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    The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express grave concern on the ongoing detention and judicial harassment against human rights defender Naji Fateel.

    We also welcome the release of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and call on authorities in Bahrain to end its targeting of human rights defenders in the country.

    On 29 May 2014, the Court of Appeal headed by judge Isa Al-Kaabi upheld a 15years imprisonment sentence against human rights defender and board member of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Naji Fateel, on charges of “establishing a terrorist group (February 14 collation) for the purpose of disturbing public security, disabling constitution and law, preventing public institution and authorities from performing their duties, attacking public and personal rights, and harming national unity.” The charges were directed against the defender under the internationally condemned Terrorism Law, after a trial that contradicted the universal and fundamental principles of fair trial standards and due process. The case involved another 49 citizens.

    In November 2013, when the appeal trial started, the authorities of Bahrain denied entry to a lawyer who was mandated by a coalition of NGOs including the GCHR to observe the appeal trial.

    In February 2014, one of the lawyers in the case said that 90% of their questions to the prosecution witnesses were rejected by the judge, and a policeman forcefully silenced a lawyer while he was giving his appeal. Another lawyer was thrown out of the court room although he represented five of the defendants in the case.

    No evidence against Fateel was provided during the trial on the charges. The sentence was solely based on coerced confessions taken under torture and without thoroughly, and impartially investigating the allegations of torture which the defender was subjected to during his detention. Among the allegations that he has received electrical shocks to his genitals, left foot, and back, and been subjected to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish photographs of his wife (taken from her camera which was confiscated when security forces raided the family home), verbal abuse using uncivilized words, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats to rape him, standing for long hours, in addition to sleep deprivation. During a hearing at the First Instance Court, Fateel removed his shirt and showed the torture marks on his back; however, it was totally ignored by the court. 

    Naji Fateel remains in detention since 2 May 2013. On 29 September 2013, when the First Instance Court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, he was moved to the Central prison “Jaw” where reports continue to emerge of overcrowded cells and dire conditions. According to information received, Fateel is placed to sleep in the corridor for lack of space inside the prison.

    The GCHR and BCHR believe that the arbitrary arrest of human rights defender Naji Fateel has taken place solely due his peaceful and legitimate activities in the defense of human rights.

    On 24 May 2014, prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR and Executive Director of GCHR, has been released from prison after serving the full two years sentence. He declared on his release that "he will continue to work stronger than before with a full determination to defend, the civil and human rights for all the citizens of Bahrain and the rest of the countries in the region." He will participate in the coming 26th session  of the  Human Rights Council in Geneva to talk about his painful experience in prison and the suffering of the detained human rights defenders in the region."

    Therefore, the GCHR and the BCHR urge the US administration and other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and the leading human rights organizations to:

    1- Call for the immediate release of human rights activists Naji Fateel as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;

    2- Increase the pressure on the Government of Bahrain to stop the on-going daily human rights violations and the escalating attacks against human rights defenders;

    3- Put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to 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;

    4. Immediately stop all forms of reprisals against human rights defenders in Bahrain.

     

     

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    --Update--

    The BCHR is also strongly concerned for continued attacks on Ahmed Al-Arab. On 25 May he was denied a family visit, and he has reported an increase in harassment following the escape from prison of Redha Al-Ghasra.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the wellbeing of the detainee Ahmed Mohammed Saleh Al-Arab, 22 years old, who has been reportedly subjected to torture and still suffering from resulting injuries.  Al-Arab was arrested on the morning of 9 January 2014, and was held in enforced disappearance for 21 days. (For further details please refer to previous BCHR statements http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6701, http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6772).

    On 28 April 2014, Ahmed’s family was able to visit him. They reported that visit was scheduled for 7 o’clock in the morning, but they didn’t bring him until 7:15 AM and that they were not compensated for the lost time.  They also stated that Ahmed’s window was the only one with glass in it. The window frame is divided into three sections that are usually glass-free, this time only the middle section was open and the other two had glass in them. Ahmed spoke to his family about the investigation he was subjected to on 21 April 2014 due to Redha Al-Ghasra’s escape. The prison management woke him up and took him around 6 or 7 AM and did not return him until 2 PM. Ahmed told his family that he did not understand why he was being questioned in regards to how “he,” referring to Al-Ghasra, “had escaped” because he had no knowledge of the event. He reported that they harassed him, and taunted him by saying that he wanted to escape as well but couldn’t make it. Ahmed also stated that they demanded that he confesses to assisting Al-Ghasra with the escape and that he wanted to go with him. He told them that that this would have been impossible, because not only was he not in contact with Redha Al-Ghasra, who was in solitary confinement, he himself was under constant surveillance.

    On 12 May 2014, Ahmed’s family went to visit him again for a one-hour visit scheduled for 7 o’clock in the morning. The family arrived at 6:45 AM, but had to wait until 7:35 AM before Ahmed was brought in. They reported that two guards entered with and remained close to Ahmed and that another guard was pacing behind the family while an officer observed from the corner. At 8:00 am, Ahmed’s father spoke to the officer in charge and told him that they must be compensated because Ahmed was brought in late, however, at 8:10 the guards told the family that the visit was over. This prompted an argument between the guards and Ahmed, who insisted that it was his right to get the full time of the visit as both he and his family had been on time. He stated they delayed him on purpose and brought him after the other prisoners at which the officer reportedly mocked him and dismissed what he was saying. During the short visit, Ahmed told his family that since first week of May, he had two guards posted to him at all times. The officers reportedly harassed him by interrupting his sleep and not giving any privacy while he made phone calls. Ahmed told his family that he believes this treatment to be in retaliation for the recent escapes from Dry Dock Detention Center.

    Al-Arab has previously reported that he was subject to severe torture and ill-treatment whilst held in detention. During the time of his enforced disappearance, he was reportedly detained at the criminal investigation department (CID), where Al-Arab reported being subjected to torture. He said he was stripped naked and hung from his wrists while they were handcuffed behind his back. According to his testimony, he was repeatedly beaten all over his body, he was pulled from his feet over and over to twist and hurt him while he hung from his wrists. He was insulted and assaulted continuously and deprived from sleeping. He was threatened that they would hurt his sister, telling him that she had been arrested. His face was covered with a cloth and water was poured into his mouth to insinuate drowning. He stated that he believed he would die every time. When he was finally allowed to go to the bathroom after begging, Al-Arab said his face was so swollen he could not recognize himself, and his facial hair (beard) would fall on its own with bits of his skin. At times, he was kept standing in the corridor and when he complained of being tired, they made him lie down so that everyone walks on him as they pass. He said that he was subjected to continuous verbal abuse and psychological torture including keeping him in the dark for long periods and forcing him to listen others being tortured. AlArab added that during the night he was moved to a prison in Riffa, where ice was poured on him while he was hung, and this routine continued for five or six days. He told his family that he feared that some of the sensory nerves in his right arm may be damaged where sometimes it cannot be lifted and he doesn’t feel them.

     

    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 and unconditionally release Ahmed Al-Arab, along with all other detainees held on politically motivated charges due to the ongoing popular movement for freedom and democracy.
    • Immediately end the use of torture as a method to obtain confessions, and provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees.
    • Hold all those who have been implicated in torture accountable, especially those in high positions who have ordered or overseen the use of torture;
    • Immediately release all prisoners in cases where the only evidence presented against them in court were confessions obtained under torture;
    • In criminal cases, allow independent and neutral observers to be involved in the proceedings to guarantee due process and to confirm that the crime took place.
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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its concern at the Bahraini Authorities’ continuing acts of retaliation against the families of victims of extra-judicial killings.

    On Friday, 9 May 2014, a number of victim’s families received summons to attend the Investigation Department’s Office Number 99 on 12 May 2014. Those summoned include: Abulhadi Mushaima, the father of the late Ali Mushaima; Makky Abu Taki, father of the late Mahmoud Abu Taki; the husband of the late Ms. Asma Hussein; Jassim Al-Asfour, father of the late Yassin Al-Asfour; and also the activist Mahmoud Riyadh.

    Those who were summoned to attend the Investigation Department have lost family members due to the regime’s security forces using excessive force when suppressing peaceful demonstrations and the security forces’ collective punishment of villages.

     

     

    The Investigation Department demanded that the bereaved refrain from participating in the daily local demonstrations that call for those responsible for the deaths of their loved ones to be held accountable, for democracy, and for the right to self-determination in choosing how the country is governed. At the conclusion of the interrogation, the Investigation Department also demanded the bereaved sign a pledge never to participate in such marches and demonstrations again.

    It is important to note that this is not the first time that most of those mentioned above have received such summons, and that they have found themselves to be vulnerable to repeated acts of retaliation on the part of the authorities.

    Abdulhadi Mushaima was previously arrested in the early hours of the morning of 22 August 2013, after the authorities raided his home without legal permission. He remained in custody until his release on 29 August 2013. Further, on 10 November 2010, his wife, the mother of the late Ali Mushaima, was arrested when she attempted to travel to Iran. Security forces claimed to have an arrest warrant, but were not able to clarify as to whether this was really the case. Similarly, Abdulhadi Mushaima was temporarily detained after an alleged verbal altercation with the police. His son, the late Ali Mushaima, was the first to fall on 14 February 2011, when he received a shotgun blast in the back from close range from the security forces. The policeman responsible for this was sentenced to seven years in prison, but the sentence was reduced to three years on appeal when the court of appeals accepted that Ali Mushaima had been shot inadvertently.

    Makky Abu Taki was arrested on 26 November 2013, after being summoned to the police station at Al-Ni’am. The following day, he was interrogated at the Public Prosecutor’s office and was remanded in custody pending further investigation of charges of unlawful assembly and inciting hatred against the regime. In a telephone call to his family, Abu Taki stated that he was subjected to ill-treatment, beatings and insults from the prison officers. His family reported that the management of Dry Docks (Al-Howdh Al-Jaaf) Prison refused to allow them to see Makky Abu Taki without a specific reason. He remained in detention until his release on 9 January 2014. Makky Abu Taki’s son, 23 year-old Mahmood Abu Taki, was killed by gunshot wounds during the deadly dawn raid on the Pearl Roundabout on “Bloody Thursday,” 17 February 2011. To-date, the Interior Ministry has failed to investigate this case despite a proclamation two years ago demanding that they do so.

    In the view of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, through these actions the sovereign power in Bahrain is evading its public responsibilities by contributing to the spread of a policy of impunity. This extends to the undertaking of acts of retaliation against the families of the victims of the state’s use of excessive force and to the protection of the victim’s executioners. Through systematic acts of retaliation against the families of victims of extra-judicial killings, the authorities seek to dissuade victims’ families from demanding accountability for the killers of their loved ones. The Interior Ministry thus traps the families into a vicious circle of on-going summons and detention, on account of the families’ activism and calls for the prosecution of those responsible for the murders of their children. In a further act of intimidation and restriction of fundamental freedoms, the Interior Ministry then forces them to sign pledges to refrain from participation in further demonstrations. This is in violation of international treaties regarding Freedom of Expression, in particular Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states:

    The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

     

     

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and all allies to the Bahraini government to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • Stop acts of retaliation against activist families and the families of victims of extra-judicial killings
    • Stop acts of extortion and intimidation aimed at forcing victims’ families to waive their rights to call to account those responsible for the killing of their loved ones
    • End the systematic policy of impunity for human rights violators
    • Hold accountable all those involved in abuses, torture or murder, in particular high-ranking people in supervisory or command positions
    • Proceed immediately to conduct an impartial and independent investigations into incidents of deliberate killing, and the police’s use of excessive force against other victims.

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the continued policies of the Authority in Bahrain in oppressing the Shiite religious sect in different ways. After demolishing 35 Shiite mosques during the three month state of emergency in 2011, the authorities revoked the Bahraini citizenship of 31 Bahraini citizens from the Shiite sect[1]; among them is a religious scholar who was forcibly exiled in April 2014. The court also dissolved the Shiite Olamaa Islamic Council and liquidated its assets[2], which is considered a clear violation of religious liberty.

    The Authorities demolish the Shiite mosques under the pretext that they are unlicensed:

    During the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Mr Bassiouni stated in his report (page 320) that the "of the 30 (demolished) places of worship investigated by the commission, 28 were mosques". The Authorities demolished these structures between the months of March and May 2011, without taking into account the provisions of the law, and the sacredness of these places and the sacredness of the items inside them such as copies of the Quran, and ‘Husseini’ valuables (Turba) – which are honoured according to the traditions followed by the Shiite sect. The report indicated that, the time and manner in which demolitions were conducted would be perceived as a collective punishment of an entire sect – part 1306 to 1334.[3] The Commission recommended the immediate rebuilding the demolished mosques at the expense of the government. Although Bahrain’s ruler Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared rebuilding the demolished mosques in May 2011, only five mosques have been rebuilt to date, while the rest have been neglected. In a provocative step, the Authorities announced turning the site of the demolished Abu-Thar Al-Ghufari mosque in the area into a public park[4], despite the fact that the residents posses official documents that prove the Abu-Thar Al-Ghufari mosque’s location of the proposed park, and that the mosque is part of the planned housing project in the area. For more information, please refer to the previous BCHR report about the restrictions imposed by the Authorities in Bahrain on religious freedoms[5].

    (Photo) – Turning Abu-Thar Al-Ghufari Mosque into a playground

    The Authorities exile a Shiite citizen after revoking his citizenship and rejects the lawsuit of another who was demanding to annul the decision of revoking his citizenship:

    The Ministry of Interior made an announcement on Wednesday 23 April 2014 that officially banished the Shiite cleric Hussein Al-Najati from Bahrain. Some activists published photos of Al-Najati upon his departure from Bahrain and arrival in Beirut on their Twitter accounts.[6] The Ministry of Interior accused Al-Najati of ‘practicing his activity in an unclear manner and without coordinating with the official bodies in the country, and it was evident for the concerned bodies that he represents Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, which is something that was disclosed through the calls received by the Bahraini government from important figures in the Iraqi government’[7]. Several resources indicated that Al-Najati was subjected to official pressure to encourage him to leave Bahrain after revoking his citizenship, along with 30 other Shiite citizens in 2012. The Minister of Interior summoned Al-Najati in June 2013 and gave him a period of time to leave Bahrain,[8] however Al-Najati insisted on staying in Bahrain,[9] and threats against him started again until he was banished in April 2014. Amnesty International issued a statement expressing their concern for the threats and harassments that Al-Najati was subjected to. The Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International Said Boumedouha indicated that, ‘the decision to strip Ayatollah Sheikh Najati of his nationality, along with 30 others in 2012 was little more than an arbitrary attempt to silence all government critics. It should be rescinded immediately.”[10] The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, released a statement urging to stop the persecution of Sheikh Hussein Al-Najati and to return his citizenship. The Rapporteur stated that according to the news received, Al-Najati left his country Bahrain after receiving threats that him and his son will be arrested if they refused to leave.[11] In a related context, the High Administrative Court rejected the lawsuit of the Shiite citizen Ebrahim Ghuloom Karimi – one of those who had their citizenship revoked – and who was demanding through the lawsuit to annul the administrative decision of revoking his citizenship[12] in an apparent violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article (15) which states, ‘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 Authorities issue a decision to dissolve the Olamaa Council and liquidate its assets:

    The High Administrative Court ruled in a session on Wednesday 29 January 2014 to dissolve the Olamaa Islamic Council and liquidate its assets. The BCHR believes that, ‘dissolving the highest religious foundation that represents the Shiite sect in the country takes place within the political framework of systematic discrimination against the sect[13], and it is considered a clear violation of Article (18) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.’ The former strategic planning consultant for the Cabinet Affairs Ministry, Salah Al-Bandar, stated in a confidential report published in 2006, and was known as ‘Al-Bandar Report’ that there are systematic mechanisms to eliminate the Shiite sect in Bahrain.

     

    The Authorities promote the continue of sectarian speech against Shiite

    Article (20) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, endorsed by the Kingdom of Bahrain with Law No. 56 of 2006, states, ‘Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.’ However, the Authorities in Bahrain neglect the sectarian speech practiced by certain bodies against the Shiite and supports them by allowing National TV to broadcast sectarian phrases and to practice discrimination without any accountability. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report concluded that the programs on Bahrain TV were characterized with degrading language, and inciting hatred. The BCHR continues to document, on a daily basis, writings in the articles of the pro-government newspapers that incite hatred and promote sectarian oppression.[14] The UN High Commission delegation which had left Bahrain at the end of April 2014 had confirmed that hate speeches had increased in the media - whether in the printed press, video or audio channels - through the observation of the UN High Commission technical team which was in Bahrain for two months. The delegation emphasized that there must be an appropriate climate that establishes and achieves freedom of opinion and expression[15]. While Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman – Head of the Religious Freedom Unit at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory – stated that the historical attitude of Bahrainis has been to protect society from sectarian violence, even though alienating and hateful discourse is still growing from groups associated with the government. Al-Salman said in his interview with the Bahrain Mirror newspaper, ‘the general characteristics of all Bahrainis, Shiite and Sunni, is tolerance, kindness and compassion. Societies during periods of political and national tension could tend to some violence; however the demand of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain is one of the most peaceful movements among the Arab Spring revolutions[16]’.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that these systematic attacks and sectarian discrimination against the Shiite sect amounts to systematic restriction against the practice of religious freedoms and is in accordance with the report of the U.S. State Department on religious freedoms in Bahrain.[17]

     

    The BCHR holds the Authorities in Bahrain responsible for the consequences of the sectarian discrimination as a means to combat public demands for democracy, and hence it calls on the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations and all the close allies and relevant international institutes in order to trial Bahrain internationally for its continuous and frequent violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights endorsed previously by it, and it also calls on putting pressure on the Authority in Bahrain to:

    • stop targeting religious freedoms and put an end to sectarian discrimination;
    • rebuild the demolished mosques in their original locations without further delay;
    • hold accountable all those implicated in the violations that occurred in demolishing the mosques and suppressing religious gatherings, especially those in the higher ranks;
    • end the practice of sectarian speech that incites hatred;
    • reinstate all the citizenships that were revoked without legal justification and that violate the Constitution, and to allow Al-Najati to return to Bahrain immediately;
    • revoke the decision to dissolve the Olamaa Islamic Council and end the targeting of civil bodies on sectarian basis.

     

     

     

     
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the continued practice of arresting and detaining children in Bahrain.

    On 01 June 2014, Firas Al-Saffar, a 15 year-old student, was abducted from his home early in the morning, before going to school, by members of the security forces in civilian clothing. The men forced him to get into their vehicle and took him to an unknown location. After visiting several police stations, his parents discovered that he had been taken to Al-Hura police station in the capital Manama. Al-Saffar reported that he was interrogated, questioned and officially charged with “filming unauthorised gatherings”. He was referred to the Public Prosecution office without being allowed to contact his family or speak to a lawyer. The authorities decided to detain Al-Saffar for 45 days pending investigation. As a result of his arrest and detention, Al-Saffar has not been allowed to attend his final exams, which has a strong negative impact on his education.

    Al-Saffar was previously arrested when he, along with other students, were taken from a school bus after participating in a pro-democracy protest. Following his arrest, he was reportedly beaten by the Bahraini security forces. His family is strongly concerned about his well-being.

     

    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 Firas Al-Saffar and all detained children in the prisons of Bahrain;
    • end the practice of using excessive force against protesters and children;
    • hold accountable all perpetrators of human rights violations against children in Bahrain;
    • as a signatory to the International Convention for the Rights of the Child, Bahrain must respect, uphold and implement the conditions of the convention.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses serious concern in regards to the practice by the Public Prosecution in Bahrain in bringing new charges against detainees to avoid releasing them. In the most recent case, Mansoor AlJamri, 19 years old, had a new case brought against him yesterday, and according to information relayed to the BCHR by the family, the Public Prosecution ordered that he be detained for 60 days pending investigation under the internationally criticized Terrorism Law.

    Mansoor AlJamri was arrested on the 9th of January 2014 along with Ahmed AlArab and Hussain AlGhasrah after a dawn house raid at the home of AlGhasrah in Hamad Town. AlJamri had been in hiding since his release from prison in Sep 2012. During his previous arrest in April 2012, AlJamri was reportedly subjected to beatings and torture, after which he was sentenced to 6 months in prison. Despite his young age, AlJamri was unable to graduate high school due to fear of getting arrested again if he attended his classes. During the recent arrest, AlJamri was severely beaten and told to give information about the whereabouts of Ahmed AlArab. After AlArab was found in the same house as AlJamri during the raid, a police officer reportedly told AlJamri "Don't think you will ever get out of jail. We found AlArab and you didn't help. My gift to you will be to make sure you never get out of prison."

    After his arrest, AlJamri was at the CID for four days, where he was held incommunicado and reportedly tortured. Part of the torture he endured was severe beatings, deprivation of sleep, and he was not allowed to shower or pray. The charge brought against Aljamri was aiding a fugitive.

    On the morning of Wednesday, 4th June 2014, prison guards went to Mansoor AlJamri at the Dry Docks prison and told him to go with them to the Public Prosecution. AlJamri had a hearing two days ago, but was not informed that the judge had issued a decision for his release. When AlJamri refused to go with them, they showed him a letter from the Public Prosecutor ordering them to bring him by force if he refuses to go. The policeman reportedly told AlJamri: "We have riot police waiting outside, if you don't come with us now, I'll call them in." Knowing the consequences of having to deal with riot police, AlJamri went with them. During the entire ride to the public prosecution, AlJamri was handcuffed from behind, and he was forced to put his head between his knees. The handcuffs were tightened so that they left marks on his wrists, and the police sitting on both sides of him in the car leaned on his back causing him further pain.

    At the Public Prosecution, AlJamri was not provided with a lawyer, and the prosecutor reportedly ridiculed AlJamri saying: "You think you will be released? We have a new case for you. You injured the left hip of a police officer." AlJamri was told to "confess" to this charge, as well as to implicate other youth under the same charge. He was provided with names, and when AlJamri said he did not know any of them, or of any policeman with an injured hip, he was ridiculed again by the prosecutor who reiterated that AlJamri will not be released. AlJamri was then returned to the Dry Docks detention center after an order from the prosecutor to detain him for 60 days pending investigation under the internationally criticized Terrorism Law.

    Mansoor AlJamri is not the first detainee who has had new charges brought against him to prevent his release. In one example, Mohammed Mirza Rabie, was ordered released by a judge, but new charges were brought against him to prevent his release. Each time one of his cases was sent to an appeal court, the judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of credible evidence. Every time his lawyer moved to have him released from detention, another charge was brought against him. In total, over eleven cases were brought up against Rabie. Younis and Sadiq Ashour were both arrested in September 2011 from Samaheej mosque. Every time there was a decision for their release they would be taken to the police station to be picked up by their parents, but then the parents would be informed that a new case has been brought against them and they will not be released.

    The BCHR believes that this continued targeting of specific youth who, like Mansoor AlJamri, are bloggers, participate in protests and/or assist with documentation for local NGO's, is a practice to punish them for practicing their basic rights. Creating new charges against detainees to prevent them from being released is a clear result of the culture of impunity that is implemented by the highest levels of government. The BCHR has documented numerous cases in which police officers tell victims that there is no law, and they will make sure the victims do not get out of prison. The implication of the Public Prosecution in human rights violations is especially concerning; showing the continued cooperation between the police and the Public Prosecution in the violations committed.

    Based on the information provided above, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

    1. Immediately and unconditionally release Mansoor AlJamri and all other political prisoners in Bahrain, and drop all charges against them.

    2. Immediately start a process of reforming the Judiciary.

    3. Hold to account any and all officials, especially those in senior positions, who have participated in, ordered and/or overseen the practice of human rights violations.

    4. Immediately start providing rehabilitation and reparations for all victims of torture.

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    Civil Society Space:

    Addressing the Implementation Gap

    Thursday, 12 June 2014, 12:30-14:30 Palais des Nations, Room VIII (8).

     

    BCHR would like to invite you to a HRC26 side event on “Civil Society Space: Addressing the Implementation Gap”

    The side event, jointly organized by Article19, CIVICUS, ICNL, ECNL, the World Movement for Democracy and with the support of the Permanent Mission of Ireland, will feature the SRs Maina Kiai and Frank La Rue,  VP of Bahrain Center for Human Rights Maryam AlKhawaja, and activists from Philippines and Venezuela.

    Panellists will look at

    ·         What actions are needed from States to protect civil society space, in particular for vulnerable groups?

    ·         What is the role of the Human Rights Council in addressing the shrinking space for civil society?

    ·         Is more guidance needed from international bodies to protect this space?

     Click to view in full size

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    · by ·

    “One minute will make a difference.”

    Hussain Hubail has freelanced for AFP and Voice of America. He is seen here with his award from Al Wasat News.

    The span of sixty seconds could mean life or death for the political prisoner Hussain Hubail, according to an anonymous source close to him.  Hussain is a Bahraini photojournalist who, outrageously, was sentenced by kangaroo court to five years in prison on the bogus charges of “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“, on April 28.

    But his prison sentence could be the least of his problems. Ever since his enforced disappearance last August by the Bahraini security forces, he has been repeatedly denied urgent healthcare for a heart condition that causes shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and fainting, according to the source I spoke with. It could turn out to be deadly if not given the proper treatment. Amnesty International reported on his deteriorating health as early as November 5 of last year, and Reporters Without Borders also called on the UN special rapporteurs on freedom of expression and protection against torture to investigate his case along with two other Bahraini news providers.

    Of course, the Bahraini government itself didn’t see fit to investigate Hussain’s own allegations that he was tortured, forced to listen to the torture of the blogger Mohammed Hassan, and then coerced into signing a confession that he was not even allowed to read.

    Throughout his nine-month detention before being handed his sentence, Hussain’s dire health condition has been basically ignored. He was at first allowed to be seen at Salmaniya Hospital but was not allowed to return for a follow-up that the hospital recommended. Since then, the prison administered unidentified medications to him on a random basis.

    Continue reading on https://imaginingif.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/island-of-torture-health-of-prisoner-deteriorates-as-appeal-looms/

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    With her country in crisis and her father in prison, a twenty-six-year-old exile becomes the international face of Bahrain’s restive uprising.
     

    On August 8, 2013, Maryam Al-Khawaja walked up to a check-in counter at London’s Heathrow airport to pick up her ticket home. The woman who put Al-Khawaja’s information into the computer gave a confused look before informing her that she was not allowed to board the flight to her native country of Bahrain.

    The government of the small, Persian Gulf island had contacted the airline and requested that Al-Khawaja not be allowed on this — or any other — flight to the country. The airline had no choice but to comply.

    In that moment, at the age of twenty-six, Al-Khawaja officially became an exile. But her life had been heading in that direction for a long time. Born into a family of activists, the uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011 thrust Al-Khawaja into the role of high-profile human rights defender. Now, as the Bahraini government has cracked down on dissidents, she can no longer return home.

    For the three years since protests began in Bahrain, as the regime tortured and imprisoned members of her family and other activists, Al-Khawaja has been trying to raise awareness in the international community about the human rights abuses perpetrated by her government. Composed and confident, with quick, intelligent eyes that convey an energetic, undeterred dedication to her work, Al-Khawaja has unwittingly been preparing for this role her whole life.

    *   *   *

    Bahrain is tucked like a small pearl in the gulf between Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and the peninsular nation of Qatar. The island has a long history of protest for expanded civil and political rights, stretching back to at least the 1930s. At that time, Bahrain was a British protectorate and protesters were demanding greater autonomy and self-governance.

    Continue reading on http://narrative.ly/behind-bars/a-tiny-kingdoms-worldwide-warrior/#

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    The BCHR is alarmed by the news relayed by Redha AlGhasra's family that he is held in cell with an inmate who has Pulmonary Tuberculosis, which is highly infectious. This comes after AlGhasra has already been subjected to different types of harassment, ill-treatment and reported torture.

    The family of Redha AlGhasra informed the BCHR that they visited AlGhasra yesterday, Thursday 05 June 2014, and informed them that an inmate who suffers from Pulmonary Tuberculosis has been placed with him in the cell. 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 during the visit on 25 May 2014 that he has not been allowed to 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. AlGhasra was allowed to shave only because he refused to attend the visit unless he was permitted to do so. He was hadcuffed during the entire visit, and not been allowed to receive any money.

    The BCHR Medical Consultant said:

    "Tuberculosis (TB) is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria is released into the air when the person infected with the disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings. People in the vicinity may breathe in this bacteria and get infected. TB in correctional facilities is a public health concern. For example, approximately 4-6% of TB cases reported in the United States occur among people incarcerated at the time of the diagnosis. The incarcerated population contains a high proportion of people at greater risk for TB than the overall population. Without treatment, TB can be fatal. Untreated active disease typically affects lungs, but can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream."

    The BCHR is especially concerned that should Redha AlGhasra be infected with TB, give the systematic denial of access to adequate medical treatment, the infection may be fatal.

    Previous BCHR statement on Redha AlGhasra:

    --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.

    ----

     The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the health and well-being of Hassan Sabah Al-BanaaRedha 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 Aliand Jaffar 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.
    • Not place inmates with highly infectuous diseases in the same cells with other prisoners.

     

    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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    by Nazgol Kafai and Ala'a Shehabi

    "No person may be punished on national security grounds for disclosure of information if (1) the disclosure does not actually harm and is not likely to harm a legitimate national security interest, or (2) the public interest in knowing the information outweighs the harm from disclosure."[1]

    While controversy and interest rage around the treasure trove of information that Edward Snowden has leaked over the last year in order to expose the extent of US and British government surveillance, silence has marked past and recent revelations of the intrusion of the Bahraini regime into the daily lives of citizens and the socially destructive policies designed to ensure the survival of the monarchy. Over the past decade, conscientious people, both Bahraini and non-Bahraini, have taken on the Khalifa regime by revealing its darkest secrets. From exposing sophisticated schemes for sectarian agitation to uncovering the massive procurement of arms for repressive purposes, these revelations served both to confirm a perceived political reality and to reveal a ruthless system of violence and conspiratorial disciplinary tactics heretofore unimaginable. Overall, these leaks have facilitated a form of public accountability, with the predictable regime response being the “erasure of knowledge” rather than the redress of problems.

    The individual acts of dissidence are thus critical events that highlight the relationship between censorship, knowledge, and the ability to mobilize for progressive change, as well as the “divide and rule” policy that centers on the instrumental use of sectarianism. The fundamental feature of this relationship is the power of regime mechanisms to foreclose citizen knowledge as a way of producing acquiescence and the limits of that power. While the Bahraini regime has invested significant amounts of oil rents in constructing mechanisms of censorship and knowledge suppression, these instruments have proven increasingly ineffective. New methods of information dissemination via the Internet and telecommunications networks have given activists, concerned government officials, and others the potential to “leak” and publish their information outside the strictly controlled state media. While the information that these whistleblowers have brought to light is inherently important, the act of unauthorized disclosure—by demonstrating the severely impaired ability of the Bahraini state to maintain its monopoly on information—has irreparably damaged the illusion of state omnipotence and thus encouraged further acts of dissent.

    Continue reading on http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17912/the-struggle-for-information_revelations-on-mercen

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    By David Mepham , UK Director, Human Rights Watch

    Imagine the following scenario. A young man is arrested by security forces during a street protest. A few days later Ali Saqer dies in custody, his body covered in "blunt force contusions." Two security officers are convicted to 10 years in prison for their role in his death, but an appeals court later cuts their sentence to just two years, because the defendants' actions sought to "preserve the life of detainees, among them the victim." In other words, as they helped beat Ali Saqer to death, the officers in question were actually only trying to keep him alive.

    Confused? You'd be right to be. And this confusion is reflected all too clearly in the UK's policy towards Bahrain, where the case of Ali Saqer played out. For while Bahrain's serious rights abuses have provoked condemnation from many governments around the world, the UK's response has been both feeble and ineffective.

    It's been two and a half years since King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa vowed to reform Bahrain's justice system in the wake of criticism of his government's brutal crackdown on largely peaceful protests. In July 2011, faced with growing international condemnation, he established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), comprising five international jurists, tasked with investigating allegations of human rights abuses in the country. BICI's report concluded that Bahraini courts had convicted hundreds of people of political charges related to the exercise of the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly, and recommended that these convictions be reviewed, and the sentences commuted or the charges dropped. The BICI report also found that Bahrain's security forces had killed at least 18 demonstrators and detainees and that investigations should be conducted, with those responsible brought to justice. While King Hamad promised that the BICI recommendations would be implemented with urgency, the Bahraini authorities have largely failed to do so.

    So it's bizarre that in its recent Foreign Office report, the UK government said Bahrain's reform programme suggested the country's "overall trajectory on human rights will be positive." There is simply no basis for such an upbeat assessment.

    New research from Human Rights Watch shows that UK claims of progress on judicial and security sector reform in Bahrain since 2011 are unfounded. Despite the UK's "constructive engagement," quiet diplomacy and capacity-building support, little appears to have changed in the administration -- or rather maladministration -- of Bahraini justice.

    Leaders of the 2011 protests remain in prison, some sentenced for life terms, and judges continue to convict new defendants of "crimes" based solely on the expression of dissenting political views or for peaceful protest.

    In the case of 13 of Bahrain's most prominent opposition leaders and activists, Bahrain's highest court upheld many of the convictions and lengthy sentences that had been first pronounced, unjustly and inappropriately, by a military court. Absurdly -- and contrary to any international standard -- the Bahraini courts have also sought to justify the reaffirmation of these earlier sentences on the grounds that terrorism need not involve violence but can be the result of "moral pressure."

    While the Bahraini authorities have been vigorous in their criminalization of peaceful protest and dissent, they have done precious little to bring to justice those guilty of real crimes. Only a handful of security personnel implicated in serious abuses have been prosecuted, and largely only low-ranking officers at that. Moreover, as Ali Saqer's case shows, even these have often resulted in absurdly light sentences at best. Against this backdrop, the UK government -- so consistently eager to talk up reform in Bahrain and to downplay ongoing violations there -- is surely running out of excuses for its untenable position.

    The June meeting of the UN Human Rights Council offers the UK the chance to play a more constructive role in furthering respect for rights in that country, consistent with the UK's declared policy. While the UK has shown itself to be a strong leader on several issues at the Human Rights Council, mostly recently on Sri Lanka, on Bahrain its policy has been consistently weak -- refusing to support a critical statement in June 2012, and only signing subsequent ones last year when the language was watered down.

    The Swiss and a number of other governments are now coordinating a new statement on Bahrain that highlights the government's ongoing failure to end rights abuses and ensure accountability for past violations. The UK should stop pretending that real progress is being made in Bahrain and instead back a strong stance at the Human Rights Council in June: that imposes costs on the Bahraini government for ongoing abuses and impunity, backs UN efforts to establish a country-based presence that will monitor rights, and provides clear benchmarks for substantive reform. The UK should also press vigorously for the release of all those unfairly imprisoned, allowing these leaders and activists to be part of a meaningful and inclusive process of national dialogue, and to help chart a better future for all Bahrainis.

     

    David Mepham is UK Director of Human Rights Watch

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-mepham/britains-still-making-exc_b_5430679.html

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    Nabeel Rajab is an honest man. When he makes a promise, in my experience, you can count on him keeping it.

    So I, along with almost everyone else who knows him, was a bit surprised when upon his release from jail on May 24, he said he "had no interest in politics". Much closer to form was his tweet not long after that he'd meet with the king to resolve the political situation if asked. By the time he tweeted that Bahrain has become a "dictatorship kingdom" four days later, it was clear that two years in prison have done nothing to cow him.

    Rajab is back. But for how long? When I spoke with him recently, he felt it may not be for too long.

    "Several government-controlled papers just published stories saying I'll be back in jail if I don't stop speaking," he told me. This is apparently how Bahrain's government warns the country's leading dissident voice to shut up or pack his bags again for prison. He got the message. But he has no plans to be silent. Like the artist-activists El Haqed in Morocco and Ramy Essam in Egypt, and so many other activists across the region, the worse the political situation gets, the more defiant the most courageous human rights actors become.

    The question is: who can and will support them as they continue playing the role of David to their governments' Goliath?

    "To many people, I'm the only one speaking frankly and straightforwardly about the situation. So I have either to keep quiet or leave country or be in jail. But I know I only have one choice: keep speaking no matter what the cost and sacrifice. Otherwise, no change will come."

    Rajab is speaking in the context of the number of prisoners doubling since he entered prison in 2012. Many Shia families have at least one member who is either in exile, in prison or dead. The government's policies have become even more violent. In Bahrain, the number of riot police, the vast majority of Sunnis imported from foreign countries such as Pakistan and Jordan have doubled. And, he lamented, this has led at least a dozen Bahrainis losing all hope and turning to violence against the police and state.

    Human rights and oppressive regimes

    The main problem is that the government today has almost no incentive for serious dialogue.

    "Parliament is in its hands and so it can legislate repressive laws that turn the country into a dictatorship without headaches. Its PR machine has effectively normalised the situation so that it faces no threat of consequences from its main international allies, while the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries actively support its repression," says Rajab.

    Most importantly, the government "is in control of the street now. Protests can be contained". He adds: "It's very close to Palestine. In jail I was thinking this. Now we have total suppression, like South Africa and Israel, of all housing and other forms of cohabitation, the government both controls and surrounds the local population. And the government depends on foreign patrons and PR the same way Israel does to maintain its policies on the ground."

    Also similar to the difficulties facing Palestinian human rights advocates, even someone with the stature of Rajab has a lot of trouble having much of an impact with European governments, never mind the United States.

    "It's complicated" was the best a State Department spokesman would say last time he was imprisoned. The Europeans, particularly the British, are completely unwilling to jeopardise ties with Bahrain, and by extension, Saudi Arabia and other wealthy GCCl countries, in order to support real movement towards democracy.

    One crucial development is how the use of a human rights discourse has become, in a tragic way, an enabler of continued, and even increased, oppression. The manner in which a heavily watered down set of recommendations from the so-called Independent Commission of Inquiry was accepted by the King of Bahrain with great fanfare, only to be completely ignored, is a good example of this process. Even as human rights becomes the currency of the realm, so to speak, the game continues to be played on the government's terms.

    Many long-term Arab human rights activists in fact see this paradox as central to the problem of human rights in the region today. Indeed, at a Lund University workshop for senior Arab human rights practitioners and researchers which I was attending, I spoke with Rajab, and Bahraini researcher and advocate Alaa Shehabi who explained that the adoption of human rights language by the government simultaneously empowers and co-opts, politicises and is depoliticises such struggles: "A clear ceiling is placed on what you can say, so it is okay to talk about violations and torture, but it is not okay to point fingers at those responsible and call for their accountability. The king can always feign ignorance and promise to do something, which never gets done."

    Continue reading on http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/nabeel-rajab-problematic-succes-201463141553579358.html

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    Ahead of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 26th Session, ten free speech and human rights organisations have made a renewed call for the release of Bahraini journalists Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zain Aldeen.

    Hussain Hubail, an award-winning photographer, and cameraman Qassim Zain Aldeen have been held in detention since the summer of 2013, whilst blogger Mohammed Hassan was released on bail. During his detention, Mr Hubail has faced interrogation and torture at the Bahraini Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID). Mr Hubail has been refused medical treatment for his heart condition. Mr Zain Aldeen has been hospitalised following beatings he received in prison from police officials. Mr Hassan fled to the United Kingdom upon his release on bail, and is facing revival of charges against him, torture and an unfair trial if he is returned to Bahrain.

    Both Mr Hassan and Mr Hubail are charged with calling for illegal gatherings, inciting hatred against the regime, inciting people to ignore the law and misuse of social media. Mr Zain Aldeen is charged with participating in an illegal gathering and vandalism in prison. All three have been critical in their reporting on the Bahraini government, covering protests and demonstrations against the authorities for both local and international media and publishing on human rights issues. Their arrest and detention is part of a broader campaign of repression of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders carried out by the authorities of Bahrain and violates international human rights law.

    Last week, the Media Legal Defence Initiative, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders issued a renewed call for action to the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and on torture as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The organisations requested these UN experts to intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of the journalists and insist that they are not subjected to further torture or ill-treatment.

     

    Background information:

    • Mr Hubail is a freelance photographer who was awarded a prize by independent newspaper Al-Wasat in May 2013 for his photograph of protestors running through a cloud of tear gas. He was arrested on 31 July 2013 and taken to the CID for interrogation where he was subjected to torture. He is currently awaiting an appeal on his five year sentence. Mr Hubail’s lawyer has made numerous bail applications on the basis of Mr Hubail’s health condition, but this continues to be refused while his trial is being postponed.

    • Mr Zain Aldeen is a freelance cameraman whose work covers opposition protests in Bahrain. He was arrested on 2 August 2013 and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Mr Zain Aldeen was sentenced to six months in prison on 15 January 2014 in relation to separate charges for participating in an illegal gathering and vandalism in prison.

    • Mr Hassan is a well-known independent blogger who has been writing about human rights and the political situation in Bahrain since 2007. Mr Hassan was arrested on 31 July 2013 and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Mr Hassan was released on bail at the beginning of October 2013, and fled Bahrain at the end of February 2014 to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. At the moment it is unclear whether asylum will be granted.

    • The arrest and detention of all three men was the subject of an Urgent Appeal dated 6 August 2013 made by the Media Legal Defence Initiative, English PEN and Article 19 to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which was copied to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It was also the subject of a Letter of Allegation dated 15 December 2013 on behalf of the abovementioned coalition of NGOs.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights welcomes the joint statement about Bahrain read out at the 26th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The BCHR especially thanks Switzerland for their leadership in pushing for this joint statement, and to Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay who signed on.  The Greek ambassador, His Excellency Alexandros Alexandris, in his statement on behalf of the European Union, also called on Bahrain to enhance cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and accept a country office with a full mandate. The BCHR  reiterates recommendations to the Human Rights Council below.  

     

    Item 2 – General Debate

    10 June 2014, Geneva

    Joint Statement on the OHCHR and the human rights situation in Bahrain

     

    Mr. President,

    I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of a group of 46 States.

    We welcome the positive steps taken by the Government of Bahrain in order to improve the human rights situation. In particular, the establishment of the Office of the Police Ombudsman, the Special Investigation Unit, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission and the creation of an NHRI. We urge these institutions to proactively fulfil their mandate and encourage the Government to uphold its commitment to these institutions and their independence. We also welcome the recent report of the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman.

    We note with satisfaction that a technical visit of the OHCHR took place this year and that public consultations between all stakeholders, including civil society were conducted during the visit. We welcome the fact that the OHCHR was allowed to visit prisons and could support the parliament in the creation of the National Human Rights Commission to be in conformity with Paris Principles.

    However, the human rights situation in Bahrain remains an issue of serious concern to us. We are concerned about the increases in long sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the lack of sufficient guarantee of fair trial. We are concerned about the repression of demonstrations. There are also concerns that peaceful demonstrations are frequently disrupted by a minority of violent demonstrators. We expect that all sides refrain from violence. Furthermore, we are concerned about the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists. We are troubled by continuing reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities. We are also concerned about cases of arbitrary deprivation of nationality without due process. Lastly we are concerned that there is insufficient accountability for human rights violations and urge that all allegations are properly investigated including by the newly established institutions. In that regard we also note the need to continued efforts to judicial reform to ensure its independence, impartiality and improved capability.

    We call upon the Government to address these concerns and expedite the full implementation of the recommendations received from the BICI and the UPR recommendations accepted by Bahrain by undertaking further measures, in particular amending and repealing legal provisions that unduly restrict human rights. We call on all parties to constructively and inclusively collaborate in this regard. We urge the Government to further enhance its cooperation with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and to reschedule previously planned visits as soon as possible. We call on the authorities to pursue an open door policy for all civil society organisations.

    We urge the Government to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We also urge the government to appropriately address reports of ill-treatment and torture of prisoners and to ensure an independent, thorough and impartial investigation and prosecution of these cases, as well as of other allegations of human rights violations.

    We invite the Government to allow the OHCHR to establish a country office with a full mandate. We further invite the OHCHR to brief the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation and on the follow-up to its technical visit and we will continue to follow closely the developments in Bahrain. We also encourage the Government to further engage with this Council.

    Thank you Mr. President.

     

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights urges the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution which would:

    • publicly condemn Bahrain’s continued human rights violations, especially torture and extrajudicial killings;
    • call for the immediate release of all individuals imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
    • call on the Bahraini government to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry in the context of the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review; 
    • encourage the OHCHR to monitor the human rights situation in Bahrain and to report back on Bahrain’s progress on implementation of the recommendations;
    • call on Bahrain to agree to establish a full mandate office for the OHCHR;
    • call on Bahrain to immediately allow access to all Special Rapporteurs who have requested visits to Bahrain, especially the Special Rapporteur on Torture;
    • call on Bahrain to submit the periodic treaty reports as obliged under human rights conventions, which they have exceeded to, and to sign optional protocols that were accepted during Bahrain´s Universal Periodic Review;

    Please see the full recommendations to the OHCHR, undersigned by the BCHR and 20 other NGOs: http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/6890

     

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights publish today a report detailing prison conditions in Bahrain. This report brings the voices of current and former detainees directly to the UN Human Rights Council through first person accounts, and images that have been smuggled out of these prisons. The report will be officially presented today at 5:00 pm CET during the HRC26 side event in Geneva: Bahrain: Empty Promises, Crowded Prisons. A link to the side session can be found below.

    On the occasion of the release of this report, incarcerated human rights defender Naji Fateel sent the following message from inside prison: "The BCHR and BYSHR report on prisons in Bahrain will shed light on what is happening to us inside the prisons. I thank those who have worked on it. Always remember that we will continue to expose human rights violations, even when we are behind bars.

     

    Link to the full report:

    http://bahrainrights.org/sites/default/files/Prison%20Report%20-%20FINAL%20II.pdf

    Prisons in Bahrain are in desperate need of reform. In the three years since the beginning of the pro-democracy movement in February 2011, the prison population in Bahrain has grown exponentially. Bahrain currently has the largest prison population in the Middle East per capita. The BCHR has documented thousands of arbitrary arrests, the majority of whom have been subjected to enforced disappearance and lack of access to basic rights according to international conventions and standards. Most detainees report that they were subjected to systematic torture to extract false confessions and subsequently denied access to adequate medical treatment.
     
    There has been no shortage of reports from NGOs, governments, and international organizations on the reform process in Bahrain, but the BCHR and BYSHR feel that it is essential that the voices of detainees form a central part of this debate.

    An anonymous prisoner explains: “I was subjected to the most horrendous types of physical and psychological torture at the CID… like: being suspended vertically, electric shocks, simulated drowning, severe beatings, deprivation of sleep and forced to stand for long hours.”

     

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    On 10 June 2014, Mr Youssef Ahmed Abdel Rasool was summoned by criminal prosecution authorities and interrogated for several hours about his role in the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR).

    The human rights defender is the Vice-President of BYSHR, an organisation that monitors and documents human rights violations, organises training workshops, and supports regional networking for human rights defenders.

    Youssef Ahmed Abdel Rasool reports that during the interrogation he was intimidated, and told that his involvement was illegal and would result in legal actions being brought against him. Youssef Ahmed Abdel Rasool's summons is part of an ongoing campaign against BYSHR and its members by the Bahraini authorities. In 2011, the human rights defender was detained at the airport after returning from a training in Cairo on the UN human rights mechanisms, and questioned about the contents of the training programme.

    On 29 May 2014, the Appeals Court of Bahrain upheld a 15-year sentence against human rights defender Mr Naji Fateel, a prominent blogger and board member of BYSHR, despite wide condemnation of the unfairness of the judicial proceedings, and photographic evidence supporting reports of cruel and inhuman treatment and torture committed against him while in custody. Yet no investigations have been made into the claims.

    Seven months earlier, on 22 October 2013, founder and former President of BYSHR, Mr Mohammed Al-Maskati, was summoned for interrogation by the police. The Ministry of Interior had accused the human rights defender of “inciting hatred against the regime.” Mohammed Al-Maskati was released after he signed a declaration stating that he would present himself before the public prosecutor at any time. Previously, on 16 October 2012, a few weeks after participating in the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on Bahrain in Geneva, the human rights defender was summoned for interrogation and detained overnight. Mohammed Al-Maskati was brought before the Public Prosecution office on charges of “rioting and participating in an illegal gathering,” and released with charges pending the next day. At that time, he also received death threats for supposedly tarnishing “the image of Bahrain in Geneva,” and was the target of a media smear campaign.

    On 6 September 2013, the Bahraini authorities arrested Mr Hussein Ali Abdul Nabi, a youth activist and member of BYSHR's documentation department. He was released on bail on 29 November 2013, but charges relating to “illegal gatherings and assaulting police officers” remain pending.

    Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the pattern of intimidation and judicial harassment against BYSHR and its members, as these acts are solely related to their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. Further information on the cases of Mohammed Al-Maskati, Naji Fateel and Hussein Ali Abdul Nabi is available on the Front Line Defenders website.

    https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/26153#.U5ilh7RrCmU.twitter

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    This report prepared by BJDM

    Maryam Alkhawaja, Vice-President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), has called for a follow up resolution on Bahrain at the UN Human Rights Council, following the publishing of a joint-statement of 47 states this week.

    Speaking at a side event hosted by BCHR and the Cairo Institute, Alkhawaja said there have been joint statements in the past, but the Bahraini Government has failed to act, therefore a resolution would now be needed at the next session of the Council in September.

    The side event, entitled “Bahrain: Empty Promises, Crowded Prisons”, also featured the first public address of Nabeel Rajab, recently released from prison after 2 years. He was due to be present in Geneva, but speaking via Skype he told the side event that the UK Embassy has kept his passport for the past 11 days, after applying for a UK visa. He is still hoping to arrive in Geneva later during the 26th session of the Human Rights Council.

    Rajab spoke about his time in prison, where he said he was completely isolated from the outside world. He testified that he was kept in a prison away from other political prisoners, in order to stop any communication about the political and human rights situation, even his phone calls to family were cut short if discussions covered anything politically related.

    However, Rajab thanked all of those who offered solidarity with him during his time in prison and said that despite his isolation, the support stopped him from ever feeling alone. Despite his strength to face his prison time, Rajab had to cut his speech short when he broke down emotionally when discussing three youths who had died whilst protesting for his release. He affirmed that the struggle for democracy and human rights will never be achieved without a price to pay.

    His speech was followed by Philippe Dam, the Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch in Geneva. He introduced the latest report from the NGO, “Bahrain: Criminalising Dissent” that highlights the use of the judiciary in Bahrain as a “tool of repression and impunity”. Dam described that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was the basis for their report, with little having been done on implementation, and certainly “the most important urgent recommendations have not been implemented at all”. He outlined some of the case examples in the report, underlining that calling for the downfall of the regime “can result in life in prison, whilst killing protesters will receive a maximum 6 month sentence.”

    Maryam Alkhawaja spoke last where she called for further action from the Human Rights Council, beyond a joint statement and looking towards a resolution. She also introduced the latest report of the BCHR, “Locked inside a nightmare”, that she said was to document the long list of ill treatments suffered by detainees in Bahrain, both during arrest and also in prison. Alkhawaja criticised prison conditions in Bahrain, noting that there are only two working showers in the Dry Dock prison that houses around 200 inmates.

    Alkhawaja reported that the poor human rights situation in Bahrain is an ongoing feature, mentioning that during the previous 3 week session of the Human Rights Council, 238 arrests were made. She recommended the release of all political prisoners and an end to the malpractices highlighted in the report.

    Speaking from the floor, Jawad Fairooz, a resigned MP, testified about the ill treatment he suffered whilst spending 3 months in prison in 2011. He added that he is one of the 31 Bahraini citizens who were made stateless in November 2012, as an extra punishment by the Government.

    http://bahrainjdm.hopto.org/2014/06/12/bahrain-side-event-at-human-rights-council-calls-for-un-resolution/

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    14-Year-Old Boy Killed by Birdshot is the Tenth Since 2011

    June 12, 2014

    (Beirut) – Bahraini investigations into two recent deaths, including a May 22, 2014 incident in which security forces shot and fatally wounded a 14-year-old boy, should be swift, thorough, and impartial. Authorities should prosecute in good faith anyone found responsible for unlawful use of force in that incident as well as the incident on February 23 that left a 28 year old with injuries that led to his death on April 18. His body remains in the mortuary because his family is refusing to sign a death certificate that makes no mention of the gunshot wounds to the head that doctors told them killed him.

    Security forces apparently shot Sayed Mahmood after they had dispersed thousands of people in a funeral procession in the village of Khalijya on the evening of May 22. A hospital death certificate, three witness accounts, images of the fatal wound, and a forensic pathologist’s expert opinion indicate that Mahmood’s death was the result of an unlawful use of excessive lethal force and that he had posed no threat to the security forces. Abdulaziz al-Abar’s father told Human Rights Watch that doctors at Salmaniya Hospital informed him on February 23 that his son needed surgery to remove “pellets that had gone inside his brain” but that a medical certificate issued on his death on April 18 mentioned only “brain damage,” and staff are refusing to state what caused the injury. Local rights groups report that al-Abar was struck on the head by a tear gas canister and shot in the head with birdshot at a protest in the village of Saar. In response to queries from Human Rights Watch on June 6 and June 11, Bahraini authorities confirmed they had opened investigations into both deaths.

    “Bahraini authorities claim its security forces have reformed since they used lethal force and killed 13 unarmed protestors in the 2011 uprising, but the deaths of Sayed Mahmood and Abdulaziz al-Abar raise serious questions about how much has changed,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In the case of Abdulaziz al-Abar, authorities should act immediately to ensure the proper cause of death is recorded on his death certificate so that his body can be returned to his grieving family for burial.”

    Sayed Mahmood’s death certificate states that he died from multiple birdshot wounds from a shotgun that penetrated his heart and lungs. Two witnesses told Human Rights Watch that a security officer shot Mahmood from a range of three to four meters as he was running. A forensic pathologist who examined photos of the fatal wounds at the request of Human Rights Watch said that Mahmood appeared to have been killed by a round of birdshot fired from less than six meters away by someone facing the boy.

    Human Rights Watch spoke with two people who said they witnessed the fatal shot. One said he had been part of a large funeral procession moving peacefully from the village of Wadiwan to Khalijya and back. He said that at approximately 5:20 p.m. security forces in at least five armored police vehicles confronted the crowd, which then scattered. A third person said he had been in a group of five to seven people, including Mahmood, who fled when the police fired tear gas and birdshot in their direction, but that he did not see the shooting. All three requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

    The first witness said many protesters were running through alleyways to escape the armored vehicles, which were too wide to pursue them. He said that three police officers left their vehicle and ran up an alleyway. When Mahmood appeared at the end of the alleyway, one of the officers shot him without warning from a distance of two-and-a-half to three meters, the person said. He said he was about 50 meters away from the incident.

    The other witness said he was 15 meters from the incident. He said that two officers and a third dressed differently, in what he described as “a commando uniform,” got out of an armored vehicle. Two moved up the alleyway carrying shotguns, he said, and the man in commando uniform fired one shot as Mahmood came into view, with no warning. The witness estimated that the shooter was between three and four meters from Mahmood when he fired.

    The third person said he had seen nothing in Mahmood’s hand when they were together moments before Mahmood’s death.

    The opinion of Derrick Pounder, a forensic pathologist who has testified as an expert witness at the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court, among others, supports the witness accounts. Based on four photo images of the wounds, Pounder said that the fatal shot was fired from a distance of three to six meters as Mahmood faced the police. He said that in a crowd control context, birdshot is not intended to be lethal, but that when fired at distances of less than six meters it can be.

    The two witnesses said that after the shooting, a group of police officers surrounded Mahmood and prevented Khalijya residents from approaching. They did not see the officers giving any medical assistance to Mahmood. The second witness said that a local resident managed to reach Mahmood and carried him to a nearby house, where the witness tried to administer first aid. But when it became obvious how badly injured Mahmood was, the residents put him in a car and drove him to Sitra Hospital.

    Mahmood’s death certificate states that he died at 7:25 p.m. from gunshot wounds on the left chest that penetrated his lungs and heart.

    Mahmood’s uncle said through an intermediary that the boy had been in secondary school, where he was a good student. The uncle said that Mahmood had never been arrested before and loved taking photographs as a hobby. “He was a quiet and sweet boy, beloved by everyone,” the uncle was quoted as saying

    The father of Abdulaziz al-Abar told Human Rights Watch that he was not aware of the circumstances that led to his son’s injury, but that when he went to Salmaniya Hospital on February 23, 2014, a doctor there told him that his son required surgery to remove “pellets” from his brain. The same doctors subsequently told him that the operation had been unsuccessful and Abdulaziz died on May 18. His father says he will not sign the death certificate until it makes reference to the gunshot wounds that medical staff told him killed his son. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain is required to protect and respect the right to life. Its security forces should abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which state that lethal force may only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, and must be exercised with restraint and proportionality. The principles require governments to “ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense under their law.”

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed to investigate official conduct during anti-government protests in 2011, concluded that “police units used force against civilians in a manner that was both unnecessary and disproportionate. This was due, at least partially, to inadequate training of field units [and] ineffectual command and control systems...”

    As a direct result of a BICI recommendation, Bahrain set up the Office of the Ombudsman in the Interior Ministry “to ensure compliance with professional standards of policing set forth in the Code of Conduct for the Police” and to report misconduct to the ministry and any criminal acts to the public prosecutor.

    On June 9, 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman responded to a Human Rights Watch query by saying that it had forwarded all documentation relating to Mahmood’s death to the Special Investigations Unit within the Office of the Public Prosecutor. Ombudsman officials said that they were following the progress of the investigation and that the ombudsman “reserves the right to reopen and pursue the case for disciplinary proceedings if the case is closed or not upheld.” On June 11, they responded identically to a request for information on the death of Abdulaziz al-Abar.

    On January 30, Human Rights Watch called on Bahraini authorities to investigate the fatal shooting of Fadhel Abbas Muslim Marhoon, who died from a gunshot wound in the back of the head after police fired at the car he was driving. A recent report from the ombudsman said that incident is also being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit.

    The BICI report attributed 13 deaths to the security forces, seven described as “death from the use of a shotgun.” The recent Bahraini Ombudsman’s report states that the death of a man identified as Mr. K. at Salmaniya hospital on April 18 was the result of birdshot wounds and says that the Special Investigations Unit has opened a criminal investigation. In April 2012 a protester, Salah Abbas Habib, died from birdshot wounds. On November 24, 2013, a Bahraini court acquitted the officer accused in his death.

    A May 2014 Human Rights Watch report documented that members of security forces in Bahrain are rarely prosecuted for unlawful killings, including deaths in detention, and the few convictions have carried extremely light sentences.

    “If Bahraini security forces feared going to jail for their actions, it’s far less likely they would shoot children at close range with shotguns,” Stork said.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/11/bahrain-gunshot-deaths-require-swift-investigation

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over the wellbeing of Mustafa Bahar, who has been subjected to enforced disappearance for eleven days.

    On 7 June 2014, 25 year-old Mustafa Bahar and Redha Al-Bashri, a 15 year-old child, were arrested as a result of an ambush on a protest.  The security forces used excessive force against the protesters and eye-witnesses stated that Bahar was severely beaten during his arrest. It was reported that he was taken to the hospital after his injuries, but the BCHR cannot confirm this. Following his arrest, his uncle went to Alwusta police station where they confirmed that Bahar was in their custody, but the he would not allowed to see or speak to his nephew.  

    Link to video reportedly of Mustafa Bahar's screams during his arrest.

    At the time of publication, there has been no news of Bahar’s health or whereabouts and his family has not received any calls from him. Given the process of most enforced disappearances, it is likely that Bahar is being held at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), which is known to use torture on detainees  to extract false confessions. However, the CID has denied that Bahar is currently in their custody.

    On 2 October 2011, Bahar was injured by a sound bomb which caused the shattering of his nose and deformation of his face. Following his injury, he was at the ICU for almost a month and underwent several surgeries. This injury still requires medical attention and is cause for serious concern about his current health condition.

    Link to image of Bahar's injury. Warning: sensitive material.

    Bahara was previously arrested on 5 November 2012 when visiting another youth in prison and on 2 July 2013 while praying alone at the site of a demolished mosque. 

    The BCHR holds the Minister of Interior fully responsible for any ill-treatment and/or torture of Mustafa Bahar.

    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 Mustafa Bahar along with all other prisoners arrested with politically motivated  charges;
    • Immediately allow access to adequate medical treatment for all prisoners in Bahrain;
    • Launch an independent fact-finding commission to look into abuses and violations committed by security forces during and after arrests;
    • Immediately put an end to the practice of enforced disappearances by the Bahraini government;
    • End the use of systematic torture as a tool to extract false confessions;
    • End the culture of impunity and hold accountable all officials, especially those holding high positions, who are implicated in human rights violations.

     

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