al-Ghasra, and seven others (listed below) arrested by the Bahraini government on Wednesday, 23 April 2014. Al-Ghasra’s family informed the BCHR that they received a seconds long phone call in which Al-Ghasra was only able to say hello and that he was fine before the line was cut; a member of family reported that Al-Ghasra’s voice sounded very weak. The BCHR has documented a pattern of these types of telephone calls as a common practice during episodes in which the detainees report that they are subjected to torture.

    The family protested outside the Criminal Investigations Department on the day of his arrest. Officers outside the building threatened the family, stating that if any pictures of their protest in front of the CID is broadcast, Al-Ghasra will not be allowed to contact them. The photo below, of Al-Ghasra’s mother, is included at the specific request of the family.

    Al-Banaa and Al-Ghasra reportedly escaped from Jaw Central Prison at three o’clock in the morning on Tuesday, 22 April. While serving his prison sentence, Al-Ghasra was reportedly denied rights allocated to other prisoners. He had his hands and feet chained, and was not allowed access to books nor able to purchase supplies from the prison store. During his entire imprisonment period, Al-Ghasra was either in solitary confinement or in a locked cell with two criminal prisoners in a three meter by two and a half meter cell, and not allowed to go outdoors or interact with other political prisoners.

    Given the previously documented force used against Al-Ghasra, and the pattern of arrests and subsequent systematic torture documented by the BCHR, the BCHR believes he is at serious risk for ill-treatment and torture. Prior to his 22 May 2013 arrest, Al- Ghasra was arrested twice, once in May 2011 and again in April 2012. During his last arrest, Al-Ghasra refused to speak of the worst torture he endured. However, he did give details including how everyday during his reported torture, all the officers present would spit into his mouth. He was also subjected to beatings on his face that resulted in several broken teeth as well as beating with sandals on his face that resulted in swelling that lasted for approximately two months. The severe swelling was witnessed by his family during their first visit to Al-Ghasra. Al-Ghasra told sources who spoke to the BCHR that during the torture he was subjected to he would reach points during which he “would wish for death.” Even when the torture stopped, he was in continuous pain. From the date of his arrest to the date of his escape, he was not allowed access to any kind of medical treatment.

    The Al-Ghasra family has been repeatedly targeted by the authorities. Their home has been subjected to at least 70 house raids in a two-year period [1]. Two of Al-Ghasra’s brothers, Sadiq and Hassan, both under the age of 21, are currently in juvenile prison, and two of his other brothers are exiled and unable to return to Bahrain.

    In a video capturing sound reportedly made during his May 2013 arrest, Al-Ghasra can clearly be heard screaming from severe beating. In December 2012, the government’s targeting took a reportedly more serious turn when Al-Ghasra was fired upon by the security forces at close range with shotgun pellets. Both he and his friend, Aqeel Abdulmohsen, were targeted with a gunshot from a close distance that led to his injury in the shoulder, while Aqeel’s face was dramatically injured [2].

    Warning: Graphic Content

    Link to the photo of Abdulmosheen’s injury.

    Bahraini officials also arrested Sayed Mohammed Sayed Mohammed, Ahmed Saeed Ali Zahair, Hassan Ali Hussain, Hussain Jassim Ali Jassim, Sayeed Alawi Sayeed Taleb, Ahmed Maatouq Ebrahim Ali, andJaffar Ali Mattouq, who is blind; all of these individuals were previously wanted by the Bahraini government. Following his arrest, Al-Ghasra’s father and brother were called in for interrogation by in relation to his whereabouts, their lawyer announced hours later their release.

    The BCHR believes that due to unsatisfactory prison conditions, previously documented cases of torture and excessive use of force, and psychological intimidation, the lives of Al-Ghasra, Al-Banaa, and the seven other arrestees’ lives are potentially at great risk.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States, and all other close allies of the Bahraini government to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • Immediately release Al-Ghasra, A-Banaa, and all other prisoners who are held on politically motivated charges due to the ongoing popular protests for freedom and democracy;
    • End the practice of torture and excessive use of force and uphold Article Five as a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
    • Adhere to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and end the practice of denying prisoners fair treatment.

     

    The BCHR holds the Bahraini authorities responsible for the life and well-being of Redha Abdullah Isa Al-Ghasra, Hassan Sabah Al-Banaa, Sayed Mohammed Sayed Mohammed Ahmed Saee Ali Zahair, Hassan Ali Hussain, Hussain Jassim Ali Jassim, Sayeed Alawi Sayeed Taleb, Ahmed Maatouq Ebrahim Ali, and Jaffar Ali Mattouq.

     

    [1] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6146

    [2]http://manamavoice.com/index.php?plugin=news&act=news_read&id=11436, http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5551 

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    UA: 99/14 Index: MDE 11/014/2014 Bahrain Date: 25 April 2014

    URGENT ACTION

    THREAT OF FORCIBLE EXILE and statelessness

    A number of Bahraini citizens, who had their nationality revoked in 2012, are now at risk of being forced to leave Bahrain. One of them was expelled on 23 April, most have been rendered stateless.

    The Bahraini government forced Shaikh Hussain al-Najati to leave Bahrain on 23 April. According to the Ministry of Interior in a statement issued that day, “it was decided to deport Najati in accordance with the laws and regulations of Bahrain”. Shaikh Hussain al-Najati was among a group of 31 Bahraini citizens whose nationality was revoked in November 2012 after an arbitrary decision by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior.

    Shaikh Hussain al-Najati was given 48 hours to leave the country on 15 April and warned by the security apparatus that his family might be harmed if he failed to do so. He did not leave, and was again questioned by security officers on 19 and 20 April. He was forced to sign papers acknowledging that he was ready to leave the country and was given a new deadline to leave. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the government had decided to force him out of Bahrain because he “was not transparent and did not communicate with the Bahraini officials as to his situation in the country”.

    Twelve of the group are in Bahrain, while Shaikh Hussain al-Najati and one other have been forced to leave the country in the last few months. The rest live abroad. Only a few of those living abroad have another nationality; and most of those living in Bahrain do not. The Ministry’s arbitrary removal of nationality of those who hold only Bahraini nationality, including Shaikh Hussain al-Najati, has effectively rendered them stateless.

    When an Amnesty International delegation visited Bahrain in 2013 some in the group complained that since the decision was announced they had been followed and monitored. Following the harassment and expulsion of Shaikh Hussain al-Najati, Amnesty International fears the authorities may similarly expel others.

    Please write immediately in English or Arabic:

    Urging Bahrain’s authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of those from the group of 31 who had their nationality revoked in 2012 and who are still in Bahrain and to refrain from further expulsion of Bahraini nationals;

    Urging them to rescind the decision to revoke the nationality of all 31;

    Urging them to allow Shaikh Hussain al-Najati and all others in the group living abroad to return to Bahrain.

     

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 6 JUNE 2014 TO:

    King

    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

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    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

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

    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.

    URGENT ACTION

    THREAT OF forcible exile and statelessness

    ADditional Information

    The Ministry of Interior announced on 7 November 2012 that it had ordered the revocation of the nationality of 31 Bahraini citizens. Of those, 14 live in Bahrain and the rest live abroad. According to the announcement, the decision had been taken under Article 10 (Paragraph C) of the Bahrain Citizenship Law. However, the decision was not published in the official gazette. The 31 people never received an official notification about this decision, learned about it from the media on the day it was announced, and have had no opportunity to challenge the decision in court.

    The 31 include activists living abroad; a lawyer; a number of people active in politics within Bahrain; people active in Shi’a Husseiniyas, a gathering place for Shia’ religious ceremonies; a number of Shi’a clerics; and others with no political or religious affiliations. Some in the group are of Persian origin, although they were born in Bahrain. Others are activists, vocal in denouncing the government. Most of those living in Bahrain do not have another nationality, and only some of those living abroad have another nationality.

    Under the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments, Article 10 stipulates that nationality can be revoked (Paragraph A) if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; (Paragraph B) if he helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or (Paragraph C) if he causes harm to state security. There is no further definition or detail of what could amount to “harm to state security”. This Paragraph – used to revoke the nationality of the 31– is therefore framed too broadly, allowing for its use to punish the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Following the Ministry’s announcement, no further explanation has been given and the decision has not been published in the official gazette.

    The decision to revoke the nationality of the 31 individuals was arbitrary, and the Ministry’s announcement effectively means that those members of the group who only held Bahraini nationality are now stateless.

    Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to a nationality (Paragraph 1). Paragraph 2 further specifies that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. The requirement of due process and non-arbitrariness is also enshrined in the Bahraini Constitution, of which Article 17 (a) states that the “Bahraini nationality shall be determined by law. A person inherently enjoying his Bahraini nationality cannot be stripped of his nationality except in case of treason and such other cases as prescribed by law”.

    With respect to those of the 31 who are living outside Bahrain, Article 12(4) of the ICCPR states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”.

    Revocation of nationality resulting in statelessness would not be compatible with the right to nationality articulated in Article 15(1) of the UDHR. Article 7(6) of the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness also prohibits, with very few specific exceptions, any loss of nationality which results in statelessness. Subsequently, the obligation to avoid statelessness has been recognised as a norm of customary international law. Discriminatory revocation of nationality is specifically prohibited by Article 5 D (iii) of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Bahrain is a state party. Similarly, UN Human Rights Council Resolution 20/5 from July 2012 calls upon all States “to refrain from taking discriminatory measures and from enacting or maintaining legislation that would arbitrarily deprive persons of their nationality on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, especially if such measures and legislation render a person stateless”.

     

    Name: Shaikh Hussain al-Najati, 30 others

    Gender m/f: both

     

    UA: 99/14 Index: MDE 11/014/2014 Issue Date: 25 April 2014



    Link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/014/2014/en

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    Bahrain has a well-deserved reputation for torture, but now the authorities are threatening action against people who discuss it. Bahrain’s official news agency on April 14, 2104, reported that the interior minister “defied those alleging torture to corroborate those claims” and asserted that “those who make false allegations about torture will be challenged by law.”

    Earlier that dayCriminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers spent four hours questioning Sayed Hadi Almosawi, the head of the liberties and human rights department of Wefaq, Bahrain’s main opposition group, after he discussed persistent allegations of torture at CID facilities at an April 9 news conference. Yesterday, Bahrain’s public prosecutor interviewed Almosawi for another two hours. Officials released him without charge, but accused him of defaming the Interior Ministry simply by repeating allegations of torture.

    Bahrain’s reputation for torture predates even the serious violations of human rights during and since the 2011 uprising. Four of the five people whose deaths the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) attributed to torture in its November 2011 report died in Interior Ministry custody.

    Thorough, independent, and impartial investigations into allegations of torture would distinguish between false and genuine claims. But Bahrain has carried out no such investigations. And there is no evidence that post-BICI initiatives such as the appointment of an Interior Ministry ombudsman, and creation of a Special Investigations Unit and a Commission on the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees have been effective in stopping torture and holding torturers criminally accountable for their actions.

    These developments arise almost exactly a year after Bahrain effectively cancelled the country visit of the special rapporteur on human rights, Juan Mendez. In short, Bahrain’s reputation for torture is a problem all of its own making, and threatening those who report allegations of torture will only make things worse.

    Link: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/25/dispatches-bahrain-shooting-messenger-torture

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    24 April 2014 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged the Government of Bahrain to stop the harassment and persecution of a Shi’a Muslim leader who was reportedly forced to leave the country following threats from State security agents to arrest him and his son.

    Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said he received reliable information that Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave for Lebanon on 23 April after being exposed to “enormous pressure and harassment” by Bahrain authorities.

    “Targeting the most senior and influential Shi’a religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shi’a Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs,” the expert stated in a news release.

    From a statement issued yesterday on the website of Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior, it appears, the news release said, that the decision revoking Mr. Najati’s Bahraini citizenship and the orders to expel him from the country may have been made due to his position as a senior and influential religious authority among Shi’a believers, who make up the majority of the country’s population.

    “I have expressed to the Government of Bahrain my grave concerns at what appears to be an act of religiously motivated discrimination, which would seem to impose unjustified restrictions on Mr. Najati’s fundamental human rights, including his right to practice and profess peacefully his religious beliefs,” Mr. Bielefeldt stressed, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for the Shi’a Muslim community in the country.

    Mr. Najati is one of 31 individuals whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked by the Ministry in November 2012, a decision that rendered him stateless. The Special Rapporteur urged the Government to reverse its decision, which he said appears to be arbitrary, and to facilitate Mr. Najati’s return from Lebanon.

    “International law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibits arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on religious grounds,” he noted. “Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

    “I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion,” Mr. Bielefeldt stated.

    “He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts.”

    Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


    News Tracker: past stories on this issue

    UN human rights office concerned about Bahrain’s toughened anti-terrorism law

     

    Link: https://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47640

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    (Beirut) – Vague provisions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) joint security agreement raise concerns. Member countries could use the agreement to suppress free expression and undermine privacy rights of citizens and residents.

    Five of the six GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman– have ratified the November 2012 agreement. The Kuwaiti parliament is debating its ratification, though some members have expressed strong objections. Kuwait should not ratify the agreement in its current form, Human Rights Watch said.

    “The security agreement gives gulf governments another legal pretext to stamp out dissent,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Citizens and residents of the gulf should note that their governments have agreed to share personal information at the whim of an interior minister.”

    The agreement’s 20 provisions include a vaguely worded article that would suppress “interference in the domestic affairs” of other GCC countries, which could be used to criminalize criticism of gulf countries or rulers. Another provision provides for sharing citizens’ and residents’ personal data at the discretion of Interior Ministry officials.

    The agreement is divided into several sections that detail security cooperation, regulation of borders, cooperation in rescue operations, and extradition obligations. Some provisions appear to allow authorities to infringe on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. For example, article 3 stipulates: “Each state party should take legal measures on any act considered a crime under its existing legislation when its citizens or residents interfere in the domestic affairs of any other state parties.”

    The agreement does not define further what behavior may constitute “interfering in domestic affairs of other state parties.” Since 2011, gulf countries have investigated and prosecuted their citizens for criticizing other GCC states or their rulers. A Kuwaiti appeals court, for example, on October 28, 2013 upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a local blogger for comments on Twitter that the court determined insulted individuals including the kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia’s terrorism court on June 24, 2013 convicted seven government critics and sentenced them to prison for allegedly inciting protests and harming public order after they posted commentary on Facebook, and four of the seven faced the additional charge of “supporting those who are called ‘revolutionaries of Bahrain’ and calling for solidarity with them and challenging the [GCC] Peninsula Shield forces stationed there.”

    The agreement calls on GCC countries to “extradite persons in their territory who have been charged or convicted by competent authorities in any state party.” Each of the GCC countries has prosecuted people solely for exercising their rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly. This agreement could extend the reach of those countries into the other member countries.

    Following the agreement’s adoption during the GCC Summit in Manama in December 2012, the GCC secretary-general, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, confirmed that the agreement is intended to curb domestic dissent. He said: “The security pact will empower each GCC country to take legal action, based on its own legislation, against citizens or residents or organized groups that are linked to crime, terrorism, or dissension…”

    Other articles stipulate that governments must share private information about citizens and residents. Article 4, for instance, states, “Each state party shall cooperate by providing other parties on demand with information and personal data about citizens or residents of the requesting state, in the realm of the remit of interior ministries.” The articles make no reference to whether a country must show evidence of criminal activity or provide a legal basis for sharing citizens’ or residents’ personal information. The agreement does not indicate that a legal process or court order would be required, nor does it impose any meaningful safeguards to protect the right to privacy or avoid abuses of power, apparently leaving implementation solely to the discretion of the interior ministers of GCC countries.

    Under article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” ICCPR General Comment 16 further defines privacy rights, stating that “competent public authorities should only be able to call for such information relating to an individual’s private life the knowledge of which is essential in the interests of society as understood under the Covenant. Accordingly, the Committee recommends that States should indicate in their reports the laws and regulations that govern authorized interferences with private life.”

    The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression has stated further that article 17 requires any interference with privacy, including government access to personal data, to be necessary for a legitimate aim, proportionate, and prescribed by law, meeting a standard of clarity and precision so that individuals can foresee the article’s application.

    Among GCC countries, only Kuwait and Bahrain have ratified the ICCPR, but its provisions constitute an authoritative source and guideline reflecting international best practice. The security pact’s obligation for GCC countries to share private information about private citizens and residents without stating a legal basis, without a defined legal process to safeguard the right to privacy, and under the unchecked discretion of interior ministers appears to constitute “arbitrary interference” by authorities into the privacy rights or gulf citizens and residents, Human Rights Watch said.

    Article 21 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which all GCC countries have ratified, stipulates that, “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with regard to his privacy, family, home or correspondence.” Article 32 guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to impart news to others by any means.

    The agreement also contains a provision that provides for “support or aid on request to any state party … to counter security unrest and disasters” (article 10). The article appears to sanction intervention such as the 2011 Peninsula Shield operation in Bahrain, during which GCC troops bolstered Bahraini forces in suppressing peaceful pro-reform protests.

    According to its ratification stipulation, the agreement went into force on December 27, 2013, 30 days after the fourth country, Bahrain, ratified the agreement. By January 14, 2014, five of the six GCC states had ratified the agreement. On April 3, the Kuwaiti parliament’s foreign affairs committee rejected the agreement, as three of the five members contended that it violates Kuwait’s constitution. Kuwaiti authorities, however, are pushing parliament to ratify the agreement later this year.

    “Kuwait’s government should heed the concerns of the members of parliament, drop efforts to ratify the security agreement in its current form, and insist that any future GCC agreement clearly safeguard the constitutional and human rights of GCC residents,” Stork said.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/26/gcc-joint-security-agreement-imperils-rights

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