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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its deep concern over the continuing policy of systematic torture in Bahrain, and particularly the treatment that media professionals face in detention centres.

    According to information we have received, detained photographer Ammar Abdul-Rasool (30), a member of the International Federation for Photographic Art and the Photographic Society of America, was subjected to torture after his arrest during a raid on his home early on Thursday morning (24 July 2014). [Please see the following link for more information: http://bahrainrights.org/ar/node/6980]. He was taken, handcuffed and blindfolded, to the criminal investigations directorate. He remained in that state and was forced to stand up for three days, and was not allowed to pray. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has been informed that he was severely beaten, and is still suffering from the pain. He was stripped of his clothes, sexually harassed and threatened with electric shocks. He was also told that his wife and infant daughter would be brought to the criminal investigations building. On top of all this, Abdul Rasool faced verbal abuse against his family and sect.

    It should be mentioned that the investigation Abdul Rasool  was undergoing was related to his work in the media, and particularly to the photograph attached at the top of this report, showing a peaceful protestor giving a police officer a flower. This photograph was taken during the February 2011 demonstrations. This photo has been widely circulated since its publication in 2011, and won a number of international prizes, the most recent of which came weeks before Abdul Rasool’s arrest.

    Abdel Rassool reported that he was put under pressure in an attempt to force him to sign a confession for a crime he was not being investigated for: photographing and videoing clashes between police and protestors, and taking part in rioting.

    According to BCHR’s information, Abdul Rasool was taken before the general prosecutor on 30 July, where he was ordered to be detained for 45 days on a charge of illegal gathering. On 27 August 2014 he was transferred to a court, without his lawyer’s being informed, and proceeding began on charges of illegal gathering, rioting and throwing Molotov cocktails. The next sitting will be held on 10 September 2014.

    Reports of the detained photographer Abdel Rassool’s torture confirm a vicious campaign of repression by torture, led by authorities against freedom of opinion and expression. His torture also confirms the targeting of media activists; the detainees whose names have been registered with Bahrain Centre for Human Rights now include six photographers. Two others have been killed outside the legal framework, and eight were targeted with live ammunition and shotgun fire.

    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is of the opinion that the detention and targeting of photographers is a clear violation of international pacts and pledges protecting the freedom of opinion and expression. It also violates Article 19, which stipulates that “every human being has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart them to others regardless of frontiers, either in written or printed form or through any artistic form or any other chosen media.”

    Based on what has already been mentioned, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights called on the United States, the United Kingdom and all other close and relevant international allies to do the following:

    • Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to release immediately Ammar Abdul Rasool, as well as all the detained photographers, and to allow them to practice their rights without restrictions.
    • Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to protect and maintain human rights, especially those related to freedom of the press and the dissemination of information.
    • Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to halt the policy of systematic targeting of photographers, journalists and bloggers.
    • Pursue and hold accountable all those involved in violations and torture, either by supervising and/or by ordering it, including those in senior positions.

     

    Document Type: 
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    Committee on Education and Social Protection,

    Houses of the Oireachtas,

    Kildare Street, Dublin 2, Éire.

     

    1 September 2014

    Dear Committee Members,

     

    We the undersigned representatives of Bahraini human rights organizations write to urge that steps are taken to ensure human rights standards are factored into the upcoming accreditation of Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)-Bahrain by the Irish Medical Council. Since 2011, the hospital administration in Bahrain has been militarized, including those clinical facilities used by RCSI for training students. The clearest example of this is the establishment of the Supreme Council for Health under the aegis of the Bahrain Defense Forces (BDF). Managerial and even front-line staff are recruited on the basis of their religion and military connections. This practice has significantly altered hospital practice, including the manner in which patients are treated, recruitment practices, and the overall administration of hospitals. It has had a substantially negative impact on patient access and trust in the health system. As a result, many Shia specialists have moved to private and even underground facilities, causing a drop in the overall standard of health services and in the quality of medical education provided in public hospitals.

    Furthermore these changes have undermined medical professionals’ ability to uphold the principles of medical impartiality. The hundreds of people who continue to be injured while exercising their right to express their opinions through protest are in fear of visiting RCSI-affiliated hospitals. Treating such persons often creates ethical dilemmas for doctors; because such treatments must be reported to authorities at the risk of punishment to the doctor, and medical professionals can feel pressured to refuse to treat injured activists. This environment is contrary to international humanitarian standards requiring that doctors treat all injured persons regardless of their affiliation. Treating protesters continues to be an imprisonable offence: Irish trained Dr. Ali Al Ekri, who is currently serving a 5-year sentence, is testament to this. Unlike in Ireland, speaking out or expressing ones opinion in Bahrain is also extremely difficult. Amnesty International recently declared Dr. Sa’eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji a prisoner of conscience after he was arrested on 1 July to serve a one-year sentence for “insulting for the King of Bahrain”. Bahrain now ranks 163rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index and it remains off-limits to most human rights groups.

    Given this context, we do not accept the RCSI position that their continued silence on these matters is non-political. We see it rather as a betrayal of their ethical and professional responsibilities, which lends political cover and support to oppressive practices. We are extremely concerned by recent claims made by RCSI representatives to the Irish Parliament's Committee on Education and Social Protection where it was stated, in no uncertain terms, that torture did not occur in Bahraini hospitals. The RCSI position stands contrary to the findings of numerous international organizations and the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation, which reported that the Salmaniya Medical Complex saw the serious mistreatment of numerous individuals. The differences between Bahraini and Irish clinical training facilities should not be ignored or brushed under the carpet. We request that RCSI management are asked to clarify their position on this matter and fully describe the steps being taken to ensure that their training hospitals are not organised along sectarian lines as required by the Irish Medical Council's own standards. 

    Considering all of the violations visited on the medical profession and health systems in Bahrain since 2011, we respectfully urge that Committee to ask what proactive steps the Medical Council will take to ensure a meaningful visit capable of considering human rights issues relevant to the provision of medical education. We suggest that their visit should include doctors and ex-students who have been directly affected by human rights violations concurring since February 2011, including Dr. Al Ekri. Bahrain is a significantly different context to Ireland. Without actively contending with Bahrain's restrictive environment through prior engagement with human rights experts, the Council’s visit risks becoming a case of hear-no-evil, with status quo risks being legitimised through Irish accreditation. We believe that a robust accreditation, with a human rights focus, would provide a strong platform for reform and would strengthen Ireland's reputation as a transnational educator.

    We look forward to receiving your response.

    Yours sincerely,

     

    Husain Abdulla, Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Nabeel Rajab, Director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Mohamed Altajer, Secretary General of Bahraini Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)

    Jawad Fairooz, President of Bahrain Salam for Human Rights

    Mohammed Al-Maskati, Director of Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

    Hussain Jawad, Chairman of European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)

    Document Type: 
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    Civil Rights Defenders calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release leading human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was arrested on August 30 at Bahrain International Airport. Security Officials at the airport informed Maryam Al-Khawaja that her Bahraini nationality had been revoked and that she was no longer welcome in the country.

    Maryam Al-Khawaja is Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region by promoting the role of the media and networking with international organisations.

    “The Human Rights Council should immediately act to condemn violations and protect Human Rights Defenders such as Maryam Al-Khawaja who tirelessly advocate for basic human rights in a country that severely restricts them. All countries dedicated to democracy and rule of law should bring Bahrain to bear for its absolute failure to commit to international human rights standards says Robert Hårdh”, Executive Director for Civil Rights Defenders

    Maryam Al-Khawaja has been charged for; 1) insulting the King on social media 2) the “Wanted for Justice” Campaign and 3) assaulting a police woman. She has been denied all access to Legal Counsel and has received no explanation or documented proof as to why her nationality was revoked even though she holds Bahraini identification.

    On 25 August 2014, her father, Abudulhadi Al-Khawaja began an open-ended hunger strike to protest his on going arbitrary arrest and detention as result of his courageous human rights work to promote freedom and democracy in Bahrain. Maryam was arrested by authorities at the airport as she attempted to visit her father.

    Maryam Al-Khawaja’s arrest comes months after a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council  in Geneva made by 46 states expressed serious concerns regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. Many of the concerns dealt with the on-going harassment and imprisonment of people for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and the continued oppression of protestors at demonstrations.

    Link: https://www.civilrightsdefenders.org/news/prominent-activist-maryam-al-khawaja-arrested-at-bahrain-airport/

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    On Saturday, 30 August, Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughter of imprisoned human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and a prominent HRD in her own right, was detained at Bahrain's airport upon her arrival to visit her father in hospital, where he was taken after beginning a hunger strike earlier in the week.

    Following the denial of entry on the grounds that she does not have Bahraini citizenship (despite her presenting her Bahraini ID card upon arrival), Maryam was detained and ultimately taken to prison for 7 days of so-called 'investigation'. Her lawyer, Mohammed Al-Jishi has been denied access, but has indicated that charges against her include 'insulting the king.'

    Before losing access to her account, she announced on Twitter that she would begin a water-only hunger strike. (On Sunday, 31 August, Maryam confirmed she would suspend her hunger strike so as not to cause undue concern for her father, whose health is suffering from his ongoing hunger strike).

    Earlier this week, Maryam's sister Zainab Al-Khawaja was briefly detained when she went to the hospital to visit Abdulhadi, after he was moved from the prison, but denied access to his family or a lawyer.

    Abdulhadi began his hunger strike on Monday, 25 August, to protest his continued arbitrary detention.

    Maryam serves as Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and was Acting President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights while Bahraini HRD Nabeel Rajab was imprisoned.

    Link: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27004

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    Index on Censorship calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Maryam Alkhawaja.

    UPDATE 4 September 17:22: Maryam Alkhawaja has a court date scheduled for 9am on Saturday 6 September, according to Travis Brimhall, head of the international office at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

    Prominent human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja has been jailed in Bahrain. She was detained at Bahrain International Airport on Friday as she tried to enter the country, and has yet to meet with her lawyer.

    Alkhawaja, a dual Danish-Bahraini citizen, had her Danish passport confiscated and was told she no longer held Bahraini citizenship. She was also barred from using her phone or contacting her family, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the organisation of which she is co-director. GCHR also reported that she was interrogated on charges of assaulting and injuring police officers, while lawyer Mohamed Al Jishi said he was not allowed to speak to his client before she was questioned. She is currently held in Isa Town women’s prison.

    Alkhawaja was travelling to see her imprisoned father, who last week started a hunger strike. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is a Bahraini human rights campaigner who co-founded the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), which won the 2012 Index Freedom of Expression Award for Advocacy. He was sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges following pro-democracy protests that swept the country in 2011. Abdulhadi and his daughters Maryam and Zainab are outspoken critics of human rights violations in the constitutional monarchy, which is categorised as “not free” by Freedom House.

    The case first gained attention after Alkhawaja tweeted about being detained on Friday, and an unnamed person close to the family continues to provide updates through her Twitter account. On Saturday, the account reported that she is also facing charges of insulting the king of Bahrain and over an anti-impunity campaign she was involved with in November 2013.

    Human Rights Watch called the arrest “outrageous”, while GCHR has labelled the charges “fabricated”and has called on the international community to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to release father and daughter. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sending a representative to Bahrain to provide support. Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard tweeted on Sunday that a “solution must be found in Al-Khawaja case” and that he has raised the issue with the European Union.

    This comes as the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bahrain on Sunday upheld a 10-year sentence on photographer Ahmad Humaidan. He was convicted over an attack on a police station in 2012, but human rights groups believe the case against him is connected to his coverage of pro-democracy demonstrations.

    Link: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/09/bahrain-maryam-alkhawaja/

     

     

     

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    Reporters Without Borders is shocked that a Manama appeal court yesterday upheld the ten-year jail sentence that the internationally renowned young photo-journalist Ahmed Humaidan received on 26 March in connection with an attack on a police station in 2012.

    “The Bahraini authorities continue to abuse the most elementary human rights and are becoming more and more repressive in their treatment of news and information providers ,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

    “Despite a major international campaign for Ahmed Humaidan’s release, the Bahraini regime has chosen to turn a deaf ear and to continue silencing the witnesses of its brutal crackdown.”

    Humaidan was part of a group of 32 people who were charged with attacking a police station in Sitra on 8 April 2012 with Molotov cocktails, starting a fire that injured a police officer.

    The appeal court yesterday upheld the sentences of 29 of the defendants, including Humaidan, a judicial source said.

    Humaidan, who is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “100 information heroes” was given the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Award “in absentia” in Washington on 30 July.

    Several human rights NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, used the occasion to reiterate their calls for the release of Humaidan, who has won a total of 143 international awards.

    Humaidan is one of the 12 Bahraini news and information providers currently detained in Bahrain for whom Reporters Without Borders launched a campaign for their release on 21 August. The youngest is only 15.

    Ever since the start off a wave of protests in 2011, photographers and cameraman have been high on the list of government targets in Bahrain, which is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2014Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

    Link: http://en.rsf.org/bahrein-court-upholds-ten-year-sentence-01-09-2014,46872.html

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    Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the U.S. government to call publicly for the release of jailed Bahrain human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja. 

    Al Khawaja was arrested early Saturday morning after arriving in Bahrain to visit her father Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence in prison. He is undergoing a hunger strike to protest arbitrary arrests being made in Bahrain. Maryam Al Khawaja is being held for an initial seven days and is charged with assaulting police officers at the airport when they confiscated her phone, which she denies. A trial date has been set for Saturday, September 6, and further charges are thought to be possible.

    “Maryam’s arrest is another part of the Bahrain government’s  attempt to shut out or silence critical human rights voices. Last month U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) was denied entry to Bahrain, just a month after senior U.S. State Department official Tom Malinowski was expelled from the country after meeting opposition figures,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “ The U.S. government should speak out publicly about Maryam’s arrest, call for her immediate release, and tell its allies the Bahrain government that if they treat human rights defenders and U.S. officials this way it will have serious consequences for the alliance.”

    Al Khawaja has consistently raised the issue of Bahrain human rights violations with countless members of Congress and administration officials over the last three years.  Her father is serving a life sentence for his part in the pro-democracy protest of 2011; U.S. officials should take this opportunity to call for his immediate release and the release of his fellow prisoners who are jailed for the peaceful expression of their views.   

    “The U.S. government response to Malinowski’s expulsion and McGovern’s denial of access to Bahrain has been horribly quiet,” said Dooley. “It already has a serious credibility problem with  Bahraini civil society which will only get worse if it fails to speak out about Maryam’s arrest and her father’s hunger strike. Bahrain is an increasingly embarrassing ally for the United States, and the Obama Administration should undertake a root and branch review of its relationship with the government there.”

    Al Khawaja’s sister Zainab told Human Rights First today that the family has not yet been allowed to see her or to send a towel into the detention center where she is being held. Her lawyer, Mohammed Al Jishi, told Human Rights First that he was not allowed to meet with her before her questioning at the public prosecutor’s office nor was he allowed to advise her of her rights during the questioning.

    Parliamentary elections are due in Bahrain in the coming months although the ruling family essentially controls the government, with the king’s uncles having been the kingdom’s unelected prime minister for over 40 years. Calls for reform and for the rule of law have been met with a violent crackdown and intimidation of those who call for rights.  Last week the State Department said that Malinowski had been invited back to Bahrain, a claim denied three days later by the Bahrain government.

    Link: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/us-government-should-speak-out-against-detention-bahrain-human-rights-defender-maryam

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    London, 1 September 2014 – REDRESS strongly condemns the detention in Bahrain on Saturday 30 August 2014 of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al­Khawaja. We call on the Bahraini authorities to release her immediately, as well as to release 13 other leading human rights defenders, including her father Abdulhadi Al­Khawaja, who are in jail serving lengthy prison terms after taking part in peaceful demonstrations demanding reform during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

    “REDRESS urges the international community, including diplomatic representatives in Bahrain and neighbouring Arab and Middle East States, to urgently press the Bahraini Government to free Maryam and all the other human rights defenders unjustly jailed in that country, and to ensure they are not mistreated,” said REDRESS Director Carla Ferstman. Ms Al­Khawaja is co­director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. She is a Danish­Bahraini citizen who lives in London. Ms Al­Khawaja was apprehended by authorities on her arrival at Bahrain International Airport on Saturday. She had travelled to Bahrain in an attempt to see
    her father, who had been on hunger strike since 24 August to protest his detention. On Sunday, she was charged with insulting the King, assaulting police officers and being involved with the rights campaign “Wanted for Justice.” Apparently, she has said that security officials told her that she was not welcome in Bahrain and that her Bahraini nationality had been revoked. She also has said she was not allowed to see a lawyer before her subsequent interrogation. She was then transferred for seven days to Isa Town Women’s Prison pending a court hearing.

    REDRESS is gravely concerned for Ms Al­Khawaja safety, given the ongoing allegations of torture of detainees and political prisoners in Bahrain. “It is vital that Danish consular officials urgently request and are given immediate access to Maryam to assess her welfare. Bahrain acceded to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in 1992 and it must grant such access without delay. Experience shows that mistreatment of detainees often occurs in the first few days in custody, and therefore timely consular access is of the essence, particular in a State such as Bahrain where there is so much torture,” said Ms Ferstman.

    REDRESS calls on European Union Member States to join forces, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders ­ which place particular attention on the risks faced by women human rights defenders, to condemn Maryam’s arrest, and to pursue additional demarches. REDRESS also urges the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, to examine and respond to information concerning Maryam’s arrest.The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) (an independent inquiry into events in Bahrain in 2011) uncovered systematic mistreatment of opposition protestors and political activists in custody. Among the techniques documented by the BICI report were: blindfolding; beating; hitting the detainees with rubber hoses, whips or wooden planks; electrocution; sleep deprivation; and threats of rape of the detainee or family members. All of these findings were accepted by King Hamad in November 2011; he said that they “must be dealt with urgently”. However, Bahrain has not met many of these commitments. REDRESS continues to receive regular reports of torture and ill­treatment in the post­BICI period. Human rights defenders and political activists such as Maryam Al­Khawaja are particularly at risk of such abuse. For further information or to seek an interview with the relatives of Mrs Maryam Al­Khawaja please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS’ Communications officer on
    eva@redress.org or +44 (0) 20 7793 1777 (office) or +44 (0) 7857110076 (mobile).


    About REDRESS:

    REDRESS has been helping torture survivors obtain justice and reparation since 1992. It works in partnership with like­minded organisations around the world to end impunity and eradicate the practice of torture worldwide. REDRESS has intervened in a range of leading torture cases in the UK and abroad. More information about our work is available on www.redress.org. REDRESS has been assisting Bahraini torture survivors to seek justice since the late 1990s. It has testified in the House of Lords on this issue and has brought to the attention of relevant UN human rights experts several cases involving the torture of political dissidents, including during the Arab Spring uprising.

    On 25 August 2014, REDRESS and 13 other human rights organisations wrote a joint letter to King Hamad urging his government to immediately release the 13 high­profile detainees imprisoned unjustly, and to allow an independent assessment of the therapeutic needs of all persons who were mistreated during their detention. In July 2014 REDRESS also wrote to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond expressing concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain and urging him to display consistency in the UK’s foreign policy towards the country: the FCO still does not consider Bahrain a “country of concern”. The letter
    was signed by a broad coalition of human rights organisations.

    For information on our work in Bahrain, see: http://www.redress.org/middle­east­and­north­africa/bahrain

    Link: http://www.redress.org/downloads/pr-maryam-al-khawaja-010914.pdf

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    Washington

    August 31, 2014

    In response to Bahrain’s arrest August 30 of Maryam al-Khawaja, a noted Bahraini human rights activist and daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who remains jailed for life on unjust political charges, Freedom House issued the following statement:

    "Bahrain’s arrest of Maryam al-Khawaja and the continued repression of the country’s Shi'a majority show the government’s intolerance of peaceful political protests and efforts to bring about greater political openness,” said Robert Herman, vice president of regional programs at Freedom House. “Al-Khawaja faces up to seven years imprisonment for the 'crime' of trying to visit her father in prison. The United States and other allies of Bahrain should press the government to reverse its actions against those campaigning for respect of basic freedoms.”

    Freedom House awarded Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights – and his daughters Maryam and Zainab – the 2012 Freedom Award.

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

    http://www.freedomhouse.org/article/bahrain-widens-repression-detaining-maryam-al-khawaja#.VAnjEVPLeME

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    Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
    Date: 5 September 2014
    Location:    Geneva
    Subject:    1) Bahrain & 2) Iraq

    1) Bahrain

    Ongoing violations of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the targeting of human rights activists in Bahrain remain of serious concern.

    Most recently, on 30 August, prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja was detained at Manama airport and then transferred to a women’s prison on charges of assaulting a police officer. Al-Khawaja is the daughter of the former president and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been in prison in Bahrain since 2011 and is currently on hunger strike, with his health reportedly deteriorating. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found the detention of Mr. Al-Khawaja and other political detainees to be arbitrary and called for their immediate release.

    Ms. Al-Khawaja, who resides in Denmark, had travelled to Bahrain to visit her father in prison when she was denied entry to her own country and detained at Bahrain airport upon landing, apparently because her Bahraini passport had expired. She was, however, travelling on her Danish passport. Her Danish passport was allegedly confiscated and Ms. Al-Khawaja was taken to Isa Town women's prison on charges of assaulting a police officer, pending investigation by the Public Prosecution. She is reportedly due to appear in court tomorrow.

    We are seriously concerned that Ms. Al-Khawaja’s arrest is linked to her legitimate work to promote human rights in Bahrain through the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, of which she is co-director.

    Separately, on 31 August, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bahrain upheld a 10-year sentence against photojournalist Ahmad Humaidan, who has been in detention since December 2012 when he was covering protests. He was convicted of taking part in an attack on a police station. Human rights defender Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, also had a 15-year sentence against him upheld in the Court of Appeal in May this year on charges of establishing a group for the purpose of disabling the Constitution.

    We also note with deep regret that 13 political activists, including Mr. Al-Khawaja, and two doctors detained in 2011 for peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, remain in prison, serving out long sentences. Hundreds of young people are still in detention or serving lengthy sentences for their participation in demonstrations.

    We urge the Government to take immediate steps to release Ms. Al-Khawaja and all human rights defenders and individuals detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights, and to ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their important work in an effective manner without fear of harassment or prosecution.

    The Office has been in touch with the authorities to raise our concerns on this case.
    - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14994&LangID=E#sthash.5VMz60uZ.dpuf

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    GENEVA (5 September 2014) – A group of United Nations independent human rights experts has urged the government of Bahrain to release prominent human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, who has been detained since 30 August on charges of assaulting a police officer.

    Ms. Al-Khawaja is the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. She is also the daughter of the former president and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been in detention since 2011 and who has been the subject of numerous calls by UN experts.

    Ms. Al-Khawaja was detained at Bahrain International Airport while travelling to visit her father in prison. She is currently being held at Isa Town women's prison on charges of assaulting a police officer pending investigation by the Public Prosecution. Reports say her Danish passport has been confiscated and that she has been denied access to a lawyer.

    “The detention and decision to bring charges against Ms. Al-Khawaja is deeply concerning. In absence of credible evidence, the Government of Bahrain should take immediate steps to release her,” the experts said.

    “Detention of civil society members who seek to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights is unacceptable,” they noted. “Defenders play a key role in holding States to account for the implementation of their human rights obligations, including at the international level. Their legitimate work should be fully respected.”

    The experts expressed their concern at the apparent continued harassment and imprisonment of individuals exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain. “The detention of Ms. Al-Khawaja is another patent measure of retaliation against individuals who advocate for human rights in the country,” the experts said.

    Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Michel Forst expressed serious concern at the human rights violations faced by defenders in Bahrain highlighting that the country had accepted recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review in 2012 to abandon any restriction on human rights defenders.

    “We call upon the Government of Bahrain to immediately implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the recommendations put forward during the country’s Universal Periodic Review to ensure that human rights defenders are protected and able to carry out their peaceful and legitimate work free of intimidation or persecution,” the experts urged.

    Recalling the two last-minute postponements of a visit to Bahrain by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in 2012 and 2013, which were considered as an effective cancellation, the experts called upon the Government to commit to and cooperate with all planned visits to the country. They also urged the Government to respond favourably to pending country visit requests by other Special Rapporteurs.

    ENDS

    Arbitrary Detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
    Freedom of expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
    Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx
    Peaceful assembly: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx
    - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14992&LangID=E#sthash.DfGgi5Ku.dpuf

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express concern at the ongoing ill-treatment of detained human rights defender Naji Fateel and call for his immediate release as he commences a hunger strike for freedom.

    On 1 September 2014, imprisoned human rights defender and the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)Naji Fateel announced the start of a hunger strike along with over 30 other prisoners at Jaw prison, including Ahmed Abbas, another imprisoned member of the BYSHR, in solidarity with the leading human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja who has been on hunger strike himself for over 13 days as of today, and also to demand their own release as their detention is due to the legitimate exercise of their rights of expression and assembly.

    Fateel has been detained since 2 May 2013 on charges of “setting up a terrorist group which aims to suspend the constitution and harm national unity” in relation to the opposition youth movement known as the 14 February Coalition. Information relating to torture and evidence of his torture were obvious during his trial, which fell short of international fair trial principles, despite the obvious marks from such treatment on his body no investigation was launched into the allegations of torture and he was instead sentenced to 15 years in prison on 29 September 2013. Furthermore, he suffers from inflammation and pain in his leg which was broken prior to his arrest and which he was beaten on during interrogation. He is in need of medical care to remove pins which were left in his leg from when it was splinted before arrest.

    According to reports, Fateel has been subjected to severe torture during interrogation in the notorious Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He has received electric shocks to his genitals, left foot, and back, and been subjected to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish photographs of his wife (taken from her camera which was confiscated when security forces raided the family home), verbal abuse, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats to rape him, standing for long hours, and sleep deprivation.

    Since his arrest, Fateel has been subjected to repeated acts of ill-treatment and ongoing poor prison conditions. On 26 August 2014, his family, having waited 15 minutes for Fateel to appear at a scheduled visit at Prison of Jaw, were informed by the prison officials that he was not going to attend the visit because he was in solitary confinement. His wife was not given any basis for this treatment.

    Fateel later called his wife and informed her that the reason for putting him – and others- in solitary confinement was because they had objected to the poor prison conditions, including lack of air conditioning in the current hot weather and unusable toilets, and demanding proper medical care for the many ill prisoners. Although he was taken out of solitary he said it might happen again as he will continue demanding improvements of these conditions.

    When his trial of appeal started in November 2013, the Bahraini authorities denied entry to a lawyer who was sent by international NGOs for trial observation. On 29 May 2014 the court of appeal upheld the 15 years imprisonment sentence of the human rights defender without investigating his torture allegations.

    The GCHR and the BCHR believe that the prosecution and sentences against the human rights defender Naji Fateel are solely related to his legitimate and peaceful activities in the field of human rights.

    The GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration and other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and leading human rights organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to: 

    1. Immediately and unconditionally release Naji Fateel and all human rights defenders and activists held in Bahrain as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;

    2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into all reports of alleged torture of Naji Fateel with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with international standards;

    3. Ensure the implementation of international standards related to interrogation, detention, and a fair trial, and to ensure the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and the defendant's right to innocence until proven guilty in a lawful court which meet the requirements of a fair trial.

    4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

     

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    06 September 2014 - 13th day hunger strike - Updates

    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has called his wife. She said his voice was very weak. When she asked him about his health he said "emotionally I am strong, physically its not in my hands anymore." and he added "It's not that I want to die; it's just that if I live I want to live as a free man. Think of it this way, we are free despite our chains, they are the prisoners despite their freedom. We sleep peacefully, because we are on a righteous path. They know of their atrocities and live in fear."

     

    01 September 2014 - 8th day hunger strike - Updates

    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is now in his 8th day of his hunger strike, and his health is in extreme danger. The family visited Adbulhadi Al-Khawaja this morning, and reported that he is very weak. Last night, doctors feared for his life after his blood sugar level would stubbornly not rise above 2.0, despite providing him with glucose in drinking water. They begged him to be transferred to a hospital, but he refused to be taken to any medical clinic. However, Abdulhadi consented to receiving an IV, and after this his blood sugar level rose to 11; it has stabilised this morning at 6. His blood pressure is at 80/55. He is suffering from a urinary track infection because of dehydration, and he has very little energy. The family requested an independent medical report from an Irish expert on these issues, and the full report can be found here

     

    30 August 2014 - 6th day hunger strike - Updates

    AlKhawaja has called his wife today. His blood sugar dropped to 2 and his blood pressure reached 90/55. He took water with glucose and his blood sugar increased to 3.1. He was visited by an official from the ombudsman for not more than five minutes. The official asked AlKhawaja about the reason of his hunger strike and if he knows it’s dangerous on his life. Alkhawaja passed a request through his wife to all NGOs to support the case of the prisoners who are currently on hunger strike at the dry dock detention center in Bahrain.

     

    29 August 2014 - 5th day hunger strike - Updates

    BCHR received information that HRD Abdulhadi AlKhawajah has called his family.  According to his wife, his voice was weak, and his breathing was heavy. He told his wife that after he fell on 28 August during prayer, a doctor, a nurse and an officer came to check his status. He did not lose consciousness. They wanted to give him IV fluids but he refused. He was given water with glucose and salts. His blood sugar increased to 3.1, and his blood pressure reached 95/55. He has severe muscular pain and in lower back. The doctor suspected a problem with the liver or kidneys but a blood test this morning (29 August) came back negative. Alkhawaja will continue his hunger strike. He will take water with glucose and salts to avoid losing consciousness. The doctor informed him that his condition is serious. Glucose is a temporary solution, but a sudden heart attack or coma are both possible if blood sugar continue to go down.

     

    28 August 2014 - 4th day hunger strike - Update

    This afternoon, BCHR received information that was reported by another inmate that shares a cell with Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja that he fell unconscious during prayers. No further information was provided to the family despite several calls made to the prison administration office.

    His daughter Zainab AlKhawaja, attempted to reach the prison to check on his health. She was arrested and transferred to Riffa police station where she was charged with “entering a restricted area”. She was released at late hour after midnight.

     

    26 August 2014- 2nd day hunger strike- Update

    On Monday the 25th of August 2014, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja sent an official letter to the Director of Jau Prison and to the related official and judicial parties, to inform them of his beginning an open-ended hunger strike in protest against the continuation of arbitrary detention. In this letter, he mentioned his case and the decision of the arbitrary arrest committee of the United Nations which, after studying his case file, stated this his detention is considered arbitrary.

    Mr. AlKhawaja clarified in this letter his complete refusal to recieve any kind of intravenous fluids or to be transferred to the hospital, including Jau prison clinic. His reason for this is what he was subjected to during his previous hunger strike (which lasted from the 9th of February to the 28th of May 2012) as he was forcibly transferred to the Bahrain Defence Force hospital (BDF), where he was forced to stay in isolation for a long period and was intermittently forbidden any contact with his family, lawyer, or the Danish embassy. This absence of communication was taken advantage of by the government to feed the media incorrect information. The intravenous fluids were also used to administer an anesthetic which caused him to lose consciousness long enough for them to tie him to the hospital bed and forcibly feed him through a nasogastric tube. This was done despite promises made to the contrary in front of the international red cross and the Danish Ambassador. Mr. AlKhawaja also mentioned what his daughter, Zainab Al-Khawaja, was subjected to when she attempted to visit him at the Fort Clinic and the BDF hospital as she was mistreated and detained, and then taken to court after they falsely accused her of assaulting security personnel.

    Finally, Mr. Al-Khawaja stated that during this hunger strike he will be refusing all food and drinks except water, and consents to having tests done in the prison building where he is currently detained along with 12 other activists and political leaders who were arrested following the events of February 14, 2011.

    Mr. AlKhawaja was visited by the officer on duty yesterday afternoon to inform him that his letter has been delivered to the officials, in an attempt to convince him to end his hungerstrike. He was visited again at 9pm along with the prison physician who attempted to convince him to agree to have intravenous fluids administered as the tests showed that his blood sugar levels had dropped to 3.7 mmol/L. Al-Khawaja refused.

    As of the morning of 26 August 2014, Mr. AlKhawaja's blood sugar level reached 3.1 mmol/L and his weight is 63 kg. 

     

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    Sunday 24 August 2014, Bahrain - Joint Statement: Bahrain: Prominent Human Rights Defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to Start a New Hunger Strike

    Prominent human rights defender and founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has declared an open hunger strike “in protest against the continuation of arbitrary arrest and detention.” In a statement made to members of his immediate family during a visit today, Mr. AlKhawaja declared that he would refuse all food and liquids with the exception of water. He also informed his family that due to the drugging, force feeding and the forced ending of his last hunger strike, he will also refuse to be taken to any hospital, the prison clinic or to receive any IV treatment during his strike.

    Mr. Al-Khawaja was arbitrary arrested on 9 April 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in a grossly unfair trial for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activism. He was subjected to torture during both his arrest and detention. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) found that this torture included severe beatings, sodomy, and psychological abuse resulting in a broken jaw which required immediate surgery. He was also sexually abused at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital. His case (Number 8) is among the 60 cases of torture and/or ill treatment included in the annex of its report.

    In October 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the detention of Mr. Al-Khawaja to be arbitrary in contravention of articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, paragraph 3, and 14, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called for his immediate release as an adequate remedy. They also raised doubts over the charges leveled against Mr. Al-Khawaja and found that the Government of Bahrain violated international norms to the right to a fair trial.

    In April 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers called for the immediate release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.

    Archived photo from the 2012 hunger strike

    Mr. Al-Khawaja started a hunger strike in 2012 that lasted 110 days to protest his arbitrary detention. During his strike, Mr. Al-Khawaja was drugged through an IV injection, restrained to the hospital bed and then force fed by a painful procedure using a tube through the nose at the Bahrain Defense Hospital. He now suffers from a number of medical conditions as a result of his treatment in detention. This has included cramps in his facial muscles, and acute pain in his coccyx as a direct result of torture. In 2014, Mr. Al-Khawaja was also informed that his medical files have “gone missing”. He has not received the adequate medical treatment necessary to treat his medical conditions nor any rehabilitation for the torture suffered during detention in direct breach of Bahrain’s obligations under Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture. Mistreatment during imprisonment has continued, mainly through the systematic refusal of access to adequate medical treatment.

    We reiterate demands made for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Al-Khawaja and all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain from detention and the repeal of all their sentences. We remain concerned over continuing allegations of mistreatment in detention and remind authorities of their obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We also call for impartial investigations over allegations of systematic torture and the prosecution of all those involved in committing, overseeing and/or enabling torture and/or ill-treatment to take place. In addition, all torture survivors must be provided with rehabilitation and reprieve by the authorities.

     

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern at the adoption by the Bahraini authorities of the revocation of citizenship as a means to put pressure on activists and pro-democracy campaigners. The tactic is used to deprive them of their right to freedom of expression and to form peaceful gatherings to claim self-determination. On 6 August 2014 the Fourth High Criminal Court, presided over by Judge Khalifa Al-Dhahrani[1], issued a sentence to revoke the citizenship of 9 Bahrainis, after charging them with spying for the Iranian National Guard, forming a terrorist organization and smuggling weapons into Bahrain[2].

    The Court based its sentence on the legitimacy of Article (2) of Decree Law No. (20) of 2013 which protects society from terrorist acts and states: ‘In addition to the penalty prescribed, citizenship can be withdrawn from those convicted with the crimes stated in Articles (5), (9), (12) and (17) of this law; the withdrawal sentence is effective only after ratification by the King.’

    The chief public prosecutor, Wael Buallay, stated that those who had their citizenship revoked had been convicted with forming a terrorist organization that aims to smuggle weapons into Bahrain and free a group of detainees at the Dry Dock Detention Center. He said that the Court based its sentence on the confessions of detainees in addition to a map that one of them had in his possession showing the layout of the Dry Dock Detention Center[3]. He added in a statement that it is likely citizenship will be withdrawn from those convicted in terrorist cases in future, especially since the decision to revoke citizenship has become a mandatory matter for the court, and leaves no room for the judge’s assessment[4]. Following is a list of names of detainees whose citizenships have been revoked, according to a report by one of their lawyers:

    NO.

    Name

    Age

    Sentence

    1

    Hamed Jaffar Mohammed

    30 years

    15 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    2

    Nedhal Ali Mohammed Isa

    30 years

    15 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    3

    Ali Riyad Hameed Ali Sangoor

    34 years

    15 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    4

    Hussein Jassim Isa Al-Banaa

    24 years

    22 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    5

    Sayed Hashim Radhi Hassan Majid

    22 years

    7 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    6

    Mohammed Abbas Ebrahim Mahdi

    25 years

    7 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    7

    Ali Hasan Adam Qaher

    25 years

    7 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    8

    Ali Ahmed Al-Asfoor

    25 years

    7 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

    9

    Jalal Ali Mohammed Ali

    22 years

    7 years imprisonment and withdrawal of citizenship

     

    The authorities have previously revoked the citizenship of 31 Bahraini nationals, among them two former MPs, clerics and a lawyer, in addition to political activists and a woman. They were all accused of harming Bahrain’s security[5]. Based on this sentence, Sheikh Hussein Al-Najati was deported[6], in a move seen by international human rights organizations as sectarian persecution and a violation of the legal system. The lawyer Taymoor Karimi – who had his citizenship revoked – was also prevented from of practicing his job, although he had not received an official decision of the matter[7]. The Ministry of Interior summoned those who had their citizenship revoked and asked them to adjust their situation – it threatened them with legal action if they did not respond to the request[8].

    The BCHR considers the approach of the authorities in making this punishment law merely a tool to put pressure on activists and intimidate others from practicing their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful protest and self-determination. This is especially concerning given that the sanction of citizenship withdrawal is equal to the death penalty in terms of its gravity. Moreover, the phrase “protecting the community from terrorist acts” is broad, and no appendix has been released to explain its details, despite the of the sentence and its consequences. This act contradicts Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, ‘(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.’

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and concerned international institutions to exercise real pressure on the government of Bahrain in order to:

    • Restore citizenship to all citizens who were included in the decision of withdraw citizenship.
    • Halt the policy of citizenship withdrawal used as a punishment against opponents who practice their right to freedom of expression.
    • Join and adhere to the 1954 UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

     

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    September 08, 2014

    Dear Ambassador,

    The undersigned international and regional human rights organisations write to urge your delegation to repeat your June call for the release of Bahraini human rights defenders and political activists who have been imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights. In view of the imminent risk to the life of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent rights activist, who began a hunger strike on August 24 in protest at his unlawful detention, we urge you to go further and call for his immediate release and that of 12 other high-profile dissidents in Bahrain who were convicted in the same trial for their peaceful political activism.

    In June 2014, your government signed a joint statement at the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in which you called for the “release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders, some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”

    Bahrain has hundreds of political prisoners who have been jailed for legitimate acts of protest, but this description clearly encompasses the 13 high-profile activists, whose ongoing detention is of the utmost concern, notably Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who was the only Bahraini prisoner at that time whose detention the Working Group had addressed and classified as arbitrary on July 13, 2012.

    In June 2011, a military court convicted 21 leading activists on charges that included broadcasting “false and tendentious news and rumors,” promoting the replacement of Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government and “inciting” people to engage in demonstrations and marches. The 14 defendants who were in custody – seven were convicted in absentia - appealed the military court verdict. During subsequent proceedings in the Supreme Appellate Court, civilian prosecutors purportedly withdrew charges for “crimes linked with freedom of expression.” In reality, and based on analysis of court documents, prosecutors continued to pursue charges based upon the defendants’ advocating the establishment of a republican form of government in Bahrain and related activities. For example, the court found that Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and others had “propagated the overthrow of the state’s political order.” It found that members of the group “worked assiduously to frustrate” a “national dialogue,” choosing instead to “advocate the declaration of a republic in the country” and that members of the group attended various protests. The court concluded only that the defendants had engaged in a variety of acts of political protest—acts that are protected under international and Bahraini law. Despite this, the court ruled that all defendants were guilty of terrorism (except for one defendant whom the military court had acquitted of this charge) and affirmed the prison terms that the military courts had pronounced, including 3 life sentences, one of which was for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

    Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s hunger strike is in protest at the unlawfulness of his detention and the detention of others, whose only “crime” has been to call for political reform using recognized and protected tools of peaceful political protest.

    We welcome and appreciate your government’s call for the release of human rights activists in June 2014, and now urge you to publicly and unilaterally repeat that call by explicitly naming them in the interests of human rights and reform in Bahrain, which will be further jeopardised in the event of the death of an innocent and courageous human rights activist.

    We would also urge you to publicly express your concerns over the detention of Maryam al-Khawaja, who is facing charges of assaulting a police officer after her arrest in Manama airport on August 30. We fear her arrest, like that of her father’s, may be as a direct result of her human rights work.

    Sincerely,

     

    • Americans for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain
    • Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
    • Civicus
    • Frontline Defenders
    • Gulf Center for Human Rights
    • Human Rights Watch
    • Redress

    PDF copy of the letter

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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights condemns the practices of the Interior Ministry, including its continued practice of disappearing detainees, making them unable to contact their lawyers or families. The most recent of these violations occurred in the case of the 36-year old Bahraini national Tawfeeq Al Towk. After his arrest by regime forces, Tawfeek’s family did not hear from him for days.

    Tawfeek’s family have informed BCHR that civil forces, alongside regime forces, executed a dawn raid on a house in Sitra on 2 September 2014. Tawfeek was arrested, after his car was impounded. Nothing was heard from him until his family received a brief phone-call from him on 5 September, in which he informed them that he was at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). The line was cut off immediately afterwards. To find out the charges against Tawfeek, one of his brothers went to the CID on 6 September, but was unable to get a clear answer. He then went to al-Hodh al-Jaf Prison, where he was able to make an appointment to visit his brother Tawfeek. This proved that he was being held in the prison, and was not given permission to contact his family. Tawfeek’s family attempted to visit him on the given date, 9 September, but after waiting half an hour they were told that he was not in the prison. The official in charge of visitation told them that Tawfeek had been held in cell 3, but that he had been transferred back to the Criminal Investigations Directorate. Up until 12 September, Tawfeek’s family has not received any news from him. It should also be mentioned that Tawfeek has not been able to contact a lawyer, in clear violation of Paragraph B, part 3 of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that all those suspected of a crime have the following guarantee, given on equal terms, while their case is being considered: “to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing.”

    The week beginning 1 September saw the arrest of 41 Bahraini citizens, including 2 children. Five of those arrested were later released. Among the original arrestees were 20 young men who were sought in relation to political cases, including 3 photographers from al-Duraz. Regime forces executed a wide-reaching campaign of house raids in addition to a number of chases in residential neighborhoods in various villages. This campaign resulted in the arrest of 5 youths in the al-Duraz area, just 24 hours after the arrest of 8 people in al-Muqshaa. 7 youths had previously been arrested in Muqaba. It should be mentioned here that the security services in Bahrain have handed down arbitrary sentences, including long prison terms, to thousands of young people on the basis of their peaceful activism. Others have been placed in preventive detention centres. They are held without facing trial, and face an extension of their detention for months, during which no charge has yet been submitted against them.

    The families of some of those recently detained have reported that news of their relatives has been cut off for periods of over 6 days, despite receiving brief phone calls informing them that their loved ones are being held at the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. The family of the 26-year old detainee Salman Abbas Salman reported that he and some others were arrested in al-Muqshaa at 20:00 local time on Thursday 3 September 2014. Two hours after his arrest, Salman’s family received a short phone call from him, informing them that he was at the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. After that, they heard nothing from him until 10 September, when his family went to investigate and learned that he was being held at al-Hodh al-Jaf Prison.

    The family of 21-year old detainee Hussein Hilal al-Zaki informed the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights that their son had been arrested at a house near his home in the village of Maqaba on the evening of Thursday 4 September. Hussein’s family received a phone call from him two hours after his arrest, informing them that he was being held in the Headquarters of Criminal Investigations. After that, they received no news from him until the morning of Wednesday 10 September. It should be mentioned that regime forces raided Hussein al-Zaki’s house on Saturday 6 September – they searched the property and its contents and terrifying the people inside. The raid lasted approximately an hour and a half, and security forces did not show any search warrant. Hussein’s family approached the Interior Ministry ombudsman to establish that their relative was safe, but they were not able to get a clear answer.

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that these systematic practices on the part of Interior Ministry officials corroborate the allegations of human rights activists, who report an ever-increasing policy of impunity. This is leading to swelling ranks of victims, including those who are detained and stripped of their ability to defend themselves.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States and all other allies of the Bahraini government to put pressure on the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • Release all detainees held on account of political cases.
    • Hold those responsible for violations accountable, and try them before just and unbiased courts.

     

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    Update- 18 Sep 2014

    The following reply was recieved from Human Rights Denfender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja via his wife:

     

    16 Sep 2014 - We on behalf of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) urge you to immediately stop your hunger strike. We well know your willingness to sacrifice your life for the freedom of the people of Bahrain, as you are about to enter the day 24 of your hunger strike where your life is at grave risk.

    We believe that you have achieved the objectives of the protest in terms of reaching and influencing public opinion across the world. You have truly brought attention to bear on the flagrant violations that are happening in Bahrain against yourself, your colleagues who are detained human rights defenders and the rest of citizens in Bahrain.

    We call on you to stop the hunger strike forthwith in order to preserve the lives of your fellow human rights defenders, who are forcibly detained in prisons, who continue their hunger strike in solidarity with you. The lives of some of them are in great danger; among them are elderly defenders, one of whom is suffering from heart disease.

    Finally, we appeal to you to stop this hunger strike on behalf of the GCHR & BCHR, both organisations that you took the initiative to found. In doing this you created organisations dedicated to the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights in Bahrain and across the region.

    We, your supporters, lovers of freedom across the world, hope beyond hope that you respond to this appeal.

    The GCHR & BCHR

     


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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express concern over the arrest of women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain.

    On 15 September 2014, Jamsheer was arrested and a detention order of seven days was issued against her on charges of defamation on twitter[1]. This comes after she was summoned for interrogation at the criminal investigation directorate (CID) on 9 September 2014 in relation to her tweets about corruption at King Hamad University Hospital. The activist has been actively tweeting (https://twitter.com/Ghada_Jamsheer) in recent days about her observations about the ill management of the hospital through close relatives of a single family. After her interrogation at CID she said that the case brought against her is by Salman Attiyat Allah Al Khalifa, a member of the Bahrain ruling family, and the head of the hospital. She continued tweeting after that and up until her arrest.

    Ghada Jamsheer is the President of the Women's Petition Committee (WPC), a network of Bahraini women human rights defenders who campaign for the codification of Bahrain’s family laws and their reform. She is effectively banned from the national Bahrain media. Her online blog http://bahrain-eve.blogspot.com/ has been blocked in Bahrain since at least 2009.

    GCHR and BCHR believe the arrest and prosecution of Jamsheer is in direct violation to her right to freedom of expression. We therefore call for her immediate release and to drop all charges against her.

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    18 SEPTEMBER 2014—GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) note with cautious optimism the release of prominent Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja from detention. However, we remain concerned that the Government of Bahrain has yet to drop charges against the human rights activist and has imposed a travel ban on Maryam. Bahraini authorities arrested Maryam at the Manama airport on 30 August and have accused her of assaulting a lieutenant and a policewoman.

    “We are very pleased with Maryam’s release and sincerely thank the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights for its coordination on the matter,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director. “We also thank the United Nations missions who expressed concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain, including the detention of the al-Khawajas, during the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, including Ireland, Norway and Denmark.”

    Maryam, whose imprisonment garnered internationalattention, returned to Bahrain from exile to visit her ailing father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender held as a prisoner of conscience serving a life sentence delivered in 2011. Abdulhadi’s has greatly deteriorated since he began a hunger strike on 25 August.

    “While I am overjoyed for Maryam, I remain concerned over the condition of my friend, Abdulhadi,” said Nabeel Rajab, who cofounded BCHR with the imprisoned rights activist. “The government may have responded to international pressure in Maryam’s case, but officials still refuse to release Abudlhadi, Ibrahim Sharif, Naji Fateel, and many other prisoners of conscience from arbitrary imprisonment.”

    “Maryam’s release is a positive step, but we remain troubled that the government has not dropped the unfounded charges against her,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaie, Advocacy Director of BIRD. “We fear that she will, like so many other released detainees caught in Bahrain’s unjust legal system, live under the constant fear of re-arrest.”

    ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR reiterate their call for Bahrain’s government to release all political prisoners and end the practices of torture and arbitrary detention.

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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its concern at the escalation of a campaign by the Bahraini authorities targeting freedom of expression on the Internet and prosecuting activists, human rights workers and broadcasters over views expressed on social media. Authorities create legal cases against them – sometimes with the aim of threatening them, and sometimes seeking to silence them and disappear them behind prison bars. This is the case particularly after recent directives from the King and the Prime Minister ordering that activists on social media be pursued.

    On 27 August 2014 the general prosecutor questioned human rights activist Nader Abdulemam (@NaderAbdulEmam)  after three people, according to the prosecutor, accused him of “denigrating the companion Khalid Bin al-Waleed*” on his personal Twitter account. The charge was based on a tweet he published commenting on a historical event that occurred 1,400 years ago, and Abdulemam was accused of “openly insulting a person exalted in the religion.” The authorities ordered that he be detained for seven days during the investigation[1], a period that was subsequently extended until 28 September. It should be mentioned here that one of the complainants retweeted the Tweet he considered “defamatory” – it was then retweeted more than 680 times, which is more than the re-tweets of the original post by Abdulemam.

    Nader Abdulemam is known nationally as a human rights defender and a frequent attendee of local democracy summits. In February 2014 he joined with a group of other activists to demand that the Ministry of Social Development proclaim a new human rights organization called “Insaf” [Equity], which would fight the very real discrimination against citizens and people living in Bahrain, of all different social groups and sects[2]. They are still waiting for the Ministry’s response. Abdulemam is active through his writings on the social media programme Twitter – he has 97,000 followers. This was not the first time that Abdulemam is targeted, and he has been investigated on numerous occasions. On 12 January 2012 he received a direct hit to the face from a teargas canister during a peaceful demonstration in the capital Manama.

    On 31 August 2014 the general prosecutor questioned Yacoub Al-Slaise (@ysLaise) , a political activist and leader of the Open Youth Coalition. He was questioned over a Tweet he posted on his Twitter page on 7 June 2014, which centred on what he called problems in the parliamentary election process and where he mentioned that the military personnel were to be allowed to vote, but their votes are likely to be controlled by the state. The general prosecutor accused him of “openly defaming the army.” and ordered that he be detained during the investigation. However, the judge at the First Criminal Court allowed Al-Slaise to be released on condition that he stays at his stated address. The judge decided to postpone his trial to a session to be held on 13 October 2014.[3] Al-Slaise has been tried on numerous occasions previously, on the basis of tweets published from his account.[4]

    On 9 September 2014 the "Department of Electronic Crimes" at the criminal prosecutor called feminist activist and women's rights defender Ghada Jamsheer (@Ghada_Jamsheer) for investigation. The activist said in a subsequent tweet that the investigation had been prompted by her writings on Twitter about corruption at Hamad al-Jamii Hospital on al-Muhriq Island. She wrote that she will be tried in 10 cases, one of which was brought forward by hospital leader General Doctor Salman Atiyat Allah Al Khalifa, a member of the ruling family. The activist had written that the high positions at the hospital are divided among members of one family. It should be mentioned that her blog (http://bahrain-eve.blogspot.com) has been blocked in Bahrain for several years. On 15 September 2014, Jamsheer was arrested and a detention order of seven days was issued against her on charges of defamation on twitter.[5]

    The King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, issued a directive during a visit to the Bahraini Defence Forces on 3 September 2014, saying that he will fight "wrongful use" of social media by legal means. He indicated that "there are those who attempt to exploit social media networks to publish negative thoughts, and to cause breakdown in society, under the pretext of freedom of expression or human rights."[6] Prior to that, the Prime Minister, and uncle of King Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, issued orders during a session of the council of ministers on 26 August 2014, for "those who incite hatred on social media to be held accountable and for steps to be taken to prevent those inciting terrorism and social breakdown, whether through statements or publications, so that nobody can wrongly believe they are above accountability."[7]

    Significantly, 16 social media users have spent time in prison in 2014 because of items posted on social media, particularly on Twitter and Instagram. Abd AliKhair is still serving a 10-year sentence for forwarding a message on the social messaging service WhatsApp, while the photographer Hussein Habil and the blogger Jasim al-Naimi are still serving 5-year sentences on charges of wrongful use of social media. 

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that this escalation in the campaign against social media users comes in the light of a wider attempt to quell the political unrest that has continued for over three years, and to use suppression as the sole method of replying to popular demands. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that the Bahraini authorities are formulating accusations and using them as a tool to silence voices calling for reform and democracy in the country, using law as a cover. Investigating people writing on social media, or public speech or for writings on websites and other forms of peaceful expression and referring them for criminal proceedings is a direct violation of Bahrain's pledge to respect the freedom of peaceful expression under the International Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states in Article 19: everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other allies and relevant international institutions to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to: 

    • Immediately release activists Nader Abdulemam and Ghada Jamsheer and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.
    • Drop all accusations against activists for exercising their right to peaceful expression of opinion, based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and stop investigating Twitter users for their opinions.
    • Immediately abolish all laws restricting freedoms and that violate basic human rights as laid out by the International Declaration of Human Rights.
    • Reform the criminal justice system to ensure that it adheres to international standards regarding the required legal proceedings and fair trials.

     

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