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    On 22 November 2014, Bahrain’s citizens will be called to cast their votes for legislative and municipal elections. The elections will be the first to take place since the people of Bahrain took to the streets and squares of the Kingdom in February and March 2011, demanding more openness in the political process and sustained reform to enlarge the space for freedoms and rights enjoyed by Bahraini citizens. Since then, the government of Bahrain has violently repressed any attempt to denounce the human right situation in the country and thwarted any attempt to establish a meaningful and inclusive political dialogue with the opposition. Peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and democracy advocates continue to face extra-judicial detentions, imprisonment, ill treatment and torture in detention centres.
     
    In June 2011, the King of Bahrain announced the establishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), headed by Professor Cherif Bassiouni, and charged to investigate the events of February and March 2011. This could have been the first of the Arab Spring’s transitional justice efforts, even if limited in scope, and a tool to erode Bahrain's longstanding culture of impunity by creating a sense that people violating human rights will be held accountable for their actions. Many people held very high hopes for what would become known as the “Bassiouni Commission”, instead, it was the start of a chequered history. To date, the promising stance of the government has not turned into concrete action. While the Bahrain government did address some of the issues raised by the BICI report, its key and most sensitive recommendations have not been implemented and only partial and sluggish reforms have been carried out. This situation has continued to fuel sectarian hatred and a culture of impunity and cover-up, which has only reinforced reactionary forces on all sides.
     
    The 2014 elections will certainly be used as a cover for the ongoing human rights crisis. These elections are sure to be considered neither inclusive, with the opposition societies feeling unable to participate, nor a sign of political reform, in a country that continues to be plagued by flagrant abuses of human rights.
     
    The main coalition of opposition societies has taken the decision not to participate in these elections, due to a lack of serious reform having taken place, since their decision to leave parliament at the start of the crisis in February 2011. Bahrain’s parliament remains a mere talking shop, with little tangible power to either legislate or hold the government to account. Meanwhile, human rights abuses are continuing at a consistent rate, notably the recent detention of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer. These figures join dozens of other prisoners of conscience, including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Ibrahim Sharif, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, Hasan Mashaima and Abdulwahab Hussain, who are denied the chance to express their opinions or to be included in any electoral venture.
     
    Were the government of Bahrain serious about this election serving as a turning point for the country, it would have engaged in a meaningful dialogue with the opposition first, in order to reach a national consensus on a program of reform. Without this, the election serves only as a continuation of the status quo and will do little to take Bahrain forward.
     
    The response of the international community to the continued and violent assault on Bahrainis’ civic and political freedoms, so far, has been weak and deaf to the plight of the Bahraini citizens. A few weeks ago, Ambassadors of EU member states in Bahrain issued a joint communique which completely omitted any condemnation of the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain and instead urged the opposition to reconsider their boycott of the upcoming elections. Such statements from Bahrain’s allies only serve to entrench tyranny and embolden anti-democratic voices.
     
    The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the Bahraini authorities do not persist in their “smoke screen” strategy rather than complying with their international obligations. We believe that the non-participation in mock elections is a fundamental political right of the Bahraini opposition groups and a non-violent method of political expression of their dissatisfaction with the political deadlock and the lack of political reforms.
     
    The international community should use the opportunity of this round of elections in Bahrain to finally use their influence to end violations of human rights, starting with the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders and all those arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The international community should refuse to be satisfied by an exclusive electoral process and instead to push for a real and inclusive dialogue with the opposition to reach a national consensus on a serious reform program.
     
    The upcoming elections in Bahrain cannot and must not be used to cover human rights violations.
     
    Signatories:
    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Aman Network for Rehabilitation and Defending Human Rights - Lebanon
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    Article 19
    Avocats sans Frontières Network (ASF Network)
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Campaign
    Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    Bahrain Interfaith
    Bahrain Justice and Development Movement (BJDM)
    Bahrain Salam for Human Rights
    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR) - USA
    Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture - Lebanon
    Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada - LRWC
    No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) - Italy
    Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) – Italy
    Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
    Right to Law - Droit au Droit (Belgium)
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    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the arbitrarily revocation of citizenship of three Bahraini individuals.

    On 20 November 2014, an Upper Criminal Court judge in Bahrain revoked the nationalities of three Bahraini individuals, Mohammed Abdulameer (24), Ahmed Yousif (24) and Salman Isa (30), and sentenced them to 10 years imprisonment on charges of detonating explosives in the village of Eker. The decision from the court has left these individuals stateless in contravention of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that protect the rights for individuals to hold a nationality. Mohammed Abdulameer is currently the only one out of the three being detained at the moment. The defendants have been sentenced in connection with an explosion that took place in the village of Eker on 14 August 2013. Mr. Abdulameer’s family was only made aware of new charges against him on Tuesday 18 November 2014. He was then immediately taken to court without the presence of his lawyer. When Mr. Abdulameer was first arrested in August of 2013, BCHR had reported that he was severely beaten and tortured until he agreed to sign a confession. .

    Since protests began in 2011 the revocation of citizenship has been repeatedly used against individuals in Bahrain. A total of 52 Bahrainis have been stripped of their nationalities for crimes deemed to “threaten national security.” Most of these individuals did not receive a fair trial under international standards. In 2012, 31 Bahraini nationals were stripped of their nationality without due process for allegedly damaging state security. The list included lawyers, activists and former MPs, many whom were left stateless. They were not given any opportunities to appeal at the time as their names were removed from Bahrain’s legal registry. Following international pressure, the government allowed them to appeal several months later. Unfortunately, they no longer hold legal status within the country. As a result, these individuals are unable to receive adequate health care benefits, invoke their power of attorney or seek employment without an official sponsor. In October 2014, a Bahraini court ordered the deportation of 10 of those same individuals for violating asylum and immigration laws.

    Moreover, in July 2013, Bahrain’s anti-terrorism laws were amended to include provisions for the revocation of individual’s nationality. These changes came after the King acceptedrecommendations from Bahrain’s National Assembly. These recommendations included, limiting the recognition of human rights in the country, provisions to revoke citizenships, more extreme sentencing requirements for individuals convicted under the anti-terrorism laws and the banning of protests.

    In August 2014, Bahrain revoked the nationalities of another 9 out of 14 individuals convicted in a widely criticized case for “having ties to Iran.” The lawyer involved in the case claimed that some of his clients alleged that they were tortured. Another 9 citizens lost their nationality in September 2014, convicted for allegedly “smuggling arms” into the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the justice system of Bahrain in a 2014 report as unfair and failing to deliver basic accountability and justice. Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director at HRW stated, “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”  In July of this year, Bahrain further amended its nationality laws giving the Ministry of Interior power to revoke the nationalities of those who break their “duty of loyalty” to Bahrain. Under the provisions, the Minister of Interior can also revoke the nationality of citizens who have gained a second nationality elsewhere and any naturalized person who resides outside of the country for more than five years.

    The United Nations Refugee Agency has recently launched a worldwide campaign called “I belong” to combat statelessness.  In an open letter signed by High Commissioners, Presidents, Nobel Peace laureates and human rights defenders, the agency stated, “Statelessness is inhuman. We believe it is time to end this injustice."

    ADHRB, BCHR and BIRD call on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Abide by its obligations under international law by reinstating the nationalities of all individuals who had their citizenships arbitrarily revoked.
    • Reverse repressive nationality and terrorism laws that work to arbitrarily strip individuals of their nationality.
    • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

    We urge the United Nations Refugee Agency to intervene as a matter of urgency to prevent more nationals of Bahrain from being made stateless.

     

    Also Read BCHR Report: Stateless in Bahrain

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    25 November 2014 – On 19 November 2014, Yousif Badah attended a memorial event dedicated to his 16-year-old son, Ali Yousif Badah, who was killed during the Bahrain Uprising in 2011. According to his father, who discussed his son’s death in a recent interview with VICE (22’50), Ali Badah was crushed to death when a police jeep pinned him repeatedly against a wall.

    On the third anniversary of his death, Yousif Badah joined a public gathering to commemorate his son’s death and to call for accountability for his killing. That evening, government security forces attacked the peaceful protest without warning. Video footage shows security forces charging at protesters with their vehicles and firing shotguns and tear gas canisters at the crowd.

    As Yousif Badah attempted to flee from the attack, he was struck in the face by a tear gas canister. The canister fractured his cheekbone and caused extensive damage to his face. Lacking the resources to treat him, doctors at Sitra Medical Clinic transferred Yousif Badah to Salmaniya Medical Hospital, where a medical consultation discovered that the collision had caused irreparable damage when it completely removed Yousif’s left eye from its socket.

    “The Badah family is one of many who have suffered from the Government of Bahrain’s weaponization of tear gas,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “In 2011, many individuals lost their lives due to security forces firing tear gas canisters from a short distance at peaceful protesters.”

    Despite his injuries, Yousif Badah is being held for seven days by the public prosecution for interrogation regarding his supposed participation in an illegal gathering.

    “The Government of Bahrain should be seeking justice for the extrajudicial killing of Ali Badah. Instead, the public prosecution has chosen to target his father for calling attention to the rampant culture of impunity in the country,” said Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

    The international community has repeatedly called on Bahrain to respect international laws regarding freedom of assembly and expression, which the government continues to ignore in its violent assault on political dissent

    “Instead of addressing the legitimate demands of its people, the Government of Bahrain silences dissent by any means necessary, including the weaponization of tear gas,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “As calls for human rights reform continue to go unheeded, the international community should seriously consider withholding the export of teargas to Bahrain until it is no longer used to commit human rights abuses.”

     
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    Earlier this month, Bahraini security forces attacked several peaceful protests against unfair parliamentary elections. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express concern over such attacks and call on the Government of Bahrain to end its systematic violations of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

    On 21 November 2014, political opposition parties announced a self-determination referendum asking Bahraini nationals to vote on the political system in the country. The symbolic gesture was held as a part of a broader boycott campaign against parliamentary elections in the country. Supporters of the referendum opened and operated approximately 44 voting centers the results from these voting centers were to be submitted to the United Nations. Coinciding with peaceful demonstrations, opposition groups submitted requests to the authorities to hold public gatherings. The government however denied these requests.

    On 21 and 22 November 2014, security forces attacked peaceful protests calling for the boycott of parliamentary elections in several areas, including Duraz, Karzakan, Sanabis, AlDair, AlMaameer, and Sitra. In suppressing the protests, security forces employed tear gas and shotguns against unarmed protesters, and subjected at least 21 villages to indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas. Eyewitnesses documented several injuries resulting from the use of shotguns against protesters in at least five villages.

    Government forces also raided several homes on 21 and 22 November, leading to the arrest of at least 31 individuals including children. Among those arrested was Mohamed Alrayash, who had previously been photographed voting in the public referendum. The Ministry of Interior said many of the arrests were related to “participating in an illegal gathering.”

    The Government of Bahrain utilized intimidating tactics to increase participation in the 22 November elections, sending letters to Bahrainis asking them to “respond to the call of duty” by participating in the elections. Some of the Bahrainis that received such letters were deceased, imprisoned, or forcibly denaturalized by the government. A  Report surfaced that the government would “review possible action against non-voters”, while priority in employment and public services would be granted to voters.

    Meanwhile, local news agencies reported that some government institutions, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Municipalities and the Bahrain Telecommunication Company, asked employees to provide proof that they participated in the elections. Many journalists were prevented from photographing election centers, while the Criminal Investigation Department ordered printing shops to refrain from printing any materials calling for the boycott of the elections. Existing legislation in Bahrain does not impose any reprisals against non-voters.

    "Priority in employment and public services would be granted to voters"

    The aforementioned groups call on the Government of Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and assembly and immediately end all attacks on protests and other forms of peaceful expression. We also call on the immediate release of individuals held on charges related to their participation in the public referendum and the boycott of the election.

     

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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express serious concern over the re-arrest of women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain, hours after she was released from 10 weeks imprisonment. She was returned to jail just days before International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on 29 November.

    On 27 November 2014, Jamsheer was released after two and a half months in jail, only to be re-arrested on charges of “assaulting a police officer” within hours of her return home to her daughter and mother, who have been suffering greatly from her absence. The police officer claims that the alleged assault by Jamsheer was during her stay in prison within the month of September. Jamsheer was not informed of such a case and no investigations were done based on such a charge before.

    The BCHR and the GCHR express its concern about the judicial harassment against Jamsheer and believes that this kind of harassment is merely aimed at deterring human rights defenders from their human rights activities. It is similar to the experience of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was charged in September with allegedly assaulting a police woman after she was arrested at Bahrain’s airport, even though she herself suffered a torn shoulder muscle and did not resist. (See: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/767)

    On 29 October 2014, Jamsheer appeared before the Third Lower Criminal Court on charges of defamation via twitter. She was first arrested on 15 September. While she was acquitted in one case, fined 100 Dinars in another case, and granted bail in a third case upon the payment of 50 Dinars, she remained in detention on two other defamation charges for two and a half months. The court postponed the hearing of those two cases until 24 November 2014, two days after the parliamentary elections. Then on 27 November, Jamsheer was released only to be re-arrested on trumped up charges.

    Jamsheer is a well-known women’s rights defender who is President of the Women's Petition Committee (WPC), a network of Bahraini women human rights defenders who campaign for the codification of Bahrain’s family laws and their reform. She was summoned for interrogation on 9 September 2014 in relation to her tweets about corruption at King Hamad University Hospital, headed by a member of the ruling family. She continued tweeting after that and up until her arrest six days later. (See: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/749)

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

    The BCHR and the GCHR respectfully remind the Bahraini government 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 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (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 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (2) 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.”

     

    Also we remind the Bahraini government of the following:

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states under:

    Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

    Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

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  • 12/01/14--02:30: Press Release: The Enablers
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    The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) is releasing its report Bite the Bullet: A Year On from the Foreign Affairs Committee Report on the UK Relationship with Bahrain. The report marks a year since the release of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee’s (FAC) recommendations to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on its relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    In 2013, the FAC conducted an investigation in to the UK’s relationship with Bahrain amidst severe human rights concerns. It found that greater urgency was needed to press Bahrain to implement serious reforms and made important recommendations for the FCO following rising criticism over the its policy regarding Bahrain. It recommended that the FCO designate Bahrain as a “Country of Concern” in its 2014 Human Rights Report, if Bahrain made no significant progress in human rights and political dialogue. The FAC also made recommendations for the UK to re-think its public response to the situation in Bahrain behind concerns over the criticism directed at them from NGOs and Bahrainis. They noted that British support for Bahrain, both in diplomatic and military terms, should not be unconditional to the human rights situation.

    The FCO failed to list Bahrain as a country of concern in its 2014 human rights report leading NGO’s and civil society the brandish the report as whitewash. As other state and NGO annual reports notably criticised the human rights situation in Bahrain, the FCO instead noted improvements and a ‘positive trajectory’. In its 2014 assessment of the FCOs human rights work, the FAC condemned the decision not to list Bahrain as a country of concern arguing:

    “We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights, and we believe that the FCO should have bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as a country of concern”.

    Bite the Bullet finds that at a time when Bahrain has made no significant progress to protect human rights and implement reforms, the FCO response has nonetheless remained unchanged. Criticism of the FCO policy has risen in 2014 with Bahraini activists and NGOs seeing the UK as an obstacle to positive change in Bahrain. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, said, “In the last two years particularly, the Government of Bahrain has institutionalised human rights violations. Even voicing a critical opinion of the King will get you sent to prison. The situation has only gotten worse.”

    The Report discusses the FCO’s classification of Bahrain as a “Case Study” finding that the UK has allowed political factors to colour its decision not to list Bahrain as a country of concern. It also discusses the UK’s seeming unconditional support to the government of Bahrain, despite its involvement in severe breaches of international human rights conventions, and calls for a reassessment of its policy. Finally, the report analyses British defence relations with Bahrain, which the FAC expressed concerns over.

    BIRD calls on the FCO to reassess its relationship with Bahrain and orient itself towards promoting substantial human rights reform in the country. BIRD re-asserts the FAC’s recommendation that Bahrain be designated a “Country of Concern” in the upcoming 2015 Human Rights Report.

    Read the full report here

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    Over the past year, renewed calls for protest and a tamarod (“rebellion”) led to the throttling of internet speeds around key events, the temporary blocking of social media and communication apps, and the blocking of websites linked to the political opposition and Shiite groups. New regulations that would restrict online freedom are underway, including a cybercrimes law that would criminalize establishing a website to promote “the disruption of public order”. A combined total of 360 months (30 years) of prison sentences have been passed down on twelve Bahraini citizens as a result of their ICT activities, of which the longest was ten years. Users were handed one-year jail terms; similar cases the year before resulted in six-month sentences.

    Surveillance of online activity and phone calls, combined with the continued crackdown on users, is pushing more Bahrainis toward self-censorship. Numerous users arrested for social media posts, particularly on Twitter, reported being subject to physical or psychological torture while held by authorities. Blogger Mahamed Hasan fled the country and applied for political asylum after his arrest and torture. Finally, online activists are subject to consistent cyberattacks, including targeting with spy links to expose their identity using fake accounts operated by the government.

    In the absence of a representative government, many Bahrainis look to the internet as an outlet for expressing political, economic, and social frustrations in the country. Unfortunately, as the importance of online tools has grown, so too has the desire of the Bahraini authorities to extend censorship and government repression practices from the real world into the online domain. In 1997, only two years after the internet was introduced in the country, a Bahraini internet user was arrested for the first time after sending information to a political opposition group outside of the country.

    Crackdowns on Bahraini internet users escalated in 2011, following widespread protests against the ruling family of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. The authorities engaged in mass arrests, military trials, torture, and widespread intimidation tactics in an attempt to silence popular demands for greater political rights and democratic freedoms, including a new constitution and an elected government. One online activist died from torture while in police custody in April 2011, and the court failed to hold anyone accountable for it, amid a culture of impunity. The Ministry of Information made its first official attempt to block websites containing content critical of the government in 2002, and as of 2009 at least 1,000 websites were blocked, including individual pages on certain social-networking sites.

    Read the full report here

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    Public Prosecutor in Munich disregards evidence of illegal surveillance, human rights situation in Bahrain and applicable German law

    12 December 2014 -Public prosecution authorities in Munich have decided not to launch investigatory proceedings against employees of German-British firm Gamma International. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the British organization Privacy International submitted a criminal complaint in October 2014 calling for an investigation. The organizations have evidence to suggest that Bahraini authorities used a Gamma Trojan called FinFisher to unlawfully spy on oppositionists living in Germany and elsewhere. ECCHR will lodge an objection to the prosecution authorities’ decision. 

    “The prosecution’s argument does not stand up to legal scrutiny,” says Miriam Saage-Maaß, Vice Legal Director at ECCHR. “If the authorities find the information from the Wikileaks files to be insufficient then they must conduct their own investigations!” Furthermore, the prosecution authorities have failed to take into account the situation in Bahrain. Human rights activists in Bahrain are subject to systematic surveillance, persecution and detention and repeatedly subjected to torture. “In view of the reality of surveillance in Bahrain it is absurd to claim that state authorities are not in a position to engage in hacking and violate Section 202 of the German Criminal Code prohibiting data espionage,” says Saage-Maaß.

    And that’s not all: “The prosecution authorities in Munich are ignoring the current legal situation in Germany,” according to Saage-Maaß. Even the German Federal Bureau of Investigation refrained until at least 2012 from using a version of the Gamma Trojan as the software breached the “standardized terms of reference” of the German government and thus violated minimum constitutional standards.

    On 16 October 2014 ECCHR and British organization Privacy International submitted a criminal complaint to prosecution authorities in Munich against employees of German-British firm Gamma. ECCHR and Privacy International have seen files suggesting that Gamma supplied Bahrain with the surveillance software FinFisher and provided technical assistance from Germany. This allowed Bahraini authorities to use the trojan to spy on computers in Germany. “If these allegations prove to be true, Gamma employees could be guilty of aiding and abetting. Those responsible must be held accountable,” says Miriam Saage-Maaß, Vice Legal Director at ECCHR. Criminal complaints have also been lodged against Gamma in Britain and Belgium. Aside from the criminal investigation, ECCHR is also calling for political action: “German Minister for the Economy Sigmar Gabriel must finally live up to his promises and introduce effective and transparent regulations on the export of surveillance technology.”

    Data from 77 computers has shown that Bahraini authorities used the trojan to spy on numerous devices in Britain as well as one computer in Belgium and one in Germany. Those targeted by the spyware in Britain included prominent Bahraini human rights activists. The identity of the victim of surveillance in Germany is not yet known.

    German-British firm Gamma developed and produced FinFisher. Its promotional material shows that the software provides comprehensive access to infected computers and any data stored there. Cameras and microphones on the devices can also be tapped. According to Privacy International, FinFisher software is used in 35 countries, including Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain and Malaysia. “Companies like Gamma do well from repressive states, but reject any responsibility for their products,” says Adriana Edmeades from Privacy International. “It is time that legal action was taken against corporations for their involvement in grave human rights violations.”

    Read the full article here

     

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    The British government announced on 6 December 2014 that it was expanding its use of port facilities at Mina Salman in Bahrain into a full naval base. The news was greeted by protests from the Shi’a majority in the Gulf kingdom; many called for the removal of the United Kingdom's ambassador, Iain Lindsay. 

    A potent argument now circulating is that the Sunni-dominated government is paying most of the cost of the new base as a reward for Britain’s turning a blind eye to human-rights abuses in Bahrain - especially since protests erupted there in the early months of the "Arab spring". Bahrain Watch and other human-rights groups have long criticised the government in Manama, but they have had little impact on British government policy.

    The UK base will not be large in comparison to the substantial United States naval headquarters for its fifth fleet, just up the coast. But is still significant, as the first permanent presence "east of Suez" since the Britain withdrew from the region in 1971. In its own way, the symbolism is considerable, even though such military commitments overseas are now out of line with domestic opinion. 

    The Financial Times reports that: "The base, which is planned to open in 2016, will include accommodation for crews and facilities to support and resupply vessels, as well as support for the long-term deployment of frigates and destroyers” (see Elizabeth Dickinson, "Bahrain naval base will give UK stronger Gulf presence", Financial Times, 7 December 2014).

    The Royal Navy has deployed small minesweepers out of Bahrain for some years. But when destroyers and other larger vessels use Mina Salman, their crew sleep on board and there are few naval facilities for the larger ships ashore. With a full-scale naval base, such warships will be able to deploy regularly from the site.

    Mina Salman will even be used by the 70,000-ton Queen Elizabeth aricraft-carrier. This vessel's ability to roam the seas with aircraft on board will take the UK right back to the 1960s, when the navy had fleet-carriers operating in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific.

    A two-ship navy

    London's official line is that the base will enable the UK to contribute to regional security at a time when it is threatened by a variety of forces, including the Islamic State and Iranian ambitions. The current overall uncertainties, runs the view, require “mature” states such as Britain to help maintain stability. A further advantage will be improved access to the enormously lucrative arms market in the Gulf states, which easily trumps concerns over human rights. An upgraded UK military presence at a time when Saudi Arabia and the local emirates fear increased Iranian influence in the region, especially in Iraq, offers potential benefits for political and business elites on both sides.

    The justification for the base on the British side avoids any mention of the decline of North Sea oil production, and the UK's probable increasing dependence on Gulf oil, suggesting a touch of smoke-and-mirrors about its narrative. There is also litle effort to address the disconnect with the majority view that opposes military involvement overseas, especially the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (though this may be combined with support for the armed forces, especially soldiers). The prevailing opinion is that British defence policy should be rooted in the defence of the country rather than major overseas operations, which contrasts markedly with that of the defence establishment. The latter believes that Britain must regain a global role as a leading state, not least through maintaining a capability for "power projection".

    A SWISH report published in October 2014 analysed current British naval policy, pointing out that a large proportion of the navy’s entire force was on the way to having two huge aircraft-carriers, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, together with new submarines for the Trident nuclear force (see also " In defence of greatness: Britain's carrier saga", 12 May 2012). This is an enormous commitment, especially in the context of the defence budget as whole. In fact, there is no guarantee that both of the carriers will be deployed; but even if they are, the navy’s role will essentially boil down to an ability to have one aircraft-carrier and one ballistic-missile submarine readily deployable at any one time.

    Neither missile submarine nor carrier operates on its own. The submarine is backed up by what is termed “deterrence support”, which includes nuclear-powered attack-submarines and back-up from surface warships (“skimmers” in submarine parlance). The aircraft-carrier will operate at the centre of a substantial task-group that includes one or two destroyers or frigates, an attack-submarine, and a support-tanker and supplies ship. To have an escort such as a destroyer or a frigate deployed east of Suez requires three ships: one on station, one either sailing to or from the deployment area, and one in repair or replenishment (see "Britain's defence: all at sea", 12 July 2006)

    Overall, the new base in the Gulf is part of a transformation of the Royal Navy into what is essentially a two-ship navy with not much else available for other duties. This seems not to matter if Britain can at least give an impression of being a major naval power, whatever the reality behind the move.

    Read the full article here

     

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    Rising out from the sea on the Manama shore is a new Four Seasons hotel, a 68 storey skyscraper on an exclusive private island. Scheduled to open early next year, it will be home to three restaurants run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and will offer a range of luxurious amenities.

    The imposing structure is part of Bahrain Bay, a $2.5bn development that juts out on to what previously was an expanse of water.

    For the developers it is part of an ambitious vision for 21st century Bahrain. For activists, it is a symbol of inequality in a country marred by human rights violations and sectarian strife, where an acute housing shortage persists even as exclusive developments multiply.

    Bahrain Bay is just one of many large projects on reclaimed land that dot the arid coastline of this tiny, densely populated archipelago. But the way this land was acquired has focused questions on the contested line between public and royal land ownership.

    Read the full article here: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b6d081a2-74b8-11e4-8321-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3LxiYWSZb

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    URGENT ACTION: A YEAR IN PRISON FOR ‘INSULTING THE KING’
     
    Ahmad Mshaima’ has been sentenced to one year in prison for publicly insulting the King of Bahrain. He is also being tried in another case, charged with illegal gathering.
     
    Ahmad Hassan ‘Ali Mshaima’ was sentenced on 9 December by a Lower Criminal Court to one year in prison for publicly insulting the King of Bahrain, under article 214 of the Bahraini Penal code, which criminalizes insulting the ruler of the country. He had been charged after reading a poem on 1 November during a religious festival commemorating Ashura in al-Muharraq island, north-east of Manama, which cites growing injustice in Bahrain and describes the ruler as an unjust ruler who breaks promises and sheds blood.
     
    His lawyers complained that they had not been able to attend his interrogation at the Public Prosecution Office on 14 November, the day after he was arrested, as they were told he was not there. During the interrogation Ahmed Mshaima’ acknowledged that he had read the poem and this “confession” was the main evidence used to convict him. He was not allowed to attend his first court hearing. His second hearing took place on 4 December and his
    lawyers were not given access to a CD containing information on the full poem he had read.
     
    Ahmad Mshaima’ has been sentenced under an article in the Penal Code that criminalizes the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. He is also being tried in another case brought against him in December 2013 because of his participation in a public gathering on 14 February 2013. He was charged with “illegal gathering with an intent to commit crimes and disturb public security”. The verdict in this case will be announced at the end of this
    month. In the next few days he will be transferred from Dry Dock to Jaw prison, which is for convicted prisoners.
     
    Please write immediately in English, Arabic or your own language:
    - Urge the authorities to quash the sentence imposed on Ahmed Mshaima and release him immediately and unconditionally, as he has been sentenced solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
    - Urging them to drop any pending charges against him, if he has been charged solely for exercising his right to freedom of assembly.
     
    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 22 JANUARY 2015 TO:
    King
    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
    Office of His Majesty the King
    P.O. Box 555
    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
    Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying)
    Salutation: Your Majesty
     
    Minister of Interior
    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa
    Ministry of Interior
    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain
    Fax: +973 1723 2661
    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain
    Salutation: Your Excellency
     
    And copies to:
    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al
    Khalifa
    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain
    Fax: +973 1753 1284
    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh
    Twitter:
    @Khaled_Bin_Ali
     
    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
    Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
     
    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the third update of UA 5/14.
     
    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
    Ahmad Mshaima’s father, Hassan Mshaima’, is serving a life sentence in Jaw Prison, southeastern Bahrain, as one of 13 jailed opposition activists. In 2013, Hassan Mshaima’ was denied adequate medical care and family visits for refusing to wear the prison
    uniform. See UA 139/11, http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/025/2013/en and follow-up.
     
    Ahmad Mshaima’ was arrested on 28 December 2013 and charged with “illegal gathering with an intent to commit crimes and disturb public security” following protests on 14 February that year to mark the second anniversary of the start of the uprising. His trial in this case started before the Lower Criminal Court in Manama on 13 March 2014. He denied all charges. He was released on bail on 25 June while his trial was ongoing and rearrested on 13 November in relation to the new charges brought against him.
     
    He had told his family when they visited him after his arrest in December that he had been tortured when he was interrogated during the first hours he had been detained. This had included being beaten, kicked in the legs, forced to insult his father and his religion, and coerced into signing documents.
     
    Name: Ahmad Hassan ‘Ali Mshaima’
    Gender m/f: m
     
    Further information on UA: 5/14 Index: MDE 11/050/2014 Issue Date: 11 December 2014
     
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    The Pakistan Embassy has already put in a request for a plot of land from the Bahraini authorities and is also in talks with education providers outside the country, according to community welfare attaché Maqsood Qadir Shah. 

    'We have leading educational firms from Pakistan like the Bahria College that are ready to invest in this project,' he said, on the sidelines of the Pakistan Embassy open house held yesterday. 

    A general lack of higher education facilities in Bahrain, specifically targeted at children of the country's third largest expatriate community, was a major concern raised by community members during the open house session, according to Mr Shah.

    'Things are moving in a positive direction with this proposal,' he said.

    'The ambassador has openly discussed and explained this to the community, which was a big relief to them.

    'This idea may soon become a reality, if things go smoothly with our hope of procuring a plot of land in Bahrain.'

    Mr Shah said that the project was designed to benefit residents, who did not have the money to send their children abroad.

    'A good number of Pakistanis, who are long-term residents and belong to the middle and low income groups, will benefit from this project,' he said.

    'It will be a blessing for those who are working here for the long term '“ in the security services, for example '“ and who do not earn enough to send their children back to Pakistan or outside Bahrain for their higher studies.

    'At the same time, this will be a major boost for the community as a whole.

    'It will also add to the excellent bilateral ties that the two nations enjoy.'

    Meanwhile, embassy head of chancery Muhammed Ahad said that everything possible was being done to help Pakistanis, who are Bahraini passport holders, travel to Pakistan.

    'The number of Pakistanis, who have Bahraini passport, is between 25,000 and 30,000,' he said.

    'This includes 4,000 to 5,000 who are on the waiting list.'

    Pakistan does not allow dual citizenship, hence Pakistanis who secure a Bahraini passport have to surrender their Pakistani nationality, Mr Ahad explained.

    'However, they still have their National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOPS) '“ the identity document for Pakistani expats '“ which has long term validity and helps them to travel home when needed,' he said. 

    'Either way, the embassy is supportive '“ we do everything necessary to help them travel.'

    During the event, which was attended by a cross section of the community from labourers to businessmen and bankers, Pakistan Ambassador Muhammed Saeed Khan shared his embassy's plans for the immediate future.

    A Pakistani delegation would soon visit Bahrain to encourage the recruitment of doctors from Pakistan, he said, adding that he was 'extremely happy' that Bahrain's Interior Ministry Ombudsman had decided to begin their outreach programme with his community.

    Mr Shah also said that the embassy hoped to arrange the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sherif to Bahrain in the near future.

    http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391874 

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    Nineteen days ago Bahrain held its first parliamentary election since 2011. The government claimed a voter turnout of 51%, the same figure it announced after the 2011 elections. In actuality, in 2011, only 17% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the districts that were contested. That same year, Arab Spring-inspired protests shook the ruling Al Khalifa regime, which crushed the largely peaceful movement with military assistance from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    Of the four elections held since 2002, the opposition has boycotted three, largely in protest against what is sees as a rigged electoral game. In 2006, the year in which the main opposition party, al-Wefaq, took part in elections, it won just 18 out of 40 seats in parliament’s lower house. Conveniently, this was less than the majority it would have needed to pass needed reforms. Al-Wefaq is considered a “Shia” party – the Shia make up between 50-60% of Bahrain’s population (although nobody can say for sure, since the government refuses to do a religious census) and are marginalized by the ruling Sunni minority.

    As reflected in the recent vote, Bahrain’s so-called parliamentary democracy is plagued by legal infirmities and rampant corruption. Among its primary demands, the opposition has called for a redrawing of voting districts – largely criticized for privileging pro-government votes over those cast by opposition supporters – so that the allocation of seats reflect the proportion of votes. Right now, each of Bahrain’s forty electoral districts gets one parliamentary representative, regardless of size. Under Bahraini law, parliament is also effectively under the monarchy’s control. Parliament’s forty-member upper house, the Shura Council, is appointed directly by the King and holds absolute veto power over laws introduced by the lower, elected house.

    Recently the regime and the opposition have gone back and forth over measures to remedy the country’s electoral infirmities. While these reforms are a necessary and critical step, they appear to be a far-off prospect in Bahrain.

    Read the full article here

     

     

     

     

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    Twelve British MPs have signed a parliamentary motion criticising the government's decision to establish a "permanent" naval base in Bahrain. The motion says:

    "This House is appalled that Britain has signed an agreement with the government of Bahrain to establish a permanent military base at Port Mina Salman in Bahrain; believes that this announcement will be deeply upsetting to all those who have suffered human rights abuses by the government of Bahrain and its officials, and will serve to send a message that the UK Government is not interested in justice, rule of law and reconciliation in Bahrain; notes the protests in Bahrain since the announcement was made; believes that the increased British military presence is likely to exacerbate tensions in the region; and calls on the UK Government to play a much more constructive role in Bahrain to help end, and ensure appropriate redress for, serious human rights violations, and to encourage meaningful dialogue leading to substantive political reform."

    So far, eight Labour MPs have signed, plus one each from the Liberal Democrats, the Irish SDLP, the Welsh Plaid Cymru and the Green Party. It's unlikely, however, that the motion will be allocated parliamentary time for a debate.

    In Bahrain, the announcement about the base has given opposition activists one more thing to protest about. Writing for The Telegraph from Manama, Richard Spencer says:

    "Hundreds of protesters were filmed marching through the town of Sitra, a Shia opposition stronghold, calling for the removal of the British ambassador, Iain Lindsay, after the decision was announced.

    "Activists said Bahrain’s decision to largely fund the base was a 'reward' for Britain’s recent silence over the jailing of opponents to the Sunni monarchy."

    If the reports of Bahraini funding are correct, this will probably neutralise any British objections on grounds of cost, but the establishment of the base can also be interpreted as a sign of British support for the embattled Khalifa family who rule Bahrain.

    The announcement came less than two weeks after Bahrain held controversial elections which were boycotted by the main opposition party and several others, and just a day after Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini dissident, was sentenced to three years in jail for tearing up a picture of the king.

    It also came after a report last month by the British parliament's foreign affairs committee criticised the government's stance on Bahrain. It said:

    "We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights, and we believe that the FCO [the British Foreign Office] should have bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as a country of concern."

    There has been no debate about the base in the British parliament, even though it marks a significant step in developing a new British "east of Suez" military policy.

    Under Article 37 (2) of Bahrain's constitution it also appears that the base will be illegal without specific legislation. That should not be too difficult to do, given the tame nature of Bahrain's parliament, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Considering the repression in Bahrain, the British government's relations with the regime are astonishingly cosy.

    Last summer, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism obtained the seating plan for a fund-raising dinner organised by the British Conservative Party.

    One of the more prominent tables was sponsored at an estimated cost of £12,000 by Paddy Gillford (the Earl of Clanwilliam), who represents the government of Bahrain, according to the Guardian. Philip Hammond – then defence secretary and now foreign secretary – was one of those seated at this table.

    The Guardian's report continued:

    "Many other public relations staff were hosted on other tables, including a partner at Bell Pottinger, a communications and lobbying firm, which represents Bahrain's economic development board. She was placed on the same table as justice secretary Chris Grayling.

    "There is no suggestion that any representatives from these public relations companies discussed their clients or tried to influence policy at the event. But their proximity to senior government figures will raise questions about disclosure rules surrounding meetings with ministers.

    "If lobbyists or PR representatives meet ministers on a one-to-one basis or in their offices, the ministers have to declare those meetings. When a minister attends a reception or other large event in their official capacity this has to be disclosed, but there is no requirement to list individuals met on these occasions. The disclosure rules do not extend to party fundraising events or conferences."

    At the time, Hammond had also just returned from an "operational visit" to Bahrain.

    The Guardian's report adds: "Gillford was asked whether he represented Bahrain's interests at the event, or discussed any issues affecting any of his firm's clients. He declined to comment."

    http://www.al-bab.com/blog/2014/december/british-appalled-over-bahrain.htm#sthash.ZNGoGShh.dpbs

    Twelve British MPs have signed a parliamentary motion criticising the government's decision to establish a "permanent" naval base in Bahrain. The motion says:

    "This House is appalled that Britain has signed an agreement with the government of Bahrain to establish a permanent military base at Port Mina Salman in Bahrain; believes that this announcement will be deeply upsetting to all those who have suffered human rights abuses by the government of Bahrain and its officials, and will serve to send a message that the UK Government is not interested in justice, rule of law and reconciliation in Bahrain; notes the protests in Bahrain since the announcement was made; believes that the increased British military presence is likely to exacerbate tensions in the region; and calls on the UK Government to play a much more constructive role in Bahrain to help end, and ensure appropriate redress for, serious human rights violations, and to encourage meaningful dialogue leading to substantive political reform."

    So far, eight Labour MPs have signed, plus one each from the Liberal Democrats, the Irish SDLP, the Welsh Plaid Cymru and the Green Party. It's unlikely, however, that the motion will be allocated parliamentary time for a debate.

    In Bahrain, the announcement about the base has given opposition activists one more thing to protest about. Writing for The Telegraph from Manama, Richard Spencer says:

    "Hundreds of protesters were filmed marching through the town of Sitra, a Shia opposition stronghold, calling for the removal of the British ambassador, Iain Lindsay, after the decision was announced.

    "Activists said Bahrain’s decision to largely fund the base was a 'reward' for Britain’s recent silence over the jailing of opponents to the Sunni monarchy."

    If the reports of Bahraini funding are correct, this will probably neutralise any British objections on grounds of cost, but the establishment of the base can also be interpreted as a sign of British support for the embattled Khalifa family who rule Bahrain.

    The announcement came less than two weeks after Bahrain held 
    controversial elections which were boycotted by the main opposition party and several others, and just a day after Zainab al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini dissident, was sentenced to 
    three years in jail for tearing up a picture of the king.

    It also came after a report last month by the British parliament's foreign affairs committee criticised the government's stance on Bahrain. It said:

    "We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights, and we believe that the FCO [the British Foreign Office] should have bitten the bullet and designated Bahrain as a country of concern."

    There has been no debate about the base in the British parliament, even though it marks a significant step in developing a new British "east of Suez" military policy. 

    Under Article 37 (2) of Bahrain's constitution it also appears that the base will be illegal without specific legislation. That should not be too difficult to do, given the tame nature of Bahrain's parliament, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Considering the repression in Bahrain, the British government's relations with the regime are astonishingly cosy.

    Last summer, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism obtained the seating plan for a fund-raising dinner organised by the British Conservative Party. 

    One of the more prominent tables was sponsored at an estimated cost of £12,000 by Paddy Gillford (the Earl of Clanwilliam), who represents the government of Bahrain, according to the Guardian. Philip Hammond – then defence secretary and now foreign secretary – was one of those seated at this table.

    The Guardian's report continued:

    "Many other public relations staff were hosted on other tables, including a partner at Bell Pottinger, a communications and lobbying firm, which represents Bahrain's economic development board. She was placed on the same table as justice secretary Chris Grayling.

    "There is no suggestion that any representatives from these public relations companies discussed their clients or tried to influence policy at the event. But their proximity to senior government figures will raise questions about disclosure rules surrounding meetings with ministers.

    "If lobbyists or PR representatives meet ministers on a one-to-one basis or in their offices, the ministers have to declare those meetings. When a minister attends a reception or other large event in their official capacity this has to be disclosed, but there is no requirement to list individuals met on these occasions. The disclosure rules do not extend to party fundraising events or conferences."

    At the time, Hammond had also just returned from an "operational visit" to Bahrain. 

    The Guardian's report adds: "Gillford was asked whether he represented Bahrain's interests at the event, or discussed any issues affecting any of his firm's clients. He declined to comment."

    - See more at: http://www.al-bab.com/blog/2014/december/british-appalled-over-bahrain.htm#sthash.ZNGoGShh.y4PON4y4.dpuf
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    15 December 2014 – Today, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) sent a letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis, urging the pontiff to halt the construction of a church complex on a 9.000 square meter royal land grant in Alawi, Bahrain due to concerns that the land may have been seized from the public trust. Additionally, the letter urges Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to reconsider partnering with the Bahraini ruling family on any future projects until international calls for reform are met.

    Please click here for a PDF of this statement.

    A recent Financial Times article revealed that the Bahraini royal family currently possesses billions of dollars’ worth of land holdings, much of which was accrued over the last fifteen years through a project to “reclaim” lands that traditionally benefited the public. These lands, once utilized by fishermen and other Bahrainis attempting to earn their living, have been transformed into high-rise housing complexes and commercial developments which enrich the Bahraini governing elite at the expense of the nation’s poor. While it is nearly impossible to determine if the entirety of the Alawi plot once constituted public land due to the opacity of the royal family’s records, there is strong reason to suspect that the 9,000 meters is another act of public dispossession.

    “We urge Pope Francis to reconsider establishing a church on land that may have been stolen from the public trust to benefit the ruling elite,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The international community cannot abet the appropriation of such public land for private gain, especially when it inordinately impacts the lives and livelihoods of the poorest of Bahraini society, the majority of whom are Shi’a.”

    The appropriation of public land is part of a larger campaign by the Bahraini government to economically marginalize and politically repress the nation’s Shi’a religious majority. Since the 2011 popular protests for reform began, the government has sought to deepen societal divisions to silence dissent, going so far as to raze Shi’a mosques and target public Shi’a displays of worship. Bahraini government policies also serve to re-engineer population demographics by natrualizing tens of thousands of Sunni foreign nationals while strippping Bahraini Shi’a protesters of their citizenship. ADHRB and BIRD ask that Pope Francis reconsider involving the Catholic Church in this system of religious discrimination.

    “We support the recognition of Bahrain’s catholic population,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “However, we fear that by accepting this land, the same Pope Francis who once lamented the global rise of ’religious harassment, repression, and even persecution’ will inadvertently participate in a wider campaign of intolerance and the suppression of religious freedom in Bahrain.”

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    Amnesty international today called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure that those arrested in connection with the recent bombings are not subjected to torture or other human rights violations. The recent amendments to the Bahraini anti-terrorism law could place them at heightened risk of such abuses.


    The authorities have arrested an unknown number of individuals following two bombings last week in the villages of Damistan and Karzakan, which killed a Jordanian national who, according to the Ministry of Interior, worked in Bahrain’s police force as part of a security and training exchange agreement between the two countries and a Bahraini national.


    Amnesty International recognizes the Bahraini authorities’ duty and responsibility to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for the recent bombings. It nevertheless urges the authorities to ensure those arrested are not subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment while in custody and are given prompt access to a lawyer and their family. If charged, they must be given a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.


    The families of those arrested have not had any news about them after more than sixdays since their arrest, and fear they could be at risk of torture and other abuses. On 4 December, the Bahraini authorities issued a new decree (Decree 68 of 2014) further amending the existing anti-terrorism law (Law 58 of 2006 on the protection of society from terrorist acts). The amendments extend the pre-trial detention period to seven months and widen the detention and search powers granted to the police.

    The police are now empowered to hold detainees in connection with anti-terrorism investigations for up to 28 days, compared to a previous maximum detention period of 10 days, for interrogation. After this period, the detainee must be presented before the Terrorism Crimes Prosecution (TCP), a body within the Public Prosecution Office established by the new decree to investigate terrorism-related offences. The TCP is allowed to renew and extend the detention of suspects for up to six months, without the detainee having the opportunity to challenge the legality of his or her continued detention before a court.


    Amnesty International is concerned that the powers given to the police and the prosecution are not made subject to any judicial oversight and could therefore lead to additional abuses against detainees.


    Detainees in connection with terrorism or security-related investigations have been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment when held and interrogated at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). When in the custody of officers of the CID, detainees have no access to their family or lawyer. In a number of cases, they were only allowed to make a few seconds-long call to their families, sometimes several days after their arrest, to say they were OK. In all terrorism cases examined by Amnesty International, detainees were never allowed access to their lawyer when interrogated at the CID and later their lawyers faced restrictions defending them.


    This was the case, for instance, of those arrested in connection with the al-Daih explosion on 3 March 2014. Many said they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Those who were charged by the prosecution and referred to trial told their families, and later their lawyers, that they were also tortured when held at the CID. They were interrogated by officials from the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) without their lawyers, who, despite repeated requests, were not able to meet with the detainees until the first session of the hearing on 30 April 2014. Later, the court ignored a number of their requests, including full access to the case files and a suspension of the trial until the results of the forensic examination into torture allegations were known, forcing lawyers to withdraw from the case in October. The case is still pending in court.


    In addition, according to the new amendments, members of the Terrorism Crimes Prosecution are appointed by a royal order upon nomination by the Public Prosecutor. Activists have raised concerns that some members of the new prosecution have allegedly contributed to or condoned torture previously as members of the PPO. Amnesty International has a number of testimonies of cases where members of the PPO have accepted torture “confessions” or refused to listen to detainees’ complaints about

    torture they said they had been subjected to when held at the CID. Amnesty International believes that without clear safeguards for detainees and a proper judicial oversight over the powers, the authorities are effectively granting the police and prosecution the permission to act without any restrictions when investigating terrorist acts, putting detainees held in connection with terrorism-related investigations at a high risk of torture and other ill-treatment, to secret or incommunicado detention which may amount to enforced disappearance,  and other human rights abuses.


    Background

    The recent amendments were introduced as a decree law before the first session of the newly elected parliament. They also give the judicial police the power to search suspected individuals and their belongings, halt traffic and search private or public vehicles. The police can also cut communications in certain areas for up to 12 hours, which can be extended for up to 24 hours by the Terrorism Crimes Prosecution. The amendments allow for the prosecution and imprisonment of nationals or foreigners who commit or participate in acts of violence or any forms of armed fighting abroad.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE11/051/2014/en/92e05bb6-dadd-49aa-b11e-32b13475647f/mde110512014en.pdf

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    Front Line Defenders is deeply disappointed with the awarding of the Chaillot Prize to two Bahraini national institutions, the Interior Ministry Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), amidst a flagrant and widely reported crack-down by the Bahraini government on independent civil society organisations and human rights defenders. According to Ambassador Kulach, the Head of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia, which also covers Bahrain, the prize was presented to the two Bahraini institutions on the basis of their “constructive engagement” where they “exposed violations and cases and were committed to investigating those claims thoroughly”.

    The independence of the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) has been in question since its establishment pursuant to a Royal Order 46/2009 by the King of Bahrain. On 25 April 2010, the King issued another Royal Order 16/2010, appointing 17 men and five women as the first members of NHRI, including Kamal Al Din, former deputy secretary-general of the independent Bahrain Human Rights Society, as president, who resigned in protest at the institution’s failure to criticise the arrests of pro-democracy activists on 6 September 2010. The credibility and independence of the new institution was further challenged, after it emerged that several of the 22 nominees held government appointments or were linked to bodies known to operate as government fronts. The lack of autonomy of the institution is in contravention of the Paris Principles adopted by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 48/134 of 1993. The ICC Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA), entrusted with reviewing and accrediting national human rights institutions in compliance with the Paris Principles, in its general observations (para. 2.2), established criteria critical to the appointment process, including a transparent process and broad consultation as well as including the parliament in the formal appointment and selection process. It should be noted that NHRI is not accredited yet by the ICC.

    Although the European Union Delegation in Riyadh stated that “the first annual reports of both the winners have been particularly noted and appreciated for their comprehensive and sincere account of the country’s human rights situation, as well as for their powerful and constructive recommendations on how to overcome proven deficiencies and shortcomings in important areas related to human rights”, it did not take into account the fact that government institutions, including both award winning organisations, failed to investigate a number of cases of mistreatment and torture despite complaints filed before them. Naji Fateel who was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment following an unfair trial, during which there was clear evidence of torture, filed a complaint before the Ombudsman which was never investigated.

    Furthermore, the presentation of the award to these institutions seemingly ignores the grave situation in Bahrain where a crackdown on human rights and human rights defenders and a restriction of the space for civil society means that human rights defenders in the country risk their lives and their freedom on a daily basis. Following the eruption of protests in February 2011 against government corruption and discrimination and in favour of democracy and human rights, the situation for human rights defenders in Bahrain became even more dangerous and difficult. The authorities responded with harsh measures and a crackdown on civil society leaders, human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.

    Anti-terrorism legislation has been used by the authorities to vilify and persecute activists and human rights defenders. Freedom of assembly is limited. The law prohibits unauthorised public gatherings of more than five persons and public gatherings must be notified to the Ministry of the Interior twenty four hours in advance. There have been regular reports over the years of the use of excessive force by security forces when dispersing demonstrations. Freedom of expression is also severely restricted. Most media outlets are directly or indirectly controlled by the government, and often attack and criticise human rights organisations and their members. Numerous foreign journalists, human rights observers and even government officials have been expelled from or denied entry to the country for reporting on or seeking to investigate human rights issues. Several websites have been forcibly shut down or banned, including the Bahrain Online Forum, a pro-democracy site founded by human rights defender and blogger Ali Abdulemam. The government warned that it would use the 2002 Press and Publications Law to prescribe prison sentences for those who criticise the regime and the Public Prosecutor has invoked Article 246 of the Penal Code to prevent media reporting on a spate of arrests. Illustrative of the severe repression against human rights defenders is the case of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, prominent HRD and former Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator. He was arrested in 2011, and in a gross miscarriage of justice, was sentenced to life-imprisonment by a military court. He, like many others, was beaten and tortured in police custody, and had to undergo surgery lasting four hours in a military hospital as a result. His daughters Zainab Al-Khawaja and Maryam Al-Khawaja have also faced persecution for their defence of human rights.

    Bahrain has continued to prosecute social media activists; Ms Ghada Jamsheer, who is currently in detention, was arrested on 14 September 2014, for tweets criticising alleged corruption in the management of the King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain. She was released after spending 10 weeks in detention at the Isa Town Detention Centre for Women but was re-arrested 12 hours after her release. A new case relating to “assaulting a police officer” was brought against her in September 2014, while she was in detention without her prior knowledge of the charge. Prominent human rights defender Mr Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights has been targeted by the Bahraini authorities since 2009. Nabeel Rajab faced physical intimidation, arrest, detention and travel bans as a result of his work and has been sentenced to prison in violation of the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. On 9 July 2012, he was taken into custody from his home and taken to prison to serve a 3-month sentence handed down earlier the same day, for sending a Tweet about the Bahraini Prime Minister. A month later, in a separate case, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of illegal assembly. Recently, on 2 October 2014, Nabeel Rajab was detained for seven days after he was summoned for questioning and interrogated on charges of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter on 1 October 2014. He remained in detention until he was released on bail on 2 November 2014. The EU's decision to award the prize to these two Bahraini state institutions is an insult to Nabeel Rajab who was arrested following an advocacy visit to the EU during which he presented his testimony to the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the European Parliament detailing human rights abuses in his country.

    The Chaillot prize recognises the promotion of human rights and “actions, campaigns and projects which favour Human Rights promotion and awareness” in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It is named after the Palais de Chaillot in Paris where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10 December 1948 and the annual prize was first awarded in December 2008, on the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR. It aims to encourage GCC states to promote human rights and to improve the human rights situation in their countries.

    The awarding of this prize directly contradicts the European Parliament's call for ”the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Member States to publicly condemn the ongoing violations of the basic human rights o freedom of expression in Bahrain, and call for the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders targeted in Bahrain.”, and even more decisively, 61 Members of the EP called “for imposing targeted restrictive measures (visa bans and asset freezes) against those individuals responsible for, and involved in human rights abuses. If the EU is serious about encouraging the promotion of human rights in Bahrain, it should speak out against abuses committed against independent human rights defenders and NGOs and urge the Bahraini authorities to respect its international human rights obligations.

    http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27853

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    Judicial harassment has increasingly become common practice in repressing dissenting voices in Bahrain. The series of custodial sentences issued by the Bahraini courts against activist Zainab Al Khawaja over the past week represents a flagrant illustration of this trend.

    “Clearly, the Bahraini judiciary is increasingly instrumentalised as a tool to silence and repress any sort of criticism in the country” said FIDH President, Karim Lahidji.

    On December 9, Zainab Al Khawaja was sentenced to 16 months in prison on charges of ‘destroying government property’ after she ripped up a picture of the King of Bahrain whilst in detention in 2012. Only a few days before, on December 4, she had already been sentenced to a three year prison term for ‘insulting the King’, as well as being subject to a fine of 3,000 Dinars (approx. $8,000 USD) for a very similar case. In late October, Zainab tore up a photo of the King of Bahrain before the Court. Since 2011, she has faced dozens of prosecutions, mostly founded on charges relating to her exercise of fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

    Zainab al Khawaja is not however the only activist victim of judicial harassment. Human rights defender, Maryam Al Khawaja was sentenced in absentia on December 1 to one year in prison on charges related to an alleged assault on a police officer in Manama airport. While prominent human rights defender Abulhadi Al Khawaja is currently serving a life sentence and has been detained since April 2011, Nabeel Rajab still faces charges of ‘insulting a public institution and the army’ via Twitter, an offence punishable by up to six years of imprisonment. The verdict in this case should be issued on January 20, 2015. Meanwhile, Rajab is banned from leaving the country.

    Moreover, on November 27, human rights defender Ghada Jamsheer, was immediately sent back to prison after she was released upon completion of 10 weeks imprisonment. 

    FIDH calls upon the Bahraini authorities to put an immediate end to judicial harassment against human rights defenders and peaceful activists. FIDH recalls that the repression of activists and human rights defenders is part of a systematic pattern of human rights violations committed since the 2011 uprising. FIDH and its member organizations in Bahrain have documented the repeated repression and imprisonment of human rights defenders and journalists. In addition to this, the use of anti-terrorism measures to crack down on basic human rights, as well as various repressive measures against political parties, have been increasingly reported in Bahrain.

    Furthermore, FIDH calls on the international community to urge the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders and political opponents currently imprisoned in Bahrain. FIDH considers that strong allies of Bahrain such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France should not tolerate the Bahraini authorities continuous violations of human rights, and should accordingly apply the utmost pressure to ensure the Bahraini guarantees and respects fundamental human rights.

    https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/north-africa-middle-east/bahrain/16672-bahrain-increasing-resort-to-judicial-repression-against-dissenting-voices

     

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    We the undersigned oppose the plans by the British government to open a new military base in Bahrain, the first British base “east of Suez” since 1971. Rather than increasing military deployment in the Middle East we should be ending our disastrous interventions in the region.


    Bahrain is a repressive, undemocratic regime that brutally crushed the movement for democracy in 2011. Britain should not be showing complicity with the actions of the Bahraini monarchy.

    Link to the Petition

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