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    Americans for Democracy for Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) are deeply concerned by an amendment made on 4 December 2014 to Bahrain’s anti-terrorism law 58/2006, “Protecting Society from Terrorism Acts”.

    The anti-terrorism law in Bahrain has been an issue of concern for human rights organizations and professionals, including United Nations human rights experts, since its introduction in 2006 due to the lack of precision employed by its definition of terrorism and the inclusion of articles that undermine human rights and basic freedoms. In recent years, the government has used this law, which was previously revised in August 2013, in its campaign against pro-democracy activists by granting authorities additional powers to prosecute dissent and deliver lengthy prison sentences. In 2013 alone, the government charged 328 individuals under the terrorism law in 38 separate cases, for an average of one terrorism case every ten days. The government has even abused this law to prosecute children as young as 15 years old.

    The new revision to the law introduces a separate prosecution office for terrorism related-crimes, effectively creating an entirely new process of criminal procedure for persons accused of terrorism. The law allows this new prosecutor’s office to hold terror suspects without trial for up to six months, thereby violating Bahrain’s commitments to the right to a fair and speedy trial. According to Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006, “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.” Despite its international commitments to the contrary, the Government of Bahrain has in the past routinely held persons accused of terrorism-related crimes for extended periods of time without first bringing them to trial. This new provision allows Bahraini authorities to justify prolonged pre-trial detentions under national law, even as they remain in violation of the international equivalents.

    The new law also allows the government to detain an individual for up to 28 days without charges or investigation. After this initial pre-trial detention has lapsed, the prosecution has a period of up to three days to interrogate and press official charges against the suspect. When combined with the period of time that the new prosecutor’s office may hold a detainee without trial, a person accused of terrorism may experience up to seven months of pre-trial detention, further violating the rights of detainees to a fair and speedy trial.

    The prolonged period of pre-charge and pre-trial detention put the detainees at risk of torture, as has been the case in many instances reported by the BCHR. During the first days of arrest, a detainee is rarely granted access to family or counsel, with the first meeting with a lawyer occurring at the initial court date. Most detainees arrested under this law report that they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment during the pre-trial period. Such was the case of photographer Hussain Hubail, human rights defender Naji Fateel, and children Jehad Sadeq and Ebrahim Al-Muqdad.

    ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD are additionally concerned that the new anti-terrorism law revision provides the police with even greater authority. Under the new law, Bahraini security forces enjoy privileges allowing them to:

    • Search any person and their belongings at any time without a court order, in violation of an individual’s fundamental right to privacy as guaranteed by Article 17 of the ICCPR;
    • Stop and search public and private transportation vehicles;
    • Indefinitely ban the movement of persons and vehicles, in violation of the right to movement as guaranteed by Article 12 of the ICCPR; 
    • Interdict communication lines for up to 24 hours by order of the special prosecutor for terrorism-related crimes, without any input from the courts; and
    • Prevent anyone suspected of a terrorist act from entering a specific area for up to 15 days.

    The amendment serves to provide legal justification for many already utilized police practices that violate basic human rights. Bahraini security officers already illegally employ many of these practices, including the illegal use of security checkpoints, the illegal disruption of communication lines during high-volume protests, and the illegal search of homes without a warrant.

    In addition, the aforementioned NGOs are concerned over the recent royal appointment of Mr. Hamad Shaheen Al-Buainain to serve as Senior Prosecutor of the new terrorism crimes prosecution. Mr. al-Buainain was accused of participating in acts of torture in 2013, and a complaint has been filed against him with the Ministry of Interior’s Special Investigations Unit.

    The new revision to Bahrain’s anti-terrorism law indicates that the government indents to continue its well-documented practice of abusing the law to silence peaceful dissent. While ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD understand and encourage the prosecution of legitimate and violent acts of terrorism, the use of anti-terrorism legislation to silence dissent and curtail the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association is an unacceptable aberration from international law. Therefore, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy call upon the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and all other close allies to the Kingdom of Bahrain to urge Bahraini authorities to:                                                                              

    • Revise the legislation on “anti-terrorism” to bring it in line with international human rights standards;
    • End the practice of using fabricated trials and politically motivated terrorism charges to persecute dissidents; and
    • Release all political prisoners who have been subjected to unfair trials and submit all terrorism cases to independent judicial review.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express serious concern at the extradition of Bahraini citizen Ali Haroun from an immigration detention center in Bangkok, Thailand into the custody of authorities in Bahrain. By extraditing Haroun to Bahrain, Thai authorities violated the international prohibition on refoulement and placed Haroun in a situation in which he has been subjected to enforced disappearance and may have been tortured. The aforementioned NGOs therefore request that the Government of Bahrain release information concerning Haroun’s condition, location and investigate the circumstances that brought about his disappearance and potential abuse.

    On 29 May 2013, Bahraini security forces arrested Ali Haroun on charges of illegal gathering and criminal arson in relation to an explosion that occurred in the village of Bani Jamra. Immediately afterwards, the government subjected Haroun to enforced disappearance, and his family was unable to ascertain his whereabouts for a week after his arrest. During the period in which he was disappeared, government security forces allegedly tortured Haroun at Dry Dock Detention Center, beating him, forcing him to stand in stress positions, stepping on him, and depriving him of food,  water, and sleep until he signed a coerced confession stating that he had been involved in the explosion in Bani Jamra. As a result of his torture and other ill-treatment by the government, Haroun suffers from a permanent injury to his spine, has torn ligaments in his leg, and has permanently lost hearing in one of his ears. At trial, the court reportedly utilized Haroun’s coerced confession to convict him on all charges, sentencing Haroun to life in prison.

    On 5 May 2014, Haroun escaped custody and fled the country. At the request of the Government of Bahrain, INTERPOL issued an international warrant for his arrest. Thai authorities executed the warrant in early December 2014 as Ali attempted to board a flight to Iraq in an attempt to later travel to a European country to seek asylum. Despite credible allegations existing that Ali had been tortured and would face additional torture if he were returned to Bahrain, Thailand extradited Haroun via a Gulf Air flight to Manama and into the custody of the Bahraini government. According to information received by BCHR, three Bahrain Interpol officers beat Haroun while forcing him onto the flight, causing him to bleed from his face. Sources indicate that the Interpol officers eventually drugged Haroun without the consult of a medical expert in order to secure his cooperation.

    Since his extradition, Haroun has again been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Government of Bahrain. An eyewitness claims to have seen an unconscious and bloody Haroun in Salmaniya Hospital, raising concerns that he may have been subjected to further torture upon arrival. The government denies knowledge of his location, and his family has not been allowed to enter the hospital to search for him. On 22 December 2014, the Office of the Public Prosecutor confirmed that Haroun had been injured but absolved the Interpol agents of any misconduct, stating that Haroun “resist[ed] boarding the flight which made him fall and caused minor injuries.”

    By assisting with the arrest and extradition of Ali Haroun to the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Government of Thailand, INTERPOL, and Gulf Air have all either committed or aided in the commission of a violation of the international prohibition on refoulement, the act of rendering a victim of persecution to his or her persecutor. Further, by disappearing and allegedly torturing Ali Haroun, the Government of Bahrain has committed numerous violations of international law, including violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. In light of these violations, the above-named NGOs issue the following requests.

    To the Government of Thailand:

    • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to release information concerning the location, status, and treatment of Ali Haroun;
    • Condemn the treatment and potential torture of a person extradited to Bahrain by the Government of Thailand; and
    • Refrain from further violations of the prohibition on refoulement and deny any further extradition requests made by the Government of Bahrain.

    To INTERPOL:

    • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to release information concerning the location, status, and treatment of Ali Haroun; and
    • Reform the policy concerning the issuance of international warrants for arrest to better comply with international human rights law and better consider the politically-motivated character of warrant requests.

    To Gulf Air:

    • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to release information concerning the location, status, and treatment of Ali Haroun; and
    • Refrain from further aiding the commission of violations of the international prohibition on refoulement by refusing to help extradite any persons that credibly allege torture in their destination country.

    To the Government of Bahrain:

    • Immediately release information concerning the location, status, and treatment of Ali Haroun;
    • Vacate the original convictions of Ali Haroun and properly re-conduct his criminal trial by excluding all information obtained by the commission of acts of torture, including any and all confessions found to be coerced; and
    • Impartially investigate all credible allegations of torture in the country, with the goal of vacating all sentences of those convicted on the basis of coerced confessions.
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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights condemn the repressive policies used by the Bahraini authorities against human rights defenders and other peaceful activists[1]. The authorities, represented in this case by the Ministry of Social Development, recently moved forward with new criminal charges against the activist and blogger Nader AbdelImam[2], because of his role in founding and working with the human rights organisation “Ensaf” without prior permission.

    Nader AbdelImam is a Bahraini activist and blogger currently serving a six-month prison sentence since 27 August 2014 on charges of insulting religious figures in a post he published on his Twitter account. His lawyer reports that he is facing a further charge, for founding the organisation “Ensaf” and operating without a licence. The levelling of this charge is a clear violation of the principles of human rights, especially those relating to freedom of expression, peaceful work and establishing organisations.

    The Bahrain Centre for Human believe Nader AbdelImam is being targeted because of his high-profile human rights activism online and on his blog. The purpose of this campaign is to prevent him from exercising his legal rights. AbdulImam’s current detention is not the first time he has been targeted – he was previously injured by a direct shot to the face during a peaceful demonstration in the capital Manama. Ensaf is an organisation founded with the aim of combating discrimination and documenting all violations relating to it using data and statistics, drawn from certified studies. Additionally, the organisation aims to strengthen the principle of balancing rights and duties for all citizens[3].

     

    Image shows Nader Abdel Imam’s injury after he was targeted with a direct shot to the face, which caused him significant wounds

     

    Nor is this the first time that authorities have violated the law in this way in order to silence opposition voices; they recently arrested the head of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, after he criticised security institutions in a tweet. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that the targeting of Nader AbdelImam and other human rights activists is a clear sign that the authorities are failing to comply with the international pacts and conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, as well as other relevant international organisations and human rights groups to put pressure on the Bahraini government to:

    • Release the activist and blogger Nader AbdelImam immediately, as well as all other prisoners of conscience, without restrictions or conditions.
    • Drop all charges leveled against human rights defenders because of their exercise of their right to peaceful expression of opinion.
    • Stop restricting the activities of activists and civil society organisations, and allow them to exercise their rights freely.
    • Repeal immediately all laws that restrict freedoms – these laws violate basic human rights as stated in the International Declaration of Human Rights.

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    On 28 December 2014, Bahraini authorities arrested Shaikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq Political Society. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy for Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) strongly condemn the Bahraini government’s detention of Shaikh Salman for his peaceful political activities and his work as a leader of the largest opposition political party in Bahrain. The undersigned NGOs are extremely concerned for the well-being of Shaikh Salman, and fear that his arrest will lead to the further deterioration of the human rights situation and may strengthen extremism in the country.

    On the morning of 28 December, Shaikh Ali Salman went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after receiving a summons from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) following the conclusion of Al-Wefaq's General Assembly conference, which the MOI had banned. On the morning of 28 December, Shaikh Salman went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he was arrested and interrogated. The CID refused his lawyers entry twice before eventually granting one lawyer access to Shaikh Salman’s interrogation. Shaikh Ali Salman and his lawyer were told that the CID would transfer him to the Office of the Public Prosecution. However, according to available information, he was never taken to the Public Prosecution and the MOI has ordered his ongoing detention.

    Shaikh Ali Salman’s lawyers stated that he is accused of inciting hatred against the government, calling for the government the regime using force, religiously sanctioning youths to disobey the government, insulting the judiciary and the executive power, inciting hatred against an unspecified group of people, seeking external support, broadcasting false information and news that may cause panic, and breaching security and participating in gatherings and protests causing economic harm.

    “The silence of the international community contributed to the arrest of Shaikh Ali Salman, as it also contributes to the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain,” said BCHR President Nabeel Rajab. “With this high-profile arrest, however, the Government of Bahrain has gone too far in targeting its peaceful critics.”

    Al-Wefaq, along with other opposition parties, boycotted parliamentary elections that took place earlier this year. The political society last participated in parliamentary elections in 2010, when it won 18 of the 40 seats in parliament and more than 60% of votes. However, the 18 Members of Parliament aligned with al-Wefaq resigned in 2011 in response to the Bahraini government’s violent response to protesters. Since then, government authorities have repeatedly targeted Al-Wefaq Society and its members for their political opposition and human rights activism.

    The Bahraini government has been targeting Al-Wefaq Society members for their political views and human rights activism for years. In 2011, former Al-Wefaq Members of Parliament Matar Matar and Jawad Fairooz were arrested, tortured and detained for months after their resignation. In 2013, authorities arrested Khalil al-Marzooq, the Deputy Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, and imposed a ban on his travel after he delivered a public speech criticizing the government. Most recently, Sayed Jameel Kadhem, head of Al-Wefaq’s Shura Council, was taken to court over comments he posted on the social media website Twitter regarding corruption during the elections, while two other Al-Wefaq members had their citizenship revoked by the authorities.

    “Earlier this month, Britain announced that it will be building a naval base in Bahrain, which the Government of Bahrain is bankrolling,” said Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “The UK’s support for the Government of Bahrain, despite the human rights situation and harassment of Al-Wefaq Society, has given the Bahraini authorities the green light to further attack political societies.”

    This is also not the first time Shaikh Ali Salman has faced harassment by authorities. Shaikh Ali Salman was summoned for interrogation at least twice this year for practicing his freedom of expression. In July 2014, Tom Malinowski, United States Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, met with Al-Wefaq members in the society’s headquarters. In response, the Government of Bahrain expelled Malinowski and filed a lawsuit against Al-Wefaq, again summoning Shaikh Salman and al-Marzooq for interrogation. On 28 October, a court issued an order to suspend Al-Wefaq from performing any activities until it rectified the illegal status of its general assemblies.

    “The international community and the United States must condemn the detention of Shaikh Ali Salman, for it is a clear sign of the Bahraini authorities disregard for the human and political rights of the Bahraini people,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla.

    We, the undersigned human rights organizations, call on the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to ensure that authorities:

    • Immediately release Shaikh Ali Salman and all other political activists in Bahraini prisons;
    • Drop all charges against Shaikh Ali Salman in relation to his or Al-Wefaq’s work; and
    • Ensure that political societies and activists are able to conduct their work without retaliation. 
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    Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today called on the U.S. government to urge Bahraini authorities to drop the case against prominent human rights defender Mohammed al Maskati. Al Maskati is expecting a court verdict on December 25 on charges of participating in an illegal gathering.
     
    “Bahrain seems stuck in a never-ending cycle of harassing its human rights defenders. It should stop wasting time pursuing spurious charges against al Maskati and other activists and start addressing the country’s real human right problems,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Jailing medics, teachers, and human rights activists like Abdulhadi, Zainab and Maryam Al Khawaja, and Nabeel Rajab has done nothing to end the country’s political unrest. It’s time to close this chapter of repression and get real political talks going."
     
    Al Maskati is a recognized digital security expert and trains human rights defenders in protecting themselves online. The charges in al Maskati’s case date back to October 2012, when he was accused of taking part in a peaceful protest in the capital Manama. If convicted he could face a sentence of up to six months in prison. Al Maskati was initially charged one month after he spoke at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva during a panel discussion focused on intimidations and reprisals, where he spoke about the intimidation campaign against him. He reported receiving repeated threats, and said he was threatened with death if he “damaged Bahrain’s reputation in Geneva.” 
     
    In recent months, Bahraini authorities have used judicial harassment to target human rights defenders, including of activists Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja. A Bahraini court this month sentenced Zainab Al Khawaja to more than four years in prison in a series of cases resulting from her peaceful dissent against the regime. Rajab is on trial for "denigrating government institutions" on Twitter, and his next court hearing is due on January 20.
     
    “These charges look, smell, and taste like reprisals for embarrassing the Bahrain government internationally for its abuses,” said Dooley. “The U.S. government should call for this case and those of other prominent human rights activists to be dismissed, making clear that not doing so will damage the bilateral relationship.”
     
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    30 December 2014 - On 29 December, a Bahraini court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their supposed involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair on 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) vehemently condemn the death penalty sentences against the Bahraini nationals amid concerns that their convictions relied heavily on evidence extracted by means of torture.

    On 20 March 2014, Bahraini security officers arrested Mohammed Ramadan without presenting an arrest warrant. The government transported him the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID) building without informing his family of his arrest. Upon arrival, Ministry of Interior (MOI) employees reportedly threatened Ramadan with torture if he did not confess to being a traitor. Shortly thereafter, officers began torturing him.

    Mohammed Ramadan was reportedly subjected to sustained ill-treatment and torture for more than four days. In order to halt the abuse, he signed a false confession stating that he was involved in the explosion in al-Dair. Ramadan claims he was then informed that the government knew he was not involved in the charges against him, but that his participation in protests and other political activities made him a traitor and therefore he deserved to be sentenced for his crimes. When Ramadan attempted to explain that he was forced to sign the false confession to a judge, the court remanded him to Riffa Police station for 13 days, where he was reportedly blindfolded, tied up with belts, and tortured once again.

    Security forces arrested Husain Ali Moosa one week after the al-Dair bombing. He was housed at the CID, where he claims security officials hung him from the ceiling for three days while beating him with batons. Moosa reports that CID officers threatened to harm his relatives and fabricate cases against them, and additionally threatened to rape his sisters. In order to stop his torture, Moosa confessed to being involved in the al-Dair bombing. Three days later, CID forces transferred Moosa to the Office of the Public Prosecutor, where he recanted his confession. As a result, he was again transferred to the CID, where security forces allegedly tortured him for three months.  

    While Moosa and Ramadan are the only defendants who received the death penalty, ten others were tried in connection with the Al-Dair bombing. Mohamed Mekki Ali was sentenced to life imprisonment, while nine other individuals also charged with involvement in the explosion have been sentenced to six years.

    “Although the defendants emphatically claim that their confessions were extracted under torture, Bahrain’s courts failed to consider their claims or even open an investigation,” said Mohammed al-Tajer, Ramadan’s lawyer and the Secretary General of BHRO.  “Instead, the Bahraini judicial system utilized its anti-terrorism law to justify the death penalty in a case with no concrete evidence of their guilt, but abundant evidence of ill-treatment, torture, and politically motivated charges.”

    “The international community demonstrated consensus on Bahrain’s human rights record when it made recommendations towards putting an end to torture and establishing an independent judiciary during Bahrain’s Second Universal Periodic Review in 2012,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR. “As the human rights situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate, the international community must take active measures towards the realization of its decision.”

    “As a self-proclaimed exemplar for human rights promotion, the United States cannot overlook the implication of one of its allies condemning to death a prisoner accused on politically motivated charges and convicted utilizing a confession obtained under torture,” said Husain Abdulla, ADHRB Executive Director

    “These death penalty sentences present a test for the European Union and the United Kingdom face,” said Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Will the EU and the UK stand by the Union’s guidelines on the death penalty and investigate their relationship with Bahrain or will they continue to be silent in the face of injustice”.

    We the undersigned organizations are deeply concerned that Ramadan’s and Moosa’s prosecutions relied substantially on evidence obtained under torture and are in direct violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture. We therefore call on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

    •    Condemn the application of the death penalty against Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa;
    •    Call on Bahraini authorities to vacate Ramadan’s and Ali’s sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
    •    Request a full investigation into all credible allegations of torture, as mandated by the Convention Against Torture;
    •    Encourage applicable reparations to be awarded to victims of torture as required by the Convention against Torture;
    •    Urge the implementation of international regulations against the use of torture as a means to extract false confessions;
    •    Entreat the Government of Bahrain to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture; and
    •    Urge the Government of Bahrain to replace its anti-terrorism laws with legislation that does not encroach upon citizens’ rights to free expression, association and assembly.

     

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    29 December 2014 – A group of United Nations human rights experts are urging the government of Bahrain to drop charges against three women human rights activists exercising their rights to free expression and free association.

    “All three activists have been detained or sentenced purely for their criticism of government authorities,” the independent experts said in a statement released today.

    “Such criticism is not only fully legitimate according to Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law; it is also essential to the free and public debate necessary for a healthy civil society.”

    The three activists include two sisters Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja and Ms. Zainab Al-Khawaja, and Ms. Ghada Jamsheer.

    Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, was sentenced on 1 December for allegedly assaulting airport security officers. Her sister, Ms. Zainab Al-Khawaja, a women’s rights and social media activist in Bahrain, was sentenced on 4 December to three years in prison and fined $7,900 for tearing a picture of Bahrain’s King during a court hearing in October. Several days later, she was sentenced to an additional year for “insulting a public servant” and is facing further charges for insulting a police officer and trespassing.

    The two women activists are daughters of Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who has been in detention since 2011. UN experts have called for his release numerous times.

    Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, head of the Women’s Petition Committee, a network of Bahraini women human rights defenders who campaign for the codification and reform of Bahrain’s family laws, was detained for more than three months since mid-September at Isa Town women’s prison on charges of “defamatory tweets” and for her critical views about corruption in the management of a local hospital. Since 15 December, she has been under house arrest and is currently facing 12 charges, including new charges of ‘assaulting a police officer’ during her detention.

    “We are extremely concerned about the ongoing harassment and criminalization of activists in Bahrain,” the experts said today. “We urge the authorities to turn away from such persecution and immediately drop all the charges against the Al-Khawaja sisters and Ms. Jamsheer.”

    On a number of occasions the experts have expressed grave concerns to the Bahraini Government concerning the harassment of human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. They have urged the authorities to review Bahraini laws and practices to be compliant with Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law, especially the freedoms of expression and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

    The experts commenting on the matter include Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

    UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49698#.VKWMFCuUdIw

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    Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
    Location:  Geneva
    Date:  30 December 2014
    Subject:  1) Bahrain

    We are seriously concerned at the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition movement, Al Wefaq, as well as the continuing harassment and imprisonment of individuals exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

    According to credible information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Sheikh Salman was arrested after being summoned for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department on Sunday, only two days after his re-election for a fourth term as the Secretary General of Al Wefaq. His lawyers say he is accused of a number of serious charges that carry hefty prison terms, including calling for the overthrow of the government.

    We urge the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Sheikh Salman, as well as all other persons convicted or detained for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.  Should Sheikh Salman be brought to trial, the Government of Bahrain should guarantee a fair trial. We also call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately implement the recommendations put forward during the country’s Universal Periodic Review in 2012, as well as by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011, to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

    Opposition parties are fundamental pillars of any democracy and Sheikh Salman’s arrest risks intensifying the fraught political scene that has seen anti-government protests for nearly four years. Peaceful constructive dialogue is the only way out of Bahrain’s current crisis.

    ENDS
    - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15461&LangID=E#sthash.7GYEkY5A.dpuf

    Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
    Location:  Geneva
    Date:  30 December 2014
    Subject:  1) Bahrain

    We are seriously concerned at the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of Bahrain’s main opposition movement, Al Wefaq, as well as the continuing harassment and imprisonment of individuals exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression in the country.

    According to credible information gathered by the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Sheikh Salman was arrested after being summoned for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department on Sunday, only two days after his re-election for a fourth term as the Secretary General of Al Wefaq. His lawyers say he is accused of a number of serious charges that carry hefty prison terms, including calling for the overthrow of the government.

    We urge the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Sheikh Salman, as well as all other persons convicted or detained for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.  Should Sheikh Salman be brought to trial, the Government of Bahrain should guarantee a fair trial. We also call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately implement the recommendations put forward during the country’s Universal Periodic Review in 2012, as well as by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in 2011, to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

    Opposition parties are fundamental pillars of any democracy and Sheikh Salman’s arrest risks intensifying the fraught political scene that has seen anti-government protests for nearly four years. Peaceful constructive dialogue is the only way out of Bahrain’s current crisis.

    ENDS

    - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15461&LangID=E#sthash.7GYEkY5A.dpuf
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy express their strong concern regarding the 31 December sentencing of human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati to six months in prison. The charges against Mr. Al-Maskati are related to his internationally-guaranteed right to freedom of assembly, and are therefore illegal under international law.

    Mohammed Al-Maskati is the former President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and currently a digital security expert at Front Line Defenders. On 17 October 2012, he appeared before Bahrain’s public prosecution on charges of participating in illegal protests in Manama. Although he has been released on bail pending appeal, he fears that the government may utilize the threat of re-incarceration to intimidate him away from performing his peaceful work as a human rights defender.

    In the same trial, the government also sentenced human rights defender Nader Abdel-Imam to six months in prison. His sentence adds to another six month prison term he received in August 2014 for allegedly “insulting religious figures” in a post he published to his Twitter account. Prior to receiving his latest sentence, Mr. Abdel-Imam was scheduled for release in February 2015.

    As a human rights defender, Mr. Al-Maskati has long been the subject of threats and harassment for his work. During the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2012, Mr. Al-Maskati participated in Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review, wherein he reported on the many of the human rights violations taking place in the country. After presenting his report, Mr. Al-Maskati received anonymous threats, including one against his life. On 13 September 2012, Mr. Al-Maskati delivered an oral intervention before the Human Rights Council, informing member states of the reprisals to which he was subjected on account of his participation at the previous session. He stated, “I have received more than a dozen anonymous phone calls threatening my life and the safety of my family for my engagement here. Nonetheless, I have chosen to speak today because my case is not unique.”

    Other human rights defenders like Mr. Al-Maskati have been the subject of heavy recent persecution in Bahrain. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the founder of the BCHR, is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain for charges related to freedom of expression. Human rights defender and current president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Naji Fateel is serving a fifteen year sentence on charges related to involvement in the opposition youth movement known as the 14 February Coalition,. Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-director of Gulf Center for Human Rights, was recently sentenced in absentia to one year in prison on alleged charges of assaulting a police officer during her detention in Bahrain last August, and her sister, human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, has recently been sentenced to four years in prison on charges related to freedom of expression. The President of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, expects a verdict on 20 January in a case against him on charges relating to his peaceful exercise of his freedom of expression, and is still banned from travelling outside the country.

    The BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD call upon the United Nations, the European Union, and all allies of Bahrain to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally overturn all convictions concerning Mohamed Al-Maskati related to freedom of assembly and linked to his legitimate work as a human rights defender;
    • Immediately and unconditionally overturn the convictions of all human rights defenders, and drop all charges against human rights defenders who are still on trial;
    • Release all detained human rights defenders, and end the systematic targeting of persons legitimately working in the defence of human rights.

     

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    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights expresses its concern as the Bahraini government continues to exploit the law and its own authority to sanction opposition activists, including women. The government is using the law to put pressure on women and on society as a whole, and to take revenge against those who persist in calling for their internationally-recognised right to self-determination. Security services arrested Ayat al-Safar, 32, on alleged charges that she provided shelter for wanted suspects, against a background of politically-motivated charges[1].

    Ayat al-Safar, the mother of two daughters, handed herself in to the Criminal Investigations Directorate on 30 September 2014, after her home was raided on several occasions. Safar had been called urgently to attend an investigation on 14 September 2014 - despite the fact that she had not responded to the invitation, her husband was called in the next day. He signed a document pledging that Ayat would hand herself in for investigation. According to her family’s testimony, al-Safar is facing a false charge, namely that she hid individuals wanted by the security services, by sheltering them in a flat in Sitra Wadyan. Civil forces, accompanied by police officers, raided a residential block in Sitra on Monday 15 September 2014, arresting two men and attacking one of them, Wahib al-Diri, using unreasonable force.

    Arrest of al-Dairi

    al-Diri, who the Interior Ministry claims was sheltered by al-Safar, was subjected to inhumane treatment during his arrest; he suffered an injury to his leg, and his family was forbidden from comforting him when they attended the hospital where he was being treated[2]. Moreover, he was subject to forced disappearance for 54 hours before being transferred to Jaw Central Prison, to server 2 years imprisonment sentence for arson. The fourth criminal court sentenced al-Diri to six years in prison and a fine of 1000 Bahraini dinars on 29 December 2014, on charges of unlawful assembly and rioting in the Dair region.

    al-Safar informed her family during their first visit to her that she had been subjected to psychological torture and degrading treatment at the Criminal Investigations Headquarters, where the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has previously documented cases of torture and inhumane treatment. Ayat was presented before the third criminal court, which ruled that her court date be postponed until 19 January 2015. al-Safar is now the fourth female detainee in Bahrain’s prison system, along with Rayhana al-Musawi, Nafisa al-Asfur and Zahra al-Sheikh, to be arrested and judged on the basis of malicious charges leveled with the intention preventing them from participating in alongside men in marching to call for greater rights. These are not the first such cases; BCHR has documented the arrest of more than 300 female citizens, including doctors, academics, teachers, activists, poets, nurses and university and school students, as well as women from other sectors of society. BCHR considers the continuation of this tactic of arresting women and leveling malicious charges against them represents a systematic policy to take revenge against activists of all kinds, including women. BCHR considers Bahrain’s judicial system a tool of the government[3], used to punish activists[4][5] and people demanding their rights[6].

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other international relevant organizations, as well as human rights groups, to put pressure on the Bahraini government to do the following:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release Ayat al-Safar and other detained female activists.
    • Put an immediate stop to the practice of using torture as a method of obtaining confessions, and offer guarantees of the safety and security of detainees.
    • Question and bring to justice all those involved in torture, including those in high positions who ordered and supervised instances of torture.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern regarding the Bahraini authorities holding of two detainees in incommunicado detention at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), placing them at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

    On 27 December 2014, masked security forces raided a house where two wanted men were arrested. Salman Isa (31 years-old) was one of the arrested individuals; he has previously been sentenced to sixty-five years in prison, and had his citizenship revoked by a court order in November 2014. Ali Makki (26 years-old) was also arrested; he has been sentenced to seventy years in prison. Both detainees were charged in multiple cases with terrorism charges including “conducting bombing operations, murder and violent attacks on policemen in East Ekar village”. They were taken to an open area in al-Eker village and videotaped by security forces; witnesses stated that security forces beat Isa and Makki until they fell unconscious. Security forces were also heard threatening them with death and torture. Several houses or apartments were raided after Isa and Makki’s arrest, including an apartment used as headquarter for a Shia religious society which organizes peaceful religious events and processions. The apartment was also used to store equipment used in these events, such as audio devices, speakers, flags and cameras which were all confiscated by security forces. The security forces then raided the home of Shaker Abdulrasool, the President of the society, and arrested him.

    On the morning of the next day, 28 December 2014, the families of the detainees received a call from Makki, Isa and Abdulrasool, informing them that they are currently being held at the CID before the line was cut. On the same day, the MOI published the pictures of Makki and Isa stating that they were fugitives who were convicted in absentia. The Ministry claimed that they had weapons which they used during arrest; however, witnesses denied that either of the detainees had any weapons during arrest and stated that they had seen members of the security forces placing weapons in the detainees’ car. The reason for arresting Shaker Abdulrasool remains unknown.

    It has been more than a week since their arrest, and the authorities continue to deny the detainees contact with their families, or legal counsel. Makki and Isa’s families visited the CID in an attempt to gather more information, but they were shouted at by officers and told to leave the building without being provided with any information. Similarly, Shaker’s family asked at the CID for his whereabouts and attempted to give his diabetes medicine to the guards. However, officials at the CID refused to take the medicines, and did not provide any information about whether he was at their custody.

    The BCHR reiterates the UN Commission on Human Rights’ view that “prolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can in itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.” Concerns over Salman and Ali’s wellbeing become increasingly acute the longer that they are detained incommunicado at the CID. In 2011, the BICI documented the cases of more than one detainee tortured to death at the CID. In addition, BCHR has documented dozens of torture and ill-treatment cases carried out by security forces at the CID.

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the international community and the governments of the US, UK and other close allies of Bahrain to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to immediately:

    • Allow Salman Isa, Ali Makki and Shaker Abdulrasool immediate access to their families and lawyers and update them on the status of their detention and general well-being;
    • Vacate Isa’s, Makki’s sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
    • Put an end the practice of incommunicado detention;
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to replace its anti-terrorism laws with legislation that does not encroach upon citizens’ rights.
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    Amnesty International today called on the Bahraini authorities to drop the charges against a leading opposition figure and to release him without delay after his detention was renewed for 15 days.

    Sheikh ‘Ali Salman, Secretary General of the main opposition group al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was arrested on 28 December following interrogation at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate in connection with statements made in his speeches in 2012 and 2014, including most recently at the party’s General Assembly meeting on 26 December.

    Sheikh ‘Ali Salman was charged with “incitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means”; “public incitement to loathing and contempt of a sect of people which will result in disrupting public disorder”; “publicly inciting others to disobey the law” and “publicly insulting the Interior Ministry”.

    The Public Prosecution yesterday renewed Sheikh ‘Ali Salman’s detention for 15 days, pending further investigation. It issued a statement saying that he confirmed he was in contact with a number of overseas governments and political organizations to discuss Bahrain’s internal affairs with the aim of achieving active interference in Bahrain and that he did not inform the authorities of these communications.

    Sheikh ‘Ali Salman’s defence team issued a statement saying the Public Prosecution is putting statements out of context with a view to defaming their client. They added that the communications with diplomatic missions and political organizations are part of his work as a political leader and that they were known to the authorities in Bahrain.

    Amnesty International wrote to the Public Prosecution Office seeking further clarifications on the charges but received no answer.

    The organization considers the detention and prosecution of Sheikh ‘Ali Salman a flagrant violation of his right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and urges the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally. If convicted, the organization would consider him a prisoner of conscience.

    The action against Sheikh ‘Ali Salman and the trial of other outspoken activists for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression highlight the Bahraini authorities’ increasing intolerance to criticism and seek to silence legitimate demands for reform and respect of human rights.

    Some of the charges against Sheikh ‘Ali Salman seem to stem from statements he made during his speech on 26 December when he referred to calls made to the opposition in Bahrain to follow the approach of the Syrian opposition and turn the country into a military battleground, but they refused. In the same speech, he spoke about the opposition’s continuing determination to reach power in Bahrain to achieve the demands of the 2011 uprising through peaceful means and to hold those responsible for abuses to account. He also highlighted the need for equality for all Bahrainis, including with the ruling family.

    Following Sheikh ‘Ali Salman’s arrest, a number of demonstrations took place in a number of towns and villages in protest and have continued since. In a familiar pattern, security forces used tear gas and shotgun to disperse the crowds. The authorities have also reportedly refused to grant permission for people to demonstrate, denying them the rights to peaceful assembly.

    ‘Ali Salman’s arrest came a few days after he was re-elected for a fourth term as Secretary General of al-Wefaq. In October 2014, a court ordered the party to suspend all activities for three months, but the Minister of Justice, who filed the case on the basis of alleged irregularities, ordered a delay in the implementation of the court decision until after the party’s general assembly meeting. Al-Wefaq boycotted the parliamentary elections held in November 2014, together with other opposition political parties.

    In July 2014, the Public Prosecution charged Sheikh ‘Ali Salman and his Assistant Secretary General, Khalil al-Marzooq, with “meeting foreign government officials without notifying the Bahraini government and without the presence of a Bahraini official”. These charges were in connection with the meetings they had with the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski, on 6 July 2014 at al-Wefaq’s headquarters in Manama and on 7 July 2014 at the US embassy.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/001/2015

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern over reports of the security forces’ continued practice of torture and degrading treatment as a primary means of extracting confessions from those arrested on politically motivated charges. The family of the detainee Mohsen Ebrahim Al-Majid, 27 years-old, stated that he was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment by security officers during interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate in order to force him to confess to killing a Jordanian policeman in Dimistan village.

    In the details of the incident, the family stated that their son had been arrested from his aunt’s house on Sunday 14 December 2014 at 2:00 am police officers and men in civilian clothing; the entire home was searched. Al-Majid was transferred directly to the Criminal Investigation Directorate where he was reportedly subjected to beating and threatened with electrocution. Al-Majid told his family that he was beaten with a wooden plank that had nails in it on his back and hands. On his way to the Criminal Investigation building, police officers directed sectarian insults at him.

    Al-Majid also stated that he was interrogated in order to extract a confession to his participation in the killing of a Jordanian police officer in the area of Dimistan village on 11 December 2014. He was threatened with further torture if he refused to confess to the crime. When Al-Majid denied the charges against him, the interrogators took turns beating him until his left ear drum was punctured, and his testicles became swollen from repeated being kicked. After a reported three days of this treatment, and Al-Majid continued insistence on denying the charges against him, the interrogators stripped him of his clothing and sexually harassed him. The officers reportedly threatened to shoot him in the buttocks with a gun. Al-Majid feared for his life, and made a confession to what the officers asked of him. However, despite his confession, the officers continued to beat him. He was transferred to another building where a Jordanian officer and others beat him with a plastic hose and metal parts. Al-Majid was then taken to a municipal building – the same place where the death of the Jordanian gendarmerie policeman took place – where he was dictated the confession and started acting out the incident. He was extremely fatigued and exhausted at this time. Later, in the Public Prosecution Building Al-Majid stated that the Public Prosecutor also threatened to throw a glass bottle in case he decided to deny the charges against him.

    Al-Majid has also been a victim of enforced disappearance for nine days. After his arrest, the Criminal Investigations Directorate asked his family not to return to their office after they made several to ask about his whereabouts and well-being. The family went to The General Secretariat for Grievances who in turn visited Al-Majid in detention; however officials did not provide the family with any information about his wellbeing or whereabouts.

    Al-Majid is not the first individual to be tortured in the Criminal Investigation Building; the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has documented many cases where people report that they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the Criminal Investigation Directorate, in addition to threats made at the Public Prosecution Building, in order to force them to confess to fabricated charges.  In the month of December along, at least 30 individuals have been subjected to enforced disappearance, including Al-Majid, according to the documentation of the BCHR. These disappearances ranged between several hours and 13 days. In addition to this information, international organizations, among them Amnesty International, emphasized that torture in Bahrain is still ongoing concern and there are still prisoners of conscience in prison. The BCHR believes that the security forces’ persistence in using torture had transgressed the international treaties and conventions signed and endorsed by Bahrain, which it has to abide by especially those relating to criminating torture and inhumane treatment.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other relevant international associations and human rights organizations to apply pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

    1. End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions, and to provide guarantees for the safety and security of detainees;
    2. Investigate all credible claims of torture, and hold accountable those found to be responsible for this practice, particularly the higher ranking individuals who ordered or supervised the practice;
    3. End the practice of enforced disappearance, and depriving arrested individuals of their right to a lawyer, and contacting their families.
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    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights condemns the authorities’ systematic policy of detaining citizens and forcibly disappearing them. Detainees are unable to meet their lawyers. This statement comes as BCHR documents the forced disappearance of the minor Ahmed Majeed Huweida (16) after being picked up from his grandfather’s house at 02:00 on Sunday 28 December 2014.

    Huweida’s family informed BCHR that he was seized from his grandfather’s house in the capital Manama after the home was raided at dawn by civil forces supported by security forces. The forces subsequently returned to raid the house again at 06:00 on the same morning, taking away some of Huweida’s clothes and his personal telephone. The family added that they received a phone call from him on the following day, informing them that he was at a police station in al-Naim. They were given no further information. On 2 January 2015 Huweida’s father received a phone call from al-Naim station, demanding that he bring clothes to the station. When Huweida’s father arrived to hand over the clothes, employees denied that Huweida was at the station. It should be stressed that Huweida (16) is a secondary school student in his second year, and his classmates are currently sitting their end-of-term exams. This threatens Huweida’s future at school.

    Huweida is not the first to be subject to seizure by the security forces who then refuse to disclose his location. BCHR has registered more than 50 cases of forcible disappearance, whose length has ranged from a matter of hours to 11 days, from 25 November to the end of December 2014. Testimonies of those forcibly disappeared report that their children have been prevented from contacting them, apart from in a telephone call of no longer than 20 seconds in which detainees are able to divulge their locations. However, detention centres deny the presence of detainees when families arrive to visit their relatives. Testimonies also agree that detainees were unable to contact their lawyers and request their presence at interrogations.

    BCHR considers that the authorities in Bahrain are contravening internationally-stipulated agreements that criminalise forced disappearance. The practice is defined by International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law” (Article 2 of the International Covenant on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance). Forced disappearance is considered a dangerous violation of human rights; victims are deprived of their rights to have their legal identities recognised, as well as their rights to freedom and safety and the right not to be subjected to torture or any kind of inhuman treatment. Despite the recommendation of the UN’s Human Rights Council, made during their comprehensive review of Bahrain’s human rights record, that Bahrain sign up to the International Covenant on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the authorities are continuing their inhumane practices.

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, as well as all other relevant international institutions and human rights organizations, to put pressure on the Bahraini government to do the following:

    • Disclose the location of Huweida and release him if he is detained.
    • Sign up to the International Covenant on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
    • Put an immediate stop to the practice of using forcible disappearance as a way to sanction opposition figures and activists.
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    Tagi Abdalla al-Maidan is a 26-year-old US citizen who was born in Connecticut. He lived in Connecticut until he was four years old, after which his family moved to Saudi Arabia. In 2002, Tagi, his mother, Amina, and six siblings moved to Bahrain. Tagi’s mother is Bahraini and his father is Saudi, which also makes Tagi a Saudi citizen.

    Read on PDF format or continue reading below.

    On October 7, 2012, seven masked men and a police captain wearing face masks and civilian clothing entered the family’s apartment and arrested Tagi without presenting an arrest warrant. His family was not told why he was being arrested, nor were they told where he was being taken.

    Tagi, who has a spinal condition which requires consistent medication to treat, was taken to Dry Docks prison, having been accused of participating in an incident on October 5, 2012 involving the burning of a police water truck. Amina and Tagi both assert that Tagi was at home all day on October 5 and that he has never engaged in any criminal activity. However, after being subjected to torture, Tagi signed a false confession stating that he threw a stone at the vehicle.

    A police officer serving as a government witness who claimed to possess a video of Tagi’s alleged criminal activity failed to appear before the court when summoned. When the presiding judge ordered the prosecution to provide the video evidence, they submitted a letter to the court stating that they did not have footage of the incident. Despite the lack of evidence presented by the prosecution, on September 24 2013, the Bahraini court convicted Tagi of assaulting a police officer and sentenced him to 10 years in Jaw Prison.

    In phone calls with his mother, Tagi has indicated that he has been beaten while in prison, and was also subjected to stress positions, threatened with rape, forbidden from using the restroom, and threatened with extradition to Saudi Arabia to be imprisoned there (Saudi’s prisons are notorious for their abuses). Tagi was also threatened that if he did not confess, his mother would be brought to the prison, raped and subjected to the same abuses as Tagi. Tagi has been unable to find a bed, and is forced to sleep on the floor, thereby exacerbating his spinal condition. He continues to be denied access to medication for his spinal condition and his stomach ulcer.

    UN Special Procedures

    At its 69th Session in 2014, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention officially declared that the Government of Bahrain is arbitrarily detaining Tagi al-Maidan and has inadequately responded to allegations of torture. In rendering its decision regarding the arbitrary nature of al-Maidan’s detention, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded: “The deprivation of liberty of Tagi al-Maidan is arbitrary, being in contravention of articles 5, 9, 10, and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 7, 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

    US State Department

    The US Consulate in Bahrain has sent staff to attend Tagi’s hearings and have also intervened with prison officials on Tagi’s behalf on a few occasions. The U.S. State Department recently commented on al-Maidan’s case, stating that it had concerns regarding the fairness of al-Maidan’s trial, as well as his “safety and welfare, [and] his treatment in prison, including his medical and nutritional needs.” The British Embassy is also in contact with the US Consulate on Tagi's case. The US Consulate should continue monitoring the situation and urge Bahraini officials to: 1) ensure access to proper nutrition, medication, and specialist care; 2) investigate allegations of torture; 3) urge for protections against physical and psychological abuse; and 4) allow for family visits.

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    14 January 2015 - Yesterday, Bahrain’s lower criminal court sentenced former Bahraini Member of Parliament, Sayed Jameel Kadhem, to 6 months in prison and a fine of 500 Bahrain dinars (USD $1,326) on charges of “disturbing elections” for comments he made via Twitter. He was arrested today to serve his sentence, which is the maximum allowed under the law. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy condemn the politically-motivated charges leveled against Kadhem and call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately release him and overturn the conviction.

    On 23 October 2014, Kadhem was interrogated for a 9 October 2014 tweet in which he speculated about the Bahraini government’s practice of paying opposition MPs to participate in the widely boycotted November 2014 parliamentary elections. Kadhem was a Member of Parliament from 2006 until 2011, when he submitted his resignation along with 17 other MPs in protest over government violence against peaceful protesters. He is currently head of the Shura Council of the Al Wefaq Political Society, Bahrain’s largest opposition party.

    In recent months, the Government of Bahrain has intensified its campaign against the leading opposition party. In the lead up to the November 2014 parliamentary elections, a Bahraini court suspended Al Wefaq activities, preventing it from organizing rallies or issuing statements during the election period. As a result of this and other government actions, Al Wefaq boycotted the elections, which were marred by reports of government intimidation, bribery, and violence.  Then, on 28 December 2014, Bahraini authorities arrested Shaikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al Wefaq.

    The Bahraini government has also escalated the suppression of freedom of speech through judicial harassment. In 2014 alone, more than a dozen Bahrainis were arrested and sentenced to a total of 174 months in prison for exercising their free speech rights. The list includes human rights defenders like Nabeel Rajab, President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who is expected to be sentenced on 20 Jan 2014 for a comment he made on Twitter.

    Bahrain’s sentencing of Kadhem stands in direct violation of the rights protected, inter alia, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These including rights to freedom of expression (ICCPR and UDHR art. 19), assembly (ICCPR art. 21; UDHR art. 20), association (ICCPR art. 22; UDHR art. 20) and the right to take part in public affairs (ICCPR art. 25; UDHR art. 21).

    The aforementioned organizations call on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

    • Publicly call for the immediate release of Sayed Jameel Kadhem and the dismissal of the charges against him;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against those sentenced for exercising their internationally protected right to freedom of expression;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to release all political prisoners;
    • Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon internationally protected rights; and
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure that political organizations in Bahrain may conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
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    15 January 2015 – This week, 16 human rights organisations have written to 47 States to express grave concern ahead of a 20 January verdict in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender.

    Additionally, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy sent letters to United Nations officials and Members of Parliament in all 47 States urging them to publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against Rajab.

    On 1 October 2014, Rajab reported to the Cyber Crimes Unit of Bahrain’s General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) after being summoned for questioning. Following hours of interrogation in relation to a tweet he published while abroad, Rajab was arrested. The tweet read: “Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.”

    For this tweet, Rajab was charged with insulting the Ministries of Interior and Defense under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, which states that “A person shall be liable for imprisonment or payment of a fine if he offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies.” Rajab was released on bail on 2 November, but was banned from traveling outside the country. If found guilty, he could face up to six years in prison.

    The charges leveled against Rajab are illegal under Bahrain’s commitments to the international community and international human rights law. Bahrain is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having acceded to the covenant in 2006. Article 19 of the ICCPR provides everyone with the fundamental rights to opinion and expression. Further, international jus cogens norms protect against the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, especially in relation to acts related to free expression. By prosecuting Rajab for statements that he made over Twitter, the Bahraini government violates its own commitments to the international community.

    The ongoing suppression of basic human rights in Bahrain has drawn heavy criticism from the international community. In June 2014, 47 United Nations Member States signed a joint statement on Bahrain expressing concern “about the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders.” The statement also called on Bahrain to “release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders.” In 2014 a European Parliament 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. ...”

    The undersigned NGOs close the letter by urging the international community to explicitly and publicly call for the Government of Bahrain to immediately drop all charges against Rajab and the many others currently facing charges or serving arbitrary jail sentences for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

     

    NGO signatories:

    Amnesty International

    CIVICUS

    English Pen (Letter to the UK Foreign Office only)

    Freedom House

    Front Line Defenders

    Human Rights Watch

    Index on Censorship

    Pen International

    Project on Middle East Democracy

    Rafto Foundation for human rights (Letter to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs only)

    FIDH in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    OMCT in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Gulf Center for Human Rights

     

    Additional Background:

    Nabeel Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Board.

    Bahraini authorities have previously prosecuted Rajab on politically motivated charges. They have never presented any credible evidence that Rajab has advocated, incited or engaged in violence.

    Rajab was detained from May 5 to May 28, 2012, for Twitter remarks criticizing the Interior Ministry for failing to investigate attacks carried out by what Rajab said were pro-government gangs against Shia residents. On 28 June 2012, a criminal court fined him 300 Bahraini Dinars (US$790) in that case.

    Authorities again detained Rajab on 6 June 2012, for another Twitter remark calling for Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa to step down. On 9 July 2012, a criminal court convicted and sentenced him to three months in prison on that charge. A court of appeal overturned that verdict, but in a separate case a criminal court sentenced him to three years in prison for organizing and participating in three unauthorized demonstrations between January and March 2012. An appeals court reduced the sentence to two years, which Rajab completed in May 2014.

    In September 2014, Rajab traveled to Europe to call for stronger international action on Bahrain. He met with representatives of various European governments and the EU, spoke to the media, and addressed UN fora.

    In the current case, Rajab was detained on 1 October 2014, within 24 hours of his return to Bahrain.

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    19 January 2015 - On 20 January, a verdict is expected in the trial of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini activist and internationally recognized human rights defender. President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Board, Rajab is charged with insulting public institutions via Twitter. The undersigned NGOs strongly condemn the politically motivated prosecution of and judicial attack against Nabeel Rajab and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against the peaceful human rights defender.

    On 1 October 2014, Rajab presented himself to Bahrain’s General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) upon receiving a summons for questioning, where he was arrested after hours of interrogation regarding one of his tweets. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain from a months-long advocacy tour, which included appearances at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as meetings with foreign ministries throughout Europe. Charged with insulting public institutions under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, Rajab was granted bail on 2 November 2014, but was banned from leaving the country.

    Rajab has won many international awards for his human rights work, including the Ion Ratiu Democracy award, presented by the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the British Silbury prize to “facilitate his on-going humanitarian and human rights work.” In 2013, Rajab and BCHR were awarded the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize, an annual recognition of those who have devoted their lives to promote democracy and respect for human rights. Rajab was unable to attend the ceremony, as he was imprisoned in Bahrain for his activism.

    The international community’s response to the current charges leveled against Rajab has been monumental in denouncing the CID and Bahraini government for their actions. Over 100 NGOs and civil society organizations, as well as members of the European Parliament, the UK Parliament and the United States congress have called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped. The United States, Norway, France and the United Nations all made public statements supporting Rajab and called on Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and free public debate.

    Rajab is one of many Bahrainis who have been victimized by the government’s intensified campaign to silence dissent through judicial harassment and the improper use of judicial and police powers. On 28 December, Sheikh Ali Salman, General-Secretary of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Al-Wefaq, was arrested for his political and human rights activism. Earlier in December, human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the king and ripping up his picture, while her sister Maryam al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during her arrest in August 2014. These are a few of the many Bahrainis who have been wrongfully arbitrarily detained, charged, or sentenced for peacefully exercising rights protected by, inter alia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). These including rights to freedom of expression (ICCPR and UDHR art. 19), assembly (ICCPR art. 21; UDHR art. 20), association (ICCPR art. 22; UDHR art. 20) and the right to take part in public affairs (ICCPR art. 25; UDHR art. 21).

    The aforementioned organizations call on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

    • Publicly call for the dismissal of the charges against human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, as well as the removal of restrictions to his international travel;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to halt any further judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders in Bahrain;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against all charged or sentenced for exercising their internationally protected human rights;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to release all political prisoners;
    • Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon internationally protect rights;
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to end reprisals against human rights defenders; and
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure that civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain may conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.

     

    Signatories:

    1. Activists Organisation For Development And Human Rights
    2. American for Democracy and Human rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    3. Africa Freedom Of Information Centre
    4. Albadeel Center For Studies And Research
    5. Alliance For Tunisia's Women
    6. Aman Network For Rehabilitation & Defending Human Rights
    7. Asociación Por Los Derechos Civiles
    8. Bahrain 19
    9. Bahrain Press Association
    10. Bahrain Salam For Human Rights
    11. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    12. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    13. Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
    14. Bytes For All, Pakistan
    15. Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    16. Cartoonists Rights Network International
    17. Center For Media Freedom & Responsibility
    18. Centre For Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia
    19. Chokri Belaid Foundation To Combat Violence
    20. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
    21. European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
    22. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
    23. European Saudi Organisation For Human Rights
    24. Freedom Forum
    25. Freedom House
    26. Gulf Center For Human Rights (GCHR)
    27. Globe International Center
    28. Initiative For Freedom Of Expression - Turkey
    29. Institut Studi Arus Informasi (ISAI)
    30. International Centre For Supporting Rights And Freedom
    31. International Press Institute (IPI)
    32. Jordanian Commission For Culture And Democracy
    33. Khiam Rehabilitation Center For Victims Of Torture
    34. Kuwait Human Right Institute
    35. Kuwait Human Right Society
    36. Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
    37. MADA - Palestinian Center For Development & Media Freedoms
    38. Maharat Foundation- Lebanon
    39. Media Watch , Bangladesh
    40. MENA Monitoring Group
    41. National Union Of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
    42. Nidal Tagheer Organisation For Defending Rights (Yemen)
    43. No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ - Italy)
    44. Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational And Transparty (NRPTT - Italy)
    45. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
    46. PEN American Center
    47. PEN International
    48. Réseau Avocats Sans Frontières
    49. Shia Right Watch
    50. Sudanese Development Imitative
    51. Syrian Nonviolence Movement
    52. The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    53. The Independent Journalism Center (Moldova)
    54. The World Association Of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
    55. Tunisian Association For The Rehabilitation Of Prisoners
    56. Tunisian Centre For Transitional Justice
    57. Tunisian National Council For Liberties
    58. UN Ponte Per (Italy)

     

     

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    20 January 2015– Today, a Bahraini court sentenced human rights activist Nabeel Rajab to six months in prison on a conviction related to a tweet he published in September 2014. Rajab was also ordered to pay 200 BHD ($530 USD) for his bail during his appeal process. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy condemn the sentence imposed upon Rajab and call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately overturn his conviction.

    In October 2014, Rajab was arrested and charged with insulting public institutions under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code. Rajab had just returned to Bahrain from a months-long advocacy tour, which included appearances at the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as meetings with foreign ministries throughout Europe.

    “The Government of Bahrain’s judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab is intended to silence dissent and intimidate those who would speak out against the government,” said BCHR Vice President Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah. “However, no amount of government repression can stop the march towards justice. In fact, today’s sentence will only elevate the cries of those who fight for human rights in Bahrain.”

    The international community responded to Rajab’s arrest with condemnation. 59  NGOs and civil society organizations, as well as 80 members of the European Parliament, and 21 UK Parliamentarians, called for the charges against Rajab to be dropped. Additionally, the United States, Norway, France and the United Nations all made public statements supporting Rajab and called on Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and free public debate.

    “While the international community has been outspoken in condemning the charges leveled against Rajab, today’s sentence is a clear sign that words will not stop the Bahraini government from harassing human rights defenders and targeting dissent,” said ADHRB Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “Bahrain’s allies must go beyond words if they are to stop government policies that run the risk of pushing the country’s disenfranchised population towards extremism.”

    "Just last week, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister participated in a march in Paris to condemn the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo and call for respect of free speech at the same time the judiciary prepared to sentence Nabeel for a Tweet,” said BIRD Advocacy Director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei. “Bahrain is able to avoid consequence for such hypocrisy and for targeting free speech because it is enabled by its Western allies and specifically the United Kingdom, which has chosen to remain silent on human rights abuses rather than risk losing a new £15 million military base in the country."

    The aforementioned organizations call on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

    • Publicly call for the Government of Bahrain to overturn the conviction against Nabeel and vacate his sentence;
    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to halt any further judicial harassment of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders in Bahrain;
    • Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon internationally protect rights;
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure that civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Bahrain may conduct their work without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
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    Tuesday 3 February from 15h00 to 17h30 
    Palais des Nations, room XI
    1211 Geneva

    We Are The Giant is a gripping documentary film that explores the vital work of human rights defenders in Syria, Bahrain and Libya and the risks and threats they face in their struggle for justice.

    We are privileged to host this exclusive diplomatic screening in Geneva with the presence of one of the film's protagonists, Maryam Al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender who has faced threats, intimidation and imprisonment because of her work. 

    A panel discussion with Ms Al-Khawaja, together with Nedal Al-Salman of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, will immediately follow the film screening.

     

    ABOUT THE FILM

    Since late 2010, more than a dozen nations have experienced popular uprisings that have collectively been called the Arab Spring.

    What does it mean to take part in a collective action that has the potential to unseat dictators and bring previously undreamt-of freedoms to a people?

    We Are The Giant explores this question through a series of insightful activist portraits: Osama describes how his 21-year-old, Virginia-raised son, Muhannad, fought against Gaddafi's forces in Benghazi. Ghassan and Motaz remain committed to peaceful resistance even as Syria descends into ever-more-hopeless violence. Sisters Maryam and Zainab become pivotal opposition figures while their father suffers in a Bahrain prison.

    These stories, underscored by echoes from other human rights heroes—ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela to Aung San Suu Kyi—illustrate what drives human rights defenders and reveal the sacrifices they must make to pursue their causes.

    Directed by Greg Barker
    Produced by John Battsek, Julie Goldman and Greg Barker
    Co-Produced by Razan Ghalayini
    Line Producer Diane Becker

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