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- 06/18/14--11:08: _Nabeel Rajab's Firs...
- 06/19/14--05:12: _GCC ministers cance...
- 06/20/14--13:48: _Event Summary: Conc...
- 06/21/14--04:01: _'I'm Willing To Pay...
- 06/23/14--03:03: _Bahrain: Escalating...
- 06/24/14--08:13: _HRW: Bahrain: Award...
- 06/24/14--08:19: _US 2014 Trafficking...
- 06/29/14--11:07: _UN Special Rapporte...
- 07/01/14--12:40: _BBC: Released activ...
- 07/01/14--12:48: _THE INTERVIEW: Nabe...
- 07/02/14--03:10: _Bahrain: 75 days to...
- 07/03/14--01:28: _Bahrain: Arrest of ...
- 07/04/14--11:59: _Nabeel Rajab: Bahra...
- 07/05/14--10:02: _'Unfortunately we a...
- 07/07/14--07:32: _Bahrain: More Minor...
- 07/07/14--14:41: _NGOs Condemn Bahrai...
- 07/09/14--00:30: _Front Line Defender...
- 07/09/14--00:41: _RWB: Satirical Blog...
- 07/09/14--00:43: _HRF: U.S Government...
- 07/09/14--00:49: _US: Statement on th...
- 06/18/14--11:08: Nabeel Rajab's First Press Conference since his release - Geneva
- 06/21/14--04:01: 'I'm Willing To Pay The Price For Freedom In Bahrain'
- 06/23/14--03:03: Bahrain: Escalating Repression of the Limited Public Authority
- Immediately revoke the decision to cancel the Elected Municipal Council of the Capital and guarantee all citizens the right to elect their representatives;
- Put an end to all forms of discriminations against citizens;
- Cancel the proposed changes to the Nationality Law and guarantee every citizen the right to maintain his or her nationality in accordance with Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Immediately end the deliberate targeting of the opposition parties and the restriction of peaceful political activities.
- 06/24/14--08:13: HRW: Bahrain: Award-Winning Photographers Targeted
- 06/24/14--08:19: US 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report - Bahrain
- 07/01/14--12:40: BBC: Released activist describes Bahrain as 'moving backwards'
- 07/01/14--12:48: THE INTERVIEW: Nabeel Rajab
- 07/02/14--03:10: Bahrain: 75 days to Receive Report on Cause of Death
- The Public Prosecution.
- The Special Investigation Unit.
- The Office of the assigned pathologist.
- The Department of Criminal Evidence.
- The Ministry of Interior Ombudsman
- The National Institution for Human Rights.
- The Office of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health.
- The Budaiya police station to submit a complaint on the injury that caused the death.
- Immediately initiate an impartial and independent investigation into the shooting of Abdulaziz Al-Abbar and all other victims of excessive force by the Bahraini police;
- Hold all those involved accountable, particularly those holding high positions who gave the orders;
- Immediately put an end to the continued use of excessive force against peacefully assembled protesters resulting in extrajudicial killings;
- End the culture of impunity that allows human rights violators to continue these practices with no fear of punishment.
- 07/03/14--01:28: Bahrain: Arrest of Human Rights Defender Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji
- Release Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji and drop any charge against him;
- Release all activists imprisoned on charges of "insulting the King" and for practicing their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and peaceful demonstration;
- Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in cases that are currently ongoing in court;
- Withdraw all national and local laws that restrict freedom of opinion and expression and prevent the transmission of information;
- 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;
- 07/05/14--10:02: 'Unfortunately we are ruled by a tribe'
- Immediately release Jihad Al-Sameea, Mohamed Mansoor, Hussain Khalaf and all children detained in Bahraini prisons, and provide appropriate psychological rehabilitation following their release;
- End the culture of impunity which allows for daily violations against children;
- Hold accountable all perpetrators of human rights violations against children in Bahrain;
- As a signatory, respect, uphold, and implement the conditions of international treaties and conventions, including the International Convention for the Rights of the Child.
- 07/09/14--00:41: RWB: Satirical Blogger Held for the Past Three Weeks
On Saturday 24 May 2014, Nabeel Rajab, was released from jail, after having served his full jail term. He had been sentenced in December 2012 to two years in prison for "calling for illegal gatherings" by the Manama Court of Appeals. At its 66th session in June 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention characterised his detention as arbitrary. Many people are still in prison in Bahrain for having exercised their right to freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, or for peaceful assembly. Despite repeated promises, the Bahraini authorities have not implemented the recommendations dating back to November 2011 from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) mandated by the King of Bahrain. The press conference took place on 18 June 2014 in Geneva.
Foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have reportedly cancelled an upcoming meeting with their EU counterparts, in protest at member states having signed a statement at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Bahrain’s human rights record.
GCC Secretary-General Abdul Lateef al-Zayani is said to have informed EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that the meeting scheduled for 23 June will not take place as planned, according to unnamed GCC diplomatic sources who spoke to Al Arabiya.
The sources said the meeting had been cancelled because of a statement read out criticising Bahrain’s rights record at the UN Human Rights Council on 10 June, which was signed by 47 countries including all 28 EU member states.
The statement expressed “serious concern” at the human rights situation in Bahrain, with signatories criticising “increases in long [prison] sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association”. The 47 state signatories said they were “troubled by continuing reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities”, urging a “thorough and impartial investigation” into allegations of mistreatment.
Concern was also raised about Bahrain’s courts, which the Human Rights Council members said lacks “sufficient guarantee of fair trial”, and is criticism that comes three weeks after Human Rights Watch released an extensive report criticising the criminal justice system. The US-based watchdog slammed Bahraini authorities for failing “to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice”, with Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork saying “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system”.
Bahrain has been in the grip of an uprising against the monarchy for three years, which began in the capital Manama on 14 February 2011 when hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the Pearl Roundabout to call for democracy. Three days later, government forces broke up protest camps with teargas, birdshot and batons that left at least two dead and hundreds injured.
Since then activists say almost 100 protesters have died in the unrest, although the government disputes these figures and says 13 police officers have been killed in attacks on their forces. Most recently a 14-year-old boy was shot and killed by security forces on 22 May, according to Human Rights Watch who have demanded authorities conduct a “swift, thorough and impartial” investigation into the death of Sayed Mahmoud.
The statement made in Geneva last week was not exclusively critical and did welcome “the positive steps taken by the Government of Bahrain to improve the human rights situation”, noting the establishment of a number of new institutions ostensibly setup to improve prison conditions and treatment.
Authorities have recently introduced the Office of the Police Ombudsman and the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission, as well as setting up a National Human Rights Institution. UN Human Rights Council members urged “these institutions to proactively fulfil their mandate” and encouraged the Bahraini government “to uphold its commitment to these institutions and their independence”.
A Bahraini delegation that attended the Geneva session, where the joint statement was readout by a Swiss representative, said it did not effectively reflect improvements made in the human rights situation.
“While acknowledging the positive steps undertaken by the Government of Bahrain to consolidate human rights, the statement failed to take into account the tangible improvements officially documented in a series of reports issued since the beginning of the year,” the Bahraini delegation said. “The statement undermines the unrelenting and sincere efforts undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain to carry out human rights obligations, whether locally or internationally,” they added.
“Extremists find in such statements an excuse to continue crisis-mongering and political and security escalation in Bahrain.”
Bahraini human rights activists said the GCC were attempting to silence criticism from the EU and welcomed the UN statement but questioned whether it would have any impact on the ground.
“The ministers cancelled the meeting to put pressure on the EU not to speak about human rights in the GCC,” said Said Yousif, head of monitoring at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. “We welcome the statement by the Human Rights Council, but we demand a resolution to stop the human rights abuses in Bahrain, as this is the third joint statement but the situation is deteriorating and more innocent people are being killed.”
“Dictators don’t respond to joint statements, there must be sanctions to end human rights abuses in Bahrain,” he added.
GCC foreign ministers will not meet with EU officials on 23 June after a UN statement last week criticised Bahrain's human rights record
GCC foreign ministers will not meet with EU officials on 23 June after a UN statement last week criticised Bahrain's human rights record
Report made by ADHRB
19 June 2014 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), along with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, in coordination with CIVICUS, the Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Freedom House, Reporters without Borders (RSF), Redress, and Human Rights Watch (HRW), held a parallel event in Geneva at the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council. The event, entitled “Concrete Steps: The Need for HRC Action on Human Rights in Bahrain,” examined what action should be taken at the Human Rights Council to address the urgent human rights situation in Bahrain. Panelists included Mr. Nabeel Rajab, Mr. Mohammed al-Tajer, Mr. Joe Stork, Ms. Esmat al-Mousawi, and Ms. Julie Gromellon. The panel was moderated by Mr. Husain Abdulla, the executive director of ADHRB.
Mr. Abdulla opened the panel by stating that Bahrain had failed to live up to its human rights commitments. “ADHRB welcomed the recent technical mission from OHCHR to Bahrain,” Abdulla said, “yet we remain concerned that the Bahrain government continues to undertake mostly cosmetic changes while continuing to repress human rights.” He noted a trend of “systematic impunity,” especially among government leadership, in Bahrain. “The Member States of the Human Rights Council are in a unique position to correct the human rights situation in Bahrain,” said Abdulla, noting that a recent joint statement at the Human Rights Council was a positive development in that direction. ADHRB would welcome a full OHCHR mandate in Bahrain, as well as a visit by the Special Rapporteur on Torture to the country, Mr. Abdulla said.
Mr. Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist who recently concluded his arbitrary prison sentence for exercising his right to free expression, stated that he would not have been able to come to Geneva if it weren’t for the intervention of OHCHR. “In the past three years since the crackdown, we’ve seen either complete silence or shy criticism from the majority of the international community,” Rajab said, noting with appreciation the joint statement released last Tuesday but criticizing countries that considered their trade agreements more important than human rights. He especially singled out the United Kingdom, stating that certain actors in the British government worked against the human rights struggle in Bahrain. Nabeel continued by stating that Bahraini law had changed in the years during his imprisonment, noting that it is now illegal to criticize the government.
Mr. Mohammed al-Tajer, President of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, expressed his concern over corruption in the judiciary system in Bahrain. He gave the example of eight detainees in Bahrain that raised allegations of torture to their lawyers; despite Bahrain’s obligations to investigate those allegations under international law, the court refused to acknowledge the complaints. Al-Tajer noted that, on at least one occasion, a detainee attempting to speak about his torture at court was interrupted by a security officer; on another, a detainee identifying his torturer was thrown out of the court. At no point did the government ever investigate their claims.
Mr. Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch opened his remarks by stating that he was taken aback by the measures the Government of Bahrain undertakes to rebrand its image as a respecter of human rights. “In the last 3-4 years, Bahrain has become a closed country to NGOs like Human Rights Watch,” Stork said. “The refusal of the government to date to welcome a country office for OHCHR is a testimony to how closed the country has become.” Joe continued by noting HRW’s report on Bahrain, which examines the government’s commitment to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to release all political prisoners. The report, which sources primarily from Bahraini judicial opinions, demonstrates how the Government of Bahrain self-admittedly maintains political prisoners. The report additionally addressed accountability in Bahrain, finding that the very few criminal investigations into unlawful deaths resulted in “ridiculous” sentences for as little as two months. Paraphrasing Cheriff Bassiouni, Stork said, “if you call for a republic, you get a life sentence; if you commit murder, you get a few months.” Stork continued by stating that Human Rights Council pressure has worked on Bahrain in the past, and that precedent exists for Human Rights Council action instigating change in its human rights practices. He called for a Human Rights Council resolution stressing the need for Bahrain to implement all of the recommendations of the BICI and to cooperate with OHCHR.
Ms. Esmat al-Mousawi opened with hope, stating that 14 February 2011 saw “thousands of youth” marching in Manama calling for freedom. The government responded to their cries by violently attacking the protesters, resulting in “high casualties” and the destruction of the Pearl Roundabout. The government followed with a campaign of violence against protesters that included propagating a sectarian narrative designed to discredit the democratic movement. During this campaign, the government targeted journalists, torturing and in some cases killing persons for their unbiased coverage of the events. “Social media, the last remaining form of free expression in Bahrain, has been the most recent target of government oppression,” al-Mousawi noted. Despite this, Bahrainis have not stopped their struggle for human rights and democracy. She closed by calling for the international community to force the government to honor its international obligations and human rights commitments.
Ms. Julie Gromellon from FIDH spoke about what steps could be taken at the Human Rights Council. Human rights organizations, including FIDH, have been extremely active on the subject of Bahrain in recent years, but have been actively blocked from action by the government. Despite this, human rights organizations must continue to be active. She echoed Mr. Stork’s call for a Human Rights Council resolution on the human rights situation in Bahrain.
Mr. Abdulla opened the panel for questions.
The first question came from Mohammed al-Aradi of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. He queried the panel whether or not the United Nations is responsible for the human rights situation in Bahrain given that the independence of the country was instigated by a United Nations resolution. “It’s an interesting historical point,” Joe Stork said. “However, at the end of the day, it’s the Bahraini government that’s responsible for the problem. And at the end of the day, it’s the Bahraini people, with assistance, that will need to address the problem.”
Mona Hejnes asked the panel what it thought about engaging Bahraini human rights institutions. Mr. Rajab answered; “We hope to work with these institutions in the future and then evaluate their work.” Rajab continued, “If those institutions worked well, we would support them.” He stated, however, that he doesn’t believe that they are yet functioning, and instead work to improve Bahrain’s image rather than its human rights situations. Mr. Abdulla stated that ADHRB has submitted over 20 complaints to the office of the Ombudsman, and has yet to receive a response on a single one.
Mary McGuire from Freedom House stated that Bahrain is an extremely “frustrating” country to work on. “We’ve talked about a resolution potentially happening in September. What can civil society do to support this?” Joe Stork responded, saying that organizations should quote government statements, such as the acceptance of the BICI and the various UPR recommendations, and ask in the resolution for Bahrain to report their implementation status in the following Session. Julie Gromellon stated that organizations need to place pressure on the United States to join the resolution, noting with regret that the United Kingdom had already signaled its disapproval.
Mr. Michael Payne from ADHRB asked Mr. Rajab what role he saw OHCHR playing in the future. Mr. Rajab responded with doubt that the government would allow OHCHR to establish a permanent mission. “The Bahraini government is smart to mislead the public,” Rajab said, noting that the government only invites United Nations delegations to the country to forestall official UN action.
Frej Feneche from OHCHR expressed his office’s excitement for the release of Nabeel Rajab. He continued by stating that he hoped to see the same treatment given to all political prisoners. He clarified the issue of the field office and the permanent office. “It should be very clear that any decision regarding our engagement is at the discretion of the High Commissioner.” He stated that his office’s mandate was to push for the respect of international obligations. “We are cooperating and have good relations with the Government of Bahrain regarding the improvements of the human rights situation,” he said. However, nothing can prevent the High Commissioner from taking action on any violation in any country. “Even if we have a team on the ground,” he said, OHCHR will still be active on human rights violations in Bahrain. “We will never give up on the defense and support of all human rights defenders everywhere and all of the protections and situations in Bahrain.”
One of Bahrain's most famous human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, has been freed after two years in prison. He says he is willing to pay the price for freedom in the country.
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“People are equal in human dignity, and citizens are equal before the law in public rights and duties. There shall be no discrimination among them on the basis of sex, origin, language, religion or creed.” – Article 18, Constitution of Bahrain
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the recent escalation of the suppression of the citizens' freedoms and public authority as a result of several decisions of the House of Representative’s house, including the cancellation of the elected municipal council of the Capital Manama.
Cancelling Elected Capital Municipal Council
On 3 June 2014, the House of Representatives approved a bill to cancel the elected municipal council of the Capital Manama and replace it with a General Secretariat appointed by the king and elected members of civil society institutions. The bill is an amendment to the existing Law of Municipalities 35/2001, which mandates that all the five government municipalities be elected by public elections.
The representatives explained the reason as to “keep the capital municipality out of the reach of the political societies agendas.”
The capital Manama has a population of 80,000 residents, and over 46,000 of them are Bahraini nationals. The governor of Manama, Hisham Abdulrahman AlKhalifa, is a member of royal family. The elected municipal council has consisted primarily of opposition members and has been active in exposing corruption cases in the Ministry of Municipalities, including the corruption in the management of public lands. Last February, the President of the Capital Municipal Council called for the minister of municipalities to resign.
The cancelation the Capital Municipal Council counters the counsel of the legal advisors to the House of Representatives, who consider the cancellation unconstitutional. The legal advisors stated that eliminating the electoral rights of the citizens of the Capital, while at the same time allowing citizens of all other governances to maintain their elected municipalities, is a form of “discrimination”, and a violation to the principles of equality and equal opportunities outlined in articles 4 and 18 of the Constitution of Bahrain. The legal advisors also added that the cancelations of the Capital Municipal Council goes beyond the authority of the legislature, and is in direct violation of Article 31 of the Constitution, which states:
“The public rights and freedoms stated in this Constitution may only be regulated or limited by or in accordance with the law, and such regulation or limitation may not prejudice the essence of the right or freedom.”
Additionally, the appointed members are not required to meet the minimum criteria for candidates in a municipal election: they do not have to be 30 years of age, registered in the constituency voters list, or a residence within the municipality for the duration of membership.
Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, described this change as a serious step in the process of changing demographics and erasing the identity of the Manama citizens.
It is important to note that five of the elected opposition members in varying municipalities had their memberships revoked in a vote in 2011, due to the building opposition support to the popular movement that began in February 2011. In May 2014, an elected MP, Osama Al-Tamimi, had his membership revoked based on other members votes after he spoke of the ill-treatment of prisoners during a session of the House of Representatives.
Open Door to Withdraw Nationality
On 17 June 2014, the House of Representatives approved a bill that allows withdrawal of Bahraini nationality from any citizen who receives another nationality without written approval from Minister of Interior. According to the bill, Bahraini nationals with other nationality have to resolve their situation within six months to either renounce their other nationality or receive approval from the Minister of Interior to keep it. Citizenship will be withdrawn with a decree if the Minister of Interior did not approve the foreign nationality after he has presented his decision to the Council of Ministers and received their approval. The only exception is if the dual citizenship is with one of the GCC countries. In this case, the citizen would be subject to a fine of up to 10,000 Bahraini dinars if the citizen did not obtain Minister’s approval.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights fears that this bill will be used against the many Bahraini activists who are hold dual citizenship after living in political asylum in the eighties, nineties, and today.
No Questioning of Ministers
Additionally, on 3 June 2014, the House of Representatives decided to limit its own ability to question ministers at the parliament. As per the approved change on the internal regulation, a yea vote from two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives (equal to 27 votes out of 40) is necessary to approve the questioning of a minister, while previously it required only a majority vote (21 out of 40). In Bahrain, the elected parliament, which does not hold legislative or monitoring powers, has 40 seats. All the seats in the Higher Council, also 40, are assigned by the King. This change to the potentially hinders the opposition’s ability to question ministers in the future, even if they held half of the seats.
This was not the first time the House of Representatives has passed laws and regulations that, in essence, violate human rights. In July 2013,the National Assembly passed two dozens of recommendations to restrict the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly and approved a harsher crackdown by the government on political activists. Since the establishment of the House, it has ratified several laws initiated by the Government that restrict freedoms and contradict basic human rights and thoroughly disregard international obligations and condemnations by national, regional, and International human rights organizations. Examples of such laws include: the Political Societies Law (2005) that places political groups under the control of the government in terms of foundation, funding, activity, and closure; the Law on Gatherings and Demonstrations (2006), which grants the security apparatus full control on activities and gatherings; and the Counter-Terrorism Law (2006), which has been used to impose the death penalty and harsh punishments for actions that do not necessary involve the use of violence or terrorism.
BCHR views the recent decisions of the House of Representatives as further limiting the citizens’ rights and the public authority.
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:
‘This Will Teach You Not to Take Photos’
(Beirut) – Authorities in Bahrain are arbitrarily detaining photographers who have covered protests and convicting them in unfair trials. Four award-winning Bahraini photographers are either in jail or facing criminal charges in what appears to be part of a policy that violates photographers’ right to freedom of expression.
On June 22, 2014, Hussain Hubail, who won a 2013 award for his photographs of anti-government protests, will appeal a five-year sentence for taking part in an “illegal gathering” and inciting hatred of the government. On June 25, Ahmed Humaidan, who also took award-winning photos of protests and recently won the 2014 John Aubochon Press Freedom Award, will appeal a 10-year sentence for allegedly attacking a police station. Family members told Human Rights Watch that both were mistreated in pre-trial detention.
“The images that Ahmed Humaidan and Hussain Hubail captured portray a reality that the Bahraini government would prefer that the world – and other Bahrainis – not see,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Throwing photographers in jail isn’t going to keep either the protests or the accounts of what happens in Bahrain out of the world’s sight.”
Authorities have targeted two other award-winning photographers in the last year, and two videographers are also in detention. Other photographers have told Human Rights Watch that security forces targeted them because of their profession and then subjected them to serious mistreatment in custody. The appeal courts should ensure that any allegations that the photographers were tortured in detention are properly investigated and throw out evidence secured by torture, Human Rights Watch said.
Ahmed al-Fardan, a photojournalist whose photograph of protests in Bahrain won first prize in Freedom House’s “Images of Repression and Freedom” competition in April 2013, faces charges of participating in an “illegal gathering” on December 16, 2013, at which 60 people allegedly attacked police vehicles.
Security forces arrested him in the early hours of December 26. “The first question they asked me was, ‘Where is your camera?’” he told Human Rights Watch. He said that police in civilian clothes confiscated two cameras, hard drives, and flash drives from his room. The police took him to Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) headquarters, where police blindfolded and handcuffed him in a cell known as “the freezer,” because it was kept so cold, he said. CID officers and a public prosecutor asked him about his photography awards during interrogations. His first trial session is scheduled for September 14, 2104.
Plain-clothes officers arrested Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, another award-winning photographer, and his brother Mohamed at 5 a.m. on February 10. They did not present a warrant. Their father, who visits his sons every week, told Human Rights Watch that the two did not make contact with the family for six days. He said that Sayed told him then that interrogators humiliated and beat him and that he signed a confession to avoid further physical and psychological punishment.
Al-Mousawi’s father said that police questioned his son about his work as a photographer. Sayed al-Mousawi began by taking pictures of wildlife, but started taking pictures of protests after the anti-government uprising of February 2011. On May 29, 2014, a judge authorized his detention for a further 45 days, although he has yet to be formally charged.
Another professional photographer who requested anonymity told Human Rights Watch that police arrested him and three other men in the aftermath of a funeral in the town of Jidhafs on January 21, 2012, at which he had been taking photos. He said that police took them to an empty building and beat them with sticks and pipes. He claims that his beating was especially severe because he had been seen taking photos of the funeral. “This will teach you not to take photos,” he said one officer told him.
Videographers Jaffar Marhoon and Qassim Aldeen have also been in detention, since December 26, 2013, and August 2, 2013, respectively. It is not clear what charges Marhoon is facing, although his family told a local source that they believe it to be illegal gathering. Aldeen was sentenced to six months in prison in December on a charge of illegal gathering and to three months in January 2014 on another similar charge.
The former head of the photography department of Al Watan newspaper, Abdullah Hassan, told Human Rights Watch that authorities have been targeting photographers because “photographers have played a leading role in challenging the authorities’ version of events” during and since the anti-government protests of 2011. Hassan said he was fired by the pro-government daily in April 2011, along with three other photojournalists, none of whom have been reinstated.
In May 2011, officers at Riffa police station detained Hassan for six days, during which time he was beaten with a hose and interrogated about his work as a photographer. “Why do you take pictures? Where do you publish them?” an officer who identified himself as “high-ranking” asked Hassan, then told him, “you will never find another job.” Police held him for six days without charge, then released him.
On November 3, 2013, Hassan was hired by Al Ayam newspaper but fired four days later. He was told by the newspaper that the firing was on “orders from above.” He said he has not worked as a photographer since. “I still take photos, but not of demonstrations,” he told Human Rights Watch.
A local journalist, who requested anonymity, said that security forces have detained at least 25 photographers or cameramen since 2011, including the five currently in detention and Ahmed Fardan.
Humaidan’s father told Human Rights Watch that plain-clothes police officers arrested his son as he went into a movie theater on December 29, 2012. Humaidan’s lawyer, Fadel al-Sawad, told Human Rights Watch that he did not see his client until January 14, 2013, two weeks later. At Humaidan’s trial, prosecutors offered no proof linking his client to an attack on Sitra police station and refused to divulge in court the source of their information that Humaidan was involved, the lawyer said. On March 26, 2013, Humaidan was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the alleged attack.
Plain-clothes officers arrested Hubail on July 31, 2013, as he was preparing to board a flight to Dubai. His mother told Human Rights Watch that her son had told her that in the days following his arrest, officers at the CID headquarters blindfolded and handcuffed him behind his back and left him exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time. He told her he signed a confession under duress. On April 28, 2014, he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges that included using social media networks to “incite hatred of the regime,” calling on people to ignore the law, and calling for illegal demonstrations.
The 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented that authorities arrested and interrogated an unspecified number of media personnel during the events of February and March 2011, and that two journalists died in police or National Security Agency custody. In April 2012, Ahmed Ismail, a videographer, was fatally shot while filming protests in the town of Salmabad. Later that month, authorities deported a Channel 4 film crew, and in April 2013, they deported another film crew from ITV.
Article 32 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of expression. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, also protects this right and indicates that the scope of protection covers photography: “[E]veryone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Tier 2 Watch List
Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, and other countries migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as domestic workers or as unskilled laborers in the construction and service industries. In 2013, NGOs observed a greater influx of workers from Ethiopia. Some migrant workers face forced labor after arriving in Bahrain, experiencing unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, contract substitution, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. NGOs report that Bangladeshi unskilled workers—especially men—are in particularly high demand in Bahrain and are considered to be exploitable since they do not typically protest difficult work conditions or low pay, nor is there a well-established Bangladeshi expatriate community to which workers can seek support and information about their rights. Domestic workers are also considered to be highly vulnerable to forced labor and sexual exploitation because they are largely unprotected under the labor law and are not required to register with the Bahrain government’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). Government and NGO officials report that the physical abuse and sexual assault of female domestic workers are significant problems in Bahrain; strict confinement to the household, withholding of workers’ identity cards and passports, and intimidation by employers prevent these workers from reporting abuse and restrict authorities from investigating such abuses.
Forced labor, debt bondage, and isolation have led to a high incidence of suicide among migrant workers in Bahrain; workers who committed suicide reportedly lost their jobs or had their salaries and passports withheld by employers or sponsors. In 2012, 40 suicides were reported among migrant workers in Bahrain, especially those from India; 25 suicides were reported among migrant workers in 2013. A 2011 study by the LMRA found that 65 percent of migrant workers had not seen their employment contract and that 89 percent were unaware of their terms of employment upon arrival in Bahrain. The LMRA study found that 70 percent of foreign workers borrowed money or sold property in their home countries in order to secure a job in Bahrain. Many labor recruitment agencies in Bahrain and source countries require workers to pay high recruitment fees—a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to debt bondage in Bahrain. Some Bahraini employers illegally charge workers exorbitant fees to remain in Bahrain working for third-party employers (under the illegal “free visa” arrangement). In previous years, the LMRA estimated that approximately 20,000 migrant workers were in Bahrain under “free visa” arrangements under which employers apply for work visas for nonexistent jobs and then illegally sell them to migrant workers—a practice that can contribute to debt bondage—and approximately 52,000 others are working on expired or terminated visas. Women from Thailand, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Ukraine, and other Eastern European states are subjected to forced prostitution in Bahrain.
The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, Bahrain is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. The Government of Bahrain was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government investigated, prosecuted, and convicted an increased number of trafficking offenders in 2013, in comparison to the previous reporting period; the number of investigations, half of which were forced labor cases, was higher than the previous reporting period. The government also continued to identify and refer victims to protection services, including government-run shelters. The government continued to implement awareness campaigns. Nonetheless, the government failed to prosecute or convict any forced labor offenders and frequently treated potential cases of forced labor as labor violations instead of treating them as serious crimes. Furthermore, potential trafficking victims—particularly domestic workers who ran away from abusive employers—continued to be arrested, detained, and deported for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government also did not finalize a formal trafficking victim identification procedure or guidelines for officials to refer suspected trafficking victims to protection services.
Recommendations for Bahrain:
Enforce the 2008 anti-trafficking law, and significantly increase the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses—particularly those involving forced labor—including convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders; ensure that identified victims of trafficking are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as illegal migration or prostitution; institute and apply formal procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers and women in prostitution; institute a formal victim referral mechanism for law enforcement and other government officials to refer identified victims to protection services; expand government-run shelters to provide protection services to all victims of trafficking, including victims of forced labor and male victims of trafficking, and ensure that shelter staff receive anti-trafficking training and speak the languages of expatriate workers; reform the sponsorship system to eliminate obstacles to migrant workers’ access to legal recourse for complaints of forced labor; actively enforce labor law protections for domestic workers; continue to train officials on the anti-trafficking law and victim identification; and continue to publicly raise awareness of trafficking issues in the media and other outlets for foreign migrants, specifically domestic workers, in their native languages.
The government made some progress in its efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenses. However, law enforcement efforts were hampered by lack of training of lower-level police officers, investigators, and prosecutors; the government frequently treated potential cases of forced labor as labor violations in labor court instead of treating them as serious crimes. Bahrain’s anti-trafficking law, Law No. 1 of 2008, prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Although withholding a worker’s passport is illegal and carries a financial penalty under a ministerial order, a worker must file a complaint with the police who do not have the authority to enforce this law and can only refer a complaint to the court if the employer refuses to return the passport. According to NGO sources, employers often claimed that a worker’s passport was lost. The government reported it investigated 30 trafficking cases, an increase from seven trafficking investigations in the previous reporting period; according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), 14 of these cases were forced labor investigations and 15 were sex trafficking. In 2013, the government prosecuted and convicted seven sex trafficking defendants; four of the convictions were cases initiated in 2012. The number of prosecutions and convictions in 2013 was an increase from three prosecutions and no convictions in the previous reporting period. Courts sentenced the seven convicted offenders to a range of two to five years’ imprisonment.
The government did not prosecute or convict any potential forced labor offenders, even though NGOs and foreign embassy officials abundantly documented forced labor offenses. Cases of unpaid or withheld wages, passport retention, and other abuses—common indicators of trafficking—were treated as labor violations and taken to labor court. For example, in 2013, the labor court reviewed 225 out of 354 cases in which workers reported that their employers or sponsors withheld their passports and the Ministry of Labor (MOL) filed 36 complaints on behalf of foreign workers whose employers withheld their travel documents. However, authorities did not investigate any of these cases as potential forced labor offenses. Similarly, although the government received 927 labor court cases from workers whose employers withheld their wages, none of these cases were investigated under the criminal law as forced labor offenses. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. Bahraini government officials indicated there was a general lack of awareness of trafficking crimes among working-level police.
At the end of 2013, the LMRA established an anti-trafficking team, which worked with the office of the Public Prosecutor to refer suspected trafficking cases for judicial proceedings. The LMRA team referred eight suspected forced labor cases to the Public Prosecutor in December 2013, which were under investigation at the end of the reporting period; the LMRA also referred more than 40 suspected forced labor cases in February 2014. Additionally, in June 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—in cooperation with an international organization—organized an anti-trafficking workshop for over 200 law enforcement and judicial officials. In October 2013, the MFA organized an anti-trafficking seminar for representatives of religious ministries and officials from the Ministries of Interior and Labor, the LMRA, and local NGOs.
The Bahraini government made some progress in improving identification of and protection for victims of trafficking. Nonetheless, the government continued to lack systematic procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers who have fled abusive employers or women arrested for prostitution. The government also did not have policies to protect trafficking victims from punishment for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; trafficking victims were punished for employment or immigration violations and subjected to detention and deportation. For example, government and NGO contacts reported that some domestic workers who ran away from employers because of abuse or nonpayment of wages were sentenced to 10 days or more in jail and deported, particularly if an employer filed a criminal claim, such as theft, against the worker. Police investigating runaway workers’ abuse claims are required to attempt to reach the employer three times before taking other actions. Some police stations reportedly followed up on an abuse claim immediately, while others let days or weeks lapse between attempts to contact the employer by phone. This failure to immediately investigate claims of abuse and potential trafficking crimes left victims at risk of further exploitation and without protection services. Government officials failed to recognize that some contract violations or salary disputes—including withholding of salaries—are indicators of forced labor and required further investigation. For example, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) estimated there were 1,700 runaway workers at the end of 2013, but without an official allegation of abuse from the worker, the government assumed these workers violated the labor law. The Labor Law No. 36, which was adopted in September 2012, provided some protections to domestic workers, which included requiring that domestic workers be provided a labor contract that specified working hours, annual leave, and bonuses; it also required that the employer pay the worker at least once a month. Nonetheless, the government did not issue guidance on how to implement the law. NGO sources reported that most domestic workers entered the country illegally or under false pretenses, so they did not benefit from protections in the law.
While law enforcement officials’ victim identification efforts remained ad hoc, police identified 21 suspected victims of trafficking in this reporting period, a slight increase from the 18 identified in the previous reporting period. The government, however, did not report if the identified victims in this reporting period were sex trafficking or forced labor victims. The Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) continued to fund a 120-bed domestic violence shelter, which also offered services to female victims of trafficking and their children. The shelter assisted and provided some medical services to 45 suspected sex trafficking victims and three potential forced labor victims in 2013—which included victims involved in investigations initiated in this reporting period—which was an increase from the 25 victims the shelter assisted in the previous reporting period. Shelter residents could freely leave the shelter unchaperoned. During the year, the MOSD began sending male trafficking victims to a government-run shelter for homeless men. The majority of trafficking victims in Bahrain continued to seek shelter at their embassies or at an NGO-operated trafficking shelter, which reported assisting 156 female victims of abuse—some of whom were likely trafficking victims. Foreign embassies stated that when foreign victims of trafficking or abuse approached Bahraini labor officials for assistance, they were typically advised to seek assistance at their embassies, with no effort to proactively identify trafficking victims among those who make complaints or to refer potential forced labor cases to law enforcement for further investigation.
In November 2013, the MOSD released and sponsored a seminar on a 400-page legal framework document on the protections of trafficking victims, which also clarified the roles of the Public Prosecutor and the MOSD in protecting victims. The MOSD also sponsored a seminar in November to explain the framework to government officials; the seminar discussed human trafficking, human smuggling, and organ smuggling within the same context. Bahraini government officials stated that they encouraged victims to participate in the investigations and prosecutions of their traffickers, and the public prosecution was responsible for protecting victims of trafficking crimes during preliminary investigations and court proceedings. While the labor law stipulates that foreign workers may change sponsors during investigations and court proceedings, this option was not available to victims while their complaints were adjudicated by the court. It was unclear how many trafficking victims, if any, whose cases were not being adjudicated, were able to change sponsors. Workers typically did not file complaints against employers due to distrust of the legal system and lengthy court procedures, inability to afford legal representation, lack of interpretation and translation services, fear of losing residency permits during proceedings, and fear of additional maltreatment at the hands of the employer. The government did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship.
The government made sustained efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. However, despite past commitments and pledges, the government did not abolish the sponsorship system, which contributed greatly to forced labor and debt bondage. The government’s interagency National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which also includes members of civil society, met once a month during the reporting period and sponsored public awareness media campaigns and organized trainings and seminars for over 400 attendees from government ministries and NGOs. In 2013, the government established the Committee for the Evaluation of Foreigners Who Are Victims of Trafficking, which was chaired by MOSD and responsible for identifying and protecting victims of trafficking. The committee helped organize a seminar on legal resources for the protection of trafficking victims in November 2013 and assessed individual trafficking cases according to the guidelines in its mandate. The LMRA distributed workers’ rights pamphlets in various languages to foreign workers and launched a weekly radio program on a local Indian radio station to answer workers’ labor-related inquiries in Hindi and Malayalam. The LMRA website also provided information about workers’ rights in Bahrain. The government reported 170 labor complaints against 108 separate companies that were late in paying their workers’ monthly salaries; however, it is unclear how many of these companies were investigated or punished for illegally withholding workers’ salaries. The LMRA conducted regular visits to work places to check for indications of abuse of workers; the government did not report if suspected cases of trafficking were identified during these visits. In December 2013, the LMRA also began distributing SIM cards to workers on arrival in the country, to enable the workers to use text messaging to contact the LMRA immediately if there were problems with their employers. The Ministry of Interior continued to operate a 24 hour, toll-free hotline for trafficking victims, but officials did not provide statistics on the use of the hotline. The LMRA also operates an abuse hotline during working hours, though it is unknown if any trafficking victims were identified through this number. The government reported no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex during the year.
Video statement on Bahrain given by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez on the International day of torture victims:
26 June 2014 Last updated at 16:38 BST
Nabeel Rajab is president of the Bahrain centre for human rights and one of the most prominent opposition activists in the country.
He served two years in jail for taking part in protests and was released a month ago. He told the BBC that the country is "moving backwards".
Watch the interview on http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28045753
Nabeel Rajab comes from Bahrain, a country which was once upheld as a model of reform in the Arabic-speaking world. But, as he has discovered for himself, this is no longer the case. He is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights. Last month he was released from prison in Bahrain after serving a two-year sentence for organising what the prosecution called "unauthorised protests".
Watch on http://www.france24.com
The family of Abdulaziz Al-Abbar has agreed to receive his body after 130 days of anguish; 55 days while Al-Abbar was in a coma and 75 days, after his death, during which his body was detained at the Salmaniya Medical Complex’s morgue. The family announced that they plan to collect the body on 03 July 2014 and to have the burial in the evening.
On 23 February 2014, Abdulaziz Moussa Al-Abbar was shot in the head with a tear gas canister in addition to being hit with shotgun pellets as the riot police used excessive force to suppress a peaceful protest. He was in a coma for 55 days and passed away on 18 April 2014. (For more information please see: Link)
The family previously refused to collect the body because the full cause of death was not disclosed in the death certificate issued by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior. The death certificate made no mention of the shot to the head with a tear canister and shotgun pellets, but simply stated that Al-Abbar died because of internal bleeding in the brain, excluding the reason for his injuries.
During the 75 days Al-Abbar’s body was detained, the family approached all following parties demanding a document stating the actual cause of death of Al-Abbar:
The family also provided a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, and to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay. Furthermore, a number of lawyers and personalities worked to receive a copy of the report of the Public Prosecutor.
On 01 July 2014, Al-Abbar’s family announced that they have received an official report from the Public Prosecution Special Investigation Unit, which stated that the death of Al-Abbar “happened due to complications of splinter gunshot wounds in the face and head, the bleeding it caused in the brain, inflammatory complications, and resulting cardiac arrest which ultimately led to the death.” The father, Moussa Al-Abbar, signed the report and was able, after massive efforts, to obtain a copy. (For the report in Arabic please see: Link)
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all the close allies and relevant international institutions to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:
In the early hours of 1 July 2014, Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji was arrested from his home to serve a one-year prison sentence for “insulting the King.” The alleged insult had taken place at a funeral of a young protester on the 18 September 2013, who died as a result of excessive use of force by Bahraini authorities.
Following the funeral, Dr. Al-Samahiji was immediately summoned for interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he himself went voluntarily the following day, 19 September 2013. Al-Samahiji was then transferred to the public prosecution for further interrogation until he was released on bail of 200 BHD. The case brought before the court on 11 December 2013. Despite Dr. Al-Samahiji’s denial of the charge and his lawyer’s statements that his speech falls under the right of freedom of expression and that Al-Samahiji was merely exercising his right to peaceful expression of opinion about the responsibility of the King, the court sentenced him to one-year in prison. On 03 April 2014, a court of appeal upheld the verdict delivered against Dr. Al-Samahiji.
Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji has previously served a one-year prison sentence after he was accused of “inciting and participating in illegal gathering” during a peaceful demonstration in 2011, which formed another direct violation of the basic human right that upholds free assembly. Dr. Al-Samahiji was among 20 medics that were convicted and sentenced to imprisonments between five and 15 years by a special military court on 29 September 2011. After appealing to the Court of Appeals on 14 June 2012, Al-Samahiji’s sentence was reduced from ten years to one year.
The arrest of Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji is the latest in the Bahraini authorities’ escalating crackdown on the freedom of expression. Most cases taken to court have been on vague, trumped-up charges related to actions that fall under the protection of both the universal right to freedom of expression and the Bahraini Constitution, Article 23, including charges such as, “inciting hatred against the state”, “inciting terrorism”, and “insulting an authoritarian entity.” Recently, the authorities have increasingly used the charge of “insulting the King” to silence critics and political opposition.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented over 30 arrests between October 2012 and December 2013 on charges of “insulting the King” due to ripping pictures of members of the Al-Khalifa family, Twitter updates, public speeches, and other forms of peaceful expression of opinion. The King of Bahrain heads the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities, and has the sole power to appoint members of the government, judiciary, and public prosecutors and, therefore, has absolute power to prosecute anyone who criticizes him.
On 18 November 2013, the Shura Council approved Parliamentary amendments to Article 213 of the Penal Code to increase the punishment for “insulting the King” which states:
“A prison sentence shall be the penalty for any person who offends the emir of the country [the king], the national flag, or emblem.”
Under the new law, whoever publicly offends or criticizes the King of Bahrain, the nation flag, or emblem will be punished with imprisonment of a minimum of one year but not exceeding seven years in prison in addition to a fine between 1,000 and 10,000 BHD. If the offense occurs in the presence of the King, the sentence may be harsher.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believe that human rights defender, Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji, has been targeted with arrest, detention, unfair trial and prison sentences solely due to his legitimate exercise of freedom of speech and peaceful activities in defence of human rights in Bahrain. We further believe that authorities in Bahrain have no intention of tolerating any peaceful human rights activity or any call for reforms in the country.
The BCHR and GCHR call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other allies and international institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to immediately:
Commentary: Three years after protests erupted, democracy in Bahrain remains elusive and it's clear the US could have done more.
Nabeel Rajab - MANAMA, Bahrain —
In her new book, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says “Bahrain was an exceptionally complicated case” for Washington when mass protests broke out in my country in 2011. Her justification for not doing more to press for an end to the Bahrain government crackdown is that “America will always have imperfect partners… and we’ll always face imperatives that drive us to make imperfect compromises.”
The Bahraini people are struggling for democracy. They are the casualties of those political compromises. I was convicted for criticizing the government. I’ve just come out of two long, difficult years in prison. My mother died when I was there, and without information about the outside world I had no idea about what was going on in my country.
When I was released at the end of my sentence on May 24, I saw how much Bahrain had changed it is change for the worse. There is more violence; villages are big attacked by Bahrain security forces on a daily basis, people are being killed, but international governments are even more quiet now about what is happening than before I went to jail.
Bahrain hosts the huge US Navy base, but those pushing for democracy have been ignored and abandoned by the American government. Remember talk of promoting human rights? Remember President Obama saying in 2011 that “history is on the move in the Middle East… wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.” It’s not true. Instead, we’ve been compromised by Washington.
When I joined tens of thousands of other Bahrainis in 2011 to protest peacefully for democratic reform, we did not receive help from the US government. Instead, the Bahraini ruling family violently cracked down on the protestors, killing dozens of people and putting thousands more in jail.
While we’ve been beaten and jailed for demanding our rights, the United States has continued to arm and train the Bahrain military. After seeing that peaceful protests don’t work, people have become more radical and more likely to turn to violence. It has become more difficult in the last two years to persuade young people in Bahrain that the peaceful way is the best way to get us our rights.
The American government has sacrificed us in order to sustain its friendship with the ruling dictatorship. We do have a few friends in America acting in our behalf. Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts has spoken out about my case. NGOs like Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch have kept a focus on Bahrain in the American media and on the political agenda, but the overwhelming official response has either been silence or complicity with the repressive regime.
Closing their eyes to the problem is not a smart policy for the United States. Democracy is not only the best outcome here, but also for Washington, for London, and for everyone except the ruling family. We are not moving towards democracy. Instead, we continue on a path towards greater repression. Other prominent human rights defenders have either left the country or, like Naji Fateel and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, are in prison with long sentences.
I could be punished again if I continue to speak out. Yet, I must do so. I can’t give up until there is change, until there is radical reform, until those who are responsible for the human rights violations are brought to justice, until people aren’t afraid of the police. I don’t want to go back to jail but if it is necessary, I am prepared.
Nabeel Rajab is president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He was released from prison on May 24, 2014 after serving two years for his part in public protests calling for democratic reform in Bahrain.
Leading Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab served two years in prison for his involvement in prodemocracy protest marches. He talks to DW about his experience - and his unbroken resolve.
DW: You were imprisoned for two years on charges relating to your participation in "unauthorized"protest marches. Can you tell me about your experience inside?
Nabeel Rajab: Ninety percent of people in prison in Bahrain are there because of the political situation, and the authorities were afraid I would influence them and create an awareness of human rights, so they disconnected me. For two years they kept me in a separate flat with an average of three or four people who mostly didn't speak my language. They didn't want me to mix with the other prisoners during break time or lunch time.
When I had to go to hospital in the jail, they even emptied the clinic. It was very important for them that I didn't see anybody and that nobody saw me.
When I spoke to my family on the telephone, I was not allowed to talk about the human rights or the political situation. One time my wife mentioned the United Nations and they put me in solitary confinement and tortured me.
How did your time in prison change you - did it strengthen your commitment to human rights in Bahrain?
Two years makes you angry, and there are two ways of fighting that anger. Either through violence, or through a peaceful struggle with the international human rights community - and that is what I choose. As a victim of regime repression, a victim of political institutions that don't respect human rights, I am committed to the fight to change things.
Pro-democracy protests are staged on a regular basis in Bahrain, and attended by up to a quarter of the island state's population
Where do you go from there?
I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but I'm sure our struggle is going to continue, and that we will use all peaceful means, all legitimate means recognized by the international community. We do not believe in the use of violence. Everyone knows the fight is costly and painful, but Bahrainis are willing to continue, and to pay the price. Stopping or going back is not an option.
How has the human rights situation changed in the two years you were in detention?
Since I was detained, the number of prisoners has doubled, the number of jails has doubled, the number of arbitrary arrests has increased, discrimination and marginalization against the Shia community is worse than ever in the history of this country. But at the same time, there are fewer media reports, fewer statements from civilized governments. That makes people angry.
Every international media outlet covers 20,000 people protesting in Ukraine, but when 200,000 in a country of just 700,000 take to the streets, it is not reported. And that is very disappointing. We are marginalized in the media at a regional and international level.
Western governments keep talking about democracy and human rights in countries such as Syria and Iran, but when it comes to the rich Gulf countries, they ignore our struggle. Even their media ignores our struggle.
That should not continue. Civilized nations have to react, because ignoring our situation makes people feel a sense of hopelessness and that will lead to the creation of extremist groups.
How would you like to see Western governments act?
In the same way they act in other countries. They should have one language and one standpoint, whether on Iran, Syria, Iraq or China. They should be straightforward with all governments, no matter how rich they are or what business they do. Otherwise they lose credibility - which is what is happening now.
The unrest in Bahrain is often portrayed as sectarian. Is that how you see things?
The ruling family is Sunni. The ruling family is repressive. It's true that the majority of protesters are Shia, because the majority of the population is Shia, but we are not against the family's religion - we are against their policies, attitude and behavior. The ruling family tries to present it as a Shia-Sunni issue, but we are not against the Sunni people.
I come from a mixed family and our revolt is against the ruling family that wants to keep all the power. We are struggling to share this power. Seventy percent of our government is from one family, we have had the same prime minister for more than 40 years. This system can't continue. It is time for democracy, justice and human rights. We are a civilized, educated nation. But unfortunately we happen to be ruled by a tribe.
Nabeel Rajab is a Bahraini human rights activist, and president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He is also on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch Middle East Division, Deputy Secretary General for the International Federation for Human Rights and President of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights.
Time spent in prison by children exceeds time spent by convicted torturers.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the Bahraini authorities’ ongoing targeting of minors less than 15 years of age as part of its ongoing crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. The BCHR continues to document cases of arrest, detention, and physical assault on children below 15 years old by the security forces.
On 29 June 2014, the juvenile judge ordered for the detention of Hussain Mohamed Khalaf, 13 years old, for five days pending an investigation on charges of illegal gathering and rioting following his arrest on 26 June 2014. There were no protests in the area at time of his arrest. Khalaf’s family reported that he was beaten at Qudaibiya Police Station and was forced to confess to acts that he did not commit. His family has expressed fears for his health as he has meningitis, which has affected his head, and has previously undergone surgery in his back.
On 30 June 2014, the juvenile judge extended the detention of Mohamed Mansoor Abdulhussain, 14 years old, for seven days pending investigation on charges of illegal gathering and rioting. Abdulhussain has been in juvenile detention since 9 April 2014, and had his detention extended on a weekly basis since then despite the lack of a court conviction. He has spent the school examination period in detention, which has had a severe impact on his educational progress.
On 1 July 2014, 11 year-old Jehad Nabeel Al-Sameea had his detention extended again for eight days by the juvenile judge. Al-Sameea has been in detention since 22 May 2014 on charges of “physical assault of a policeman, damage to two police cars, illegal gathering, rioting, and possession of Molotov cocktails,” which are unreasonable given his small size and limited physical power. He is a fifth grade student and he has spent the school examination period in detention. Al-Sameea was banned from seeing his mother for 21 days after detention. He is not allowed to have phone calls with his family, and is only granted one visit a week. During a visit in mid June, Al-Sameea appeared pale, weak, and infected with ulcers. He told his mother that he did not like the prison food, but he is not allowed to receive food from outside.
On 12 June 2014, Al-Sameea had a hearing on a different case against him, in which he was charged with rioting, and the judge placed him under “judicial probation” for two years. During this period, a social supervisor will check on him every six months to report on his behavior.
In a different case, Ebrahim Ahmed Algaydom, 14 years old, was arrested from Sehla on 26 June 2014, and had his left arm broken due to the polices’ use of excessive force. He was transferred to the military hospital for treatment and was released on 29 June 2014.
It is important to note that while these children, and many more like them, are forced to spend months in detention without being convicted, security officers on trial for torture and extra-judicial killings are allowed to be out of detention and resume work duty while on trial. There has been no confirmed information that those convicted for torture and extra-judicial killings have spent any time in prison. No convicted security officers have been placed under “judicial probation” for any amount of time.
Minors below the age of 15 are not criminally responsible in the eyes of Bahraini law; however, the authorities often arrest them from protests and detain them for several weeks at a time. The BCHR has documented more than 70 cases of arrests of children since January 2014. While some of the children have been released, many more remain in detention.
The detention and ill-treatment of a child without an immediate and just cause, in the absence of a conviction of a crime, against his mental and physical well-being and interest as a student violates several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 3 that "In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." Article 37 continues, stating that "States Parties shall ensure that: (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
The BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, the European Union and all close allies and international institutions to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to:
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the Government of Bahrain’s decision to deem unwelcome in the country Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
In a statement issued by the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government deemed Assistant Secretary Malinowski “unwelcome”, claiming that the high level diplomat “intervened in the country’s interior affairs by holding meetings with certain parties over others which shows sectarianism among the peoples of this country.”
“I express solidarity with Mr. Malinowski and am ashamed of the way my government has treated a high level official from the United States government,” said BCHR President Nabeel Rajab. “It further saddens me to know that I cannot change the situation, as the people of Bahrain have no real means through which their opinion can be heard by the government.”
The statement also claims that Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s actions are “in defiance of conventional diplomatic norms” and makes reference to 22 recommendations adopted in an extraordinary session of Bahrain’s national assembly in July 2013. These extremely restrictive laws have previously been used to target human rights activists, opposition figures, and various forms of peaceful dissent, but this is the first instance of it being implemented against a public official from a foreign country.
“As one of the United States’ key allies, we are gravely concerned over the Bahrain government’s treatment of Assistant Secretary Malinowski,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “The accusations leveled against Assistant Secretary Malinowski, which appear to be a result of meeting with various opposition figures and human rights activists, undermine any claims by the Bahraini government that they are serious about reconciliation in the country and creating the space necessary for reform to occur.”
Since February 2011, the Government of Bahrain has failed to act on its commitment to implement critical reforms, resulting in a deteriorating situation marked by ongoing protests, increased violence, and continued claims of ill-treatment and torture by those in detention. With thousands of political prisoners and human rights defenders such as Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Abduljalil al-Singace in detention, it is clear that consistent diplomatic engagement from the Bahraini government’s key allies on the need for political and human rights reforms is more urgent than ever.
Posted on 08 April 2014
On 3 April 2014 a Bahraini Court of Appeal ruled to uphold a sentence of one year's imprisonment issued by the Third Criminal Court in Bahrain against human rights defender and medic Dr Saeed Al Samahiji.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji is an ophthalmologist who extended his medical services to injured protesters during the popular uprisings in Bahrain in 2011. Since April 2013, the human rights defender has worked on cases of persons stripped of Bahraini nationality, has been closely involved in assisting the families of those killed during mass protests, and has been a vocal online supporter of human rights issues in Bahrain.
On 3 April 2014, the Court of Appeal affirmed the sentence issued against Dr Saeed Al Samahiji by the Third Criminal Court on 11 December 2013. The ruling imposed a year's prison sentence and a fine of 200 Bahraini Dinars on the human rights defender for insulting the King of Bahrain. The charge arose from a speech made by Dr Saeed Al Samahiji on 1 September 2013 at a funeral of a young man reportedly killed by the police. The human rights defender stated that he considered the King responsible for the death, as well as that of 50 other people killed by the police, and that he hoped that the King would one day leave power.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji had previously been sentenced to ten year's imprisonment by a military court in October 2012. The sentence was reduced to one year by the Criminal Court of Appeal, and the human rights defender was released in April 2013. Dr Saeed Al Samahiji was one of a group of medics sentenced to for their support of persons injured in the protests occurring in Bahrain at the time.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern at the sentencing of Dr Saeed Al Samahiji and at the continued targeting of human rights defenders through prosecutions. Front Line Defenders is concerned that the prison sentence is solely related to Dr Saeed Al Samahiji's legitimate exercise of the right of freedom of expression and his human rights work.
Posted 8 July 2014
Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of the person the authorities say is the well-known satirical blogger Takrooz (@Takrooz). He has been held on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime” and “using expressions that incite sectarianism” ever since his arrest at Manama airport on his return from Thailand on 18 June.
The person, who has not been named by the authorities, was arrested in connection with an unnamed Twitter account. He has reportedly denied being its owner or user but has recognized being the owner of the email address to which it was registered. The @Takrooz Twitter account has meanwhile been inaccessible since his arrest.
Reporters Without Borders calls for his immediate release.
With around 18,000 Twitter followers and 100,000 accumulated Tweets, Takrooz has been emblematic figure in the protest movement against the Bahraini monarchy since February 2011.
According to Bahrain Watch, Takrooz has long been aleading target of Bahrain’s Cyber Crime Unit.
Bahrain is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet.”
Posted 7 July 2014
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said that the Bahrain Foreign Ministry statement declaring U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski unwelcome in the country is a very troubling sign that the ruling family is not serious about political reform and negotiating an end to the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders that began in 2011. Bahrain’s statement was issued after Malinowski met with members of leading Bahraini opposition group, Al Wefaq.
“The Bahrain government has once again revealed itself to be an erratic, embarrassing, and unreliable partner. Today’s action shows clearly that the regime has so much to hide on human rights that it is nervous about its closest military ally meeting directly with opposition and civil society groups,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The U.S. government is right to explore relations with members of Bahrain’s opposition and civil society because reform will not happen without the participation of these leaders."
Malinowski met with Al Wefaq, a political group which has publicly committed to peaceful non-violent means of protest, including signing a November 2012 “Declaration of Principles of Nonviolence.” Many peaceful opposition leaders jailed during the 2011 protests remain in prison, and Bahrain continues to jail those peacefully expressing their views, including those who criticize the ruling monarchy on Twitter. Leading human rights defenders are harassed or jailed, and some independent international human rights organizations, including Human Rights First, have been refused entry to the country. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, to release political prisoners and include them in peace negotiations.
"The United States cannot continue to believe that its current policy in Bahrain is going to yield a result for long-term stability,” added Dooley. “Bahrain’s decision to cozy up to Putin's government at a time when Washington is trying to isolate the Kremlin is bad enough, but designating senior State Department official Tom Malinowski as unwelcome should prompt a full review of the basis of the bilateral relationship and the prospects for a resolution to the current situation.”
For more information or to speak with Dooley contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-845-5269.
7 July 2014
The United States is deeply concerned by the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s decision to demand the immediate departure of Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, from the country.
Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s visit to Bahrain had been coordinated far in advance and warmly welcomed and encouraged by the government of Bahrain, which is well-aware that U.S. government officials routinely meet with all officially-recognized political societies.
Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted -- without advance warning and after his visit had already commenced -- to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the U.S. embassy.
These actions are not consistent with the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain.