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- 09/22/14--02:03: _The Centre for Acad...
- 09/23/14--08:08: _BCHR Report: Statel...
- 09/22/14--14:00: _GCHR: Bahrain: Prom...
- 09/26/14--00:50: _Amnesty Int'l: Bahr...
- 09/26/14--00:54: _Amnesty Int'l: Bahr...
- 09/26/14--01:06: _Bahrain Watch: ‘F...
- 09/26/14--01:16: _GISWatch: The strug...
- 09/26/14--01:38: _Human rights in Bah...
- 09/27/14--03:01: _Targeting ‘Waad’ So...
- 09/27/14--03:14: _MEPs meets Nabeel R...
- 09/27/14--03:22: _Statements and Inte...
- 09/29/14--09:00: _Bahrain: Human Righ...
- 10/01/14--11:14: _Bahrain: Arrest Of ...
- 10/03/14--10:05: _OHCHR Alarmed By De...
- 10/03/14--10:20: _State Department ex...
- 10/04/14--01:39: _BCHR Management
- 10/04/14--14:05: _HRW: Bahrain: Right...
- 10/04/14--14:23: _Amnesty: Bahrain mu...
- 10/04/14--14:33: _Frontline Defenders...
- 10/05/14--11:15: _ Bahraini critics f...
- 09/23/14--08:08: BCHR Report: Stateless in Bahrain
- Free all prisoners of conscience, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and other human rights defenders detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.
- 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.
- Urging the authorities to drop the charge against Nader Abdulemam of “insulting a figure of worship”, as it arises solely from his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression;
- Urging them to release him immediately, as he appears to have been detained only on charges that are contrary to the right to freedom of expression.
- Stop targeting civil society institutions, including political societies
- Release the leaders of political opposition societies and guarantee their right to express their opinion
- 09/27/14--03:14: MEPs meets Nabeel Rajab, other activists
- Immediately release the leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and drop all charges against him relating to freedom of expression, as well as all other detained human rights defenders, and end the harassment of Bahraini human rights defenders and activists.
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Bahrain and all countries are able to conduct their human rights work without fear of reprisals.
- 10/03/14--10:05: OHCHR Alarmed By Detention of Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab
- 10/04/14--01:39: BCHR Management
- 10/04/14--14:05: HRW: Bahrain: Rights Activist Detained
- 10/05/14--11:15: Bahraini critics face threat of statelessness
In Bahrain, a total of 45 religious sites, including historic mosques and shrines, have been demolished totally, damaged partially, or vandalised during the government’s GCC-assisted military crackdown, aimed at quelling an anti-government protest movement which emerged on February 14, 2011. The demolition of religious sites took place during a period of ‘national security’ announced by the Bahraini government on March 14, 2011, when troops of the Gulf Cooperation Council Peninsula Shield entered the country; the crackdown lasted until June 1, 2011.
The full report by the Centere for Academic Shi'a Studies can be read here.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights publishes today a report on people living in Bahrain without a nationality. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”. The government of Bahrain has violated this human right for over 2,000 people including 40 Bahraini individuals who were stripped of their nationality in the last two years.
The Bahraini government uses the practice of revoking nationality as a tool to punish political opponents, not only affecting the victims themselves but their families. This report provides a background to the issue of statelessness in Bahrain, explaining just who the stateless are and detailing the cases of several people affected by this gross violation of human rights.
Read the full report here.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has decided that tomorrow 23 September 2014 will be the last day of his hunger strike. Al-Khawaja is the founder and former head of the GCHR, and the former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
On 22 September 2014, Al-Khawaja informed his family and administrator of Jaw prison, where he has been imprisoned for the last three and a half years, that Tuesday, 23 September 2014, will be the final day of his 30-day hunger strike.
He also said that, “This will not be the last hunger strike as long as the arbitrary detention continues.” Local sources confirmed that Al-Khawaja ended his hunger strike out of concern for other detained human rights defenders who are on hunger strike in solidarity with him, especially after two collapsed today.
On 16 September 2014, the GCHR and the BCHR urged Al-Khawaja to immediately stop his hunger strike. Their letter said, “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.”
Al-Khawaja in his reply to the letter said, “As the world can see we are in a situation where our only choice to demand rights and freedoms is by risking our lives.”
The GCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
The 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, recognizes 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): “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.”
UA: 240/14 Index: MDE 11/031/2014 Bahrain Date: 25 September 2014
Bahraini activist Nader Abdulemam is being tried for “insulting” a figure of worship. Amnesty International believes he is being targeted for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Nader Abdulemam, aged 41, was arrested on 27 August after he was summoned to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where he was questioned about comments he had posted on Twitter which were interpreted as derogatory towards Khalid bin al-Waleed, a companion of the prophet Muhammad and a renowned Islamic commander. He was charged under articles 92/3 and 310/2 of the Bahraini Penal Code which criminalize “publicly insulting a religious figure of worship”. The first hearing before the court started on 9 September, with the second due on 28 September. Nader Abdulemam is being detained in Dry Dock prison, northeast of the capital, Manama.
Article 310 of the Bahraini Penal Code carries a penalty of up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 100 Bahraini Dinars (US$265) for “publicly insulting a symbol or person considered sacred to members of a particular religious sect”. Laws which prohibit criticism or ridicule of a religion or belief system are incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a state party.
Nader Abdulemam is also awaiting several trials on different charges for “illegal gathering” because he took part in a demonstration in Manama. The government introduced new decrees in 2013 banning demonstrations in the capital.
Please write immediately in English, Arabic or your own language:
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 6 NOVEMBER 2014 TO:
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
Salutation: Your Excellency
And copies to:
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1753 1284
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.
Amnesty International has expressed concern to the Bahraini government for many years regarding laws that prohibit the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Several people have been sentenced under Article 214 of the Penal Code which, together with Articles 215 and 216, criminalizes “offending the King, the national flag or emblem, a foreign country or international organization, the National Assembly or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, government authorities or government agencies”. These Articles violate the right to freedom of expression since they impose restrictions that are not permissible under international law and criminalize the exercise of human rights.
Name: Nader Abdulemam
Gender m/f: m
UA: 240/14 Index: MDE 11/031/2014 Issue Date: 25 September 2014
23 September 2014
Index: MDE 11/030/2014
Amnesty International welcomes the Bahraini government’s publication of its Interim Report on the implementation of the recommendations made during the UN Human Right Council’s Universal Period Review (UPR) in 2012. While a number of positive steps have been taken, the organization remains concerned that key human rights concerns have yet to be addressed. Considerable efforts are still needed if Bahrain is to deliver on promises made two years ago.
Bahrain expressed its acceptance of 156 recommendations – 143 of them fully and 13 of them partially – out of the 176 made during the UPR in May 2012. In their Interim Report, the Bahraini authorities referred to a number of legal and institutional reforms, which they said are part of their implementation of these recommendations. Some of the reforms, especially those related to torture and other ill-treatment, freedom of expression and fair trials, for instance, are inadequate and often not implemented in practice.
The authorities have brought the definition of torture in the national legislation in line with international standards and criminalized acts of torture by introducing a number of amendments to the Penal Code. While eradicating torture in legislation is an important step, this has had little impact in practice. Reports of torture and other ill-treatment continue to reach Amnesty International. Many detainees have said they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated during interrogation when they were held incommunicado, especially in the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Manama, the capital. The first time the detainees are able to talk about their ordeal is when they are brought before officials of the Public Prosecution for interrogation, when they meet their relatives or when they appear in court to stand trial. These allegations are often not adequately investigated or, in some cases, were dismissed after preliminary investigations.
The Bahraini authorities have also declared that they had implemented recommendations relating to freedom of expression, association and assembly by introducing amendments to the Penal Code, in particular by abolishing Articles 134bis and 174, limiting criminalization of spreading information harmful to the state to cases of incitement to violence (Article 168), and interpreting limitations on freedom of expression in line with what is “necessary in a democratic society” as specified in Article 69bis. However, no amendments were made to a number of articles in the Penal Code which continue to criminalize offending the King, the national flag or emblem, a foreign country or international organization (Articles 214, 215 and 216). Instead, the authorities have increased the penalties for “insulting the king” to up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 10,000 BDN (US$ 26,000) and toughened them further if the “offence” happens in the presence of the king.
A number of individuals have been imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression. For instance, prisoner of conscience Dr Sa'eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji was sentenced on 11 December 2013 to one year in prison for “publicly insulting the King of Bahrain”. He was convicted under articles 92(2) and 214 of the Penal Code. He was arrested on 1 July 2014 to serve his sentence after an appeal court upheld the verdict in April 2014. Thirteen other prisoners of conscience, known as the 13 opposition activists, continue to serve prison sentences behind bars.
The authorities have put further restrictions on political associations. In September 2013 a new decree was introduced requiring political associations to inform the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs three days in advance of their meetings with foreign political organizations, including diplomatic representatives or foreign government officials visiting the country, and to do so in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Such meetings must take place in the presence of a government official. In 2014, further amendments were made which empowered the Minister of Justice to file cases to close or dissolve political associations. Freedom of assembly is also limited with the ban on demonstrations in Manama still in force. As yet, no plans have been made to lift it ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in November.
Human rights defenders face restrictions and are being targeted because of their human rights work. A number of them have already been forced to leave Bahrain to escape prosecution for their work. Others have criminal cases pending against them. For example, Maryam Al-Khawaja was detained at Manama International Airport after coming from abroad. She was held for 20 days before she was released on bail on the orders of the High Criminal Court on 18 September. Her trial is scheduled to start on 1 October on a charge of “assaulting police officers”.
In response to recommendations on ensuring fair trials, the authorities referred to the fact that cases tried before the National Safety Court (a military court) in 2011 were transferred to civilian courts after October 2011, but made no reference to whether there are any plans to guarantee, in legislation and practice, the right to fair trials for all defendants and to ensure the independence of the judiciary. Lawyers and defendants, particularly in security and anti-terrorism cases, complain they are not allowed to mount a meaningful defence. Torture allegations made in the court are not adequately investigated and requests by lawyers to stay the trial until a final decision is reached in relation to torture complaints have gone unheeded by trial judges.
In a number of cases, defendants were convicted on the basis of “confessions” which they denied in court and said were extracted from them under torture. This is the case for the “14 February Coalition” trial, where many defendants were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison despite widespread torture allegations. Defence lawyers in the case known as the “Diah Explosion Trial” in connection with a bombing in March 2014 which killed three policemen, repeatedly complained of the restrictions imposed on them by the court, including not allowing them to speak to their clients as well as denying them proper access to the court documents. Some defendants also told the judge they were tortured.
In addition, accountability for human rights violations is taking place at a very slow pace and with little satisfaction to the victims and their relatives. The Bahraini authorities have only been able to prosecute and bring to court a small number of cases and most of them resulted in acquittals or with the defendant receiving sentences that seem to not be consistent with the gravity of the offences of killing or torture leading to death.
Amnesty International calls on the authorities to lift their restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly and to release all prisoners of conscience held solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights; to systematically and adequately investigate any allegations of torture, make the full results public and bring those responsible to justice; to order courts to dismiss all “confessions” extracted under torture. Investigations into abuses must show they have been conducted thoroughly and “be capable of leading to the prosecution of the implicated individuals, both direct and at all levels of responsibility, with a view to ensuring that punishment be consistent with the gravity of the offence,” as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), set up by the King to investigate abuses that took place as part of the 2011 uprising.
State must liberalise the media sector, give equal access & offer equal representation
Bahrain Watch today released its Fabrigate project, listing 25 news stories that exemplify how state propaganda fabricates quotes by high-profile officials to support the Bahraini government’s narrative.
Since the 2011 pro-democracy protests, state-run Bahrain News Agency and state-controlled newspapers, published a barrage of fake stories; from British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt blaming violence in Bahrain on protesters, to a retired US General characterizing the unrest as an “American conspiracy… instigated by Iran.” Whether it is UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon or ex-UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, state media had no qualms in fabricating statements by such high profile figures in its relentless effort to control the narrative. The state-controlled press even faked a Wikileaks cable to embarrass an MP who was critical of the Prime Minister. Only this month, pro-government newspapers printed a fake quote from a Wefaq opposition member “welcom[ing] participation” in the upcoming parliamentary elections; contrary to the society’s plans to boycott them and the public denial of this statement.
In a companion report, Bahrain Watch explores how a culture of fabrication was created in Bahrain’s media, and why it persists today. The report states “As humorous and absurd as these reports may seem, there is a tragic side to this misinformation: in some cases this fake news feeds the social tensions that fuel civil discord, sectarianism and animosity that could lead to violence.” The report points out controls on registration of websites and press outlets, the absence of a public complaints mechanism to challenge editors, and the partiality of the judicial system towards the government in selecting cases of defamation to prosecute.
Yousef Alsaraf, a Research Assistant at Bahrain Watch remarked: “In many places in the world, certain media exaggerates or spins the news. It is rare to find a case like that of Bahrain, where the press repeatedly fakes entire stories with impunity, and when caught, does not print a correction or retraction. The fabricated news serves not only to mislead and control the population, but also to inflame sectarian tensions. The Bahraini government’s media tactics are textbook examples of Arab regimes’ response to the Arab uprisings and their attempts to control the local narrative with little integrity and regard to the truth they claim to be defending.”
The report also includes recommendations for the Government of Bahrain, some of which include: to liberalise the media sector allowing for independent media, eliminating censorship, facilitating equal access to state-controlled media, and allowing the establishment of an independent regulator for local media outlets and an editors Code of Practice.
Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based advocacy. About Bahrain Watch: https://bahrainwatch.org/about.php
Bahrain is a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, ruled by the Al-Khalifa family since 1783. The population of Bahrain stands at 1,314,089:146% are Bahraini and the rest are foreigners, mainly workers.
The illiteracy rate stands at 1.13% of the population (2013).2 At 87%, Bahrain has the highest internet penetration rate amongst Arab countries3 and also has the highest Twitter usage.4 Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are very important both to foreigners and the Bahrain economy, which is dependent on financial services and offshore banks. The internet became available in the country in 1994, making Bahrain one of the earliest Arab countries in the region to have internet.
Since the start, civil society activists have used the internet for their activities and communications – leading to the first arrest of an online activist in 1998, the censoring of sites and, recently, spying on activists through advanced surveillance technology.
Civil society organisations depend on the internet for advocacy, as the traditional media is either owned by the regime, or is controlled through publishing law.5 Publishing stories or media releases on the internet is a way for activists to go viral in Bahrain.
BahrainOnline.org6 (BOL) was the first site to be created and funded by online activists. It was started in 1998 during the implementation of the State Security Law7 (from 1975 to 2001), which allowed the government to arrest anyone for three years without proper investigation or trial. This was also during the Dignity Uprising in Bahrain8 (1994-2000), which led to dozens of deaths and thousands of political prisoners. For more than 100 years Bahrain has been known to experience uprisings every 10 years. The regime is also widely known for its human rights violations, torture, discrimination and totalitarianism.
BOL was the main source for opposition opinions and in 2001 during the National Action Charter9 (NAC), a reform project launched by the new emir, BOL hosted an online debate to discuss it – and similar online discussions have continued since its launch. This has caused a shift from BOL just reporting on stories, to acting as a public opinion maker, often critical of the government.
Campaigns have been launched on the website, and videos and photos of protest activities or human rights violations posted online. The fact that the regime could no longer control the flow of information and news led to the arrest of activists who ran the site in February 2005.10 The site was blocked in 2002, although massive public interest in the site remained.
In March 1999 the previous emir of Bahrain died suddenly and his son succeeded him to the throne. At that time the Dignity Uprising was struggling, after most of its activists on the ground had been arrested. There was also no political will to move forward with reform, the state security law and its men were controlling the island, and the economy was in difficulties.
At that time BOL started to become popular and received more attention from people trying to find news from different, credible sources.
When the new emir came to power, he promised real reform, allowing people to have their full rights, including freedom of expression, and shifting the power to the people. Basically, he promised to modernise the country. People believed him, and started to debate the NAC. Many started to share their opinions on BOL, using anonymous names which gave them some privacy and security.
BOL’s credibility grew, even though it was run by an unknown group. The government started to pay attention to it in order to get a sense of how citizens felt about the reform project. However, when differences arose between the government and the opposition regarding the new constitution that had been issued by the king without reference to the opposition, BOL played a huge role in revealing the difference between a constitutional monarchy and what the king was offering with his new constitution. Articles were printed from the site and distributed. This again helped BOL to become a credible resource, especially when the opposition depended on it to post messages.
In 2002, during the first election and the opposition’s call for a boycott, BOL was the only media outlet supporting the boycott. This led to the arrest of three activists who used to run the site. They were imprisoned for a period of two weeks on the charge of insulting the king, broadcasting hate speech and posting false news.
During this time BOL moved from being an online platform to playing a role “on the ground”, arranging protests, visiting hospitals and even issuing media releases when important things were happening. BOL was covering the protests live, and posting pictures of events that may not have appeared in the traditional media. At times it wrote investigative stories about corruption. This led to the site being blocked in 2002.
Blocking BOL showed how loyal people in Bahrain were to the site. They shared proxies between them and members wrote a script to open the site. They used Dynamic DNS to create redirected links. When the links were censored, members shared a document on how to create your own link with readers. This kept BOL up and running, and, with 80,000 hits a day, it became the most read site in Bahrain.
This was the first hint of how people could train themselves to use new technology to avoid censorship in Bahrain. During the arrest of the administrators of BOL, the members organised several protests themselves, asking for the release of the administrators, and the dropping of charges against them. This led to widespread coverage in the media, and the release of the administrators without trial.11
During the arrest of the BOL administrators, the government discovered that they lagged behind in technical knowledge, and that they had failed to understand the nature of the internet. They started to use new tools to censor the opposition websites. But, again, people learned how to bypass the new censorship technology.
In February 2009, a member of BOL using the nickname “äÇÒß ÇáãáÇÆßÉ”12 posted the full list of the names of the employees of the National Security Apparatus (NSA). Two months later,13 on 14 May, Hasan Salman was arrested and charged with “publishing secret information over the internet”.14 In September 2009 Hasan was sentenced to three years by the High Criminal Court.15 He was recently released.
After this incident, and the same year, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) issued new regulations for internet service providers (ISPs)16 saying that all ISPs should retain their communications logs for three years, as well as providing technical access for the NSA to monitor or block online communications in Bahrain. This regulation was greeted with huge opposition from the media, NGOs and members of parliament. However, it seems it will be implemented soon.17
In 2010, when the government arrested human rights activists, public figures and bloggers (including a BOL administrator for the second time), the NSA confronted them with printouts of SMS text messages and emails, even though their devices had not been confiscated by the authorities.18
The only explanation for this is that the government had bought new surveillance technology, and installed it at all the ISPs. This includes the Bahrain Internet Exchange (BIE), as stated by Mai Al Khalifa19 in her first resolution in 2009 as minister of culture and media. This forced all ISPs to provide access to the government to block websites by installing the necessary equipment. This resolution was received negatively by NGOs and online activists.
When the Arab Spring started, the youth tried to organise themselves in a movement to push forward with reform. BOL was the platform used to talk about the idea,20 plan it,21 organise it, and cover it, second by second. They called this push the Day of Rage and issued media releases stating their demands.22 Because people started to learn online security tactics the government could not recognise or arrest the people behind the uprising.
When the crackdown started in Bahrain, the international media turned its back on what was going on in the country. Only the internet and the youth who believed they could bring about change kept the uprising alive, and now after three and a half years the movement in Bahrain is still alive because of them.
In 2012, Alaa Alshehabi,23 among other activists, received suspicious emails from someone claiming to be from Al Jazeera. The attachment was infected with the FinFisher virus, sold by a UK-based company. An investigation by BahrainWatch.org led to the discovery of others infected by the same spy tool and raised awareness in Bahrain about the new technology that the government was using to attack activists.
BahrainWatch.org found that after the release of their IP Spy24 report, no new activists were targeted. The investigation also found that the awareness of online security by activists is high, and that even non-activists have started to download encryption tools and more secure instant messaging.
In February 2014, the king ratified a law that severely punished those who insulted him, with from three to seven years imprisonment and a fine of up to USD 1,000. The problem is not with insulting the king as much as with the way the government is using the laws to take revenge on the opposition. Recently more than 15 people are either in prison or awaiting trial for using the internet. Some of them are accused of insulting religious symbols or figures, and some of them for insulting the king or the prime minister.
We also came across stories that people had been fired from their work because they had “liked” an article on Facebook, while others had their telephones stolen because pictures or a chat had been found on them.
Freedom of expression is defined as a universal human right which is needed by all human beings, and it should be protected by governments. Bahrain has ratified laws which should protect freedom of expression, but in reality the opposite happens: those laws are used as “political revenge”, as the UN spokesperson said at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Bahrain failed to obey 176 recommendations by the Human Rights Council in May 2012.
Internationally respected NGOs are keeping pressure on the Bahraini government to free bloggers, photographers, and human rights and political prisoners, as well as to stop human rights violations, but nothing is changing. Bahraini activists are simultaneously receiving international awards even though they are still in jail under fake charges, like Ahmed Humaidan, who has been imprisoned for 10 years.
If the international community cannot put pressure on the regime to start reform to meet the demands of the people in Bahrain, at least we should put pressure on companies to stop selling surveillance technology to Bahrain that is used to violate human rights. When spy tools are sold to the government, human rights defenders will have to work harder, they will not be able to move freely, they will not be able to communicate and document stories, and they will always feel as if their ICT devices are a weapon being used against them.
We should not accept the argument that companies are not responsible for the way their products are used; they know that some countries have a bad human rights record and a long history of attacking activists. This technology will definitely be used to violate human rights.
The state of Bahrain is using laws to repress remaining freedoms as a method of “political revenge”. Selling it technology that allows it to do this is not making the world a better place. With more than 20 online activists and photographers in jail right now, and more than 15 journalists and bloggers living in exile, we should launch a global campaign against selling surveillance technology to Bahrain. We should also argue that the companies that sell this technology to governments should uninstall it remotely. By sharing information with the public on the kind of technology used, and through offering training, citizens can learn how to protect themselves online.
Over the past 16 years the people of Bahrain have managed to teach themselves how to avoid censorship or use secure routes for their online activities. But we should not rely on them continuing to understand the new surveillance technology entering the market, and being able to fight it.
10 Committee to Protect Journalists. (2005, March 14). Attacks on the Press 2014: Bahrain. Committee to Protect Journalists. www.cpj.org/2005/03/attacks-on-the-press-2004-bahrain.php#more
18 Silver, V., & Elgin, B. (2011, August 22). Torture in Bahrain becomes routine with help from Nokia Siemens. Bloomberg. www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-22/torture-in-bahrain-becomes-routine-with-help-from-nokia-siemens-networking.html
23 Doward, J. (2013, May 12). UK company's spyware 'used against Bahrain activist', court papers claim. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/12/uk-company-spyware-bahrain-claim
Joint Position paper - Bahrain
FIDH, Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain: The Regime Continues to Fight the Right to Form Peaceful Societies
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the significant development at the level of political and human rights liberties in Bahrain, after the authorities targeted the two authorized opposition political parties: Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society and the National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’. The Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Khalid Ali Al-Khalifa, filed an administrative lawsuit in his capacity against the two societies, on the pretext that public conferences held by the two societies committed administrative violations.
On 20 July 2014, the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments, published a statement on filing a lawsuit to request that Al-Wefaq activities be halted for three months until they amend their illegal status. According to the ministry, this was as a result of the invalidity of four conferences, due to lack of quorum. It was also alleged that Al-Wefaq did not adhere to procedures of openness and transparency. In his tweets, which he posted on the social networking site Twitter, the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments said, ‘holding four invalid conferences with a participation of less than 5% means the society is ignoring the will of its members and verging into illegality’. The Minister of Justice added that they were ‘not holding correct public conferences, and those running the society resort to not publishing any information about their public conference for ear of scandal. Secrecy in ‘political work’ is a step backwards, and is considered to undermine the foundations of legitimate political work. The society’s failure since its establishment to follow the basis of democratic work has proven its lack of success in presenting a model for a civil political society based on democracy.’
Days later, and specifically on 24 July 2014, local newspapers published a news piece stating that the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments had filed a lawsuit against the National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’. Radhi Al-Mousawi– the Acting Secretary-general of Waad Society said that the lawsuit of the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments stems from allegations, and that the aim is to restrict political work in Bahrain, especially the activity of opposition societies. Although the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments had published on 21 July 2014 a table showing the conditions for holding public conferences for all political societies in the past years, and which shows clearly, according to their allegations, violations by the National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’ of the conditions of public conferences. The latter, however, did not receive the lawsuit until Thursday 24 July 2014. Following is the table of violations committed by ‘Waad’ as published by the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
It is worth noting that the National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’ received a letter from the Ministry of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments in December 2012 asking them to delist Ebrahim Sharif from the general secretariat and from the society’s records, considering him a criminal prisoner who lost his civil and political rights. The ministry also requested the reform of the political office’s positions. The society responded with a letter in which it stood firmly behind its general-secretary, considering Ebrahim Sharif a prisoner of conscience who the authorities should release, instead of harrassing his society and seeking to close it.
This is not the first time the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments – a member of the ruling family – has used his authority arbitrarily. Previously, he dissolved the Islamic Action Society (Amal) after arresting most of its members. This was followed by the closing of Olamaa Islamic Council - the highest religious body representing the Shiite population in Bahrain – and the liquidation of its funds based on a ruling of the High Administrative Court. At that time, the BCHR considered this a policy of systematic discrimination against the sect, and believed that the decision was a clear violation of Article (20) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, ‘(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.’ Before all that, the BCHR was dissolved in 2004 following a decision from the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs on the pretext that the BCHR had committed acts that violate the Societies Law of 1989, and a bylaw governing the Society.
The BCHR believes that the regime in Bahrain is running a relentless campaign against the right to form and join peaceful societies, with the aim of silencing the opposition and finishing off peaceful political activity that calls on the regime to execute real reforms that contribute to improving political life and raising the level of liberties and democracy in Bahrain. The BCHR also believes that targeting ‘Waad’ specifically falls within the regime’s policy of sectarian discrimination; its general-secretary ‘Ebrahim Sharif’ is a Sunni opposition figure with a long history of peaceful political work; his arrest the and targeting of his society aimed to prevent moderate Sunni opposition voices from following the path that Sharif and his society took. Ebrahim Sharif is one of the detainees in the case known as the Case of the 13 Leaders. Many local and international human rights organizations have called for their release, considering them prisoners of conscience, a designation confirmed by Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry – Bassiouni’s Commission. Sharif is now serving a five-year sentence.
Additionally, the BCHR believes that these regime practices are a tool to blackmail opposition societies into accepting the superficial reforms proposed by the regime every now and then. Moreover, it is a way to push political societies to enter the parliamentary elections that represent genuine legitimacy for the government, whose resignation is demanded by various political parties. They also demand that the President be elected based on clear political standards and wide public acceptance. The BCHR emphasizes the right of political societies to practice peaceful political work according to Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state the right of peaceful assembly and the right to form societies with others. It also warns of the consequences of ending open political work, in its current limited form. This will lead individuals to work covertly - a part of the leadership system and control on the street will be lost.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United Kingdom, the United States, and all the governments of Bahrain’s allies to put pressure on the authorities in Bahrain to:
The European Parliament has held a meeting with a delegation from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) amid the West’s silence over the regime crackdown in the Persian Gulf country, Press TV reports.
“Bahrain is considered one of the most repressive regimes in the world,” said BCHR director Nabeel Rajab on Wednesday, after he brought the delegation to the Belgian capital Brussels for a meeting with the European parliamentarians.
The activist, who has spent two years in an Al Khalifa jail, was highly critical of the European Union and the United States for failing to support the tiny country’s pro-democracy protesters.
“Bahrain has the highest rate per capita of political prisoners… (and) the second highest rate of journalists or photojournalists in jail,” said Rajab.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed.
“These are not abstract topics or numbers but these are individuals including Nabeel Rajab, who has been in prison for two years and who has been released, but there are many other political prisoners, and political prisoners wherever they are should be freed and that is the message that we were able to share today,” said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament (MEP).
Nabeel was under the regime’s custody in Jaw prison in eastern Bahrain since July 9, 2012.
BCHR has joind other NGOs to deliver the following statement during the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council:
Item 10 general debate statement - 25th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Madam Vice President,
Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call to the Council’s attention areas of human rights deficiencies that would benefit from technical assistance and capacity building in coordination with the Office of the High Commissioner. Specifically, we would like to encourage the Kingdom of Bahrain to enhance cooperation with OHCHR by establishing a country office in the Kingdom.
At the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council, 47 States signed a joint statement expressing their serious concern over a litany of ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain. These abuses include: the use of torture and ill-treatment; the increases in long sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and the lack of sufficient guarantee of fair trial; the repression of demonstrations; and, the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists.
The statement also called on the Government of Bahrain to release prisoners held in relation to their human rights, and to invite OHCHR to establish a full mandate country office in Bahrain.
In the months since that statement, we have seen few constructive steps taken by Bahrain to address these ongoing abuses. Despite the committed efforts of OHCHR, the Bahraini government has prolonged negotiations for the establishment of a country office in the Kingdom.
With this ongoing process in mind, we join the 47 States in supporting OHCHR’s continuing negotiations with Bahrain. We agree that certain concrete steps by the government are essential in creating an environment in which an OHCHR mission can succeed. Such concrete steps should include releasing political prisoners and relaxing laws that unduly restrict civil society, free assembly and expression. We would also like to reiterate that any OHCHR mission in the country should include both a monitoring, as well as a capacity-building mandate.
Item 10 general debate statement - 25th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Madam Vice President,
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, with the support of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call to the Council’s attention the refusal of leading members of the Council to engage UN Special Procedures and mechanisms as a means of technical assistance and capacity building. For example, we specifically cite Saudi Arabia’s failure to constructively engage with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, many of which have maintained pending country visit requests for over ten years.
Six Special Procedures currently maintain outstanding country visit requests to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, pending since 2005, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, also pending since 2005, and, most recently, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, pending since 2013. Saudi Arabia has not allowed a Special Procedure to visit the country since 2008, when the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women traveled to the Kingdom and reported widespread and systemic abuse of women in the Kingdom, making numerous and broad recommendations to alleviate their plight. Since the Rapporteur issued her report, however, international human rights organizations and human rights defenders on the ground have found little to no progress in elevating Saudi women towards equality.
At the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, we call on all governments to positively and expeditiously respond to pending Special Procedure country visit requests in order to facilitate necessary technical assistance and capacity building. We further ask the Government of Saudi Arabia to implement all of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in 2008. We also ask that Saudi Arabia, as a leading Member of the Human Rights Council, to not only invite the Special Procedures with pending visit requests, but to extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures to conduct country visits to the Kingdom.
Thank you, Madam Vice President
Item 9 Oral intervention - 23rd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, in coordination with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like bring to the Council’s attention certain cases of religious intolerance and discrimination in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain’s exclusionary labor practices against Shi’a—particularly regarding the security forces; the dissolution of the Shi’a Islamic Scholars Council; and the harassment of leading Shi’a religious figures in the country, stand in opposition to Section II, paragraphs 46, 47, and 49 of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Bahraini Shi’a suffer from discrimination in public sector employment in Bahrain. Such discrimination is most concerning in the Ministry of Interior and security forces. Shi’a are not represented in the upper levels of leadership in the Bahraini security forces. Subsequently, these forces are often implicated in human rights abuses targeting Shi’a protestors, political and human rights activists, religious figures and places of worship.
Bahrain continues to target many leading Shi’a spiritual leaders with harassment and detention, including: Sheikh Mohammed Habib Miqdad, Sheikh Abduljalil Miqdad, and Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Mahfood.
Particularly concerning was the case of Sheikh Hussain Najati, whose Bahraini citizenship was arbitrarily revoked in 2012. Continued abuses against him were highlighted earlier this year by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, who expressed his concern that: “on 23 April  [Sheikh] Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave his own country for Lebanon after being exposed to enormous pressure and harassment by the authorities.”
The Bahrain government has repeatedly demonstrated a pattern of religious intolerance and discrimination towards the Shi’a majority population in Bahrain. We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to facilitate a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on religious freedom to conduct a neutral and independent assessment in the country at the earliest possible date. We further call on the Bahrain government to fulfill its commitments to the recommendations of the BICI and UPR reports regarding safeguards against discrimination for followers of all faiths.
Item 9 Oral intervention - 23rd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, together with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call the Council’s attention to the continued lack of implementation of key elements of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action by leading Member States in the Human Rights Council. Today, we would specifically like to draw attention to ongoing failures to implement Article II B, Section 3 of the Declaration, which addresses “the equal status of human rights of women.”
The most concerning example of these violations can be found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia continues to uphold its male-guardianship law, which legally binds women to a designated male guardian, thereby rendering women inferior citizens who are unable to act independently. Despite pledges to dismantle this system during its recent UPR, the guardianship laws continue to leave Saudi women dependent on men in most aspects of daily living. Areas encompassed under the male-guardianship laws extend to include women’s rights to access education, employment, legal proceedings, or even the ability to undergo certain medical procedures.
These systematic gender-based restrictions in Saudi law also extend to a woman’s basic right to travel. In addition to needing male permission to travel outside the country, Saudi Arabia also maintains a ban on the ability of women to drive. Women who challenge this ban may be jailed, fined or face corporal punishment.
We therefore call upon Saudi Arabia, as a Member State on the Human Rights Council, to expeditiously implement the standards laid out in Article II B, Section 3 of the Vienna Declaration, to ensure the equal status of human rights of women, by abolishing the male-guardianship system. Furthermore, in the interest of accountability, we call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to facilitate a visit by the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice.
Item 5 Oral intervention - 22nd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, with the support of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call the Council’s attention to Bahrain’s engagement with the international human rights mechanisms of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture.
The Government of Bahrain acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 2006 and the Convention against Torture in 1998. By the terms of its accession to these treaties, Bahrain is obligated to periodically report its progress in implementing its treaty obligations. Despite these obligations, however, Bahrain’s initial report to the Committee on Human Rights is now seven years overdue. Additionally, Bahrain submitted its last report to the Committee against Torture in 2005; its follow-up report to the Committee is also seven years past due. In the meantime, Bahrain has systematically violated its obligations under the ICCPR and CAT. Human rights defenders in Bahrain regularly report instances of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and denials of the rights to freedom of expression and association. Allegations of torture and the use of confessions derived from torture to secure convictions in Bahraini courts are also significantly widespread.
On the occasion of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, we call on Bahrain to adhere to its obligations under the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture, and submit timely reporting to their respective treaty bodies.
We additionally call on Bahrain to allow for the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment, to visit the country in order to conduct independent and neutral assessments of the human rights situation therein.
Item 6 Oral intervention - 22nd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Mr. Vice President,
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), together with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call the Council’s attention to the status of Bahrain’s implementation of its 2012 Universal Periodic Review. Of the 158 recommendations addressing issues ranging from the use of torture and arbitrary detention to restrictions on free speech and assembly, Bahrain has thus far failed to effectively implement the vast majority of these recommendations.
In the past two years since the Government of Bahrain accepted 158 of 176 recommendations presented during their 2012 UPR Second Cycle, Bahrain has continued to ignore key deficiencies in the country’s human rights policies. For example: the government accepted eight recommendations regarding restrictions on the ability of Bahraini mothers to pass their citizenship on to their children of non-Bahraini fathers. In accepting these recommendation, the Bahraini government noted that a draft law was already under consideration to address this issue. However, this draft law was not submitted to the parliament until January of this year, and the parliament has yet to make any further progress towards enacting this legislation.
In the same time period, however, the Government of Bahrain has taken a number of steps which directly contradict core recommendations from its latest UPR. Of particular concern has been the expeditious proposal, approval and enactment of a string of laws over the past 14 months, which expand Bahrain’s terrorism laws to greatly restrict free speech, press, association and assembly, as well as restricting civil society space.
We therefore call on Bahrain to take seriously both the letter and the spirit of the 158 recommendations it committed to effectively implementing in 2012, and to provide an aggressive and transparent timeline to fully implement the entirety of these recommendations. We further call on the international community and OHCHR to continue to support concrete steps towards reform and further capacity building in Bahrain, with the aim of achieving the international standards of human rights that all Bahrainis deserve.
Item 4 Oral intervention - 16th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Nabeel Rajab (BCHR):
Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call the Council’s attention to the status of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.
Three months ago, I completed a two-year arbitrary prison sentence in Bahrain. I am deeply grateful to all those who called for my release throughout my sentence. The dedication of all those to who worked on behalf of myself and other imprisoned Bahraini human rights defenders continues move me months after my release.
However, though I am free, other human rights defenders like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Maryam al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Singace, and Naji Fateel, as well as many others, remain in Bahraini detention. These counts of reprisals against human rights defenders make up only a portion of the nearly 4,000 political prisoners held under charges largely related to free expression or assembly.
With this experience in mind, we reiterate the call of 47 Member States, that Bahrain “release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders, some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained…”
We also call on the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to critically engage Bahrain regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention of the thousands of political prisoners in Bahrain. We believe that OHCHR can play a constructive role in facilitating the release of these prisoners, and an easing of the country’s expansive terrorism laws restricting free assembly and expression. Such steps by both OHCHR and the government would be a welcome beginning to the renewed process of necessary reform.
Item 4 Oral intervention - 16th Sep 2014
On 16 September, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy’s Advocacy Associate, Amanda Milani, read a letter from Bahraini child political prisoner, Jehad Sadeq, during an oral intervention at the 27th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 3.
Thank you, Mr. President,
Alsalam Foundation, acting in coordination with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, would like to present to the Human Rights Council excerpts from a letter written by Jehad Sadeq, a Bahraini youth currently imprisoned on charges of terrorism. Mr. Sadeq alleges that he was convicted on the basis of a confession obtained by means of torture, and that the Government of Bahrain has failed to investigate his allegations as required by the Convention against Torture.
Dear Honored Delegates,
I was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest when I was 16 years old. During interrogation, I was beaten and humiliated until I confessed. I wasn’t allowed to contact my family, and my lawyer was not allowed to attend my interrogations. Despite this, my trial went on, and I was tried under terrorism law although I was a child. I was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for a crime I did not commit.
My hobbies were photography, sports and traveling… I wished to graduate from high school and go to university with my friends to study engineering. Instead, I was deprived from doing what I love and pursuing my education. I would have now been in my freshman year at university, not in prison. I should be a student, not a political prisoner.
In Bahraini prisons there are many cases similar to mine. Therefore, in this letter, I’m addressing you on behalf of all detained children. I appeal to you to help us and act for our case by advising and pressuring the Bahraini government to release me and all other children that languish in prisons.
My friends and I will be waiting eagerly for your reply and your help to have us released.
On the occasion of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, the above-named human rights organizations join with Jehad Sadeq in calling upon the Bahraini government to release all child political prisoners in the country.
For more, please check http://adhrb.org/category/our-work/at-the-un/
29 September 2014—London—Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) strongly condemn the United Kingdom’s recent decision to increase the sale of arms to Bahrain. Furthermore, we raise serious concerns that the escalating arms trade and deepening of military ties between an ostensible defender of democracy and a government bent on suppressing the democratic will of its people undermines the international community’s cries of deep concern over the situation in Bahrain.
“The British government needs to seriously rethink its policy towards supplying arms to the Government of Bahrain. We’ve seen in the past that the Bahraini government is willing to use these weapons on its own people; what’s to stop them from doing so again?” said Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of BCHR.
Contradicting its public support for human rights, the U.K. has quietly brokered arms deals with Bahrain for years. These transactions have actually increased since Bahrain’s crackdown on the democratic protest movement which started in February 2011. Since then, the U.K. has supplied the Bahraini government with £69,726,115 in direct military and dual-use assistance. In contrast, from 2008 through the first month of 2011 Bahrain received roughly £16 million in UK military support.
"The UK government is not just silent in the face of Bahrain's ongoing human rights abuses: it is actively enabling repression by whitewashing the regime and giving it practical and moral support with arms sales," said Sarah Waldron, Campaign Coordinator for CAAT.
The rise of the Islamic State has provided the U.K. with a pretext to strengthen its relationship with Manama, leading discussions to establish a new British military base in Bahrain and to increase its military presence in the island nation.
“We have seen how the presence of the United States Fifth Fleet has shielded the Bahraini government from international pressure,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “As demonstrated by the United States’ recent diplomatic struggles with Bahrain, if the U.K. thinks that arms deals will provide them with a regional partner or grant them leverage over Bahrain’s ruling elite, they are mistaken.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD’s Advocacy Director, stated, “We are deeply troubled by the U.K. government’s efforts to tighten its military bonds with Bahrain. At a time when the international community is seeking to pressure the Bahraini government into ending its considerable human rights abuses, a unilateral action like this will only empower its authoritarian rulers.”
ADHRB, BCHR, BIRD and CAAT call on the United Kingdom to immediately end its arms trade with Bahrain, to cancel any current contracts.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express grave concern over the arrest and detention of the leading Human Rights defender Nabeel Rajab as part of ongoing campaign against human rights in the country and call for his immediate and unconditional release.
On 1 Oct 2014, the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was urgently summoned by the electronic crimes unit for interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Department. He went to the criminal investigation department accompanied by his lawyer where he was interrogated on charges of “insulting a public institution” over twitter and was subsequently placed under arrest and detained pending an appearance at Public Prosecution tomorrow, 02 October 2014.
The summon and arrest come less than 24 hours after the arrival of Rajab to Bahrain from an advocacy trip where he has spent over two months traveling throughout Europe to advocate for human rights in Bahrain; he also attended the UN Human Rights Council 27th Sessions advocating for human rights in Bahrain and campaigned for greater support to the Bahraini people’s struggle for rights and democracy.
[Link to Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJdpu-gywWA ]
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 city of Manama, in defense of people’s rights in Bahrain. Before that he was prosecuted for his tweets multiple times, including one case in which he was sentenced to three months for allegedly defaming a citizen of the Bahraini village Muharraq , although the court of appeal acquitted him after serving most of that sentence. It should be noted that Rajab has over 239,000 followers on twitter (@NabeelRajab) and his voice online is one of the most prominent in Bahrain, and across the Middle East. Following his release, Rajab continued to receive threats of repeated arrested, but he was determined to continue with his peaceful human rights work.
The undersigned groups believe that the leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been targeted with repeated arrest and detention because of his work in the field of human rights, and that the government’s aim is to hinder his advocacy work both inside and outside of Bahrain.
The undersigned groups call 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:
The undersigned groups note 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, recognizes 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. Of particular relevance to this case is 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”.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 3 October 2014
We are alarmed at the detention of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain on Wednesday after his return from an overseas trip during which he discussed the human rights situation in Bahrain with various interlocutors, including the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva.
Rajab has been accused of publicly insulting a Government institution on social media and detained until Thursday next week pending investigation. Rajab had just been released in May, after serving out a two-year sentence for ‘unauthorised gathering’ and ‘offending an official institution’ Rajab’s detention comes a month after another prominent human rights defender, Maryam Al-Khawaja was arrested and charged with assaulting two police officers. She was conditionally released on 1 October and a travel ban against her was lifted. Her trial date has been set for 5 November.
The detention of high-profile human rights activists like Nabeel Rajab and Maryam Al-Khawaja sends a chilling message to other lesser-known activists of the consequences they may face for any criticism of the authorities. Rajab had expressed to UN human rights staff his fears that upon his return to his country, he may face reprisals for his advocacy for human rights in Bahrain. This is a very disturbing development.
We urge Bahraini authorities to immediately release Nabeel Rajab and all other individuals detained for peaceful exercise of their rights. Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals.
In a press briefing Friday morning State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the State Department is “concerned” by the Government of Bahrain’s detention of Rajab.
QUESTION: Okay. My – and I have – the second of my three very brief ones: Your friends in Bahrain, while being a member of the coalition and everything, still have a lot – or seem to have a lot to – leave a lot to be desired on the human rights front that – although they did release or allowed the one activist to go, it now seems they’ve arrested a guy for a tweet. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. We are concerned by the Government of Bahrain’s detention of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, reportedly for tweets alleged to be “denigrating to a public institution.” We urge the Government of Bahrain to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and assembly and to reconsider charges against citizens accused of peaceful expression of opinion. We also continue to call on the Government of Bahrain to abide by its commitment to fair and transparent judicial proceedings, and to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible.
QUESTION: Now, since they expelled your Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, you all have said that you’re working to reschedule that meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s the progress on that rescheduling?
MS. PSAKI: I talked to him about it this morning. We’re still working on rescheduling it, and he’s looking forward to heading there.
Following the detention of BCHR's President Nabeel Rajab, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha will act in the capacity of Vice President in coordination with the Acting President and board members inside Bahrain, who are unable to reveal their identities given the campaign of assaults and harassment that have been directed at the leading members the BCHR for more than ten years now. The BCHR management and members are committed to continue on the path of defending and advocating for the human rights in Bahrain. We thank everyone who have provided their support and ask them to continue their work for the freedom of BCHR's President Nabeel Rajab as well as all the detained human rights defenders in Bahrain.
Said Yousif AlMuhafdha
Tel: +49 151 71405070
(Beirut, October 3, 2014) – Bahrain authorities arrested a prominent rights activist on October 1, 2014, after he criticized the government. Nabeel Rajab, the activist, faces charges that he “offended national institutions” in comments on social media on September 28.
Rajab had returned to Bahrain on September 30 from Europe, where he had made public appearances criticizing the Bahraini government’s human rights record and calling for stronger international action against Bahrain. Bahrain should drop the charges against Rajab and release him immediately, Human Rights Watch said.
“These charges show that Bahrain’s rulers are determined to silence one of their most outspoken critics,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “In arresting a peaceful critic, Bahrain’s government has shown its contempt for basic rights like free speech.”
In his comments on September 28, Rajab criticized the government for using counterterrorism laws to prosecute human rights defenders and charged that Bahraini security forces foster violent beliefs akin to those of the Islamic State. He noted that a former Interior Ministry employee had joined the extremist Islamist group.
Mohamed Isa al Binali, a former security officer with the Interior Ministry, appears in a YouTube clip urging other security force members to defect. On September 4, the Bahrain Ministry of Interior tweeted that “former officer Mohammed Isa Al Binali was terminated from employment for failure to appear at work.”
One of Rajab’s tweets said, “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”
On October 1, Rajab received a written summons to appear at the cybercrimes unit of the Criminal Investigation Directorate. His lawyer, Jalila al-Sayed, told Human Rights Watch that officers questioned him for 45 minutes about his comments, but prevented her from taking notes. The officers arrested him for violating article 216 of the penal code and referred his case to the public prosecutor. Article 216 states that “A person shall be liable for imprisonment or payment of a fine if he offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies,” and is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Al-Sayed was also present on October 2 when the public prosecutor interrogated Rajab. Al-Sayed told Human Rights Watch that Rajab answered the prosecutor’s questions freely but that the prosecutor refused to include what she characterized as exculpatory evidence in the formal record of the interrogation. This included video clips of former members of the Bahraini security forces encouraging current members to join ISIS forces, she said.
The public prosecutor ordered Rajab’s detention for another seven days while investigations continue.
The UN Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, issued an authoritative interpretation on the scope of the right to freedom of expression and opinion. In its General Comment 34, the committee stated that “In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high.” It also stated that “states parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”
Bahrain authorities have previously prosecuted Rajab on politically motivated charges. He was detained from May 5 to May 28, 2012, for Twitter remarks criticizing the Interior Ministry for failing to investigate attacks by what Rajab said were pro-government gangs against Shia residents. On June 28, 2012, a criminal court fined him 300 Bahraini Dinars (US$790) in that case.
Authorities again detained Rajab on June 6, 2012, for another Twitter remark calling for Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa to step down. On July 9, 2012, a criminal court convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison on that charge. A court of appeal overturned that verdict, but in a separate case a criminal court sentenced him to three years in prison for organizing and participating in three demonstrations between January and March 2012. The authorities presented no evidence that Rajab advocated or engaged in violence. Rajab was released on May 24, 2014, after serving two years in prison.
Bahrain’s close allies, the United States and the United Kingdom, should press vigorously for Rajab’s immediate release, Human Rights Watch said.
“Nabeel Rajab has consistently criticized the Bahrain government when it deserves to be criticized, peacefully and at great personal cost,” Stork said. “The US and the UK haven’t pressed Bahrain hard enough to counter its widespread repression and intolerance of public criticism.”
Persecution of activists in Bahrain
On 2 October 2014, the public prosecution in Bahrain ordered the detention of prominent human rights defender Mr Nabeel Rajab for seven days pending investigation.
On 1 October, Nabeel Rajab was summoned by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and ELECTRONIC SECURITY of the Criminal Investigation Department where he was interrogated on charges of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter.
Nabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. He has campaigned around the world to bring attention to human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the case of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President of the BCHR and Front Line Defenders staff member, who has been detained since April 2011, subjected to torture and sentenced to life imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial.
According to the website of the Ministry of the Interior in Bahrain, on 1 October 2014, Nabeel Rajab was summoned to be questioned in relation to “tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.” The ministry further stated that “Mr. Rajab acknowledged the charges and the case has been referred to the Public Prosecutor.”
The human rights defender went to the Criminal Investigation Department, accompanied by his LAWYER, and was interrogated on charges relating to “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. He was subsequently arrested to appear before the prosecution the following morning. He is being held at Hoora Police station in Manama.
Nabeel Rajab's arrest came shortly after he ended a two-month advocacy trip throughout Europe to advocate for human rights in Bahrain, but the human rights defender has also faced a long pattern of harassment, which has included various forms of intimidation and arrest, as a result of his peaceful work in promoting human rights.
Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the pattern of intimidation and harassment against Nabeel Rajab. It is believed that his detention is solely related to his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities promoting and protecting human rights in Bahrain. Front Line Defenders is further concerned at the increasing prosecution of social media activists advocating for human rights in Bahrain.
Amendments to Bahrain's Citizenship Act make it easier for the Interior Ministry to revoke individuals' citizenship.
Hyder Iftikhar Abbasi Last updated: 01 Oct 2014 10:12 on aljazeera.com
On the day of her arrest at Bahrain International Airport, human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja tweeted: "Overheard guards saying they are going to deport me. They keep saying I am not a citizen." Khawaja had travelled to Bahrain from Denmark on August 30 to support her imprisoned father, who'd just started a second round of hunger strike five days earlier.
Her case highlights the threat now confronting some Bahraini opposition activists: The removal of their citizenship and subsequent deportation.
Like her father, who is serving a life sentence on charges of trying to overthrow the government during pro-reform protests three years ago, Khawaja is also a staunch critic of the Bahraini ruling Al Khalifa monarchy.
For years the main opposition in Bahrain has campaigned for a greater role in government. There have also been complaints of discrimination from the country's Shia Muslim population, a charge the government denies. Inspired by other uprisings in the region, tens of thousands marched on the streets in February 2011, demanding change.
But with the help of neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain crushed the revolt. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds wounded and more than a thousand were arrested. The government alleges that the protesters attacked police and that soldiers were deployed to "protect the safety of the citizens".
Since then, there have been almost daily protests and anti-government activists continue to be arrested arbitrarily, tortured and imprisoned, often without a fair trial. However, security forces have been attacked by home-made bombs in recent months. In March, three policemen were killed in a blast, including a policeman from the UAE.
Khawaja's lawyer is confident that her citizenship has not been officially revoked. Mohammed al-Jishi told Al Jazeera that the incident at the airport was simply a scare tactic: "It's a lengthy procedure to remove the citizenship of anyone. The king himself has to agree to revoke the citizenship of any national. This must be published in the newspapers. But this doesn't apply to Maryam."