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    Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the five-year jail sentences that a court passed today on the photographer Hussain Hubail and the cyber-activist Jassim Al-Nuaimi. Seven other activists received similar sentences.

    “Many Bahraini news providers are getting long jail terms” said Lucie Morillon, head of research and advocacy at Reporters Without Borders. “Far from the international community’s cameras and attention, the authorities are cracking down on freedom of information and its actors. It is time that the persecution and sham trials ended. We again call for the release of all the detained journalists and cyber-activists.”

    A well-known press photographer who freelanced for various media including Agence France-Presse and Voice of America, Hubail was arrested at Manama international airport as he was about to board an international flight on 31 July 2013 and was incarcerated in El-Hod El-Gaf prison, where he was unable to contact his family or his lawyer for several days.

    He was finally charged a month later with belonging to the “14 February media network,” "calling for and participating in illegal demonstrations", "inciting hatred of the government" and "being in contact with government opponents in exile".

    Hubail has said he has been mistreated and tortured in detention – claims that were never the subject of an independent investigation by the authorities.

    On 15 December 2013, Reporters Without Borders and nine other human rights organizations asked Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to investigate the detention and torture of three Bahraini news and information providers including Hubail.

    In May 2013, the independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded Hubail a prize for a photo of demonstrators in a cloud of teargas.

    Nuaimi was arrested at his home by masked plainclothes security men on 31 July 2013 (the same day as Hubail) and was charged with inciting anti-government hatred and calling for illegal demonstrations in messages posted on social media. He has also reported being mistreated and tortured. Four days after his arrest, he was transferred to Dry Dock prison, only to be taken before a prosecutor and forced to sign a confession, he said.

    During a hearing on 27 January, Nuaimi testified that he was not in Bahrain when the offending messages were posted and that he had sold his computer before they were posted, so he could not have been responsible.

    Three other Bahraini news and information providers have received jail sentences since the start of the year. The photographer Abdullah Salman Al-Jerdabi, who was arrested on 13 September 2013, was sentenced on 22 January to six months in prison on charges "of participating in an illegal demonstration" and "misuse of social networks".

    The blogger Ali Maaraj was sentenced to 30 months in prison on 8 April on charges of "insulting the king" and “improper handling” of information technology". And the 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 nowhere near the police station at the time.

    The situation of freedom of information is more than worrying in Bahrain, which is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

    http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-judicial-persecution-of-bahraini-28-04-2014,46203.html

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    (..) On World Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect Journalists is highlighting 10 emblematic cases of journalists in prison, silenced by authorities in retaliation for their work. CPJ is calling on authorities to release these journalists, as well as all others being held in relation to their work.

    (..) CPJ research has documented a rise in the jailing of journalists since 2000, a year before the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States fueled the global expansion of anti-terrorism and national security laws. Governments have exploited these laws to silence critical journalists covering sensitive issues such as insurgencies, political opposition, and ethnic minorities. Of the 211 journalists in jail at the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census, 124, or 60 percent, were jailed on anti-state charges—far more than jailed on any other type of charge.

    CPJ believes that no journalist should be imprisoned for doing their job. You, too, can add your voice. Join with CPJ in calling on authorities in repressive countries to #FreeThePress and release all journalists held for no other crime than covering issues in the public interest.

    Ahmed Humaidan, Bahrain

    Affiliation: Freelance
    Prison term: 10 years
    Charges: Retaliatory
    Held at: Jaw Central Prison

    In late March, a Bahraini court sentenced Ahmed Humaidan to 10 years in jail. The award-winning freelance photographer, who was convicted on charges of participating in an attack on a police station, has been imprisoned since December 2012. His family said authorities sought his arrest for months and raided his home five times in an attempt to arrest him. But Humaidan, whose images have exposed police attacks on protesters during demonstrations, was at the police station simply to document the attack, according to local human rights groups. CPJ and other rights organizations believe his arrest is part of a larger campaign by Bahraini authorities to censor independent and dissident voices in the country.

    Key fact: A third of journalists jailed around the world are freelancers.

    Key work: Many of Humaidan’s photographs are on his Instagram page.

    Take action:


    Please read the full CPJ report on https://www.cpj.org/reports/2014/04/ten-journalists-to-free-from-prison.php

     

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    In January 2014, a USCIRF delegation traveled to Manama as a follow-up to a 2012 visit to assess conditions for freedom of religion or belief, including the government’s implementation of relevant recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The delegation met in Manama with a range of high-level government officials, opposition groups, Sunni and Shi’a religious leaders, human rights organizations, non-Muslim religious minority communities, and other civil society leaders. Based on the visit, USCIRF has concluded that while the Bahraini government has made some progress in implementing various BICI recommendations, it must act with greater urgency to redress past abuses and embrace genuine reforms. USCIRF remains concerned by the government’s continued lack of accountability for abuses against the Shi’a community since 2011, and will continue to monitor closely developments in Bahrain during the coming year.

    Read the full USCIRF Report on USCIRF_Bahrain2014.pdf

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights releases today a report for World Press Freedom Day, Saturday, 03 May 2014, out of serious concern for degenerating freedom of expression and opinion afforded to members of the media. The government of Bahrain has continued to target local independent journalists and photographers with arrest and detention in order to obscure any evidence of the ongoing human rights violations. The BCHR has documented at least twelve cases of imprisoned journalists — a majority of whom are photographers — and at least seven reported cases of torture in the last year.

    The report accounts in detail the arrests and subsequent ill treatment of several prominent journalists, photographers, and bloggers including Ahmed Humaidan, Ahmed Al-Fardan, and Mohammed Hasan. The government continues to specifically target photojournalists who cover protests and opposition gatherings. They are being directly targeted with tear gas and shotgun pellets.

     

    Video recorded in April 2014.

     

    The BCHR expresses concern that journalists, photographers, and bloggers are not only specifically targeted with force by Bahraini authorities, but that national law also criminalizes free speech. Activists and members of the media are commonly charged with insulting the King and insulting a government entity. The government has gone as far as to persecute members of the media under the Terrorism Law, which was recently modified so it may be interpreted to include the work of journalists and human rights defenders. The BCHR has also documented several cases in which articles and photographs were banned for publication and foreign journalists were denied entry visas to Bahrain.

    The BCHR strongly believes that progressive democratic discourse is only achieved if the government and the opposition have an equal opportunity to freedom of expression and opinion without fear of retribution.

     

    Link to the full report:

    http://bahrainrights.org/sites/default/files/World%20Press%20Freedom%20Day%20-%20Final.pdf

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    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the Bahraini Courts decision– 29 April 2014 – to reject a lawsuit filed by a citizen against the Ministry of Interior to annul a decision that was issued on 7 November 2012 to revoke the citizenship of 31 citizens.

    Mr. Ebrahim Karimi (51 years) – a former opponent and political prisoner – clarified to the BYSHR that he decided to file a lawsuit against the decision related to revoking his citizenship.

    Karimi confirmed that the Bahraini Ministry of Interior had withdrawn his passport and CPR card after this decision.

    On 7 November 2012, the Bahraini Ministry of Interior stated that, ‘Based on Clause (c) from Article (10) of the Citizenship Law and which allows revoking the citizenship from those who enjoy it if he harms the security of the state; the Bahraini citizenship has been revoked them from them’.

    The Bahraini Citizenship Law – issued in 1963 – indicates that withdrawing or revoking it is carried out with a decision from the King and government departments are not entitled to take any decision.

    It is evident that the procedures taken by the Bahraini Authorities to revoke the citizenship of 31 people is aimed at punishing them for expressing their peaceful opposition and thus terrorizing others from practicing their right to freedom of expression. This happens at a time when the suppression and terrorizing campaigns are still taking place by the Bahraini Authorities in light of international failure.

    Article (15) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates that, ‘Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.’

    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights stated in a previous report – 7 November 2012 – that revoking the citizenship from opponents is an act of revenge for their activism.

    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights demands:

    1. Annul this provocative decision and continue to allow all the citizens of Bahrain to freely practice their right to freedom of expression.
    2. Immediately stop the widespread systematic violations of human rights against the citizens of Bahrain.

    Link: http://byshr.org/?p=1848

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    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for sentencing two activists today – 28 April 2014 – with 5 years in prison with the charges of ‘attempting to plant an explosive device in the Formula 1 racetrack’ and ‘being affiliated with the membership of a terrorist group’.

    Nafeesa Al-Asfoor (31 years) and Rihanna Al-Mousawi (38 years) were arrested on 20 April 2013 near the Grand Prix racetrack while they were participating in a protest against the arrest of prominent Bahraini activists, among them the activist Zaynab Al-Khawaja. The two informed their families that they were subjected to torture and other cruel mistreatment on the hands of the police during the interrogation. They were forced to sign confessions which they retracted later during the interrogation at the Public Prosecution. Rihanna Al-Mousawi is being trialled in another case known as the case of the ‘14 February Coalition cell’. During her first court sessions in July 2013, Rihanna Al-Mousawi told the Court that she was subjected to torture and she was threatened with rape.

    The Bahraini Authorities did not allow the lawyers to attend the investigation session with them at the Criminal Investigation Department or to contact their families after their arrest.

    Nafeesa’s family had previously expressed its fear to the BYSHR regarding the safety of their daughter as she suffers from several illnesses, and she has not been provided with the necessary medical care. The family also confirmed that she had lost consciousness several times in prison and was taken to hospital. Nafeesa was also forced to sign papers that state that she refuses medical care.

    On 29 September 2013, the Supreme Criminal Court sentenced Rihanna Al-Mousawi with 5 years in prison in the case of the ‘14 February Coalition cell’.

    The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights demands:

    1. Release the prisoners who were arrested on charges related to freedom of assembly and expression;
    2. guarantee fair trials for all prisoners and put an end to the politically-motivated trials.
    3. Investigate the torture cases.

    Link: http://byshr.org/?p=1850

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    London, 3 May 2014: The Bahrain Press Association “BPA” launches 2013 annual report, “Less Freedom, Broader Impunity,” is intended to be an objective resource documenting violations of freedom of expression and suppression of the news media and the press during the year in Bahrain. This is the fourth report issued by the association, an independent 

    Organization founded in London in 2011 by exiled Bahraini journalists concerned with defending the rights of journalists and media personnel. Previous reports were “Bahrain: Word Leading to Death,” issued in October 2011; “Hunger for Freedom,” May 2012; and the 2012 annual report, “Bahrain: Silence Is a War Crime.”    

    “Less Freedom, Broader Impunity,” issued in Arabic and English, outlines the obstacles and challenges facing freedom of the media and the press in Bahrain. It also explores the special challenges for television and new media and the targeting of online activists. The report focuses on the culture of impunity that was evident during the official investigations and trials of those accused of committing torture that led to the death of journalists and media workers in 2011 and 2012. 

    The report provides full documentation of the violations against Bahraini and international journalists, media professionals and online activists. It also contains documentation of other violations, including killing and torture, as well as the dismissal of more than 145 media professionals in various sectors since 2011.

    The most serious violations witnessed in 2013 include:

    • The Bahraini authorities continue to practice a hostile policy against media professionals, journalists and online activists using arbitrary arrest, prosecution and direct targeting. These policies have resulted in the arrest and trial of Bahraini journalists and the deportation of foreign journalists.

    • Physical assaults of journalists and photographers covering demonstrations in Bahrain were documented. Those who were arrested were subject to mistreatment and torture, which appears to be systematic. 

    • The Bahraini government is still delaying fulfillment of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry as well as the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council regarding reforming the media sector and securing freedom of expression. 

    • The authorities are still using prosecution as a tool to pressure journalists and online activists and seek revenge from those who do not cooperate with the government. 

    • The judiciary authority, headed by the king himself, continues to hold simulated trials of those accused of killing and torturing media professionals. Only one light verdict has been announced against any officials to this day which raises the association’s concerns regarding the culture of impunity in Bahrain.

    • The government did not fulfill its promise to introduce a new journalism and media law, and freedom of expression is still restricted by Law 47 of 2002, which organizes the press, printing and publishing. This has enabled the regime to practice total control over the media in Bahrain. 

    • The regime has imposed more restrictions on freedom of expression through measures passed in 2013 by the National Assembly. 

    • Political prosecution increased this year, and the courts received more cases involving charges of “insulting the king and the political institutions in Bahrain.”

    • The state implemented several organizational measures through the Ministry of Information in order to track more activists on social networks.

    • The regime is still monopolizing TV and radio broadcasting and not allowing opposing voices to appear on the state-run TV and radio channels. 

    • The regime still interferes – directly and indirectly – in the content of local newspapers, censoring many opinion columns and news media coverage and banning some content outright. 

    • No media professionals were reinstated to their jobs since the arbitrary dismissals during the brutal crackdown in early 2011.

    • The authorities continued a crackdown against those media professionals living in exile. Their names were blacklisted in many Arab countries, which in turn led to their being banned from entering some of these countries. 

    • The authorities still refuse to grant entry visas to those affiliated with international organizations concerned with freedom of expression.

     

    BPA stressed that the authorities in Bahrain is continuing on their policies against the Journalist and the cyber activist, BPA has documented 53 cases of Violation during 2013: 11 arrests, 6  summon, one year sentenced “charged with insulting the king”, 3 photograph journalists were injured during their coverage to the demonstration.

    The violations have continued until the launches of this report in the World Press Freedom Day 2014, the numbers of violations rise to more than 107 case, most of it are judicial proceedings relating to freedom of expression (38 case insulting the king), arbitrary arrests, preventing Journalist from doing their job. 

    The President of the Bahrain Press Association, Mr. Adel Marzooq said that this report is collaboration effort between the members of the Association inside and outside Bahrain, through monitoring and documenting the violations.  He added: “We thank all the contributors on this report and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for their support for the third year in a row. 

     

    -End-

     To see the report

    Download the report in English

    Download the report in Arabic



    Link: http://www.bahrainpa.org/wp/2014/05/03/bahrain-press-association-launches-its-annual-report-bahrain-less-freedom-broader-impunity/

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the possibility of expulsion/deportation of a Bahraini-born young man who has just completed a prison sentence.

    On 29 April 2014, Mahmoud Ahmed Khori (21 years-old) completed a one-year prison sentence on charges related to monitoring and reporting on police movements for the popular protests which are regularly banned and attacked by the security forces. He was due to be released on 29 April, however, instead of releasing him he was transferred to the temporary detention center under the immigration custody and there is serious concern that he will be expelled from Bahrain instead of being released.

    Khori was born in Bahrain to a Bahraini mother and a stateless father with Iranian origins. As Bahraini national law deprives a Bahraini mother married to a non-Bahrain from passing her nationality to her children, Khori has grown up and lived in Bahrain without receiving Bahraini nationality.

    In Bahrain, women married to foreigners do not have the right to pass on their nationality to their husbands or children, even if they are born on Bahraini soil. At of the end of 2011, there were 2,662 children of Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers who had filed requests between 2004 and 2007 to be granted Bahraini citizenship. In 2008, an additional 397 applications were submitted and under review. In January 2014, the Cabinet approved a decision granting Bahraini nationality to the children of Bahraini women married to foreigners subject to certain conditions. It was forwarded for further discussion to Parliament; however, a final decision has yet to be taken by the government.

    As stateless citizens, the children of Bahraini women a great deal of difficulties when they attempt to receive services from hospitals or schools, and are not treated equally by government institutions. They face even larger difficulties in obtaining jobs or getting married when they grow up.

    In the recent UN CEDAW review meeting, the committee has noted “the slow pace of adoption of the draft amendments to the Nationality Law” and expressed concern “about the situation of stateless persons, including the possibility of children of Bahraini women married to foreigners becoming stateless.” It has “urged Bahrain 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).

    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:

    • To immediately release Mahmoud Khori and guarantee his safety and security in his home country Bahrain.
    • To end the harassment and intimidation of those have become stateless due to unfair and discriminatory laws, and to refrain from further expulsion of Bahraini nationals;
    • To adhere to the recommendation of the CEDAW committee and to expedite the process of ending the practice of discrimination against children of a Bahraini mother and grant them the nationality.

     

     

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the health and well-being of Mahmood Al-Ghasra, who was arrested by the Bahraini authorities without a warrant or just cause whilst crossing the Saudi Bridge of the King Fahd Causeway on Wednesday, 30 April 2014.

    Al-Ghasra was previously arrested on 21 April 2014 when the Bahraini authorities detained him and his father at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). They were released several hours later after being questioned without the presence of a lawyer. The BCHR believes that these unjustified arrests and harassment of family members were made in attempt to pressure the brother of Mahmood Al-Ghasra, Redha Al-Ghasra, into turning himself in.

    Redha Al-Ghasra was arrested and subjected to enforced disappearance on 23 April 2014 following his brief escape from prison. Knowledge of his whereabouts and condition were unknown until 01 May when he called his family from Jaw prison. The BCHR has documented a pattern of these types of arrests and disappearances, and the detainees in these situations often report that they are subjected to torture.

    Given the previously documented harassment against Redha Al-Ghasra, and the larger pattern of arrests and subsequent systematic torture documented by the BCHR, the BCHR believes he is at serious risk for ill-treatment and torture. In a video capturing sound reportedly made during his 22 May 2013 arrest, Redha Al-Ghasra can clearly be heard screaming from severe beating. Prior to his May 2013 arrest, he was arrested twice, once in May 2011 and again in April 2012. During his last arrest, Redha 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 see Redha. 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 remained 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 authorities have repeatedly targeted the Al-Ghasra family. 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.

     

    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 Mahmood and Redha Al-Ghasra, 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 Mahmood and Redha Al-Ghasra.

     

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

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the harsh sentences passed on activists and civilians in several cases between the 20th and 29th of April 2014. In addition to the legal violations that occurred during the interrogation sessions and hearings, the court disregarded the defendants’ complaints that they were subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

    Case One: Five civilians, including two women, were sentenced in the “Formula One Bombing” case on Tuesday, 29 April 2014

    The High Criminal Court issued a verdict on Tuesday, 29 April 2014, sentencing five civilians, including two women, to five years imprisonment each in the case known as the “Formula One Bombing.”[1] The defendants were arrested after the Formula One race in Bahrain in April 2013. Rihanna Al-Mousawi and Abbas Al-Asfoor both attempted to speak in court about the torture they were subjected to in order to force them to sign confessions to crimes they stated they did not commit; however, the judge refused to hear their statements and recorded their statements as “subjected to financial and moral coercion.”[2] During the trial, Rihanna Al-Mousawi stated in court that she was subjected to torture, including being stripped of all her clothing, with the purpose of coercing her to sign a statement confessing that she and a group of others intended to carry out a bombing at the Bahrain International Circuit for the Formula One.[3] Al-Asfoor and Al-Mousawi are the first women in Bahrain to be prosecuted under the internationally criticized Terrorism Law after facing charges from the Ministry of Interior. The Head of Public Security, Tariq Al-Hassan said that, “the police teams in charge of guarding and securing the entrance gates of Bahrain’s Formula One racetrack were able to stop two girls at the public entrance gates on suspicious activity on the second day of the race, and when they searched them, one of them appeared to have tied a pillow around her stomach.” Al-Hassan added that after questioning and investigation, it appeared that the operation was designed to test the security of the racetrack as a prelude to carrying out a terrorist act. He confirmed that they were taken to the Public Prosecution and had their statements recorded and were detained.[4] Read more about Tariq Al-Hassan here: http://bahrainrights.org/en/wanted-justice-bahrain-tareq-al-hasan

    Case Two: Sentencing of nine citizens, among them an international photographer and an actor, in the “Bahrain Tamarud” case on Monday, 28 April 2014

    The High Criminal Court sentenced nine citizens, including actor Sadiq Al-Shabani, photographer Hussein Hubail, and online activist Jassim Al-Noaimi, to five years imprisonment each on Monday, 28 April 2014 for calling for unlicensed demonstrations and propagating the change of the political regime during what was known as the “Bahrain Rebellion.” Al-Noaimi and Hubail, who were arrested in July and August 2013, respectively, stated in the court that Lieutenant Fawaz Al-Sameem subjected them to torture and threats of sexual abuse.[5] Instead of investigating the claims of torture and threats, the Court heard Al-Sameem as the Prosecution witness. In his testimony, he stated that the Cyber Crime Directorate investigations revealed that there are electronic accounts and websites with illegal content, and that through a confidential source, he was able to trace the accounts to the defendants. Although the examiners in the Directorate cleared their devices after their arrest, the content that supported the charges was noted. Internationally recognized photographer Hussein Hubail also stated in court that he was subjected to torture during his time at the CID, including: beating and kicking in the stomach and face, being kept in an extremely cold room, being forced to stand for long periods of time, and sleep deprivation.[6] Hubail also claimed that he did not receive appropriate medical he requires for a pre-existing heart condition.[7] Al-Shabani was arrested by the Omani Intelligence[8] in January 2013 and was subjected to enforced disappearance, according to his family’s statement to the BCHR. Al-Shabani stated that he was able to identify one of his torturers, Lieutenant Fawaz Al-Sameem, but unable to identify the rest.[9] Al-Shabani also said that the interrogator asked him if he wanted to be treated, “as a human or animal?” The interrogation and reported ill-treatment were designed to force Al-Shabani to confess that he had joined the Tamarud, or Rebellion, Movement, which leads peaceful anti-government activities. Because Al-Shabani continued to deny any involvement with the movement, they suspended him with chains and told him that they would treat him as an animal. Al-Shabani said that Al-Sameem and the other interrogators stripped him and sexually abused him by inserting a rod in his anus, pulling his penis with a string, and pouring hot and cold water over his genitals. Al-Shabani added that he was also electrocuted in his anus and repeatedly struck on his face and ears, which caused swell and bleeding. They also showed him personal photos of him and his wife, which they had obtained when they raided his house during the National Safety period in 2011, and threatened to sexually assault her. Al-Sameem led Al-Shabani to believe that his wife was in the next room, and made him listen to a girl screaming as if there was someone raping her. Interrogators also reportedly brought Al-Shabani photos of girls from his family and they threatened to rape them all if he did not confess. During the investigation, Al-Shabani was asked to define the nature of his relationship with Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda, the Vice President of the BCHR, whom they also threatened to arrest and sexually assault. Despite all of this, the judge relied on Lieutenant Al-Sameem’s testimony and evidence from confidential sources to deliver sentences of five years each to the nine detainees.

    Case Three: Sentencing 12 citizens for life on charges of Intelligence with foreign countries on Sunday, 20 April 2014

    The High Criminal Court convicted 14 Bahraini citizens charged with spying for Iran and training with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the Iraqi Hezbollah, and sentenced 12 citizens to 15 years in prison, in addition to a fine of 1000 BD and confiscation of previously seized property[10]. Among the detainees accused is Abdul-Jabbar Ahmed who was arrested by security forces dressed as civilians who raided his workplace on Sunday, 11 August 2013 and then was subjected to enforced disappearance for more than six days.[11] Abdul-Jabbar’s family stated that he claimed that he was subjected to beating and torture as well as being handcuffed for two days in a cold room, which caused him severe hand and shoulder pain. The Court charged cleric Zuhair Ashoor with supplying intelligence to individuals who work in the interest of a foreign country in order to commit hostile acts against Bahrain with the aim of harming its national interests. The prosecution claimed he contacted and made an agreement with members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to provide them with information about the internal affairs of Bahrain as well as carrying out military training to commit violent acts and vandalism inside Bahrain. Additionally, they claimed he supplied weapons and ammunition and requested and accepted gifts for himself and others from those who work against the national security and interests of Bahrain. Ashoor was arrested by members of the security forces in civilian clothing at a checkpoint near a shopping centre on 18 July 2013. Ashoor was subjected to death threats, subjected to enforced disappearance, and had his name slanderously attached to several security cases.[12] A photo of Ashoor was broadcasted by The National TV that, according to the family’s statements, indicated his face had been greatly altered as a result of torture. Despite this, and the lawyers’ confirmation that there was not any evidence against the accused, the judge determined that the detainees’ statements reportedly extracted under torture were sufficient to sentence 12 citizens to life in prison as a primary verdict.

    This is not the first time that the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received statements from victims that the High Criminal Court ignores their claims of torture given in court. The BCHR believes that the judiciary system in Bahrain must not be a tool of oppression, and must be reformed to meet international standards for a fair trial and due process.

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

    • Immediately release those sentenced in the above cases 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 psychological intimidation as a means to extract confessions from detainees;
    • Investigate all complaints of torture and end the systematic policy of impunity for human rights violators.

     

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    Bahraini NGOs welcome steps to lift the immunity of officials accused of torture and call for further restrictions until justice is achieved.

    Actions taken to lift the immunity of Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa through judicial review in the UK are an important step to end Bahrain’s culture of impunity that has been a longstanding problem in Bahrain. This was highlighted in the BCHR ‘Wanted for Justice’ Campaign. This campaign lists the names of over 50 officials allegedly involved in serious human rights violations in Bahrain, including Nasser Al-Khalifa. Torture, as an international crime cannot be protected using state immunity. Local amnesty decisions, such as Bahrain Decree 56 in 2002, do not apply internationally where the principle of universal jurisdiction should be upheld at all levels. Systematic torture continues in Bahrain despite claims of reform and foreign assistance. The allegations made against Nasser Al-Khalifa are based on several consistent testimonies by prisoners of conscience whose cases have been documented by NGOs, BICI and family members. You can read BCHR’s case against Nasser Al-Khalifa here.

     

    The case against the UK Public Prosecution challenges its decision that Nasser is immune from prosecution on torture allegations in his capacity Head of the Bahrain Royal Guard.

    Sue Willman, partner in Deighton Pierce Glynn, representing the Bahraini refugee Claimant stated: “The case raises important issues about whether foreign officials should be exempt from investigation, arrest and prosecution for serious crimes. The court has made it clear there is no reason why the public should not be informed about this challenge to the U.K. government’s approach.”

    Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights stated: “For too long there has been a culture of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators in positions of power at all levels throughout the Government of Bahrain. Time and again, we have seen that the lack of an independent judiciary makes justice unattainable in Bahrain. The local culture of impunity is driven by the international immunity enjoyed by the authorities, and Europe shares a responsibility to hold these human rights violators accountable for their actions. We hope that this case against Nasser Al-Khalifa represents the beginning of a new era of accountability so that justice may be realized for the people of Bahrain.”

    John Horne from Bahrain Watch commented, “The UK government has a long, dark history of enabling state violence in Bahrain and protecting both British and Bahraini officials responsible. This case is an important step in challenging this longstanding impunity and moving towards full transparency, accountability and justice."

    We reiterate the importance of this case for Bahrain to  achieve the following:

    1.     Ending systematic torture that is pervasivley practised.

    2.    Holding to account all officials identified in the BCHR Wanted for Justice Campaign in all the criminal activity, including torture that they are accused of partaking in

    3. Issuing visa bans can be the first step towards international accountability.

    4.    Justice for the thousands of Bahraini torture victims including redress and reparation.

    5.     Placing all arms deals on an indefinite suspension until authorities in Bahrain can demonstrate that security forces have ended the well-documented practice of illegally suppressing peaceful protests.

    6.     For the Government of the UK to retract the Visa waiver given to all diplomats in Bahrain particularly those with special passports on the Wanted for Justice list.

     

    Signed by:

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Bahrain Watch (BW)


     

    Case Background

    On Friday, 09 May 2014, the identity of Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa was made public as the prosecution service of England and Wales faces a legal challenge regarding the status of Nasser’s immunity from prosecution for torture.

    Submitted by a Bahraini torture survive, known only as FF to preserve anonymity and protect his family from possible reprisals, the judicial review challenges a previous ruling from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) stating that Nasser has state immunity from prosecution because he is a member of Bahrain’s ruling family.

    Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa is the son of the King of Bahrain and a regular visitor to the United Kingdom (U.K.). As chair of Bahrain's Olympic Committee, Nasser represented Bahrain at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. At that time, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) wrote to the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague asking for the withdrawal of Nasser’s Olympics visitor’s visa. ECCHR and BCHR sent a detailed dossier summarizing publicly available information regarding Nasser’s involvement in torture in Bahrain, including witness statements from Bahraini opposition members, and asked for action to be taken. They put the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the War Crimes Team of the London Metropolitan Police on notice of the dossier.

    FF is a Bahraini refugee currently living in the U.K. who was detained and tortured in Bahrain. He submitted the case and instructed Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors to write to the CPS in August 2012 asking for the prince to be arrested and prosecuted during his visit to the United Kingdom. In its reply, the CPS stated that Nasser had immunity from arrest and prosecution. FF applied for a judicial review of the DPP’s decision on 26 October 2012. The review was subsequently delayed to allow court documents to be served to Bahrain’s ruling family informing them of the charges and asking if they would join the case as interested parties, which they declined to do. The trial is expected to take place later this year.

    On 09 October 2013, the court, led by Lord Justice Moses, made the attached order (below) permitting the press to obtain redacted court documents from the Administrative Court office. He confirmed that confidentiality restrictions have been removed and made public the previously secret judgment of Laws LJ.

    FF is represented by Sue Willman, partner in Deighton Pierce Glynn, instructing Dinah Rose QC and Tom Hickman of Blackstones Chambers and Kirsty Brimelow QC of Doughty Street Chambers.

     

     
     
     

    Background on the case against Nasser Al-Khalifa

    In February 2011, peaceful protesters in Bahrain rallied for greater participation in the political process and an end to human rights abuses. The protests were brutally suppressed by Bahraini security forces. On 15 March 2011, the King of Bahrain declared a state of safety and the first wave of repressive actions by government forces took place. At this time, two opposition leaders in Bahrain made allegations against the king's son, Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa. As a result, they were both sentenced to lengthy prison terms on politically motivated charges. Amnesty International and other international rights groups recognize them as prisoners of conscience. A national investigative team established by independent, international experts known as the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), published a report in November 2011 detailing torture allegations against Bahraini security personnel and recommended that the government investigations of such allegations and hold security personnel responsible. To date, no such investigation has been initiated or publicized. Meanwhile, Nasser Hamad Al-Khalifa travels frequently to the U.K. and a number of other European states.

     

    Media Coverage

      The Guardian: UK-Bahrain relations to come under scrutiny as Gulf state's king visits UK

    ·       The Independent: Bahraini Prince may lose his immunity

    ·       The Financial Times: English court reviews immunity of Bahrain prince over ‘torture’

    ·       The International Business Times: Bahrain's Prince Nasser Could Lose Immunity in England and Wales over 'Torture' Allegations

    ·       The Associated Press: Bahrain Refugee Accused Prince of Torture

     

    Previous media coverage on the relationship betweeen the Bahraini ruling family and the UK:

          The Guardian: Britain urged to ban royal head of Bahrain Olympic committee 

          IB Times: British Parliament to Investigate Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Human Rights Abuse

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
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    The BCHR expresses grave concern over the expected transfer of Yasser Abdulla Khalil, from the clinic at the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior to the Criminal Investigations Department and believes that he is in significant risk for further torture.

    Yasser, a 29 year-old married father of two, is currently at Fort Hospital with a broken foot and head injuries sustained while held in detention after his arrest on 10 April 2014.

    The BCHR has documented the continued targeting and harassment of Yasser Abdulla Khalil and his family since the beginning of the revolution. The police in Samaheej have reportedly threatened Yasser repeatedly, including sending him death threats. Since 2011, his home has been raided more than 50 times.

    Yasser was arrested for the first time on 9 September 2011 for illegal gathering and forming a cell. While he was detained he stated that he was beaten with a gun so severely that he had to spend one week at the Bahrain Defense Hospital and a three further weeks at the clinic at the Ministry of Interior (MOI) headquarters. Upon his release on 14 October 2011, he filed a complaint against police officer Yousif Mulla Bukhait, who was responsible for Yasser’s ill-treatment and beating (see his Wanted for Justice card here).  He was sentenced in absentia to three months in prison and fined 500 BHD, which he did not serve.

     

     

    After he submitted the complaint, Yasser followed up with the public prosecution twice. Yasser was summoned for interrogation on three separate occasions regarding the complaint. No action has been taken against Bakhait, but on the contrary, he has been specifically delivered into the custody of this officer during subsequent arrests.

    Upon his release, Yasser went into hiding for two years.

    On 10 April 2014, Yasser and one of his brothers, Khalil Abdulla Khalil, were arrested after participating a remembrance ceremony in Al-Dair for Zakariya Al-Asheeri, who died as a result of torture on 9 April 2011. As they were leaving the area in a car with a friend, a police patrol vehicle chased them and continued to ram into them until they were unable to drive any farther. Yasser got out of the car to run, and eventually sought shelter in a house. The police then surrounded the house and ambushed Yasser. He was reportedly beaten by the police in the house before being dragged him to a patrol car and moved hi to Samaheej Police Station.

    As soon as they arrived at the station, Yasser was taken specifically to police officer Yousif Mulla Bakhait who then proceeded to beat him on the head with a large baton and strip Yasser of his trousers while threatening to sexually assault him. Bakhait reportedly told Yasser that “he would implicate [Yasser] in several cases” if he refused to sign a statement confessing to making and planting a bomb in Samaheej. Bahraini authorities have claimed that they were able to diffuse the bomb before it exploded, but it is otherwise unconfirmed whether there actually was a bomb. Because Yasser refused to confess, Bakhait reportedly forced him to the ground and beat his foot until it broke. Bakhait then asked police officers dressed in civilian clothing to beat Yasser until he put his fingerprint on the confessional papers. The police officers also brought in Khalil Abdulla Khalil, his brother, and reportedly beat him in front of Yasser.

    Yasser’s wife submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office on 27 April 2014. The complaints office visited Yasser on 30 April, and since then, all familial visitations have been prohibited. The authorities have not provided any further information on the status of the investigation on these complaints.

    Yasser was previously charged in 2012 and in 2013. In 2012, he was charged with ‘illegal gathering’ and ‘rioting’ and implicated him in four other cases. Due to the fact that the authorities were unable to locate him, he was acquitted of three of those charges; the fourth case is ongoing. In 2013, Yasser was charged with ‘arson’. The most recent court hearing took place on 24 April 2014, but there has not been a sentence. Two of Yasser’s brothers have also been implicated in this case: Khalil Abdulla Khalil and Jaffar Abdulla Khalil, who was previously arrested in September 2013 and sentenced on 22 May 2014 to five years in prison.

     

    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 Yasser Abdulla Khalil, 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 Yasser Abdulla Khalil.

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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcome back prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, the President of the BCHR and General Secretary of the GCHR, who is set to be released tomorrow, 24th of May 2014. Rajab will be finally free after a detention that lasted approximately two years. His release comes at a time when thousands of others continue to be imprisoned and targeted on trumped up charges; including BCHR and GCHR founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and other human rights defenders. It is important to note that Rajab is not being released as a gesture of goodwill, but rather because he served the full length of his arbitrary detention sentence.

    Nabeel Rajab was initially sentenced on 16 August 2012, to three years in prison for advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country. On 11 December 2012, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentences to two years in prison. During his detention, he faced dire conditions and was subjected to ill-treatment and torture.

    Nabeel Rajab was arrested after returning from a human rights workshop in Lebanon in May 2012 and charged with “insulting a national institution,” namely, the Ministry of Interior, in his tweets. Two months later he was sentenced to three months in prison for other comments he made on Twitter about Bahrain’s Prime Minister. His conviction on this charge was overturned, but only after he had already served his three-month sentence.

    The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Nabeel’s detention was arbitrary as it resulted from the exercise of his universally recognized human rights.  As his right to a fair trial had not been guaranteed, his detention was therefore ruled as being arbitrary under categories II and III as defined by the Group. In its Opinion A/HRC/WGAD/2013/12 published on 25 July 2013, the WGAD considered that Nabeel’s detention contravened “articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and articles 9, paragraph 1, 14, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”[1]

    Despite this decision by the WGAD, all requests submitted to the authorities for an early release were summarily rejected.

    On 21 January 2014, the judge in the case again rejected a request that was submitted for the early release of Rajab based on good behaviour. Before passing judgment, the judge reportedly did not a take any action to investigate whether conditions for early release had been met. This was the third attempt submitted by Rajab’s lawyers requesting his release, based on article 349 of Code of Criminal Procedures, which sets conditions for early release.[2]

    The GCHR and BCHR urge the UN, US administration as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and the leading human rights organizations to put real pressure on the Government of Bahrain in order to:

    1. Immediately stop the judicial harassment of human rights defenders; drop all charges against them and release all detained human rights defenders and political prisoners, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel,
    2. Stop the exploitation of the judiciary for silencing human rights defenders;
    3. Immediately stop the daily human rights violations as well as escalating attacks on human rights defenders;
    4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all 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;
    5. Immediately stop all forms of reprisals against human rights defenders in Bahrain.
     

    [1] http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/bahrain/14301-the-un-finds-the-detention-of-nabeel-rajab-arbitrary-it-is-urgent-to

    [2] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6729

     

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    During its latest visit to Bahrain, Amnesty International found encouraging government openness during discussions on human rights, and signs of limited progress towards greater respect for the rule of law. The organization remains concerned, however, about the lack of reform of the judiciary, slow and inadequate investigations into past abuses, and continuing restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    Delegates from Amnesty International visited Bahrain between 3 and 9 May and met ministers and senior government officials, survivors of human rights abuses and relatives of victims, human rights activists and organizations and political associations. They also met with individual prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, in Jaw Prison and women held in the ‘Issa Town Detention Centre for Women.

    The visit was the first since January 2013 due to the authorities not allowing the organization back during this period and was restricted to five working days. It came a few days after a two-month mission by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Bahrain.

    Amnesty International welcomes the Bahraini authorities’ willingness to engage on human rights at many levels of government and the legal and institutional steps introduced to tackle abuses. The real test for the government now is to ensure that this climate will encourage the right approach to tackle current and past human rights violations and will result in a tangible impact on the lives of the Bahraini people.

    Human rights concerns remain over the continuing detention of prisoners of conscience and the harsh sentences handed by Bahraini courts in connection with rioting, including against children. Other prisoners, including women, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms based on “confessions” they said were extracted from them under duress, and with little evidence to substantiate criminal intent. More worrying is the length of time it takes to examine and bring to court alleged perpetrators of killings, torture and other ill-treatment and the final extremely light sentences handed to the few security policemen convicted of such abuses.

    The organization expressed concerns regarding house raids and arrests carried out by the security forces without warrants as well as instances of torture and other ill-treatment at the Criminal Investigations Directorate, including exposing detainees to extreme cold conditions.

    During meetings, the Bahraini authorities have assured Amnesty International of their commitment and seriousness about moving forward the human rights dossier and the need for more time and engagement from the national and international human rights community in order to make the reform work. They shared with the organization information about the training received by the security forces and the international human rights expertise they sought in order to put in place mechanisms to enhance and safeguard rights.

    Amnesty International delegates also met with members of the Public Prosecution Office, the Head of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the Ombudsmen of the Ministry of Interior and the National Security Agency, the Commission for the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees and the National Institution for Human Rights. The authorities said they established most of these institutions as a follow-up to recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), put in place to investigate abuses in connection with the 2011 uprising.

    Amnesty International supports the efforts of these institutions to investigate past and current violations. Their efforts are essential to any process that seeks to deliver justice for victims and to strengthen the rule of law and protect human rights. It is therefore imperative that these efforts are not done in half measures. The organization has raised cases of abuses with the Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior and the SIU, and will follow closely the outcome of their investigations.

    Against the backdrop of the difficult human rights situation in Bahrain and the deep mistrust towards the security forces and other government institutions, Amnesty International has urged the authorities to ensure that the burden of proof lies with them. They must demonstrate concretely and convincingly that abuses do not happen and that, when they do happen, adequate and transparent action is taken to deliver justice.

    This situation is compounded by the fact that those who head the newly established human rights bodies are former members of the Public Prosecution Office, appointed by royal decrees, or people seen to be too close to the government. Human rights activists and opposition groups told Amnesty International that they did not believe these institutions would deliver justice and that if the government was really genuine about its reforms it would have staffed these institutions with independent people.

    Regrettably, the institutional reforms so far introduced have not yet extended to removing restrictions on freedom of association, expression and assembly or to reforming the judicial system. Royal decrees introduced in 2013 continue to restrict freedom of expression and assembly, banning demonstrations in the capital Manama indefinitely and increasing punishment for those convicted of insulting the king. NGOs continue to operate under very restrictive conditions, and political and human rights activists face judicial harassment, forcing some of them into exile for fear of imprisonment.

    The Bahraini authorities continue to use vaguely worded security concerns to strip or revoke individuals of their Bahraini nationality, rendering some of them stateless.

    Amnesty International considers that for the current human rights efforts to be more meaningful the Bahraini authorities must start a serious process of reform of the judiciary to ensure its independence to deliver justice and a thorough review of laws still in breach of Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law.

    Amnesty International also urges the members of the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in Bahrain robustly at the Council's upcoming 26th session in June 2014 to ensure Bahrain’s full implementation of the recommendations it accepted during its Universal Periodic Review in 2012.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/015/2014/en

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    AMNESTY INTERNATIONALPUBLIC STATEMENT

    23 May 2014

    Index: MDE 11/016/2014

     

    Bahrain must ensure accountability for child killed during a protest

    Amnesty International today called on the Bahraini authorities to launch a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the death of a boy who was reportedly shot by security forces as they were dispersing a protest. The organization has urged the Bahraini authorities to ensure the investigation is transparent, that its results are made public and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice.

    Sayed Mahmood Sayed Mohsen, aged 14, died on 21 May following clashes with the security forces who used teargas and fired shotguns to disperse protesters in Sitra, south of the capital Manama, during a funeral procession of a man who died by a bomb blast last week. The family of Sayed Mohsen told Amnesty International that when they saw his body at the hospital it had injuries to his chest that appeared to have been caused by gunshot pellets. They were told he was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. A copy of the death certificate obtained by the family states that the death of Sayed Mohsen was caused by shotgun pellet injuries to the lungs, heart and the bowels.

    Shortly after the death of Sayed Mohsen, the Ministry of Interior announced on its website that the police were attacked with Molotov cocktails and iron rods during a riot following a funeral procession in Sitra.

    While the specific circumstances in which Sayed Mohsen was shot remain unclear, the use of force in policing public assemblies, including those during which violence occurs, must conform to the requirements of necessity and proportionality; and firearms may only be used as a last resort – when strictly necessary to protect against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

    Amnesty International considers that the policing of assemblies should always be guided by human rights considerations. The fact that an assembly is illegal, or that minor violations of the law occur during a peaceful assembly, should not necessarily lead to a decision to disperse it. Similarly, where a small minority tries to turn a peaceful assembly into a violent one, police should ensure that those who are protesting peacefully are able to continue to do so, and not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of rights of a majority.

    In the same statement, the Ministry of Interior announced that the Public Prosecution Office had launched an investigation into the death of a person brought to the Sitra health centre without naming Sayed Mohsen, raising concerns as to whether the investigation refers to the same person.

    Amnesty International is concerned about the lack of transparency of investigations into cases of deaths during protests where results are often not made public. Abdulaziz al-Abbar, aged 27, died on 18 April after being hit on the head by a tear gas canister and shotgun pellets in February 2014. Amnesty International delegates met with members of Abdulaziz al-Abbar’s family while on mission in Bahrain in May. His father told them he refused to receive Abdulaziz al-Abbar’s body because the death certificate stated he died due to damage to the brain but did not mention any injuries from a tear gas canister and gunshot pellets to the head. The family has taken action before the public prosecution to have the cause of death corrected to allow them to receive the body of their son. News reports state the family is still waiting to receive his body. Amnesty International urges the authorities to publicly disclose whether they are conducting an investigation into his death.

    The few cases in which police officers have been tried for killing protesters, either ended with acquittal or perpetrators receiving sentences that did not reflect the gravity of the violation. For the dozens of deaths that occurred during protests or in custody in 2011 only five policemen have so far been sentenced to between six months and three years in prison in relation to the killing of protesters or deaths in custody as a result of torture.

    According to the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, states must conduct “thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, including cases where complaints by relatives or other reliable reports suggest unnatural death in the above circumstances.” The Principles also require that “families of the deceased and their legal representatives shall be informed of, and have access to, any hearing as well as to all information relevant to the investigation” and “shall have the right to insist that a medical or other qualified representative be present at the autopsy.” Furthermore, “[t]he families and dependents of victims of extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions shall be entitled to fair and adequate compensation within a reasonable period of time.”

    Amnesty International urges the authorities to launch prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all cases of torture and other ill-treatment, deaths during protests and deaths in custody, make the results public and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials. The organization renews its call on the government to demonstrate concretely its commitment to upholding human rights by ensuring that the security forces adhere strictly to international standards on the use of force and firearms and by ensuring justice and reparation for victims of human rights violations and their families.


    Link: https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/016/2014

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    GENEVA (16 May 2014) – The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances* reviewed during its 103rd session more than one hundred newly reported cases and examined around 800 updates from governments and sources on previously accepted ones.

    The Working Group examined 38 of these cases that have occurred in the last three months under its urgent action procedure. They concerned Bahrain, Cambodia, China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. “We are especially concerned about the high number of recent cases reported to us. We urge the concerned Governments to swiftly and thoroughly investigate these cases in order to determine the fate and whereabouts of the victims”, observed the experts.

    “This high number of recent cases demonstrates that unfortunately enforced disappearances are not an issue of the past but continue to be regularly used in many countries”. “We are particularly concerned about the increase of short-term disappearances in certain countries”, observed the experts. “We would like to remind all States that there is no time-limit for an enforced disappearance to occur, no matter how short it is”, the experts stressed.

    In relation to outstanding cases, the Working Group emphasized the importance for States to provide substantive information thereon: “We encourage States to cooperate with us and provide detailed information to clearly establish the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared persons in order to clarify the cases”.

    The experts met with family members of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations. “Hearing the voice of the relatives of the disappeared and support them in the search for their loved ones is core to our humanitarian mandate”, the human rights experts said. They also held meetings with representatives of Governments to exchange views on individual cases and on the issue of enforced disappearance in general as well as with the President of the Human Rights Council and the Truth Commission of the Guerrero State in Mexico.

    The group of independent experts also focused on specific country situations, in particular regarding the obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration. Members also discussed their forthcoming and potential country visits, as well as future activities. The Working Group also adopted its annual report as well as the thematic study on the relationship between enforced or involuntary disappearances and economic, social and cultural rights.
    The Working Group will hold its 104th session in Geneva from 15-19 September 2014.

    (*) The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon); other members are Mr. Olivier de Frouville (France), Ms. Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Mr. Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa).

    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14612&LangID=E

     

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses strong concern over the ongoing targeting of minors in Bahrain.

    On 20 May 2014, Jehad Nabeel Al-Sameea, 11 years-old, was arrested from his neighborhood Sanabis by the security forces when they stormed the area to attack a peaceful protest. Al-Sameea was interrogated and released later on the same day, but was requested to return two days later. On the morning of Thursday, 22 May 2014, he appeared, accompanied by his father, at the police station where he was taken to the juvenile prosecution who ordered his detention and then transferred him to the juvenile judge. On the same day, juvenile judge Ebrahim Al-Jafn issued an order of detention for seven days against Al-Sameea on charges of “physical assault of a policeman, damage to two police cars, illegal gathering, rioting, and possession of Molotov cocktails.” Al-Sameea’s lawyer stated that he believed these charges unreasonable given the small size and limited physical power of the child.

    According to his lawyer, Al-Sameea was so distressed and overwrought that he was unable to speak through his tears when he was presented to the court.

    Al-Sameea previously spent over a month in juvenile detention center, from December 2013 to January 2014, which caused him to miss a significant amount of his school classes and his term exams. With this repeated detention, his progress at school will be severely, negatively impacted. He is currently being held at the juvenile detention at Isa Town.

    On 20 May 2014, the juvenile judge ordered a week long detention for two brothers Mohamed Hussain, 11 years-old, and Ali Hussain, 13 years old, on charges of “illegal gathering” after arresting them from their neighborhood in Nuwidrat.

    Minors below the age of 15 are not criminally responsible in the eyes of Bahraini law; however, the authorities often arrest them from protests and detain them for several weeks. The BCHR has documented more than 70 cases of arrests of children since January 2014. While some of the children have been released, many more remain in detention.

    The detention and ill-treatment of a child without an immediate and just cause, in the absence of a conviction of a crime, against his mental and physical well-being, and interest as a student violates several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states in Article 3 that "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." Article 37 continues, stating that "States Parties shall ensure that: (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."

    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:

    • Immediately release Jihad Al-Sameea, Mohamed Hussain, Ali Hussain and all detained children in the prisons of Bahrain, and provide appropriate psychological rehabilitation following their release;
    • End the culture of impunity which allows for daily violations against children;
    • Hold accountable all perpetrators of human rights violations against children in Bahrain;
    • As a signatory, respect, uphold and implement the conditions of international treaties and conventions, including the International Convention for the Rights of the Child.

     

     

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    --Update 26/05/2014--

    Yesterday, 25 May 2014, Redha Al-Ghasra’s family was able to visit Redha in prison for the second time since his arrest on 23 April 2014. Redha's family reported that they noticed several marks of torture on Redha's body. They stated that they could see bruising, scratches, and lacerations on his chest that appeared to have not been treated. Redha also reported that he had severe pain in his ear as a result of torture. 

    Redha was brought to the family visit twenty minutes late. His hands and ankles were shackled and attached together, which did not allow him enough mobility to hold the phone without crouching. The family was not allowed any privacy: Redha and his family were both surrounded by four police officers and because they were separated by a thick glass barrier, they had to conduct their conversation through a phone. The family’s conversation was also broadcasted through speakers in the room.

    Since his arrest, Redha has been in been placed in solitary confinement in a medical isolation ward where he is constantly guarded by Special Forces commandos. He told his family that he has not been allowed to shave, shower, or obtain personal hygene products since being detained, despite an order from Officer Jassim Al-Mulla on 12 May 2014 that he be allowed to.

    Redha's sister stated that she had phoned the prison for three consecutive days prior to the family’s first visit, but a police officer reportedly told her that Redha refused to speak to them. During the family’s first visit on 15 May 2014, Redha reported that he had not been permitted to call or have visits.

    The family also reported that they deposited money for use at the prison store into Redha’s account on 15 May 2014; however, yesterday the family was informed that the transfer was not completed.

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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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    Human rights defenders undertake legitimate and peaceful human rights work under continuous threats to their safety and security and often that of their families. Attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders in the Gulf Region are rising as a result of their cooperation with the International human rights community and organisations including the United Nations as they strive to promote human rights, and to expose and ensure accountability for human rights violations. Such reprisals ‘take many forms, ranging from smear campaigns, threats, travel bans, harassment, fines, the closing of organisations, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, prosecutions and lengthy prison sentences through to torture, ill-treatment and even death.

    Bahrain

    In Bahrain many human rights defenders have suffered reprisals as a result of engaging with the International community and human rights organisations including the UN. Examples include co-founders of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab both of whom have been targeted as a direct consequence of their human rights work and communication with International
    human rights organisations and the UN.

    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011. His sentence was handed down by a military court together with other human rights activists and political leaders known as the Bahrain 13. He remains in detention and has been subject to torture on many occasions, a fact which has been acknowledged and condemned by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) 2 . In
    September 2012 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that his 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.”
    (For further information see http://gc4hr.org/news/view/631)

    Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR and General Secretary of GCHR, has been arrested and detained on many occasions on baseless charges. Despite numerous applications for early release for which he is legally eligible, he remains in detention but is scheduled for release on 24 May 2014. He has been subject to discrimination and ill-treatment in prison, including being placed in solitary confinement with a dead animal, being isolated from other political detainees for his entire detention period and being prevented from contacting his family after he reported violations that he had witnessed in prison. (For further information see http://gc4hr.org/news/view/578, and http://gc4hr.org/news/view/537)

    Co-founder and president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Mohamed Al-Maskati has also been a victim of reprisals including acts of judicial harassment. Most recently in October 2013 he was summoned and interrogated on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime”. He has actively cooperated with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in recent years
    and has visited the Special Rapporteurs affiliated with it in August 2013. He also met several diplomatic missions in Geneva in coordination with many regional and international Human Rights organisations. (For further information see http://gc4hr.org/news/view/510)

    Conclusion and recommendations

    While the GCHR acknowledges that there have been attempts at an International level to address the issue of reprisals, for example by the reports of the Secretary General and the adoption of a resolution on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, at the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council[3], the situation is worsening.

    It is clear from the reprisals suffered by human rights defenders in the Gulf Region that their engagement with the International community and human rights mechanisms places them in significant danger of being further targeted. Such engagement is however, essential to ensure awareness of human rights violations, and to ensure that they are not met with impunity. Furthermore, reprisals, often go unreported which increases the likelihood that those responsible are never held accountable for such injustices and breaches of human rights law.

    The GCHR urges all UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council, and UN member states to investigate thoroughly and take immediate and decisive action to combat reprisals and to ensure that human rights defenders and all those engaging with the UN can do so without fear of such reprisals. The GCHR believes that the membership of and participation in the Human Rights Council of a member state, should be seriously examined following reprisals at the hand of state authorities.

    The GCHR recalls the recommendations set out by the Secretary General of the need to ensure that persecution and intimidation are systematically condemned, and that legal action is taken by those responsible. As well as that action should be taken at the national level, including through the adoption of appropriate legislation, by publicly condemning acts of reprisal and intimidation, ensuring accountability in relation to the majority of reported cases of reprisals, conducting effective and impartial investigations and bringing perpetrators to justice, and providing victims with remedies.

    The GCHR urges state authorities in the Gulf Region to ensure that all human rights defenders, and all citizens, are free to avail of and engage with the UN and the International human rights community. The GCHR urges all Gulf States to ensure that human rights defenders are free to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights work without fear of reprisals and free from all restrictions including judicial harassment. The GCHR respectfully reminds state authorities that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (c): "For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations."

    Read the full report on: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/662

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    Long Terms for Peaceful Protest; Impunity for Police Killings

    May 28, 2014

    (London) – Bahrain’s criminal justice system fails to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

    The 64-page report, “Criminalizing Dissent, Entrenching Impunity: Persistent Failures of the Bahraini Justice System Since the BICI Report,” found that more than two years after King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accepted recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to free peaceful dissenters and hold abusive officials accountable, Bahrain’s courts play a key role in maintaining the country’s highly repressive political order, routinely sentencing peaceful protesters to long prison terms. But members of security forces are rarely prosecuted for unlawful killings, including in detention, and the few convictions have carried extremely light sentences.

    “A police officer in Bahrain who kills a protester in cold blood or beats a detainee to death might face a sentence of six months or maybe two years, while peacefully calling for the country to become a republic will get you life in prison,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”

    The report, based on written verdicts and other court documents, reveals the stark contrast between prosecutions of serious human rights violations by security personnel on the one hand and prosecutions for “crimes” based on speech and peaceful assembly-related activities on the other.

    The report sharply contests UK Foreign Office claims that Bahrain has implemented the Commission of Inquiry’s key recommendations and is moving forward on judicial reform.

    The Commission of Inquiry report, the work of five respected international jurists, found that security forces were responsible for more than a dozen unlawful killings and routine excessive use of force in suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations in February through April 2011. It also found that detainees were subjected to “a deliberate practice of mistreatment” that led to at least five deaths in detention.

    The report recommended that the government release from prison and void the convictions of “all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of advocacy of violence.” The report also recommended criminal investigations into the wrongful deaths of at least 18 demonstrators and detainees with a view to holding senior officials accountable for rights violations.

    Two years after the report was issued, however, leaders of the 2011 protests remain in prison, some sentenced for life, and judges are convicting new defendants of “crimes” based solely on the expression of dissenting political views or the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said. To justify its decision upholding the terrorism convictions of the protest leaders, the Supreme Appellate Court held in September 2012 that terrorism need not involve the use or threat of violence but can be the result of “moral pressure.”

    In another case, the Court of Cassation upheld a conviction of one protester for “inciting hatred and contempt for a certain class of people,” a charge Bahraini authorities regularly use to prosecute peaceful political speech. The Court of Cassation concluded in yet another case that advocating “changing the state’s political system” constitutes “the commission of a crime.” In a third case the Court of Cassation upheld a “destroying public property” conviction for a protester who had stepped on the prime minister’s photograph.

    The few prosecutions of security personnel implicated in serious abuses have focused almost exclusively on low-ranking officers, and even those have resulted in acquittals or disproportionately light sentences. The officers responsible for beating suspected protester Ali Saqer to death were convicted of the lesser charge of assault rather than murder although a medical report submitted at the trial stated that Saqer had “blunt-force contusions” all over his body. An appeals court subsequently reduced the ten-year prison terms to two years, finding somewhat incredibly that the defendants deserved “clemency” on the ground that they had been “preserving the life of detainees, among them the victim.”

    In another case, a trial court concluded that a police officer had shot Hani Abd al-Aziz Juma from a meter away, leaving him fatally wounded. But it found the officer guilty only of assault, stating that he had not acted with intent to kill. An appeals court subsequently reduced the seven-year prison sentence to six months.

    Bahrain’s allies in London, Washington, and Brussels have failed to press the government of Bahrain to take serious steps to hold security forces accountable for abuse, or to call openly for the release of high-profile political prisoners. The UK Foreign Office, in its annual report on human rights published in April, highlighted judicial reform in Bahrain as an area where “the overall trajectory on human rights will be positive.”

    “Something is seriously amiss when calling for a republic gets you a life sentence while shooting and killing an unarmed protester gets you six months,” Stork said. “Stability and reform will remain out of reach in Bahrain as long as its allies, notably the UK, offer uncritical support in the face of mounting evidence of abuses.”

    Read the full report on http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/05/28/criminalizing-dissent-entrenching-impunity
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