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    7 July 2014

    In response to the Government of Bahrain’s decision to expel U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Tom Malinowski, Freedom House released the following statement:

    “The decision to declare Mr. Malinowski ‘unwelcome’ in Bahrain is unwarranted and wrongfully prevents him from doing what he’s supposed to be doing, which is meeting with human rights advocates to understand the full picture of what is going on in Bahrain,” said Charles Dunne, director of Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. “The government claimed Malinowski’s meetings with certain Shi’a parties and organizations defied conventional diplomatic norms and constituted sectarianism, allegations that are completely false. The government’s decision shows just how much it wants to hide on the human rights front.”

    Bahrain is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Freedom of the Press 2014, and Freedom on the Net 2013. 

    To learn more about Bahrain, visit:
    Freedom in the World 2014: Bahrain
    Freedom of the Press 2013: Bahrain
    Freedom on the Net 2013: Bahrain
    SLIDESHOW: Bahrain: Three Years after the Pearl Revolution

    Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
     

    http://freedomhouse.org/article/bahrain-expels-us-assistant-secretary-state#.U7ztFFYk-hN

     

    Document Type: 
    Feature: 

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    Amnesty International issued the following Urgent Action yesterday on behalf of Dr. Sa'eed Mothaher Habib Al-Samahiji, who is to serve a one-year sentence for "publicly insulting the King of Bahrain". Dr. Sa'eed Al-Samahiji is a prisoner of conscience and jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. 

     

    09 July 2014

    Index: MDE 11/019/2014 

    URGENT ACTION DOCTOR JAILED FOR “INSULTING THE KING” Dr Sa'eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji was arrested on 1 July to serve a one-year sentence for “insulting the King of Bahrain”. He is a prisoner of conscience. Dr Sa'eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji was convicted of “publicly insulting the King of Bahrain” and sentenced on 11 December 2013 by Branch 3 of the Lower Criminal Court in the capital, Manama, to one year in prison and a 200 Bahraini Dinars (approx. US$530) bail to stop the immediate implementation of the sentence pending the appeal. He was convicted under articles 92/2 and 214 of Bahrain’s Penal Code. Under Article 214, “A prison sentence shall be the penalty for any person who offends the emir of the country [the King], the national flag or emblem”: this violates the right to freedom of expression. On 3 April 2014 the High Court of Appeal upheld his sentence. On 1 July he was arrested to serve his sentence in Jaw prison, around 30 km south of Manama. Amnesty International has reviewed court documents and believes he is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Dr Sa’eed al-Samahiji, an ophthalmologist, gave a short speech that was filmed on 1 September 2013 after taking part in the funeral of 22-year-old demonstrator Sadeq Sabt, who had died in Salmaniya Medical Complex a month after being run over by a police car during a demonstration on 30 July 2013. Dr Sa’eed al- Samahiji and a group of doctors had been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in 2011 for involvement in protests. He told Amnesty International that during his arrest in 2011 he had been beaten on the head, legs and kidneys and he still had problems due to this torture. Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:  Expressing concern that Dr Sa'eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and urging the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally;  Urging them to repeal laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 AUGUST 2014 TO: King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying) Salutation: Your Majesty

    Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa Ministry of Interior P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1723 2661 Twitter: @moi_Bahrain Salutation: Your Excellency

    And copies to: Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1753 1284 Email: minister@justice.gov.bh Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below: Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation

    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

     

    URGENT ACTION DOCTOR JAILED FOR “INSULTING THE KING”

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Dr Sa'eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji, an ophthalmologist, was part of a group of health professionals from the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama who were arrested in March and April 2011. Some of them had been vocal in giving interviews to foreign journalists and accusing the government of abuses against protesters. All were held incommunicado for several weeks. In most cases their families did not know their whereabouts for most of this time and were only allowed to see them during the first session of their trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court, which started on 6 June 2011. They were sentenced in September 2011 by this court to between five and 15 years in prison. In June 2012, the High Criminal Court of Appeal reduced the sentences of nine of them, including Dr Sa'eed al-Samahiji, to between one month and five years in prison and acquitted the others. On 1 October 2012 Bahrain’s Court of Cassation in Manama rejected appeals by the nine doctors and nurses against their convictions and upheld their sentences. Dr Sa’eed al-Samahiji was released on 24 April 2013 after completing his prison sentence. Of the group, Dr ‘Ali ‘Esa Mansoor al-‘Ekri, a consultant surgeon, is still serving a five-year prison sentence in Jaw prison.

    After reviewing legal documents and evidence, Amnesty International found no evidence that any of them had used or advocated violence in their role in 2011 pro-reform demonstrations. The organization considered them prisoners of conscience, jailed only for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

     

    http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/019/2014/en 

    Document Type: 

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    TREND ARROW: 

    Bahrain received a downward trend arrow due to a new ban on unapproved contact between political societies and foreign officials or organizations as well as a government move to dissolve the Islamic Scholars’ Council.

     

    OVERVIEW: 

    In an effort to break through the political crisis that has plagued Bahrain since antigovernment protests erupted in February 2011, the government held its first talks with the opposition in more than 18 months in February 2013. This National Dialogue made little progress, as the regime continued to crackdown on protesters and harass the country’s majority Shiite population, leading the opposition to boycott the dialogue repeatedly throughout the year.

    Large numbers of demonstrators continued to stage public protests critical of the regime. Most of these remained peaceful, although some opposition forces became increasingly violent and confrontational over the course of the year. In a response to repeated police brutality, attacks against security forces increased considerably during the year. For its part, the regime continued to use strong-arm tactics by detaining hundreds over the course of the year, sentencing dozens of activists to long prison terms, and torturing those detained. Several protesters were killed by police during the year. As they had in 2012, Bahraini authorities systematically targeted human rights defenders in 2013, including arresting prominent activists Naji Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and Sayed Muhafedha of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

    Security forces also continued to target journalists and sought to further restrict freedom of speech. In July, with the support of both chambers of the parliament, King Hamad issued a new “anti-terrorism” decree which stated that protesters who demonstrate in spite of a state ban or without government permission can be stripped of their citizenship and fined. In September, the Justice Minister ordered Bahraini nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and political societies to seek government permission before meeting with or communicating with international organizations.

     

    POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES: 

    Political Rights: 6 / 40 [Key]

    A. Electoral Process: 3 / 12

    Bahrainis approved a National Charter in 2001, and the country was proclaimed a constitutional kingdom the following year. However, leading Shiite groups and leftists boycotted local and parliamentary elections in 2002 to protest campaigning restrictions and gerrymandering aimed at diminishing the power of the Shiite majority. The 2002 constitution gives the king power over the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities. He appoints cabinet ministers and members of the 40-seat Consultative Council, the upper house of the National Assembly. The lower house, or Council of Representatives, consists of 40 elected members serving four-year terms. The National Assembly may propose legislation, but the cabinet must draft the laws. Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition grouping, Al-Wefaq, withdrew its 18 members from the Council of Representatives in February 2011 to protest the government’s crackdown. The opposition then boycotted interim elections held that September to fill the seats, and as a result, all 40 seats are now held by government supporters.

     

    B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 2 / 16

    While formal political parties are illegal, the government has generally allowed political societies or groupings to operate. A 2005 law makes it illegal to form political associations based on class, profession, or religion, and requires all political associations to register with the Ministry of Justice. In February 2011, Bahraini activists, mostly from economically depressed Shiite communities, organized small demonstrations to call for political reform and an end to sectarian discrimination. A brutal police response galvanized support for the protest movement, and tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on central Manama. In March 2011, the government declared martial law and summoned troops from regional allies including Saudi Arabia to backstop a prolonged crackdown. While the government claimed that political societies remained free to operate, it has imprisoned key opposition leaders, including Hassan Mushaima (Haq), Ibrahim Sharif (Democratic Action Society), Abd al-Jalil Singace (Haq), Matar Ibrahim Matar (Al-Wefaq), and Jawad Fairuz (Al-Wefaq). Mushaima, Sharif, and Singace were sentenced to life in prison for their activism. After a lengthy appeal process, Bahrain’s courts upheld their sentences in January 2013. In December the president of al-Wefaq, Ali Salman, was arrested, charged with inciting unrest, and banned from traveling.

    The government re-launched the National Dialogue in February 2013 in an attempt to re-engage the opposition in the political process. For their part, opposition representatives participated haltingly and cautiously throughout the year, staging several boycotts due to the ongoing crackdown against protesters, continued arrests of opposition leaders, and rising levels of police brutality. Senior members of Al-Wefaq continued to be detained in 2013, including Khalil al-Marzooq, who was arrested for his criticisms of the government during a rally in September. Al-Wefaq’s president, Ali Salman, was charged with inciting hatred and spreading false news after giving a speech criticizing the government in December.

    The government has maintained a heavy security presence in primarily Shiite villages since 2011. Security forces restricted the movements of Shiite citizens, periodically destroyed property, and continued to arrest regime critics and activists.

     

    C. Functioning of Government:  3 / 12

    Bahrain has some anticorruption laws, but enforcement is weak, and high-ranking officials suspected of corruption are rarely punished. A source of frustration for many citizens is the perception that Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the king’s uncle and Bahrain’s prime minister since 1971, is both corrupt and a key opponent of reform. A British investigation into illicit payments allegedly made by a British-Canadian citizen to Aluminum Bahrain in 2013 was dropped, although it is widely believed that the payments occurred and that the Bahraini Prime Minister was either aware of them or involved. Bahrain was ranked 57 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

     

    Civil Liberties: 10 / 60 (-2)

    D. Freedom of Expression and Belief:  2 / 16 (-1)

    Restrictions on freedom of expression continued in 2013. The government owns all broadcast media outlets, and the private owners of the three main newspapers have close ties to the state. The government and its supporters have used the press to smear human rights and opposition activists repeatedly since 2011, most notably in separate campaigns against the former opposition newspaper Al-Wasat and its editor, Mansur al-Jamri. Self-censorship is encouraged by the vaguely worded 2002 Press Law, which allows the state to imprison journalists for criticizing the king or Islam, or for threatening “national security.” Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested in 2012 for criticizing the government on the Twitter microblogging service, remained in prison during 2013. Zainab al-Khawaja, another prominent rights activist and daughter of high-profile imprisoned activist Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja, also remained in prison during 2013 for criticizing the government.

    The prominent blogger Ali Abdulemam, a regular contributor to the popular opposition web forum Bahrain Online, was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison by a military court in 2011. After spending two years in hiding, he was escaped Bahrain to Great Britain in April. In July, prominent blogger and journalist Muhammad Hassan Sadef and photographer Hussain Hubail were arrested in anticipation of opposition protests planned for August 14. Sadef was released in October while Hubail remained in custody at year’s end. In May, six Bahrainis were sentenced to a year in jail for criticizing the king on Twitter. The government continued to block a number of opposition websites during the year, including those that broadcast live events, such as protests. In October police raided and shut down a public exhibition dedicated to the Arab Uprisings.

    Islam is the state religion. However, non-Muslim minorities are generally free to practice their faiths. All religious groups must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs to operate legally, though the government has not punished groups that operate without a permit. In 2010, the government stripped Ayatollah Hussein Mirza Najati, one of the country’s top Shiite clerics, of his Bahraini nationality. Police and military forces destroyed over 40 Shiite places of worship during the spring 2011 crackdown. The government has promised to rebuild at least 12 of the mosques, but had not begun widespread efforts to do so in 2012. The government intensified its crackdown on prominent Shiite religious figures in 2013. Police raided the home of the country’s top religious scholar Issa Qassim in May, a move that promoted large protests and Al-Wefaq to boycott the National Dialogue for two weeks. In September, the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry labeled the Islamic Scholars Council—the largest organization of Shiite clerics in Bahrain—an illegal organization and moved to have it dissolved.

    Academic freedom is not formally restricted, but scholars who criticize the government are subject to dismissal. In 2011, a number of faculty and administrators were fired for supporting the call for democracy, and hundreds of students and some faculty were expelled. Those who remained were forced to sign loyalty pledges.

     

    E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 1 / 12 (-1)

    Citizens must obtain a license to hold demonstrations, which are banned from sunrise to sunset in any public arena. Police regularly use violence to break up political protests, most of which occur in Shiite villages. In July 2013, King Hamad decreed additions to Bahrain’s antiterrorism law that imposed heavy penalties on those convicted of demonstrating unlawfully, including large fines and the stripping of citizenship. The decree was the result of ongoing protests throughout the year and rising levels of violence. Several Bahraini protesters were killed by police in 2013, including an 8-year old boy who the opposition claimed was killed by tear gas in January. Hussain al-Jazeri was shot and killed by police in February while protesting. His brother Mahmud was also killed that same month. Several protesters were arrested and received prison sentences.

    The 1989 Societies Law prohibits any NGO from operating without a permit. In 2010, the government dissolved the board of directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, an independent NGO, and assigned a government-appointed director to run the organization. The authorities blocked visits by foreign NGOs during 2012. Among others, Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights was denied entry in 2012, as were delegations from the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Labour Organization. In April 2013 the government cancelled a visit by torture expert Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture. In September, the Ministry of Justice ordered all groups to get government permission before meeting with non-Bahraini diplomats and officials in an effort to limit the amount of contact opposition and human rights networks have with potentially supportive foreign governments and international organizations. The order also required a government official to be present at any interaction.

    Bahraini human rights defenders continued to be targeted in 2013. Sayed Muhafadha, a leading member of the outlawed Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was briefly detained in January. Naji Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to 15 years in prison in September.

    Bahrainis have the right to establish independent labor unions, but workers must give two weeks’ notice before a strike, and strikes are banned in a variety of economic sectors. Private-sector employees cannot be dismissed for union activities, but harassment of unionist workers occurs in practice. Foreign workers lack the right to organize and seek help from Bahraini unions. A 2009 decision that shifted responsibility for sponsoring foreign workers from private employers to the Labor Market Regulatory Authority did not apply to household servants, who remain particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Among the several thousand people known to have been fired in 2011 for allegedly supporting the prodemocracy protests were key officials in the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions. In 2012, the government prevented a delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Labour Organization from entering the country to participate in the annual congress of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions.

     

    F. Rule of Law: 1 / 16

    The king appoints all judges, and courts have been subject to government pressure. Members of the royal family hold all senior security-related offices. Bahrain’s antiterrorism law prescribes the death penalty for members of terrorist groups and prison terms for those who use religion to spread extremism. Critics have argued that the law’s definition of terrorist crimes is too broad and that it has encouraged the use of torture and arbitrary detention.

    Bahrain’s criminal courts and those responsible for personal status laws are largely beholden to political interests. The country’s judicial system is seen as corrupt and tilted in favor of the ruling family and its backers. Although Bahrain has criminalized torture and claims it does not hold political prisoners, its prisons are full of human rights and pro-democracy activists. Prison conditions are mixed. Prisoners report frequent rough treatment. While some detainees are periodically denied access to family and lawyers, others enjoy limited opportunities for phone calls and other amenities. In August, prisoners at the Dry Dock prison on the island of Muharraq rioted over poor conditions and for being denied family visits. Over 40 prisoners were injured.

    In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded that security personnel had used excessive force during the crackdown earlier that year. The BICI found no evidence that Iran or other foreign elements were behind the uprising, contradicting a key government claim. The regime implemented one BICI recommendation in July 2013, when it created a police ombudsman to investigate allegations of brutality and the excessive use of force by security forces. While several police were sentenced to prison terms during the year, including one unnamed officer who was sentenced to seven years in jail in February for killing a protester in 2011, sentences for those convicted of killing protesters have been light compared to political activists. In March, two others were sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of Ali Issa Ibrahim Saqer while he was detained in 2011, but their prison sentences were reduced to five years by the High Criminal Court of Appeals in September. In December, two police officers, including a member of the royal family, were acquitted on charges that they had tortured doctors during the spring 2011.

    Throughout the year, protesters were accused of detonating a series of car bombs targeting police; at least two police officers were killed and several others were injured in the bombings. Courts sentenced dozens of protesters to long prison terms for illegally protesting or on suspicion of complicity in bomb attacks. In September, nine boys under the age of 18 were abducted by security forces, allegedly tortured, and detained on charges that they were behind recent fire-bomb attacks. Hundreds children were arrested and detained during 2013, some being sentenced to jail, for allegedly participating in protests.

    Shiites are underrepresented in government and face various forms of discrimination. Fears of Shiite power and suspicions about their loyalties have limited employment opportunities for young Shiite men and fueled government attempts to erode the Shiite majority, mostly by granting citizenship to foreign-born Sunnis. In 2013 the regime continued its systematic sectarian discrimination and continued to recruit foreign Sunnis to serve in the country’s security services and to take up Bahraini citizenship.

     

    G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 6 / 16

    The government continued to obstruct foreign travel by key opposition figures and activists in 2013. After having visited Bahrain earlier in the year, British Airways authorities denied Maryam al-Khawaja entry on a flight to Manama in August. Authorities also restricted movement inside the country, particularly for residents of largely Shiite villages outside Manama. A tight security cordon blocked easy access to the capital.

    Although women have the right to vote and participate in elections, they are underrepresented politically. Women are generally not afforded equal protection under the law. The government drafted a personal status law in 2008 but withdrew it in 2009 under pressure from Shiite clergy; the Sunni portion was later passed by the parliament. Personal status and family law issues for Shiite Bahrainis are consequently still governed by Sharia (Islamic law) court rulings based on the interpretations of predominantly male religious scholars, rather than by any formal statute.

     

    Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

    X = Score Received

    Y = Best Possible Score

    Z = Change from Previous Year

    Full Methodology

    2014 SCORES
    STATUS
    Not Free


    FREEDOM RATING
    (1 = BEST, 7 = WORST)
    6.0


    CIVIL LIBERTIES
    (1 = BEST, 7 = WORST)
    6


    POLITICAL RIGHTS
    (1 = BEST, 7 = WORST)
    6
     

    http://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/bahrain-0#.U77kR16NxBV

    Document Type: 
    Feature: 
    Issue: 

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over the safety of Bahraini activist Abdulelah Almahoozi as he is at great risk of being subject to torture and an unfair trial if Interpol hands him over to the Bahraini authorities in the coming few days, despite the fact that he was acquitted of all charges in Bahrain.

    On 03 July 2014, outspoken activist Abdulelah Almahoozi was arrested upon arrival at Frankfurt Airport where he had traveled to seek asylum in Germany. He was told that his name is on the Interpol list of wanted individuals, and was placed on the list by the Bahraini authorities. He was taken to a detention center pending his transfer to the Bahraini authorities.

    Abdulelah Almahoozi is a well-known Bahraini political activist who has been living in exile since April 2011, following the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. He has been vocally criticizing the Bahraini government for its grave human rights record through his participation in televised interviews and political forums and he has been continuously advocating for freedom and democracy in Bahrain through peaceful means. 

    AlMahoozi was working in Bahrain as a municipality officer until 2011, when he left to live abroad. In 2013, he was accused with “accidental death” in the case of a collapsed building that resulted in the death of 13 migrant workers and the injury of another 8 workers in Jan 2013 after a fire erupted in their apartment (case number 1982/2013) (Refer to http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5604).  He was officially charged with “committing fraud in an official document, and twisting the truth in the list of irregularities of the administration of legal affairs.” Given that AlMahoozi was out of the country he was not interrogated over these charges. However, he was acquitted of the charges on 6 March 2014, and the court stated on the reason for acquittal that the testimonies of the witnesses against AlMahoozi included uncertainties that do not live up to contentment the court.[1] Given that the public prosecution did not appeal against the acquittal within the one month period that is allowed in Bahraini law, the decision was final.

    Copy of the court verdict

    On 10 July 2014, the Bahrain General Directorate for Combating Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security announced that the arrest of AlMahoozi in Germany was based on an Interpol memo dated 14 March 2014, which is 8 days after his acquittal in Bahrain by the court. It has also announced that it’s working on arranging to receive AlMahoozi and submitting him for a trial. The Directorate has eliminated from its statement any mention of the acquittal of AlMahoozi by the court in the same case.[2]

    The BCHR believes that AlMahoozi has been targeted by the government of Bahrain merely for his activism in support for rights and democracy for Bahraini people, and for expressing his opinions in accordance with the universal declaration of human rights. The Bahraini government should have canceled the request of arresting AlMahoozi once the court issued his acquittal verdict. By keeping his name on the international wanted list, the government of Bahrain has shown an intention to misuse the Interpol service to target AlMahoozi for his political activism.

    Due to Bahrain’s long record of targeting political and human rights activists in the country, and the vast number of cases of torture in detention, there is a great risk that AlMahoozi could be subjected to torture if he is handed over to the Bahraini authorities. (Refer to the testimonies of the Bahrain 13 political and human rights activists http://birdbh.org/bahrain-13/) also refer to (http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6804 ). Bahrain is denying access to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country since 2012.[3]

     

    Based on the information above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the German Authorities to:

    • cancel the decision to handover activist Abdulelah Almahoozi to the Bahraini authorities as he is at great risk of being subjected to torture, and the court has already acquitted him from all charges.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also calls the United States, United Kingdom, United Nations, European Union, and all the close allies and international institutes to apply pressure on the Bahraini Authorities in order to:

    • end the targeting of activist Abdulelah Almahoozi and all political and human rights activists who practice freedom of expression in accordance with Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    put an immediate end to the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions, provide guarantees regarding the safety and security of detainees.

    Document Type: 
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    Published 03 April 2014

    Ceartas (Irish Lawyers for Human Rights) has told the Medical Independent (MI) that it “welcomes” the intended visit to Bahrain by the Irish Medical Council later this year. Yesterday, the Council’s CEO Ms Caroline Spillane told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection that it is processing a request to review the basic medical education programme at RCSI-Bahrain.

    “An assessment team is being identified and pre-assessment visit information has been requested by the Medical Council from RCSI-Bahrain,” said Ms Spillane. “The Medical Council is conscious of the political developments in Bahrain; indeed our earlier plans to review the basic medical education programme at RCSI-Bahrain were postponed owing to same.”

    According to Ms Spillane, the previous President of the Medical Council, Prof Kieran Murphy, and current President Prof Freddie Wood have written to a number of political leaders, including An Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Health and to the Higher Education Authority, expressing the Medical Council’s “concern at the situation” in Bahrain.

    Responding to the announcement, a Ceartas spokesperson told MI: "Ceartas welcomes the planned visit to Bahrain by the Irish Medical Council announced today, a rare instance of external oversight in a country off-limits to human rights organisations. Site visits to evaluate the suitability of hospitals are standard practice in Ireland. They are the facilities where students gain the bulk of their clinical training, including in medical ethics. Unfortunately hospitals in Bahrain continue to intersect with human rights violations as documented by numerous human rights organisations.”

    The spokesperson added: “The Medical Council, as a public body bound by Irish human rights law, is obliged to take these into consideration when accrediting RCSI-Bahrain and to impose conditions where there is a divergence from Irish standards. Failure to do so risks validating a system that is routinely accused of torture, violations of medical neutrality and discrimination - none of which would be acceptable in Ireland."

    In a submission to the Council last year, Ceartas stated that during any accreditation process it was obliged to consider the alleged torture and ill-treatment of patients within hospitals used by the RCSI and the “continued persecution of medical professionals for their treatment of protesters”, following unrest and mass protests for political reform in 2011.

     

    http://www.medicalindependent.ie/46124/ceartas_welcomes_councils_planned_visit_to_rcsi_bahrain

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    16 July 2014, London– A group of 29 NGOs have sent a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond, urging a shift in U.K. policy towards the situation in Bahrain. The letter calls for a ‘fresh’ approach to be adopted by the new Foreign Secretary in light of the FCO’s failure to heed a Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation that the U.K. should “designate Bahrain as a country of concern” in its 2014 human rights report if the situation had not improved by the start of this year. Despite this recommendation, the FCO subsequently failed to acknowledge Bahrain as a country of concern, and instead, listed it as a “case study” praising specific areas of reform. The letter highlights the inconsistencies in U.K. policy towards Bahrain in recent years, specifically referencing recent statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, who claimed that the human rights situation in Bahrain is a situation of “grave concern” and that recommendations made by the 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry are in a “state of non-implementation”. The U.K. recently cosponsored a joint-statement on Bahrain at the U.N. Human Rights Council citing concern over “the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists,” a serious issue that has not been reflected by FCO policy.

    The Head of Advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Mr Sayed Alwadaei, stated that the U.K.’s  “credibility on human rights has been challenged because of its stance on the serious ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain”. Mr Alwadaei asserts, “putting Bahrain on the list of countries of concern is the first step in ensuring that U.K. foreign policy towards Bahrain accurately reflects the reality of the situation on the ground”.

    Despite recently reported encounters between Mr. Hammond and Bahraini government lobbyists, the joint effort is hopeful that Mr. Hammond can consider a fresh Foreign Office response to the ongoing human rights and political crisis in Bahrain. 

    Signatories

    Aman Network
    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    Article 19 (Bahrain)
    Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) Network
    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    Bahrain Justice and Development Movement (BJDM)
    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
    CIVICUS
    CM Solutions
    English PEN
    European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
    Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Khiam Rehabilitation Center (KRC)
    Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
    Lawyers Without Borders, Sweden
    Maharat Foundation
    PEN International
    Privacy International
    Redress
    Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)
    Reprieve
    Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression
    Vivarta

     

    View the full letter here

     

    Document Type: 
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    (Beirut) – Bahrain should immediately drop charges against two prominent opposition members for meeting with a US diplomat on July 6, 2014. Bahrain should repeal the law that bars leaders of political societies from meeting with foreign diplomats without government permission.

    On July 10, Bahrain’s public prosecutor brought charges against Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition party Al Wifaq, and Khalil al-Marzooq, the party’s deputy leader. They were charged with violating Bahrain’s law on political associations by meeting with the US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, Tom Malinowski, without government permission. On July 7, Bahraini authorities declared Malinowski persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country.

    “Bahrain basically told the US that the human rights situation in the country is none of its business,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “It also sent a message to the rest of the world that anyone who wants to properly engage on rights issues will be persona non grata. This aggressive tactic demands a response. It’s time for the US and others to flex a little muscle of their own.”

    Concerned countries should urge Bahrain to drop charges against the Al Wifaq leaders and stop harassing them, Human Rights Watch said. The United States should also consider recalling its ambassador for consultations until Malinowski’s persona non grata status is reversed and the related charges against the Al Wifaq leaders are dropped.

    On July 6, Al Wifaq hosted Malinowski at a Ramadan reception in Manama. Al-Marzooq told Human Rights Watch that Malinowski had urged Al Wifaq in their meeting to participate in October elections and to re-engage with a stalled process of national dialogue.

    The next day, Bahrain’s state news agency confirmed that the Foreign Affairs Ministry had declared that Malinowski was “unwelcome and should immediately leave the country, due to his interference in its internal affairs.” The ministry said that his meeting with Al Wifaq was “contrary to diplomatic norms and relations between states.”

    On July 8, Salman and al-Marzooq received summonses to appear for questioning at Bahrain’s Criminal Investigation Directorate on July 9. On July 10, the public prosecutor further interrogated both men and charged them with violating the 2005 Law for Political Societies. Al-Marzooq told Human Rights Watch that most of the questions focused on what was said at the meeting with Malinowski.

    In September 2013, Justice Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa announced an amendment to the 2005 law to require political groups to secure advance government permission before meeting with foreign diplomats in Bahrain and abroad and to be accompanied by a Foreign Ministry representative in such meetings. On September 19, 2013, a US State Department spokesperson called on Bahrain to rescind the change to the law.

    Al-Marzooq told Human Rights Watch that Al Wifaq does not recognize the legitimacy of the restriction and that its leaders have met with many foreign diplomats without incident since it became law, including a May 2014 meeting with another senior US diplomat, Anne Patterson.

    On July 10 three days after Malinowski’s ouster, the US State Department announced it had issued a formal complaint with the Bahraini embassy in Washington.

     “Bahrain has been harassing, prosecuting, and jailing its peaceful opposition for years and ignoring any polite complaints from its allies,” Margon said. “The US and every other country that cares about human rights should ratchet up the pressure on Bahrain to stop the campaign against its human rights defenders and political activists”

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/11/bahrain-drop-charges-against-opposition-leaders

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern for the extreme deterioration of human rights and security in Bahrain. On 4 July 2014, the Ministry of Interior published on its official account the death of policeman Mahmood Fareed in a bombing which the Ministry described as a terrorist act. The BCHR condemns all violence and renews its calls for commitment to peacefully demanding rights and also its calls for the Bahraini authorities to stop using excessive force in the suppression peaceful protests.

    The BCHR Monitoring and Documentation Team attempted to verify the bombing, however, they were unable to reach the site of the incident as security forces surrounded the area the alleged location. Several families whose houses are located near the incident site stated that they had not heard the sounds of an explosion, and there were no traces of the explosion when the area was inspected after the security force’s siege. The Ministry has not released any photos or videos that prove that the explosion occurred, nor has it announced the age or nationality of the deceased. According to the BCHR’s sources, the deceased is a Pakistani national and his body has been returned to his country of origin for burial. Mahmood Fareed is among the thousands of foreigners brought by the government of Bahrain to work in the security forces, particularly in the units responsible for suppressing the public protests. The BCHR has documented several cases where the Ministry of Interior has released false information, including classifying the deaths of detainees due to torture as natural deaths or pre-existing health conditions like sickle cell disease.[1] Due to this, the allegations of the bombing and resulting death can only be verified through an independent and neutral investigation committee under international supervision.

    On 13 July 2014, the public prosecution announced the arrest, interrogation, and confessions of two defendants implicated in the case. The search for the other defendants is in currently in progress.[2] 

    The BCHR fears that the authorities will take advantage of the alleged incident to intensify the frequency of human rights violations that include: wide-scale house raids and arbitrary arrests; the collective punishment of areas such as restricting the freedom of entry and exit of its residents; and subjecting the detainees to enforced disappearance, denying them access to a lawyer, and refusing familial visitations during a period in which they face torture as a means to extract false confessions. The BCHR has documented several similar cases where the authorities made wide scale arrests before a reasonable period of time had elapsed for carrying out an investigation of the incident.[3]

    The BCHR condemns all forms of violence, and calls on the Ministry of Interior to abandon the policy of using excessive force against peaceful citizens in the suppression of all forms of peaceful protests. The Ministry of Interior’s continued use of excessive force might drive some to resort to violence as a means of self-defence against the daily violations of the their human rights such as house raids, arbitrary arrests, and ill-treatment.

     

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

    • Respect and protect human rights, especially concerning freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful gathering;
    • End the practice of employing foreigners in security units used to suppress Bahraini citizens;
    • Allow citizens to practice human rights and political work without restrictions or pressure;
    • Hold accountable all those implicated in human rights violations, whether through supervision and/or order and subject them to investigation.

     

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights express grave concern towards the Bahraini government's recent move of further violating the right to association by launching a lawsuit to suspend Al Wefaq, the main opposition political party in Bahrain.

    The Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments has filed a lawsuit to suspend the activities of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society for three months “until it rectifies its illegal status following the annulment of four general assemblies for lack of a quorum and the non-commitment to the public and transparency requirements for holding them.” The Ministry has also accused Al Wefaq with allegedly establishing a committee to appoint high-level posts in the organization, which “is contrary to the foundations of democratic practices and imposes limits on the will of the general assembly.” The BCHR believes, regardless of the excuses provided by the Minster, that the society is being targeted for its opposition views and as a consequence of its meeting with Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

     The lawsuit is yet another manifestation of the regime’s attempt to silence the opposition's voices in Bahrain based on laws that have been set to restrict basic freedoms including the Right to Association in Article 20, which states that everyone has the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    This is not the first time the authorities have targeted the opposition society Al Wefaq, which is considered the largest political society in Bahrain. On 14 April 2011, the Minister of Justice announced the decision to refer Al Wefaq to court in order to dissolve it along with the Islamic Action Society (AMAL) but the decision was withdrawn the next day under international pressure.[1]

    Al Wefaq has been previously been subjected to political harassment that has escalated since the beginning of the pro-democratic movement in Bahrain. Five of the elected society members from several municipalities had their memberships revoked in votes conducted in 2011, due to the building opposition support to the popular movement that began in February 2011.[2] Following the March 2011 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, the General Secretary has been summoned for interrogation several times, and the Deputy was detained for a month.[3] Also, the Society’s printed publications have been prohibited since September 2010 on orders of the Information Affairs Authority.[4]

    Al Wefaq also organized an exhibition that presented the personal artifacts of those who have died as a result of the government's excessive use of force since the protests started in Bahrain on February 14th 2011. The exhibition displayed photographs of those who died as a result of injuries sustained from the police as well as physical evidence of the ammunition used by the regime in their violent crackdown. The exhibition was destroyed by police forces on 30 October 2013 without a warrant.[5]

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the move to dissolve the political society only emphasizes the continued attacks on freedom of association and the government's intention to silence the opposition's voices and marginalize them outside the political process. The Ministry of Justice has previously dissolved the Islamic Action Society (AMAL)[6] and the Islamic council[7], cancelled the elections and replaced the board of the Bahrain Lawyer’s Society, and suspended the secular moderate political society, Wa’ad society between April-June 2011, allegedly for statements “defaming the military and security forces.” Officials shut down Wa’ad headquarters and blocked its website. Its General Secretary Ebrahim Sharif is currently detained and sentenced to five years in prison by a military court for an alleged “attempt to overthrow the regime.”

    In a report examining the restraints on freedom of association in Bahrain, Human Rights Watch found that the restrictive laws and policies stifle civic and political groups and trade unions. The report details how the Bahraini authorities use unjust laws to restrict freedom of association by arbitrarily rejecting registration applications and interfering with independent organizations: “The government takes over and dissolves ­– more or less at will – organizations whose leaders criticize government officials and policies, and severely limits the ability of groups to raise money and to receive foreign funding.”[8]

    Despite this, the Bahraini House of Representatives has approved amendments to the laws regarding political societies that includes a section on association on 19 June 2014[9] and is currently reviewing a new, more restrictive draft of the current Association Law.[10]

     

     

    Based on the above, 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:

    • Stop to all forms of harassment - including administrative and judicial harassment - against Al Wefaq;

    • Immediately put an end all procedures and actions aimed at restricting or hampering freedom of association in Bahrain;

    • Respect Bahraini citizens' freedom to the right to associations and uphold their commitment to international agreements that ensure that right, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern for the Bahraini authorities’ continued policy of incriminating the exercising of freedom of expression and peaceful gathering. The authorities summoned 65 year-old cleric Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed Al-Jidhafsi for interrogation at the police station after he participated in a protest calling for the right to self-determination organized by one of the opposition political parties. The right to self-determination is guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Part 1, Article 1: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

    In the morning of 14 July 2014, Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi received a summon to appear immediately at Al-Khamees police station. An hour after he arrived, he was referred to the Public Prosecution. While at the Public Prosecution, Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi had to wait for three hours, despite being an elderly man who suffers from heart disease, and was also prohibited from performing his prayers. He was interrogated about raising the victory sign and about attending an event that was unlicensed by the Ministry of Interior in the Kingdom of Bahrain. He was released in the afternoon.

    The summoning of Sheikh Al-Jidhafsi is not the first time that activists have been targeted due to exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful gathering, as guaranteed by several international conventions. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights considers the authorities’ continuing pursuit of individuals through interrogation, trials, and imprisonment as a result of using peaceful means to exercise freedom of expression a direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” as well as Article 20 which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

    Based on the above, 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:

    • Drop the charges against Sheikh Ali Al-Jidhafsi and put an end to the prosecuting of activists and individuals who exercise their right to freedom of expression, and to immediately release all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;
    • Put an end to all forms of harassments and restrictions that threaten the Bahraini citizens' rights to freedom of expression and peaceful gathering;
    • Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental liberties in all circumstances in accordance with the international standards of human rights and the international instruments endorsed by Bahrain.
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    Published 22 July 2014 

    Bahraini human rights activists are speaking out about increasing persecution at the hands of the British authorities.

    Could it be possible that the British government is now acting as Bahrain's political policeman? Yes, according to Bahraini exiles living in London - most of whom have fled persecution in their homeland and now claim the British government is giving them a hard time for it.

    Suspicions were first raised to me earlier this year, when two fleeing activists were detained and nearly deported back by suspiciously over-zealous UKBA officials at Heathrow airport. Both had strong asylum cases, but the seeming prejudice against them may well point to a wider pattern of discrimination.

    Mohammed Ahmed, a prominent blogger and media fixer had been arrested and tortured in August 2013. He had previously been arrested and beaten in April 2012, whilst working with a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph, and because of his pro-democracy activism had a history of nasty run-ins with Bahraini security services. In February of this year, he decided he’d had enough and ran for London.

    His travelling companion, Hussain Jawad was chairman of the prominent rights group the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights. He too was arrest by Bahraini security agents in November 2013, shortly after he lodged a formal complaint against the government, claiming that they were harassing human rights defenders. Over 50 bloggers across the world demanded Hassan’s release during his arbitrary detention in Bahrain where he spent 46 days in prison before being bailed. Upon his release, Jawad too decided he’d been left no other option but to flee. 

    Amnesty International declared Jawad a prisoner of conscience, even setting up a publically available website to detail his case, as did Frontline Defenders, an international charity which supports the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders across the globe. Yet, on arriving at Heathrow in February, both men were taken aside by UKBA officials. They were taken to separate detention centres outside London and found themselves in a medium security prisons, operated by UKBA for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants. 

    It quickly emerged that the pair had been placed on a special programme called DFT (Detained Fast Track), a process designed for uncomplicated cases where the applicant clearly has no right to asylum and needs to be returned as soon as possible. They were denied legal aid and had their case labelled all but hopeless, despite the fact they knew they had strong grounds for asylum and would face likely persecution, incarceration and the threat of torture upon their return.

    Were it not for an 11th hour intervention by specialist solicitors, Jawad and Ahmed would have faced almost certain deportation. As it is, they were released a few days later and are currently proceeding forward with their applications.

    Speaking to Bahraini leaders and activists living in London (there are perhaps five hundred exiles who have fled here), they clearly believe that the UKBA detention was politically motivated, and that the Bahraini community is being “systematically targeted,” by, they suspect, the British government acting on behalf of the Bahrainis.

    The detention of Ahmed and Jawad, one exile told me, was a display by the UK and Bahraini governments to show the democracy movement who was in charge.

    These are strong allegations, but when asked, the spin doctors in the Home Office dismissed the allegations, explaining that they couldn't comment on individual cases.

    This is odd as the Home Office is often very vocal about terrorists like Abu Hamza or Abu Qatada, or indeed hunger-striking Isa Muazu last year, leading one to conclude that they only respond when it suits them.

    When you highlight this little discrepancy though, the Home Office does have an answer. It seems that they merely don’t comment routinely on cases – so a case of one rule for terrorists and another for human rights defenders.

    In May, more evidence emerged that the British could be doing the bidding of the Bahrainis, and that what had happened to Ahmed and Jawad may well be routine.

    On 30 April, two Bahraini exiles living in London were raided by a counter-terrorism unit from the Metropolitan Police. It was 6:00 am. Their families were also detained. Both were charged with terrorism-related offences, which, according to the human rights activists, were most likely fabricated by the Bahraini authorities.

    Given the sensitive nature of the raid, it is suspicious that a Twitter account in Bahrain tweeted about the men's arrest at 4:00 am, two full hours before Metropolitan Police kicked down their doors in London.

    "Urgent: British authorities arrest Iranian agents (Safawi) and Karim Almahroos and Abdul Rauf Alshayeb is now being handed over to Bahrain," tweeted @mnarfezhom.

    The @mnarfezhom account is, according to the research and advocacy group, Bahrain Watch, most likely operated by a member of the ruling al-Khalifa family, and functions as a cyber-vigilante, mobilising die-hard royalists.

    There have also been other signs that the relationship between Bahraini human rights defenders and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office have in their words become “hostile”.

    Desk officers in the FCO are regularly briefed by global human rights defenders. Nearly all of these meetings invite a participatory mood in which organisations large and small can air their concerns in a receptive environment.

    This vital lobbying opportunity has increasingly been choked off to Bahrainis. In a conversation with an official in May, an activist swears that UK authorities parroted Bahraini regime propaganda. When asked why the regime was tear-gassing so excessively each night, the UK officials allegedly said that “the attacks by the Bahraini police are just self-defence against the Molotov cocktail throwing youth.” This line is all too familiar to those reading the Bahraini state press.

    When the activist retorted by saying that the youth throw Molotov cocktails because of the harsh police tactics that on occasion prove fatal, the officer allegedly replied: “Well, it's always someone else's fault isn't it?”

    But could it really be true that the British government is aiding and abetting the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy to perpetuate its oppression? This is incredibly hard to prove but it would not be the first time that British officials have got their hands dirty to keep the al-Khalifas in power.

    Colonel Ian Henderson, a colonial era British policeman who worked for the al-Khalifa family for nearly thirty years, was investigated in 2000 by the Home Office for his alleged complicity in torture while in Manama. Eventually, no charges were filed, but UK journalist Robert Fisk wrote a scathing expose that unearthed widespread instances of abuse.

    If this kind of behaviour has and is happening, it is likely a case of “I scratch yours, you scratch mine.” Bahrain itself is small and not that energy-rich, but it is a key part of the GCC which all but controls OPEC. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, have sunk vast resources – from money and fuel to soldier and weapons - to prop up the al-Khalifas who they see as a bulwark against Iranian and Shia expansion in the region.

    There are also large geo-political gains to be made by keeping the Khalifas on the throne. Bahrain is conveniently positioned in the Gulf and is seen as a vital base for protecting key shipping lanes. The British and American presence in the Middle East is generally based in and coordinated out of Manama harbour, and billions in expensive defence equipment is stationed there.

    While these are underlying factors for the possible collusion between the British and the Bahrainis, a new large-scale defence contract was thrown into the mix at the start of the year, which could explain why we have seen this more hostile attitude.

    Negotiations about the highly-prized British BAE Systems £4bn deal to supply Saudi Arabia with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons, had been unusually tense.

    There have already been suggestions that this tension may have led to unusual and secretive government “favours” being introduced to buttress the deal. Defence sales by British companies are assisted by UK government operatives from the highest levels.

    Speculation on what these “sweeteners” could have been, has so far centred on the Muslim Brotherhood investigation announced by No.10 shortly after the Saudi arms deal went through. The timing played nicely into the political aims of Saudi Arabia's rulers, and there was subsequent outrage from ambassadors, newspaper columnists and MPs, who all denounced this as and shameful “favour” for the Saudis.

    But the Muslim Brotherhood investigation might not have been the only unusual favour discussed and the timing of the first reports of Bahrain persecution would also help to explain the growing mistrust, bad blood, and of host of allegations that have started flying around.

    http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/has-britain-become-bahrain-s-lapdog-495593691#sthash.0sh6djav.dpuf

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  • 07/24/14--02:41: My Story: Nazeeha Saeed
  • Published by Media Legal Defense Initiative on 18 July 2014.

    Nazeeha Saeed, a Bahraini correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, was severely beaten and tortured in police custody two years ago. Here, she describes her attempts to have those responsible prosecuted.

    I still feel pain when I recall being summoned to the police station on May 22, 2011. I had been covering pro-democracy demonstrations and the authorities didn’t like what I was reporting. I didn’t accept the government line that the protesters were backed by Iran and I had witnessed a policeman killing an old man at protest earlier in the year. 

    While in custody, I was tortured by police officers. I remember the first slap on my face, the humiliation I felt. I was blindfolded, beaten and had electric shock treatment. All the time, they were mocking me and accusing me of being a protester and lying in my reports.  Eventually, 13 hours later, I was released after signing a document. I don’t know what was in it. I was so frightened, I just wanted to get out. I was in great pain and could hardly walk.

    I reported what happened to the interior ministry and they said they would investigate. At first, I thought they were going to take it seriously. I was examined by two government doctors and they confirmed that my injuries were consistent with my account. I was also able to identify the five police officers who beat me.

    But I didn’t hear anything about the investigation until December 2011. In seven months, they had done nothing. I then met MLDI and they helped me submit a complaint of torture against the officers, in January 2012. The trial began in February, but only one of the officers was to be prosecuted. This was a big disappointment. Then there were lots of delays. I had to attend many court sessions and hear complex legal arguments. It was very frustrating.

    The trial went on for months and the verdict came in October. The defendant was acquitted. I was so shocked. We had very strong evidence, medical reports and even an eyewitness. I just felt that the judicial system was not independent. But with MLDI’s help, I decided to take my case to the appeal court. Friends told me why bother when the system is corrupt, but I was determined to keep fighting.

    Earlier this year, the appeal court upheld the acquittal. When I heard this decision, I started to cry.  Mine was the first case of torture to have been investigated by the judiciary. I had thought that I would get justice but it seems that I shouldn’t have been so hopeful. It’s painful to think that the people who tortured you are free to do it again.

    But because the international press have taken an interest in my case, I have been able to draw attention to the fate of journalists here. What they did to me changed my life forever. Now I have a great goal in my life – to campaign for press freedom.

    I defend journalists’ rights to report fairly and neutrally. So many other journalists have been beaten and tortured. Foreign reporters have to apply for a visa to enter the country and this is rarely granted. None

    of our newspapers are independent.

    Over the last two years, my case has taken up a lot of time – but I have continued to work. In the first four months after the beatings, I couldn’t do anything. Things that would usually take me one hour, took four days. I then forced myself to cover stories. I was careful what I reported as I was scared of being arrested again. It took me a year to work normally.

    In some people’s eyes, my ordeal has made me a member of the opposition. They are wrong.

    I remain a professional, objective journalist. The system tried to make me a victim, but it didn’t succeed. I feel I am constantly under scrutiny; that the authorities are just waiting for me to make a mistake. But I’m not someone who gets scared easily. My mother worries that I might be arrested whenever I go out, but she knows my work is important and is proud of me.

    http://www.mediadefence.org/stories/my-story-nazeeha-saeed#.U8-nf5Woeio.twitter

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    Time spent in prison by children exceeds time spent by convicted torturers.

    Update 24 July 2014: Two children mentioned in the statement below, Mohamed Mansoor Abdulhussain and Jehad Al-Sameea, have recently received verdicts from the juvenile court. Fourteen year-old Mohamed Mansoor Abdulhussain, who has been held in detention since 9 April 2014, was sentenced to six months in juvenile detention on 17 July 2014. Jehad Al-Sameea, 11 years old, was sentenced on 7 July 2014 to a further six months in juvenile dentention, extending his total time in detention to nine months. 

     

     

    7 July 2014: 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:

    • 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.

     

     

     

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  • 07/24/14--07:05: Champions for Justice
  • The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, in a joint effort with BIRD and ADHRB, has launched a new campaign to honour and highlight Champions for Justice in Bahrain. Every month, one human rights and pro-democracy activitst will be profiled to raise awareness about their activities and the supression and ill-treatment that they have been subjected to.

    Read more about this month's Champion for Justice here on ADHRB's website and join the Twitter movement with #BahrainPrisonersofConscience.

     

     

    If you are a US citizen, you can also take action on behalf of Champion for Justice Mohammed Habib al-Miqdad by using the template to write a letter to your Member of Congress expressing your concern. Please use the following websites to find the contact information for your Representative and Senator

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the continuing policy of impunity pursued by the authorities towards the violations committed by its loyalists, in addition to the direct and indirect support for fuelling sectarianism and allowing hate speech.

    In a speech delivered by the former Colonel Adel Flaifel in a house gathering in Muharraq on 11 July 2014, he described the Shiite sect leader in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim, as an “infidel” and the Islamic Council that Oassim seeks to establish that would involve both the Sunni and Shiite sects as an “infidel” council. Flaifel also insulted Qassim’s companions, stating that they were saint worshippers and that they must repent. He also publicly threatened Qassim that he will “catch him like a rat and sully his nose in the dirt as had happened to his companions in Iraq and Syria,”[1] a reference to the current violence occurring in the two countries. In a statement released by Shiite religious scholars, they stated that because the leader of the sect is such a symbolic figure, characterizing him as an infidel extends to include the entire Shiite sect in Bahrain, a majority of the population.[2]

    Despite the wide circulation of the video on social media, and the growing controversy among the public, the Bahraini Authorities have not taken substantial action to address the blatant usage of hate speech or the explicit threat to the security and safety of Sheikh Isa Qassim. The Public Prosecutor announced on 23 July 2014 that an individual had been interrogated for "publishing and broadcasting video recording on the Internet on which he attacked a denomination and despised its rituals," and that he was charged with "publicly infringing on one of the recognized denominations and contempt of its rituals.”[3] However, the Prosecution did not charge him for the threats and insults to Qasim, citing that "this crime requires a complaint from the victim, or his legal representative in order to move a criminal case." The Public Prosecution did not say if the accused had been arrested.

    This is not the first time where Flaifel has issued a direct threat towards a public figure or activist. In December 2011, he has directed clear and explicit threats in towards human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Mohammed Al-Maskati and Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdah as well as journalist Lamees Dhaif on his personal Twitter account.[4] He repeated those threats in November 2013 when he threatened Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdah, Vice-President of the BCHR, to make him “minced meat” and said, “killing you is an obligation.”[5] In October 2013, Flaifel directed his threats to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajeski, vowing that "the application of religious duty" on him if he continued “hurting Muslims”[6], a reference to the U.S. administration’s efforts to drive the reform process in the country.

    Adel Flaifel

    Flaifel rose to fame between 1980 and 2000, as an intelligence officer working in the now-dissolved State Security Apparatus and as an assistant to the well-known Scottish officer Ian Henderson, the head of the State Security Apparatus. He was notorious for assaulting his detainees and mutilating them during the detention period, and he is considered one of those directly responsible for the death of dozens of citizens due to torture, and for the torture of thousands of victims who he either tortured himself or ordered and supervised the torture of. Flaifel is also responsible for the many physical and sexual assaults committed against the detainees in his custody.

    Flaifel was also involved with forcing dozens of Bahraini families of Persian origin onto primitive ships that lacked minimum safety measures, and forcibly sending them to Iran without passports or official documentations in circumstances that lack the lowest human standards. If not for the Iranian Coastguard, several families would have been lost and/or drowned. The Bahraini families were treated as refugees in Iran, and suffered from difficult living conditions until the majority were allowed to return to Bahrain in 2000. Flaifel was also behind the movement that saw the finest Bahraini students lose their opportunity to education and the widespread loss of jobs. Many of his victims became underprivileged and poor or displaced and scattered around the world.

    During his time at the State Security Apparatus, Flaifel used his power and authority to extort money from hundreds of detainees’ families for their release. In addition to money, he also seized large tracts of land owned by Bahraini businessmen, or forced them to sell it to him at a very low cost. Many complied with his demands out of fear of his tyranny, and because anyone who refused to obey his orders was thrown in jail, accused of political charges and attempting to overthrow the regime or criminal charges and fabricated drug cases. As a result of his blackmail process, Flaifel was able to amass a large fortune estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars. He was able to successfully carry out his crimes by making use of his extensive connections in the intelligence sector, public and private state institutions, and his personal relationships. Flaifel maintained a close personal friendship and financial partnership with the King’s cousin and current adviser Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Salman Al-Khalifa, and who was the head the State Security Apparatus at that time: Khalid Al-Khalifa’s involvement provided the cover for the crimes of fraud and extortion that he practiced. Flaifel was also infamous for his boisterous red-light night parties, either in the bars or discos that he owned and operated, or at his farms, palaces, and private yachts.

    When the current King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa ascended to throne on 6 March 1999, he made several promises at the beginning of his reign regarding reform, accountability, and eradicating corruption. These promises scared many of those involved in the widespread corruption and human rights violations, and prompted Colonel Adel Flaifel to flee to Brisbane, Australia, where he promised people there a prosperous economic era as a result of his financial investments. The Bahraini Ministry of Interior had announced at that time that it requested the International Police (Interpol) to return him. His property investments in Brisbane were estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The BCHR worked alongside several Australian human rights organizations and international organizations to expel Flaifel from Australia due to his criminal record and wide violations committed by him against human rights in Bahrain. As a result, Australian authorities refused to grant him residence.[7] Dozens of demonstrations and protests took place across Bahrain, where tens of thousands of his victims or their families participated, demanding that he be brought to justice. International organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, wrote about him and demanded the government of Bahrain to bring him to trial for the crimes he committed.[8]

    As a result of his threats to the authorities that he would disclose sensitive information that would implicate several Bahraini officials if he were to be prosecuted, Flaifel received assurances and promises from the government that the authorities would not target him if he returned to Bahrain, and that he would be granted a special pardon by the King. In October 2002, the King issued Decree-Law No. 56 and which by it prohibits prosecuting the perpetrators of crimes of torture in violations that occurred prior to the issuance of the decree. Flaifel returned to Bahrain on Saturday, 23 November 2002, to resume his commercial business once again.[9]

    Following the bloody security campaign against the public protests in 2011, the media appearances of retired Colonel Flaifel increased and assumed a Salafi tone. He began to infuse his speeches with an extreme religious sectarian, and continued to direct public threats and incitement against pro-democracy opponents during speeches at public meetings, his personal Twitter account, and during television appearances.[10] In his speeches, he called for the establishment of armed civilian militias on a sectarian basis[11] and incited the killing of civilians who called for reform and democracy and also human rights activists, whom he named as terrorists.[12]

    Despite public statements about charging Flaifel in April 2014 with contacting terrorist organizations in Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, where he said, “the apparatuses informed him that there is voice evidence against him of calling those organizations,” no legal action was taken. Flaifel also claimed that the security apparatuses accepted a payment of 7.5 million Dinars in return for not imprisoning him.[13]

    Adel Flaifel is a clear example that the authorities condone the blatant usae of hate speech and inciting of violence. Several pro-government mosque preachers continue to publicly attack with the Shiite sect with insults, slander, and accusations of treason, Friday’s sermon by Sheikh Jassim Al-Saeedi as an example[14], without facing repercussions from the Ministry of Justice. In March 2012, Sheikh Jassim Al-Saeedi, a Bahraini MP, delivered a speech during the Friday prayers wherein he described the Shiite sect as “illegitimate children,” an extremely abusive and derogatory term. Despite this, the Ministry released a statement claiming to request initiating an investigation in the incident, but no further action was taken.[15]

    In July 2012, human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR, was charged with insulting the people of Muharraq City and was sentenced to three months imprisonment due to complaints filed by Adel Flaifel and a group of officers in court. He was served half the sentence before he was eventually acquitted and imprisoned on other charges. In a clear example of the discrepancies in the justice system, Flaifel himself delivers hate speech in which he accuses a large portion of the population of blasphemy, curses them, and threatens their religious figures without facing any consequences. In a comment, Rajab said, “What Flaifel said is considered a crime; however the judicial and security institutes fall silent in response to the householder the Prime Minister who said that the law does not apply to everyone. If we assumed that the security and judicial bodies decide to take action, I’m sure that it’ll be superficial action void of any content, and there are many experiences of that.”

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights 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:

    • Hold Adel Flaifel accountable for all his crimes and human rights violations, including his involvement in the practice of torture, use of hate speech, and inciting violence;
    • take immediate measures against all promoters of violence and incitement of sectarian hatred;
    • hold accountable all officials that support and protect individual who use hate speech and encourage violence against a portion of society
    • stop the authorities’ systematic abuse of the law that allows them to silence opponents and preachers who express opinions that contradict the Authority.

     

    Link to the article in Arabic: http://bahrainrights.org/ar/node/6979

     
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    As part of a wider repressive campaign against freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain, the number of detained Bahraini photographers rises to six.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the Bahrain authorities’ continuing disregard of calls by international human rights organisations to end the security clampdown on Bahrainis demanding freedom and democracy. The BCHR is particularly concerned about the targeting of journalists, photographers and human rights activists whose peaceful activities have managed to break through the government’s news blackout and widely disseminate the far-reaching violations of the Bahrain government.

    At dawn on Thursday 24 July 2014, 30 year-old Ammar Abdul-Rasool was arrested during a series of illegal raids affecting some ten houses in his home village of Akkar. Abdul-Rasool is the recipient of over eighty international awards for his photography, and is a member of the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP).

     

    [Photo: One of Ammar Abdul-Rasool’s award-winning photographs]

     

    According to a testimony from his family, a group of eight masked civilians accompanied by a military force raided Abdul-Rasool’s father’s house at dawn on Thursday 24 July in order to arrest the award-winning photographer. The troops had no legal permission authorizing the search of the house and did not present an arrest warrant. However, Abdul-Rasool does not live with his father, so the troops requested that the father take them to his son’s apartment, which was then broken into by the same force. The family said that the men ransacked the apartment and seized two digital cameras and a mobile phone belonging to Abdul-Rasool, whereafter he was taken to the criminal investigation department (CID), which is a well-known site for torture and degrading treatment of detainees; in particular political detainees and prisoners of conscience.

    This is not the first time that Abdul-Rasool has been targeted. Previously, he was arrested in February 2013 and detained at the central police station before being released the same day.

    In view of the Bahraini authorities’ vicious crackdown on freedom of expression and their targeting of media activity, the BCHR fears that detained Ammar Abdul-Rasool will suffer torture and/or imprisonment. The BCHR has previously documented six detained photographers - two suffered extra-judicial execution, and eight were fired at directly by security forces using shotguns.

    The BCHR believes that the targeting and arrest of photographers represents a flagrant violation of the covenants and international treaties that guarantee the right to freedom of expression, in particular Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.”

    On the basis of what has been mentioned above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and all other allies of the Bahrain government, and international institutions to:

    • Put pressure on the Bahrain authority for the immediate release of Ammar Abdul-Rasool and all detained photographers, and allow them to exercise their right to freedom of expression without hindrance;
    • Put pressure on the Bahrain authority to be regardful of the maintenance of human rights, in particular the freedom of the press and the freedom of dissemination of information;
    • Put the Bahraini government on trial at an international tribunal on account of its continuing violations of international treaties to which it is a signatory, in particular Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
    • Put pressure on the Bahrain authorities to discontinue the systematic targeting of photographers, journalists and bloggers;
    • Hold to account all those, particularly high-ranking individuals, who have been involved in supervising or ordering torture.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is extremely concerned for the safety and health of imprisoned photographer, Hussain Hubail, whose health is deteriorating threatening his life. Since his transfer to Jaw prison on 28 April 2014 he has not been provided with adequate access to medical care.

    Hussain Jaffer Hubail, 21 years old is an award-winning Bahraini freelance photographer, who was arrested on 31 July 2013. He was subjected to enforced disappearance for four days, during which time his family went to ask about him at the Criminal Investigation Department; the authorities denied he was in detention. On 05 August 2013, Hubail was transferred to Dry Docks prison, where he was allowed to contact his family for the first time.

    The BCHR received confirmation that throughout his entire stay at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Hubail was subjected to torture, such as beatings and kicking in the stomach and face, was kept in an extremely cold room, was forced to stand up for long periods of time, as well as sleep deprivation. Hubail reported that while at Dry Dock Detention Centre awaiting his sentence, the authorities repeatedly failed to give him medication for his high blood pressure, neither in the correct dose nor at the correct time. Hubail requires his medication daily, but the prison authorities have been inconsistent in providing this medication, and at times only providing it once per week. Hubail was sentenced on 28 April 2014 to five years in prison for “inciting hatred against the regime through social media, and calling for illegal protests” and was then transferred to Jaw prison. [Please see charges in Arabic: Link]

    Hubail is currently awaiting an appeal on his five year sentence. His lawyer has made numerous bail applications on the basis of Mr Hubail’s health condition, but this continues to be refused, and his trial keeps being postponed.

    Hubail suffers from a heart condition and has had numerous health issues during the course of his detention, as a result of his condition. His health has been worsened by the severe torture he underwent in the CID. As per available information, Hubail has, on at least five occasions, been sent to the Salmaniya Hospital and the prison clinic suffering from symptoms such as heart spasms, heart pain, high blood pressure and shortness of breath. The first time Hubail was sent to Salmaniya Hospital was on 2 January 2014, when he collapsed due to a heart spasm. Most recently he was kept in a hospital from 13 to 16 March because of chest pain. His family was not informed by the prison authorities about this transfer to the hospital and only found out indirectly. During his stay at hospital in March 2014, Hubail wrote a letter (Arabic), wherein he stated that he had "seen his death" on 13 March 2014 when he had an attack as a result of his heart condition. Hubail is calling on various organizations, that could help push for his release, so that he can continue to attend his trial alive.

    In March 2014, Hubail was given a report explaining his condition, along with his medications and a transfer paper to the Bahrain Defence Force hospital, where was to visit the heart clinic to determine if surgery was needed. Hubail was taken to these appointments, where they performed all the necessary medical examinations. After his sentence in April 2014, Hubail’s medical file was not transferred with him to Jaw prison, which prohibited him from taking his medications. Furthermore, he was supposed to have an appointment to know the results of the medical examinations, but the authorities in Jaw prison refused to take him as they did not have his medical file.

    Hubail has not received any of his medication since the day of the court verdict. Hubail's father went to Dry Docks prison to get his file and even talked to the authorities in Jaw prison, however they refused to listen. Hubail reports that he is experiencing serious pain, with various attacks in the form of heart spasms, heart pain and shortness of breath, but is still left untreated. His father talked to local media in an attempt to pressure the authorities and prison staff to allow Hubail to get access to his medicine, but with no results so far.

    The director of complaints in Jaw prison visited Hubail promising to call Hubail’s father in reply to his complaint. At the date of this statement, the director of complaints has not provided any response. Hubail is now living in pain behind bars in Jaw prison suffering without his medication which regulates his heart beats and his high blood pressure, and his health is at extreme risk.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and all other allies of the Bahrain government, and international institutions to put pressure on the Bahraini government to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally provide Hubail with access to medication required for his condition;
    • Immediatly release Hussain Hubail and all those imprisoned on charges related to practicing their right to freedom of expression and opinion;
    • Put and end to the practice of enforced disappearance and end the use of systematic torture;
    • Hold all, particularly those in high positions, who are involved in the practice of supervising or ordering of torture, accountable;
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express their concern over the harassment and ill-treatment of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and his family at the hands of the authorities at Heathrow Airport.

    On 24 July 2014, Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR and director of GCHR, arrived with his wife and two children (12 and 16 years old) at Heathrow International Airport from Bahrain on a personal visit to see friends and undergo medical checkups in the UK. To their surprise, they were held for approximately five hours at a temporary detention center at the airport as they were waiting for the immigration authorities to process their entry papers. Their luggage was thoroughly searched and their fingerprints and photos were taken. They felt that they were treated “like criminals”. Rajab was allowed one phone call only and had to be escorted by a policeman when going to the rest room. Additionally, he was interrogated about his sentence and imprisonment in Bahrain, which was the apparent reason for this treatment. Later, they were informed that they would be allowed to enter the country; however, their passports were held for investigation and they were told that they will be notified in two weeks (by August 7, 2014) whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK for three weeks as they had planned. Rajab’s visa was issued via the UK embassy in Bahrain a few days before his trip and no issues were brought to his attention at that time.

    Rajab was imprisoned in Bahrain for two years between July 2012 and May 2014 for exercising his right to freedom of assembly by participating in and calling for peaceful protests, in the Capital Manama, in defense of people’s rights in Bahrain.

    He was considered a prisoner of conscience by several human rights bodies including the UK based Amnesty International[1], and his detention was considered arbitrary by the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.[2] 

    In June 2014, the UK embassy in Bahrain held his passport for over 16 days after he submitted it to apply for a UK visa, despite the fact that the normal visa procedure does not take more than 5 days. The embassy also delayed handing back the passport after he asked for it even if without a visa. Eventually he was handed back the passport with a visa that was issued then canceled. As a result of this delay, the embassy effectively managed to hinder the human rights defender’s planned activities to travel to the UN human rights council (HRC) 26th session in Geneva, as a meeting organized between Rajab and the OHCHR was cancelled after initial postponement, and his participation in several planned events on the side of the UN HRC, which were announced publicly were also cancelled, due to the fact that he was not able to travel while his passport was held at the embassy.

    In stark contrast to the treatment received by the human rights defender Nabil Rajab, Nasser Bin Hamad, son of the king of Bahrain, received a royal reception from the British government, despite the torture charges against him in court of law when he visited the kingdom in May 2014[3].

    Since his release, Rajab has been vocal in criticizing the position of the UK government towards the Bahraini people’s struggle for rights and democracy which he has described as “the worst in the world”. He compared it to its position towards the popular struggle in South Africa against racial discrimination policies. The UK government calls for democracy and human rights in some countries while it turns a blind eye to the violations and abuses in its ally Bahrain, and continues to target Bahrain for arms deals despite ongoing reports of brutal attacks on protesters[4].  Earlier this month, BCHR and GCHR have joined 29 organizations in sending a letter to the newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain.

    The BCHR and GCHR believe that the leading human rights defender and his family have received this unacceptable treatment and harassment merely because of his work in the field of Human Rights, and hold the UK authorities responsible for this violation of his freedom of movement. It is extremely unacceptable that Rajab continues to be harassed and treated as a criminal by Bahrain’s ally on top of his unfair imprisonment due to the criminalization of freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain.  

    The BCHR and GCHR call on British government to change its interest-driven policy towards Bahrain and stand up for the principle of protecting human rights worldwide without discrimination.

    The BCHR and GCHR demand that the British government to:

    1. Stop harassing Bahraini human rights defenders and activists,
    2. Cease any further harassments or restrictions to Rajab’s freedom of movement.
    3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain and all countries are able to conduct their human rights work without fear of reprisals.

    The BCHR and GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) express their concern over the harassment and ill-treatment of leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and his family at the hands of theauthorities at Heathrow Airport.

    On 24 July 2014, Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR and director of GCHR,arrived with his wife and two children (12 and 16 years old) at Heathrow International Airport from Bahrain on a personal visit to see friends and undergo medical checkups in the UK. To their surprise, they were held for approximately five hours at a temporary detention center at the airport as they were waiting for the immigration authoritiesto process their entry papers. Their luggage was thoroughly searched and their fingerprints and photos were taken. They felt that they were treated “like criminals”. Rajab was allowed one phone call only and had to be escorted by a policeman when going to the rest room. Additionally, he was interrogated about his sentence and imprisonment in Bahrain, which was the apparent reason for this treatment. Later,they were informed that they would be allowed to enter the country; however, their passports were held for investigation and they were told that they will be notified in two weeks (by August 7, 2014) whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK for three weeks as they had planned. Rajab’s visa was issued via the UK embassy in Bahrain a few days before his trip and no issues were brought to his attention at that time.

    Rajab was imprisoned in Bahrain for two years between July 2012 and May 2014 for exercising his right to freedom of assembly by participating in and calling for peaceful protests,in the Capital Manama, indefenseof people’s rights in Bahrain.

    He was considered a prisoner of conscience by several human rights bodies including the UK based Amnesty International[1], and his detention was considered arbitrary by the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.[2]

    In June 2014,the UK embassy in Bahrain held his passport for over 16 days after he submitted it to apply for a UK visa, despite the fact that the normal visa procedure does not take more than 5 days. The embassy also delayed handing back the passport after he asked for it even if without a visa. Eventually he was handed back the passport with a visa that was issued then canceled. As a result of this delay, the embassy effectively managed to hinder the human rights defender’splanned activities to travel to the UN human rights council (HRC) 26thsession in Geneva, as a meeting organizedbetween Rajaband the OHCHR was cancelled after initial postponement, and his participation in several planned events on the side of the UN HRC,which were announced publicly were alsocancelled,due to the fact thathe was not able to travel while his passport was held at the embassy.

    In stark contrast to the treatment received by the human rights defender Nabil Rajab, Nasser Bin Hamad, son of the king of Bahrain, received a royal reception from the British government, despite the torture charges against him in court of law when he visited the kingdom in May 2014[3].

    Since his release, Rajab has been vocal in criticizing the position of the UK government towards the Bahraini people’s struggle for rights and democracy which he has described as “the worst in the world”. He compared it to its position towards the popular struggle in South Africa against racial discrimination policies. The UK government calls for democracy and human rights in some countries while it turns a blind eye to the violations and abuses in its ally Bahrain, and continues to target Bahrain for arms deals despite ongoing reports of brutal attacks on protesters[4].  Earlier this month, BCHR and GCHR have joined 29 organizations in sending a letter to the newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, urging a shift in UK policy towards the situation in Bahrain.

    The BCHR and GCHR believe that the leading human rights defender and his family have received this unacceptable treatment and harassment merely because of his work in the field of Human Rights, and hold the UK authorities responsible for this violation of his freedom of movement. It is extremely unacceptable that Rajab continues to be harassedand treated as a criminal by Bahrain’s ally on top of his unfair imprisonment due to the criminalization of freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain.  

    The BCHR and GCHR call on British government to change its interest-driven policy towards Bahrain and stand up for the principle of protecting human rights worldwide without discrimination.

    The BCHR and GCHR demand that the British governmentto:

    1. Stop harassing Bahraini human rights defenders and activists,

    2. Cease any further harassments or restrictions to Rajab’s freedom of movement.

    3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain and all countries are able to conduct their human rights work without fear of reprisals.

    The BCHR and GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attentiontoArticle 6 (c) which states that: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

     

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    Reporters Without Borders, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Freedom House, Human Rights First, Just Foreign Policy and Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) call for the release of the internationally-known Bahraini photographer Ahmed Humaidan, who is to receive the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award “in absentia” in Washington, DC this evening. He has been held since December 29, 2012 in Bahrain.

    Humaidan was sentenced on March 26, 2014 to ten years in prison for supposedly participating in an attack on a police station in Sitra on April 8, 2012. A court is due to rule on his appeal on August 25.

    He told his family and his lawyer that his interrogators subjected him to psychological torture and threatened to kill him. His lawyer has repeatedly requested an independent investigation into his client’s allegations of torture. He has also asked the prison authorities to let his client be examined by a doctor.

    Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists and defends through its Press Freedom Committee the rights of reporters and fights for transparency worldwide.

    The National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award is presented at a gala dinner every year to two journalists – one American and one foreign – who have demonstrated through their work the principles of press freedom and open government.

    Announcing this year’s winners, NPC president Myron Belkind said: “Ahmed Humaidan is a photojournalist, not a criminal. The authorities in Bahrain need to free him and the other reporters who have been jailed there for the ’crime’ of doing their jobs.”

    Twelve news providers are currently detained in Bahrain. Six of them are serving long jail sentences. Two others are being prosecuted. And many more have sought asylum abroad. By arbitrarily arresting news providers and peaceful civil society activists, the Bahraini authorities are trying to stifle all dissent in the kingdom.

    The six organizations that have signed this letter call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Humaidan and all the other news providers who are being held in connection with their work in Bahrain.

    ADHRB - Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    Freedom House
    Human Rights First
    Just Foreign Policy
    POMED - Project on Middle East Democracy
    Reporters Without Borders

     

    Link: http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-national-press-club-awardee-held-30-07-2014,46719.html

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