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- 10/05/14--11:24: _The Observatory: Ba...
- 10/05/14--11:37: _Media Coverage of N...
- 10/06/14--05:03: _Bahrain: Journalist...
- 10/09/14--07:45: _Bahrain: Free Nabee...
- 10/17/14--03:35: _Amnesty Internation...
- 10/17/14--03:46: _Amnesty Int'l: Bahr...
- 10/17/14--03:51: _HRW: Bahrain: Free ...
- 10/17/14--04:08: _Norway Concerned Ab...
- 10/17/14--10:00: _ Rights groups call...
- 10/18/14--11:23: _The Obeservatory: B...
- 10/20/14--00:22: _Bahrain: Ongoing de...
- 10/25/14--04:23: _NGOs Welcome United...
- 10/25/14--04:38: _Irish Foreign Minis...
- 10/25/14--04:44: _US Department of St...
- 10/28/14--09:00: _MEP Call For The Re...
- 10/29/14--08:02: _NGOs Call on Home S...
- 10/29/14--09:19: _The Media Line: A T...
- 10/29/14--11:08: _Bahraini Court Post...
- 10/30/14--02:00: _NGOs Condemn Capita...
- 10/30/14--02:35: _Freedom House: Bahr...
- 10/05/14--11:37: Media Coverage of Nabeel Rajab Arrest
- Stop the policy of systematically targeting photographers, journalists and bloggers.
- Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to release all other detained journalists immediately, and to allow them to practice their rights freely and without restrictions.
- Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to allow impartial broadcasters to enter the country.
- Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to halt their policy of suppression and silencing.
- Put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to protect and maintain human rights, especially those relating to freedom of the press and publishing information.
- 10/09/14--07:45: Bahrain: Free Nabeel Rajab Immediately and Unconditionally
- The immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders who have been detained in Bahrain solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
- The Bahrain authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nabeel Rajab;
- The Bahrain authorities to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
- Activist Organization For Development And Human Rights, Yemen
- Agencia EFE, Spain
- Albadeal centre for studies and research, Jordan
- Alkarama, Switzerland
- All Youth Organization, Yemen
- AMAL Human Development Network, Pakistan
- AMAN Network for Rehabilitation and Defending Human Rights
- Amel Association, Lebanon
- Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
- Arab Digital Expression, Egypt
- Arab Institute For Human Rights, Lebanon
- Arab Lawyers Union, Egypt
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
- Article 19, Bahrain
- Association Dea Dia Serbia
- Association de la Réinsertion des Prisonniers et le Suivi des Conditions des Prisons, Tunisia
- Association Tunisienne de Defense des Droits de L'Enfant, Tunisia
- Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) Network
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
- Bahrain Human Rights Society
- Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)
- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
- Bahrain Interfaith
- Bahrain Rehabilitation & Anti Violence Organisation (BRAVO)
- Bahrain Salam for Human Rights
- Bahrain Transparency
- Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
- BRAC, Bangladesh
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
- CARAM-Asia, Malaysia
- Caritas Migrant Center, Lebanon
- Center for Transitional Justice, Tunisia
- CIVICUS, South Africa
- Coalition of Tunisian Women
- Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
- Defending Justice and Rights, USA
- Dewany Civil Office of Ombudsman, USA
- Egyptian Organization For Human Rights (EOHR)
- English PEN
- European Saudi Organizations for Human Rights, Germany
- European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
- Filastiniyat, Palestine
- Fondation Chokri Belaid Contre la Violence, Tunisia
- Forum des Alternatives Maroc, Morocco
- Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society
- Freedom House
- Front Line Defenders
- Gesr Center for Development (GESR)
- Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
- Human Right Information And Training Centre, Yemen
- Human Rights and the Ahwazi Arabs, UK
- Human Rights Information And Training Centre, Lebanon
- Humanitarian Rights Center, Yemen
- Independent Commission for Citizens Rights, Palestine
- Index on Censorship
- International Awareness Youth Club, Egypt
- International centre for supporting rights and freedom, Egypt
- International Civil Society Network
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- International Media Support (IMS), Denmark
- International Press Institute (IPI)
- International Service for Human Rights
- INTERSOS, Italy
- Islamic Non Violence Organization, USA
- Jordanian Commission for Democratic Culture
- Justice for Iran (JFI),UK
- Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture, Lebanon
- Kuwait Institute For Human Rights
- Kuwait Society For Human Rights
- Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
- Ligue algerienne pour la defense des droits de l'homme (LADDH), Algeria
- Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (LTDH), section Sfax sud, Tunisia
- Lualua centre for human rights (LCHR), Lebanon
- Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
- Martin Ennals Award, Switzerland
- MENA monitoring group, Tunisia
- Monitoring of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
- Network of Algerian Human Rights Lawyers
- New Bakkah Foundation, Switzerland
- Nidal Tagheer Organization for Defending Rights, Yemen
- No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), Italy
- Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT), Italy
- Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), Norway
- Organisation marocaine des droits humains, Morroco
- Palestinian Institute for Human Rights
- Peace Mission of the International Council for Human Rights, Yemen
- PEN International
- Rafto Foundation, Norway
- Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), France
- Réseau des avocats algérien pour défendre les droits de l'homme, Algeria
- RO'YA Association for a Better Syria, France
- Shia Rights Watch, USA
- Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA)
- Syrian Center for Democracy and Civil Rights
- Syrian Nonviolence Movement
- Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression
- Tunisian National Council for Liberties (CNLT)
- Un ponte per, Italy
- Volunteers Without borders, Lebanon
- Women Research and Training Centre
- World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
- Youth for Humanity, Egypt
- Youth Transparency & Building, Yemen
- 10/17/14--03:51: HRW: Bahrain: Free Activist Charged with Insulting King
- Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab;
- Drop all charges against him in relation to or retaliation for his work; and
- Ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
- 10/25/14--04:23: NGOs Welcome United Nations General Assembly Concerns over Bahrain
- 10/28/14--09:00: MEP Call For The Release Of Nabeel Rajab
- 10/29/14--09:19: The Media Line: A Tweet Can Land You in Jail
- 10/29/14--11:08: Bahraini Court Postpones Trial of Nabeel Rajab until 2 November
- 10/30/14--02:00: NGOs Condemn Capital Punishment Sentence for Maher al-Khabaz
- 10/30/14--02:35: Freedom House: Bahrain: Freedom of the Press 2014
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
BHR 001 / 0812 / OBS 048.7
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
October 2, 2014
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General .
According to the information received, in the morning of October 2, 2014, a Public Prosecution investigation took place for about 2 hours in relation to certain tweets published by Mr. Nabeel Rajab on Twitter, which the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), IT Crimes Section, deemed insulting to the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code (see background information).
The Public Prosecution decided to keep Mr. Rajab under arrest for 7 days, pending further investigations. According to Bahraini law, he can be detained without trial pending investigation for up to 45 days .
The Observatory strongly deplores the new arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Rajab, and considers it as a reprisal to sanction his legitimate human rights activities. Mr. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain following an international advocacy tour at the United Nations and European Union, and there are strong reasons to believe that he has been targeted in particular due to his advocacy for human rights violations committed in his country.
Mr. Rajab has recently been released from prison after completing the two year sentence issued against him in August 2012 (see background information). In another case, he had already been tried on similar charges in relation to some of his tweets in which he was accused of insulting the Ministry of Interior, before being acquitted.
In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) had found that Mr. Rajab’s detention was arbitrary, following a previous conviction related to his freedom of opinion, expression and assembly. The UN WGAD had concluded that the « domestic laws of Bahrain (…) seem to deny persons the basic right to feedom of opinion, expression »
The Observatory calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, as his arbitrary detention and judicial harassment merely aim at hindering his human rights activities. The Observatory more generally urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with the relevant international norms and standards, in particular the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
October 1, 2014, Mr. Rajab was summoned in the framework of a 45-minute investigation at the CID, IT Crimes Section. The investigation concerned certain tweets he published on Twitter, which the CID alleged were insulting the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code . If convicted, he could face up to three years imprisonment. The CID decided to detain Mr. Rajab overnight before presenting him to the Public Prosecution on October 2 for further investigation.
On July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab had already been arrested by masked police officers at his house  after he had tweeted the following on June 2: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn’t for the subsidies, they wouldn’t have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?".
On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq through tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.
On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court had also sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment. Mr. Rajab appeared before the Court for three cases related to his participation in pacific gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy:
The first case related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” and “calling others to join”, in relation to a protest organised on March 31, 2012 in Manama to denounce the detention of the founder of GCHR, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and former MENA Director at Front Line, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
The second one related to on charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” for a protest in Manama on January 12, 2012.
The third one on related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several protests that took place in Manama in February 2012.
The Court thus sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases. In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released in June 2014.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it seems to merely sanction his human rights activities;
Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others 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 its Article 12.2 which states 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”.
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032
· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284
· Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Tel: +973 17572222 and +973 17390000. Email: email@example.com
· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.
1 OCTOBER 2014
AP:UN Rights Office Urges Release of Bahrain Activist
Berlin 03 October 2014
DW: Leading Bahraini human rights defender re-arrested
3 Oct 14
Huffington Post UK: The UK has picked the wrong friends in Bahrain
BY: Clive Smith 3 Oct 14
RT: Bahrain detains, questions human rights activist Nabeel Rajab
3 Oct 14
Middle East Monitor: The makings of a hero: Arresting Nabeel Rajab
John Lubbock 03 Oct 2014
Middle East Eye: Leading Bahraini human rights activist arrested
By: Alex MacDonald 1 Oct 2014
Global Voices: Bahrain's Prominent Human Rights Activist Arrested for Criticizing Police Defectors Who Joined ISIS 1 Oct 2014
Reuters: Bahrain summons activist over critical tweets - ministry
By: Farishta Saeed 1 Oct 2014
2 OCTOBER 2014
BBC News: Bahrain human rights activist arrested over tweets
2 Oct 2014
The Guardian: Bahraini activist arrested over tweets about Isis
By: Saeed Kamali Dehghan 2 Oct 2014
AP: Lawyer: Bahrain Rights Activist Detained for Tweet
BY: Reem Khalifa 2 Oct 2014
Reuters: Bahrain to detain, question activist Nabeel Rajab for one week - associate
By: Farishta Saeed 2 Oct 2014
RT: Video Bahrain Human rights hero Nabeel Rajab arrested for a tweet.
2 Oct 2014
Paris Match: Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab back behind bars
BY: Marie Desnos 2 Oct 2014
IB Times: Claim Bahrain's Soldiers are Fighting with Isis Lands Activist Nabeel Rajab in Jail
Gianluca Mezzofiore 2 Oct 2014
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the arrest and ill-treatment of the journalist and blogger Ahmed Radhi. The BCHR expresses its concern at the continuing policy of the authorities targeting journalists and bloggers who expose human rights abuses in Bahrain to the world’s view and who practice their right to peaceful expression of opinion, especially on the Internet.
The Bahraini authorities arrested the journalist and blogger Ahmed Radhi from his house in al-Senabis on the morning of 25 September 2014. His electronic devices were confiscated, without the authorities showing an arrest warrant or revealing the reasons on his arrest. Radhi’s family informed the BCHR that he contacted them more than 24 hours after his arrest, and told them that he was being held at the Criminal Investigations Headquarters. However, after that time his contact with them remained cut off, and his family were not able to ascertain his safety or find out what charge he was facing. Radhi was also unable to contact a lawyer. According to information of the BCHR, Radhi was subjected to beating and solitary confinement during his previous detention in May 2012, and there was concern that this experience could be repeated, against a backdrop of impunity and a lack of accountability.
On Monday 29 September 2014 Radhi was released on bail for 200 Bahraini dinars. In a statement he said that he was interrogated about his media activity, and his relationship with AlManar Tv. He said that he was subjected to psychological torture by placing him in a dark cold room while handcuffed for three days at the criminal investigation department and that he was photographed while stripped of almost all his clothes as a form of degrading treatment.
The BCHR has documented a number of similar cases of detainees who are forcibly disappeared and prevented from contacting their lawyers or families. This is sometimes done through the imposition of phone-calls that are so short that they are only able to report that they are being held in the Criminal Investigations Headquarters. There are increasing numbers of complaints of torture from those who have been held at the headquarters.
Ahmed Radhi is an independent journalist and commenter on Twitter (@Ahmeddi99), who publishes articles and investigations in a number of electronic publications including Bahrain Mirror, Manama Post and al-Ahd news site. A few days before his arrest, he had published an article in which he criticised the subjugation of Bahrain’s opposition organisations in the King’s “national consensus” in the run-up to elections. In the article, Radhi expressed his objection to political participation and called for these organisations to persist in their revolution against the regime. Likewise, in his last tweets, which he posted just hours before his arrest, he criticised the ruling regime which sent in the army, killed and tortured protesters, in a reference to the deployment of the army to suppress a long-running sit-in in March 2011 and the cases of extrajudicial killing and torture that followed. These incidents were documented by a report by the Independent Bahraini independent commission of investigation.
Radhi has been subjected to aggression on a number of occasions previously – he was detained from 16 May to 20 September 2012, and was released without charge. The most recent incident was his detention for approximately 15 hours at Dubai International Airport on 30 June 2014, after which he was prevented from entering the United Arab Emirates on the basis of the Gulf Security Agreement. He was subsequently returned to Bahrain. He was prevented from travelling on attempting to cross the land border into Saudi Arabia across the King Fahd Bridge. Previously, the authorities detained him during a period of protest in the 1990s, during which he was subjected to severe torture that caused him to lose hearing in one ear.
Radhi’s arrest comes in the context of a relentless campaign against media workers in Bahrain. The BCHR has recently documented a number of bloggers arrested as a result of opinions published on Twitter. The authorities have not only cracked down on media workers within Bahrain, but also threatened the Media Affairs Body on 15 September 2014 that they would sue Monte Carlo International Radio and its correspondent in Bahrain, the journalist Naziha Saeed, over her broadcast of a report about political assimilation in Bahrain. The government considered the report to be “biased and inciting sectarianism.” The threat comes as a continuation of targeted aggression against Naziha Saeed, who was a victim of torture while she was detained in May 2014 because of her coverage of demonstrations in support of democracy, and the exoneration of her torturer in the partial Bahraini courts.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the journalist and blogger Ahmed Radhi was subjected to detention on the basis of practicing his right to peaceful freedom of expression, a right which is enshrined in a number of international treaties including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom and all of Bahrain’s close allies and relevant international institutions to:
The undersigned more than 100 organisations call for the immediate, unconditional release of detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, arrested on 1 October 2014 in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was summoned on 1 October 2014 to attend an investigation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, specifically the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. The investigation session lasted about 45 minutes and focused on two tweets that the authorities claim have offended the Ministry of Interior.
One tweet, from 28 September 2014, said: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS have come from the security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”
Rajab was detained until the following day when the public prosecution ordered his detention be extended for seven days pending investigation. On 9 October, no hearing took place and his case was instead transferred to the Lower Criminal Court for a hearing on 19 October, thus extending his detention a further ten days. It should be noted that he is no longer under pre-trial detention as he has now been charged. In addition, a new complaint was filed by the Bahraini Defense Forces in relation to the same tweet about ISIS. The BDF claims it was insulting to both security and military institutions of Bahrain.
It’s feared that the government of Bahrain may try to imprison Rajab for a long time. Under Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, this crime is punishable with up to three years in prison. Article 216 provides 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.”
Rajab was imprisoned several times in the past few years. On 9 July 2012, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced him to three months in prison, in a case that is linked to six tweets he posted on 2 June 2012. He had served almost the full sentence before that conviction was overturned on 23 August 2012. However, on 16 August 2012, the Lower Criminal Court also sentenced Rajab to three years’ imprisonment for “participation in illegal gatherings and calling for a march without prior notification.” That sentence was reduced on 11 December 2012 to two years, and he was released on 24 May 2014.
During his previous imprisonment, Rajab has been subject to discrimination and ill-treatment in prison, including being placed in solitary confinement with a dead animal, being isolated from other political detainees for his entire detention period and being prevented from contacting his family on occasion, including after he reported violations that he had witnessed in prison. He was not permitted to see his family on the Eid this past week.
The undersigned organisations consider the detention of Rajab since 1 October to be a clear act of discrimination. Last month, another citizen was accused of a crime under the same article of the law, "offending the army"; however while that person was released within 24 hours, Rajab was denied release, presumably due to his reputation as a well-known human rights defender with a lot of influence on twitter, both locally and internationally.
We believe strongly that Nabeel Rajab has been targeted solely due to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and in particular his recent successful missions to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. He is being detained for merely exercising his rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The undersigned over 100 organisations call for:
We further urge the UN, US administration, the UK government, as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain, the EU and leading human rights organizations to put real pressure on the government of Bahrain in order to immediately stop the judicial harassment of human rights defenders; drop all charges against them and release all detained human rights defenders and political prisoners, including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founder of BCHR and GCHR, and Naji Fateel of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
And the family of Nabeel Rajab:
Sumaya, Adam and Malek Rajab
"I am writing to express Amnesty International's grave concern about the detention of Nabeel Rajab, the well-known human rights defender, and the charges brought against him and urge the Bahraini authoritites to uphold the right to freedom of expression and release him."
Read the full letter below:
A human rights activist detained for “insulting” Bahrain’s King after she tore up a photograph of the monarch in court yesterday is a prisoner of conscience and must be released, Amnesty International said today.
Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was appealing against two previous convictions for ripping up photos of Bahrain’s head of state, is now being held for seven days while authorities investigate the incident. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.
“The detention of Zainab illustrates the Bahraini authorities’ growing intolerance of any criticism and their harsh methods of dealing with dissent,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“They must immediately and unconditionally release Zainab and all others who are detained for peacefully expressing their views.”
Zainab Al-Khawaja, who is more than eight months pregnant, was previously handed four-month jail sentences for destroying government property when she ripped photos of King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa on two occasions in May 2012.
The activist appeared today before Bahrain’s Public Prosecution, which ordered her detention pending an investigation on more serious charges of “insulting the King, the national flag or emblem”.
Laws that prohibit insults or the disrespect of heads of state or other public figures are contrary to international human rights law and standards.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to repeal articles in its Penal Code that criminalize freedom of expression.
“The Bahraini authorities are resorting to these oppressive laws in order to silence outspoken and critical voices,” said Said Boumedouha.
“Their persistent persecution of human rights activists and other government critics highlights their failure to deliver on promised reforms.”
Zainab Al-Khawaja is the daughter of prominent activist and prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence for his peaceful role in anti-government protests in 2011.
She previously spent almost a year in prison on an array of other charges before being released in February this year.
These included destroying government property, insulting a policewoman, illegal gathering and rioting and inciting hatred against the regime.
After ripping the photo yesterday she reportedly told the court: “I am the daughter of a proud and free man. My mother brought me into this world free, and I will give birth to a free baby boy even if it is inside our prisons. It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors.”
After she handed in the torn picture to the judge, the court session was suspended and she was taken into detention.
Other activists in Bahrain have faced similar persecution.
Nabeel Rajab will appear before a criminal court on 19 October on charges of publicly insulting official institutions following two tweets he posted last month about members of Bahrain’s security forces who had joined the ”Islamic State” armed group.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, Zainab’s sister, is on trial on a charge of “assaulting police officers” at Bahrain International Airport, though she was released on bail.
Nader Abdulemam is currently detained in Dry Dock Prison after comments he posted on Twitter were interpreted as derogatory towards Khalid bin al-Waleed, a companion of the prophet Muhammad and a renowned Islamic commander. He is charged with “publicly insulting a religious figure of worship”.
Daughter of Jailed Rights Advocate Tore Monarch’s Photo
(Beirut) – A Bahraini rights activist jailed for ripping up a photo of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in court on October 14, 2014, should be released immediately. Bahrain should drop all freedom-of-expression related charges against the activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant and has been charged with insulting the king. Al-Khawaja was in court to face charges relating to two previous incidents in which she also tore up photographs of the king as a form of protest. She was arrested again in the courtroom and, on October 15, the public prosecutor charged her with insulting the king and ordered her detention for another seven days.
“Zainab al-Khawaja has exposed the thin skin of Bahraini authorities, armed again only with a photograph,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It says much about the state of the justice system in Bahrain that you’re more likely to end up in jail for ripping up a photo than you are for shooting an unarmed protester.”
Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence in relation to his calls for political reform in Bahrain. Her mother, Khadija al-Mousawi, told Human Rights Watch that at the start of court proceedings on October 14 her daughter addressed the judge, stating that “It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors."
She then took a photo of King Hamad, ripped it up, and placed it in front of the judge, who immediately adjourned the hearing. Authorities arrested her immediately and she spent the night in Isa Town detention center.
In September 2012, she was sentenced to two months in prison for ripping up a photo of King Hamad. In early February 2013 she was imprisoned on charges that included illegal gathering and insulting police officers. She was released in February 2014. She is now facing six outstanding charges, five of which, according to information provided by her lawyer, clearly violate her right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.
In April 2014, King Hamad ratified Law 1/2014 which amends article 214 of the penal code to provide for a maximum jail term of 7 years and a fine of up to 10,000 Bahraini Dinars (US$26,500) for offending the king, Bahrain’s flag, or the national emblem.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body of international human rights experts that reviews state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, has concluded, in relation to article 19 of the covenant, on freedom of expression, that “The mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties, albeit public figures may also benefit from the provisions of the Covenant. Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.”
Another prominent Bahraini rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, is in jail awaiting trial on October 19 on charges that he “insulted” the Interior and Defense ministries, in social media comments. The charge carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.
“Where are the voices of the United States and United Kingdom, the supposed global champions of human rights, when it comes to Bahrain, a serial offender when it comes to punishing free speech,” Stork said.
Secretary Brattskar met human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on 11 September this year.(Photo: Marta B. Haga, MFA)
The human rights situation in Bahrain has become increasingly difficult since the start of the "Arab Spring" in 2011. The situation is very worrisome, said State Secretary Hans Brattskar.
Brattskar met human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on 11 September this year. Rajab has been imprisoned several times on charges of inciting illegal demonstrations and public criticisms of government on social media.
After a long journey in Europe to shed light on the human rights situation in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab returned to Bahrain on 30 September. Only one day after his return to his home country, Rajab was summoned for interrogation with the accusation of having criticized the Bahraini authorities on social media. He has since been detained and his case will reportedly be processed for court later in October.
The arrest of Nabeel Rajab is an example of how difficult the situation is for human rights defenders in Bahrain. A large number of activists have been detained with very harsh verdicts. Norway urges the Bahraini authorities to drop the case against Nabeel Rajab so that he can once again be a free man, said State Secretary Hans Brattskar.
Press release: 17 October 2014
Rights groups call on UK to press Bahrain to release human rights defenders
Nine human rights organisations called on the British government on Friday to speak out publicly in the case of activists currently being detained in BahrainProminent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer have all been arrested and face lengthy prison sentences in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression.
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was arrested for a tweet in which he expressed his view about the role Bahrain security institutions play as "incubators of ISIS ideology". Mr. Rajab had travelled to Bahrain from the United Kingdom following a European advocacy tour that included a panel at the UK House of Lords. In an open letter to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, rights groups Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, English PEN, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Index on Censorship and Reprieve urged the United Kingdom to add its voice to these universal calls.
“As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain,” the groups said in the letter. “As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain”.
Last month, the UK signed a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council, which urged the government of Bahrain "to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained.”
Read the full letter below:
Paris-Geneva, October 17, 2014– Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, will face a new trial on October 19. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), along with numerous institutions and NGOs have called for his release and the end of his judicial harassment. In addition, the Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to facilitate the access of international human rights experts to the country for trial observation and release .
On October 19, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court will open the trial against Mr. Nabeel Rajab on charge of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The alleged offence concern tweets he published on Twitter, which the CID deemed insulting to the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, punishable by up to three years of imprisonment. Mr. Rajab has been detained since the date of his summons for interrogation on October 1.
Mr. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain following an international advocacy tour at the United Nations and European Union, and there are strong reasons to believe that he has been targeted in particular due to his advocacy for human rights violations committed in his country in violation of international human rights standards.
Mr. Rajab had recently been released from prison after completing a two year sentence (see background information). In another case, he had already been tried on similar charges in relation to tweets deemed to be insulting to the Ministry of Interior, before being acquitted.
In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) had found that Mr. Rajab’s detention was arbitrary, following a previous conviction related to his freedom of opinion, expression and assembly. The UN WGAD had concluded that the “domestic laws of Bahrain (…) seem to deny persons the basic right to freedom of opinion, expression”.
Such ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention is one more evidence of the continued criminalisation of human rights defenders’ activities. This particular case has drawn the attention of many institutions, NGOs and third countries. The Observatory intended to send a trial observation mission for the October 19 hearing, but could not get a response in time from the authorities to guarantee its trial observer an unhindered access to the country. Thus, the Observatory calls on the authorities to facilitate the access to the country for international trial observers by guaranteeing the automatic issue of visas.
For more information, please contact:
· FIDH: Arthur Manet/Audrey Couprie: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT: Miguel Martin: +41 22 809 49 22
NGOs Condemn Continued Detention of Nabeel Rajab
20 October 2014 - Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) are extremely concerned over the continued detention of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The aforementioned organizations condemn the prosecution of Mr. Rajab on charges related to his right to free speech and call for his immediate release.
Mr. Rajab, President of BCHR and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), is accused of “derogating government institutions” for a tweet in which he questioned whether Bahraini security institutions are "ideological incubators" for the known terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While the government originally scheduled Mr. Rajab’s trial for 19 October, the government postponed ruling on the case until 29 October in the face of mounting international pressure. The government also denied Mr. Rajab bail, and did not allow his family to attend the proceeding. If convicted, Mr. Rajab could face up to three years in prison.
“Mr. Rajab’s continued detention, despite calls for his immediate release from the international community, makes a mockery of the Bahraini government’s claims of respecting human rights and desiring reform,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director.
On 30 September, Mr. Rajab returned to Bahrain after spending months participating in a foreign advocacy tour to raise awareness about human rights abuses in Bahrain. During his tour, Mr. Rajab spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, and visited foreign ministries throughout Europe. Upon returning to the country, Mr. Rajab immediately received a summons from the Cyber Crimes Unit of the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) for interrogation due to complaints filed by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense. When Mr. Rajab arrived for interrogation, the Public Prosecution ordered his detention pending investigation.
“The government detained Mr. Rajab less than 24 hours after he returned,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of BIRD. “Clearly, the Government of Bahrain did not appreciate what Mr. Rajab was doing, and has taken this opportunity to silence him.”
More than 100 civil society organizations called for Mr. Rajab’s immediate and unconditional release, while the United Nations called his detention “chilling” and argued that it sends a “disturbing message.” The United States and Norway called for the government of Bahrain to drop the charges against Mr. Rajab, and France called on Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and facilitate free public debate.
“It is clear that the government of Bahrain is persecuting Mr. Rajab for his human rights work,” said Said Yousif, Vice President of BCHR. “Free expression is effectively outlawed in Bahrain, where government institutions are used to gag critics and quash dissent.”
The government has previously arbitrarily imprisoned Mr. Rajab on multiple occasions. From July 2012 to May 2014, he was detained as a result of calling for and participating in peaceful protests in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. The government has also prosecuted Mr. Rajab on multiple occasions for tweets critical of the government, including an incident in which he was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for allegedly defaming citizens of Muharraq. Despite his eventual acquittal by the Court of Appeal, Mr. Rajab served most of his sentence.
We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the United States, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:
24 October 2014 – Yesterday, Liechtenstein delivered a statement during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders, Michael Forst, expressing concern over reprisals against human rights defenders in Bahrain at the Third Committee meeting of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) welcome the statement and praise Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden for supporting it.
“We are grateful to Liechtenstein and the supporting countries for expressing their concern regarding the ongoing reprisals against human rights defenders in Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB’s Executive Director. “Only through pressure from the international community will the Bahraini government realize that it can no longer target human rights defenders with impunity and end such abuses.”
The statement noted with concern the Government of Bahrain’s renewed campaign against human rights defenders, which stands “in stark contrast to the acceptance by the Government of Bahrain of UPR recommendations made in 2012 regarding the abandoning of any restrictions on human rights defenders.” Supporters of the statement asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the current engagement between the mandate and the Government of Bahrain, particularly as it pertains to scheduling a visit to the country.
“By accepting 158 recommendations provided through its 2012 Second Cycle UPR, the Government of Bahrain made a commitment to the international community that it would implement reform and end reprisals against human rights defenders. Clearly, this hasn’t happened,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “We urge the Bahraini government to immediately arrange for Special Rapporteur Forst to visit the country so he may investigate the situation of human rights defenders in Bahrain.”
Supporters of the statement also noted that “several human rights defenders have been arrested or otherwise faced reprisals due to their activities on social media.” In Bahrain, the use of repressive terrorism laws from July 2013 has led to an increase in judicial reprisals against human rights defenders for expressing themselves, particularly via social media.
Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), was arrested on 1 October 2014 and charged with insulting the Ministry of Interior and the Bahrain Defense Forces for a comment he made on his personal Twitter account. The government arrested Rajab the day after he returned from an advocacy tour in Europe, where he spoke about human rights abuses in Bahrain at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, and visited foreign ministries throughout Europe.
“Not only is the supposed crime for which Rajab has been charged a clear human rights violation, but the timing of his detention indicates that he is being targeted for his human rights work,” said Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah, Vice President of BCHR. “Human rights defenders must be free to conduct their peaceful activism without fearing reprisals from their government.”
153. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his attention has been drawn to the imprisonment of a person (details supplied) in Bahrain; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this person was allegedly arrested for sending a tweet critical of the Government. [40677/14]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am familiar with the individual referred to in this question, Mr Nabeel Rajab and the circumstances of his recent arrest, including the reports that the charges against him relate to ‘publically insulting official institutions’ under Article 216 of the Bahraini penal code on foot of an opinion he expressed on Twitter. The apparent arrest, detention and prosecution of Mr Rajab for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression is of great concern. Reports indicate that his trial, which commenced on Sunday, will continue on 29 October. Mr Rajab was released from prison earlier this year, and, since then, has been continuing to act as an important voice on human rights matters in Bahrain, including, inter alia, by his participation in the work of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Officials from my Department have met with Mr Rajab since his release to discuss with him the circumstances of his previous detention and the human rights situation in Bahrain more generally. In 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Mr. Rajab’s previous detention was arbitrary. Ireland has always attached priority to safeguarding the position and rights of human rights defenders and has continually advocated that civil society actors must be free to operate in a safe and enabling environment, free from repression. Ireland’s concerns on such human rights issues in Bahrain have been conveyed regularly to the Bahraini authorities.
Ireland was one of 47 member states who delivered a joint statement expressing serious concern over the human rights situation in Bahrain at the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in June of this year. In the statement, the signatories expressed their concern regarding the protection of human rights in Bahrain and called on the government to expedite the implementation of the recommendations received from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in this regard.
At the 27th session of the Human Rights Council last month, in a national statement, Ireland welcomed the positive steps taken by the authorities in Bahrain with respect to cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights while again expressing our serious concerns about the human rights situation, in particular condemning ‘the continuing arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, detained for peacefully exercising their human rights’. The current situation of human rights defenders in Bahrain will also be raised with the UN Special Rapporteur on this issue during an interactive dialogue which Ireland and other like-minded countries will have with him later this week in New York.
Human rights defenders, whether in Bahrain or elsewhere, should not be detained for simply exercising their rights, and all those arbitrarily detained in such circumstances should be immediately released. As noted by the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the detention of high profile human rights activists like Mr Rajab ‘sends a chilling message to other lesser-known activists of the consequences they may face for any criticism of the authorities’.
Ireland will continue to follow closely the human rights situation in Bahrain and to monitor the case of Nabeel Rajab in this context.
QUESTION: On Bahrain.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: On Thursday, Jen called on authorities in Bahrain to drop charges against the activist Nabeel Rajab.
MS. HARF: I would echo those calls.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any reaction to judicial authorities yesterday ignoring those calls and carrying on with the case?
MS. HARF: Yes, the trial did begin yesterday. An Embassy Manama official did attend the hearing. We do not agree with the prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful political expression and again urge the Government of Bahrain to drop the charges and release Mr. Rajab. Obviously, we believe he has the right to freedom of expression. It doesn’t mean we agree with everything he tweeted, but certainly agree he has the right to do it.
QUESTION: Do those concerns also extend to Zainab al-Khawaja?
MS. HARF: Yes. We obviously follow the reports of the continued detention, have called on the Bahraini officials here to ensure equal treatment under the law, advance justice in a fair and transparent way. It’s something we’ve continued to follow and are also concerned, as you know, about the health of her father as well.
We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab — President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, FIDH Deputy Secretary General, and member of the Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board.
We believe that his arrest, interrogation and arbitrary detention in relation to an offending tweet are meant as a form of reprisal against Mr. Rajab for his recent advocacy on behalf of human rights in Bahrain. His advocacy recently included speaking before the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European Parliament, and participating in the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Less than 24 hours after completing his human rights advocacy mission in Europe, the Bahraini government summoned Mr. Rajab to the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) Cyber Crimes Unit for interrogation, whereupon security forces arrested and interrogated him for a number of hours in relation to a tweet he published while abroad. After 19 days in pre-trial detention, Mr. Rajab’s court proceedings began to hear opening arguments on 19 October. The court postponed any decision or sentencing until Wednesday 29 October, and has denied Mr. Rajab release on bail.
Given the Bahrain government’s history of targeted reprisals of arbitrary detention and torture against Mr. Rajab, including a two-year arbitrary detention completed in May 2014, we are deeply concerned that Mr. Rajab’s renewed arbitrary detention in relation to his free expression is likewise meant as a form of reprisal for his human rights advocacy at EU and UN levels.
In addition to the recent detention of Mr. Rajab, the Bahraini government has also reignited its campaign against the Bahraini-Danish citizens and human rights defenders of the al-Khawaja family. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja continues to serve his arbitrary life sentence in Bahrain after peacefully calling for reforms during the 2011 popular protest movement in the country. His daughter Zainab al-Khawaja — herself a prominent human rights activist who is currently eight months pregnant — now faces fresh charges of insulting the king of Bahrain, a crime that can carry a sentence of seven years imprisonment and a fine up to BD 10,000 (€20,900). Her trial is set to resume on Thursday 20 October.
In February of this year, the European Parliament unanimously passed an Urgency Resolution recognizing that “the Bahraini authorities continue to violate and restrict the rights […] of individuals to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and digital freedom, [and that] human rights activists face ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention.” The Resolution also called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and peaceful protesters, including Nabeel Rajab [...]”.
We therefore urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Member States to publicly condemn the ongoing violations of the basic human rights of free expression in Bahrain, and call for the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders targeted in Bahrain. We further hope that Member States will continue to call on the Government of Bahrain to ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in the kingdom are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Finally, we again urge the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs to stress the European Parliament’s calls for imposing targeted restrictive measures (visa bans and asset freezes) against those individuals responsible for, and involved in, the human rights abuses (as documented by the BICI report or by the Special Procedures of the United Nations).
Signatories (in alphabetical order)
Mr. Petras Austrevicius, ALDE, Lithuania
Mr. Klaus Buchner, Greens, Germany
Mr. Nicola Caputo, S&D, Italy
Ms. Bodil Ceballos, Greens, Sweden
Mr. Ignazio Corrao, EFD, Italy
Mr. Javier Couso Permuy, GUE, Spain
Ms. Anneliese Dodds, S&D, UK
Ms. Jill Evans, Greens, UK
Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar, S&D, Spain
Ms. Ana Gomes, S&D, Portugal
Mr. Enrique Guerrero, S&D, Spain
Ms. Heidi Hautala, Greens, Finland
Mr. Richard Howitt, S&D, UK
Ms. Jean Lambert, Greens, UK
Ms. Barbara Lochbihler, Greens, Germany
Ms. Linda McAvan, S&D, UK
Mr. Fabio Massimo Castaldo, EFD, Italy
Mr. Claude Moraes, S&D, UK
Mr. Pier Antonio Panzeri, S&D, Italy
Mr. Gianni Pittella, S&D, Italy
Mr. Gutiérrez Prieto, S&D, Spain
Ms. Sofia Sakorafa, GUE, Greece
Ms. Judith Sargentini, Greens, The Netherlands
Ms. Marietje Schaake, ALDE, The Netherlands
Mr. Alyn Smith, Greens, UK
Mr. Keith Taylor, Greens, UK
Mr. Ivo Vajgl, ALDE, Slovenia
Ms. Elena Valenciano, S&D, Spain
Ms. Julie Ward, S&D, UK
Mr. Bogdan Wenta, EPP, Poland
Currently, 30 Members of the European Parliament support this call.
London, 27 October 2014 – The Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Reddress UK expressed their disappointment to the UK Home Secretary last Friday 24 October, upon receiving information of Bahrain Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s arrival in London for an appearance at the 2014 British Invention Show. In a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May, the rights groups pointed to a decision made by the UK High Court earlier this month, which ruled to quash the Prince’s functional immunity in the UK due to impending accusations of torture against him.
The rights groups expressed further disappointment in the UK’s recent engagements with the Prince, referencing the Prince’s recent visit to a Royal British Navy transport dock last week and a meeting with the British Ambassador to Bahrain only two days after the Court’s decision was announced. Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD expressed his concern over the recent UK attitude, asserting, “the UK government should not undermine the decision by the High Court which quashed the Prince’s immunity on serious torture allegations”.
The letter urges Ms. May to act in coordination with the recent decision by the UK High Court, claiming Prince Nasser’s presence in the UK in spite of these accusations, to be in contradiction with UK policy, specified by the HMG’s Human Rights and Democracy Report of 2012 that “where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses they will not normally be permitted to enter the UK”. The rights groups called on May to arrange the removal of the Prince from UK territory and to impose a ban on his future travel to the UK. Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at ADHRB, echoed the call: “Due to impending accusations of torture, we urge UK Home Secretary Theresa May to advise an appropriate course of action for Prince Nasser’s expulsion from the UK.”
As Britain’s longest historical ally in the Middle East, UK policy towards Bahrain in spite of persistent violations of human rights in the country, has been a topic of ongoing criticism in past months. NGOs hope that a strong decision by the Home Secretary will relay an appropriate message to the government of Bahrain on Britain’s policy towards torture and torture perpetrators. Carla Ferstman, Director of Reddress UK argues that “instead of allowing leaders of a regime notorious for torture to enter Britain at will, the UK Government ought to be putting maximum pressure on the Bahraini Government to stop torturing peaceful protestors, and to end impunity for torture. Britain should send a strong signal to the regime and exclude people like Prince Nasser from coming here”.
BIRD, ADHRB and Redress thus call together on the UK government to respect the decision made by the UK High Court and to act in accordance with this decision by demanding Prince Nasser’s immediate removal from UK territory
See the letter below:
Rt Hon Theresa May
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Direct communications unit
2 Marsham Street
Dear Ms. May,
We write to you regarding the current visit of the Bahraini Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa
to the United Kingdom amidst serious allegations of torture and ill treatment. His visit coincides
with the 2014 British Invention Show of which he is a patron.
On 7 October 2014, the UK High Court quashed a decision1
by the Crown Prosecution Service that the Prince had immunity from prosecution on torture allegations under Section 20 of the
State Immunity Act 1978. Prince Nasser has been accused of taking part in individual acts of torture during the 2011 uprising in Bahrain. In 2012, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights sent a detailed dossier of evidence regarding alleged practices of torture committed by the Prince. This included witness statements by members of Bahrain’s opposition who alleged that the Prince had personally engaged in acts of torture against them. Lord Justice Laws and Mr. Justice Cranston confirmed that “based on the evidence provided” in the hearing, the Prince would no longer be immune to investigation or prosecution for the alleged acts as required by UK and Bahraini commitments to the Convention against Torture.
Two days after this decision, the British ambassador met with Prince Nasser2
expressing a “keenness to strengthen ties with Bahrain.” Similarly, the UK government invited the Prince to visit the Royal British navy transport dock in Bahrain last week. These actions have shown the government’s disregard for the decision made by the UK High Court earlier this month, which considered evidence of torture claims against the Prince sufficient to strip him of his functional
immunity in the United Kingdom.
The Prince’s undisturbed arrival in the UK reflects a compromising position of the UK government towards Bahrain. While the order of the High Court on Prince Nasser recalls the UK obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, an unchanged attitude towards the Prince amidst serious allegations of torture puts to question the UK’s commitment to its international
human rights engagements.
We express our disappointment with the decision to grant the Prince access to British territory whilst there are ongoing accusations against him. We call on the government to make it clear to the Prince that as a person accused of some of the most serious crimes, he is not welcome in the United Kingdom. I remind you of HMG’s Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 which clearly states: “Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses they will not normally be permitted to enter the UK.” We further call on the government to refrain from inviting the Prince onto public property, including for the inspection of sensitive military installations and urge you to take immediate steps to advise of an
appropriate course of action for his dismissal from the UK.
Thank you for your consideration.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Two human rights activists from the small Gulf nation of Bahrain face jail sentences for having broken a law that makes offending the King, the Bahraini flag, or the country’s institutions a criminal offense. Human Rights Watch has called on the government of Bahrain to drop all charges.
Nabeel al-Rajab is being tried for offending national institutions, for a tweet in which he accused Bahraini security forces of encouraging violent ideas similar to those of the Islamic State (IS), and mentioned that a former employee at the Ministry of Interior had joined IS. Rajab faces up to three years in jail.
The second defendant, Zainab al-Khawaja, could receive up to seven years in jail for insulting the king of Bahrain, for ripping up pictures of the king. She is also eight months pregnant.
Of all of Bahrain’s international allies, only the US has called on the oil-rich state to drop the charges.
“The Bahraini authorities have no reason to hold these two prominent activists in prison,” Fadi Al-Qadi of Human Rights Watch told The Media Line. “The charges against them have to do with freedom of expression. What they said cannot be regarded as hate speech or incitement to violence.”
The crackdown on human rights activists has caused many to flee the country. Nabeel al-Rajab’s deputy at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha, moved to Germany earlier this year after being arrested seven times, and spending between one week and seven weeks in jail each time.
“All of the human rights activists are either in jail or in exile,” Al-Muhafdha told The Media Line. “I cannot go back to Bahrain because of my human rights activity. We closed our office in Bahrain and moved it to Copenhagen.”
He said that Rajab was in Geneva speaking about human rights abuses in Bahrain to the European Parliament last month.
“Less than 24 hours after he came back he was arrested,” he said. “They don’t want him or anyone to speak about human rights abuses in Bahrain.”
Al-Rajab is being held in a special police jail far from the regular jail, says al-Muhafdha. The authorities in Bahrain do not want him to witness the human rights abuses that occur in the country’s main jail which range from lack of medical care to occasional beatings by the guards.
The second defendant Zainab al-Khawaja faces six charges, five of which violate her right to freedom of expression, says Human Rights Watch. She has served two previous stints in prison – two months in 2012 for ripping up a photo of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa– and a year in 2013 for illegal gathering and insulting police officers.
In February 2011, demonstrators in Bahrain tried to overthrow the monarchy as part of the Arab Spring demonstrations sweeping through the Arab world. The government cracked down hard, and more than 80 people were killed when the protests were quelled in 2011 and again in 2012.
Critics have charged that the US and the international community are hesitant to criticize Bahrain because the country hosts the US Fifth Fleet which is responsible for US naval forces in the area.
29 October 2014 - Today, a Bahraini court ruled that Nabeel Rajab will face criminal charges stemming from a single tweet in which both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense allege that he “denigrated government institutions.” The court postponed the trial until Sunday, 2 November. If convicted, Mr. Rajab could face up to six years in prison.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and Index on Censorship condemn the criminal prosecution brought against Mr. Rajab, denounce his continued detention on charges related to his right to free speech and call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Mr. Rajab, President of BCHR and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), was summoned to the Cyber Crimes Unit of the Central Investigations Directorate’s (CID) for interrogation and promptly arrested on 1 October after spending months advocating for human rights in Bahrain throughout Europe. After 19 days in pre-trial detention, Mr. Rajab appeared in front of a judge on 19 October, where the court postponed his trial until 29 October and denied him release on bail.
The international community has been outspoken in condemning the arrest of Mr. Rajab and calling for his immediate and unconditional release. The United Nations called his detention “chilling” and argued that it sends a “disturbing message.” The governments of the United States, Norway, France, and Ireland, as well as the President of the European Parliament, United States Ambassador Samantha Power, United States Congressman James McGovern, 13 members of the UK Parliament, and 40 members of the European Parliament also called for Mr. Rajab’s release. While the UK government claims to be following the situation closely, it has yet to call for Mr. Rajab’s release.
This is not the first time Mr. Rajab has faced arbitrary detention. From July 2012 to May 2014, he was detained after calling for and participating in peaceful protests in Bahrain’s capital of Manama. Mr. Rajab was also previously sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment for allegedly defaming citizens of Muharraq via Twitter. Despite his eventual acquittal by the Court of Appeal, Mr. Rajab served most of his sentence.
We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:
• Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab;
• Drop all charges against him in relation to or retaliation for his work and his exercise of the right to freedom of expression; and
• Ensure that all civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
30 October 2014 - Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Reprieve condemn the Government of Bahrain’s use of sentences of capital punishment in politically motivated cases.
On 19 February 2013, government security officers arrested Maher al-Khabaz without presenting an arrest warrant. The government subjected him to enforced disappearance for the next seven days, during which time it denied him access to counsel. Al-Khabaz was transported to Hamad Town police station, where the government subjected him to torture and other forms of abuse, including frequent beatings with fists, wires, and sticks, being forced to stand for long periods of time, electrocution, being prevented from praying, eating and going to the toilet, and a Bahraini form of bastinado. Through the employment of these practices, the government coerced al-Khabaz into signing a forced confession. Al-Khabaz was then taken to the public prosecution, where a public prosecutor threatened to resume torturing him if he did not again confess to killing the police officer.
Al-Khabaz remained in detention for the eight months leading up to his trial. On 19 February 2014, al-Khabaz was convicted of killing a policeman and sentenced to death. The government significantly relied on the coerced confession in obtaining his conviction. Al-Khabaz and his lawyer report that they were banned from attending portions of the trial. No murder weapon was recovered or presented.
The Court of Appeals rejected Al-Khabaz’s appeal on 31 August 2014. He awaits the court’s decision on cassation.
We believe that al-Khabaz's arrest and prosecution are in violation of his guaranteed rights accorded by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Bahrain is a signatory. Al-Khabaz was arbitrary arrested, subjected to torture, denied the right to fully defend himself through legal counsel and denied a fair trial.
We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the United States, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:
1. Condemn the application of the death penalty against Maher al-Khabaz;
2. Call on the Bahraini authorities to vacate al-Khabaz’s sentence and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
3. Fully investigate al-Khabaz’s credible claims of torture as required by the Convention against Torture;
4. Put an end to the use of torture in detention centres and hold accountable anyone responsible in all torture cases carried out in Bahrain, whether in the form of command, complicity, or practice;
5. Request the Government of Bahrain to comply with UPR recommendations, adopt the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and abolish the death penalty.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Media workers and citizen journalists continued to face a highly restrictive media environment in Bahrain during 2013. Since 2011, journalists, photographers, and bloggers covering antigovernment demonstrations have suffered beatings, arrests, and torture. Fewer incidents were reported in 2013, though this suggested that earlier abuses had effectively stifled free expression. The current repression began after widespread, peaceful prodemocracy protests, led mainly by members of the economically and politically disadvantaged Shiite Muslim majority, triggered a violent government response in early 2011, affecting both the protesters and journalists. Despite the government’s pledge to respect human rights in keeping with the recommendations of a November 2011 report on the crackdown by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), authorities in 2013 continued to aggressively curtail media freedom. The domestic press remained subject to self-censorship and persecution, leading to the emergence of citizen journalists who reported on ongoing protests and suffered government reprisals.
Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, the government uses the 2002 Press Law to restrict the rights of the media. The Press Law allows up to five years’ imprisonment for publishing criticism of Islam or the king, inciting actions that undermine state security, or advocating a change in government. Journalists may be fined up to 2,000 dinars ($5,300) for a list of 14 other offenses. Libel, slander, and “divulging secrets” are criminal offenses punishable by terms of no more than two years in prison or a fine of no more than 200 dinars ($530). The criminal defamation laws make it difficult to provide critical coverage of public figures, and they are frequently used to squelch reporting on corruption. The government also uses counterterrorism legislation to curtail the activities of opposition groups and restrict freedom of expression.
A number of prominent journalists, bloggers, and activists convicted in previous years remained behind bars in 2013. In July 2012, writer Nabeel Rajab—head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the main domestic human rights group—was sentenced to three months in prison for libel after he posted comments on Twitter that accused the prime minister of corruption and called for his resignation. In August 2012, Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison for participating in demonstrations against the government. Abduljalil al-Singace, a blogger and online journalist, was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 on charges of plotting to overthrow the regime after he wrote about the prodemocracy demonstrations. His sentence was upheld on appeal in September 2012. In November of that year, Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdhah, vice president of the BCHR, was arrested while investigating an injury sustained by a bystander when security forces attacked a protest in Duraz. One month earlier, al-Muhafdhah had provided information to the UN Human Rights Council on alleged rights violations by the Bahraini government.
There is no law guaranteeing freedom of information. The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) has the power to censor and prevent the distribution of local and foreign publications, close newspapers through court proceedings, ban books and films, block websites, and prosecute individuals. Under the 2002 Telecommunications Law, the government has considerable authority to regulate internet activity. All websites are required to register with the IAA, and religious and political content is heavily censored. Website administrators are responsible for all content posted on their sites and are subject to the same libel laws as print journalists.
Prior to the protests of 2011, the Bahraini media’s coverage of news and politics was more critical and independent than reporting in most other Gulf countries. Nonetheless, newspapers tended to avoid covering “sensitive” issues such as sectarian tensions, relations with surrounding countries, government corruption, demonstrations, and human rights violations. After the protests erupted in early 2011, media outlets and individual journalists came under increased pressure from the government. Media workers have reported being contacted directly by government representatives and warned not to report on subjects related to the prodemocracy demonstrations or other sensitive issues. Most domestic opposition publications have been shut down, and while some, such as Al-Wasat, were eventually reopened, they remain the targets of legal harassment and public intimidation.
The only alternative space for public expression in Bahrain is online. However, the internet is closely monitored, with the government spending tens of millions of dollars on surveillance and cybersecurity. The arrest of social-media activists in 2013 had a chilling effect on online speech. Various opposition publications have survived on the web but are forced to operate clandestinely from outside the country. The government is a major shareholder in Batelco, Bahrain’s principal telecommunications company, which monitors e-mail and filters internet content by routing traffic through proxy or cache servers. The government blocks thousands of websites under the pretense of protecting citizens from pornography and other offensive material, though many of the filtered sites are reportedly targeted for their politically sensitive content. Internet platforms used for video streaming or for holding online seminars are blocked, as are the sites of human rights groups operating within Bahrain. Because the mainstream press self-censors, bloggers and microbloggers have become more active to fill the void, which in turn draws government scrutiny. In August 2013, government security forces arrested two bloggers and charged them with inciting hatred against the regime. One of the two, Mohammad Hassan Sadef, said he was tortured while in custody. His lawyer posted on social media about his case and was arrested as well.
The authorities continued efforts to control the country’s international image by severely restricting foreign media access during the year. A report from Bahrain Watch in early 2013 counted more than 200 journalists, observers, and aid workers who had been denied entry to Bahrain since protests began in February 2011. Most foreign journalists were denied access to the kingdom to cover the second anniversary of the protests, and those seeking to cover April’s Formula One Grand Prix—Bahrain’s most prominent annual international event—were vetted before admission. Journalists from Sky News, CNN, Reuters, and the Financial Times have been denied entry to cover the race. The government deported three journalists from the British television channel ITV who were covering the Grand Prix after they reported on massive protests before the event.
The government in 2011 used killings, targeted attacks, and harassment to silence the local press, and such tactics continued to be employed in 2013, but they were rarely necessary, as the majority of journalists practiced self-censorship. Even so, dozens of journalists were subjected to harassment and intimidation by security forces during the year. In June, an appeals court upheld the acquittal of a police officer charged with torturing a journalist; the Bahrain correspondent for France 24 alleged that she had been mistreated in custody after being detained as a result of her coverage of the 2011 protests, and had medical reports to support her claim. In July, prominent blogger and journalist Mohammed Hassan Sadef was arrested, as was photographer Hussain Hubail. Sadef was released in October, while Hubail was still in detention at year’s end. Photographer Qassim Zainaldeen was arrested on August 2 ahead of protests planned for August 14, while Ahmed al-Fardan, an award-winning photographer recognized by human rights groups for his stunning pictures of protests, was arrested in December and held without charge through the end of the year.
Bahrain hosts six privately owned daily newspapers, four in Arabic and two in English. While some of these papers are critical of the government, only Al-Wasat is considered truly independent of government influence, though its editors must practice self-censorship. The government does not own any newspapers, but the IAA maintains significant control over private publications. Newspapers rely heavily on advertising revenue to sustain their operations and often self-censor to avoid offending advertisers that do not want their businesses associated with critical reporting. The government maintains a monopoly on broadcast media, allowing the regime to shape public perceptions of the prodemocracy movement and characterize it as sectarian extremism. Private broadcasting licenses are not awarded despite continued interest from media owners. However, there is some room for free expression on television call-in shows. Foreign radio and television broadcasts are generally received without interference, and the majority of households have access to satellite stations; Qatar’s Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya (broadcasting out of the United Arab Emirates) remain Bahraini citizens’ main sources of news. The internet is also widely used as a news and information source; some 90 percent of Bahrain’s population accessed the internet in 2013.