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    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT

    13 February 2015

    Index: MDE 11/008/2015

    The Bahraini authorities must uphold the rights to freedom of peaceful expression and assembly and rein in security forces as thousands of protesters are taking to the streets ahead of the fourth anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization’s call came after the Minister of Interior said in a statement, broadcast by Bahrain TV on 12 February, that the Ministry will not hesitate to enforce the law and urged parents to supervise their children, as protests are being organized in the lead-up to the anniversary of the 14 February 2011 anti-government popular protests.

    Small demonstrations have been taking place on a regular basis since 2011 to protest against the authorities’ continuing clamp down on fundamental freedoms, and have grown in number ahead of the anniversary. The authorities considered these protests illegal and repeatedly sought to prevent them, often excessively using teargas and shotgun pellets to disperse the crowds, which in some instances has led to death or serious injury.

    A number of videos and photos of young protesters being shot or injured by security forces were circulated on social media websites in recent days and weeks. In some cases the authorities appear to have used extreme excessive force to deal with protesters. This included a video showing a policeman aiming at and shooting a young protester carrying a photo of detained opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman. Another video shows security officers firing birdshots at four masked youth as they were chasing them. Those injured during the protests do not go to hospital to be treated for their injuries for fear of being arrested and charged with illegal gathering.

    Four years after the uprising, fundamental freedoms have increasingly been curtailed with the authorities banning protests and assemblies, restricting the activities of civil and political associations and stifling the right to peaceful freedom of expression.

    In recent months, the authorities have targeted those who called for genuine political reforms, and put on trial others for “insulting” the King, official institutions or “a brotherly Arab country” on social media.

    On 12 February, the Public Prosecution referred to court nine individuals, all currently under arrest, on charges of “defaming a foreign country publically and misusing means of communication,” allegedly for statements they have made on social media considered defamatory to late King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia. Their trial before a lower criminal court is scheduled to open on 16 February. If convicted solely for the peaceful expression of their views, Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience and would call for their immediate and unconditional release.

    Several leading opposition and human rights activists are standing trial for peacefully expressing their views. Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of al-Wefaq Islamic Society, the largest opposition political association, was arrested on 28 December 2014 and is standing trial. Despite his known anti-violence position, he has been charged with, among other things, “incitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means” on the basis of statements he made during his public speeches. Another hearing of the trial, which opened on 28 January and was attended by Amnesty International, is scheduled for 25 February. Leading human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to six months in prison for tweets deemed “insulting” to the Ministries of Interior and Defence. His appeal trial will resume on 4 March. Activist Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting the king” when she tore a picture of King Hamad and is awaiting her appeal scheduled for 15 June 2015. Ahmad Mshaima’ was sentenced to one year in prison for reading a poem considered “insulting” to the King. Another session of his appeal trial is to be held on 15 February.

    In addition to reining in their security forces, the authorities should seize the opportunity of the fourth anniversary of the uprising to announce genuine and long overdue reforms in order to placate popular frustration with the lack of tangible reforms. As first steps, the authorities must:

    - Release all those held solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights;

    - Lift the ban on demonstrations and review all legislation criminalizing freedom of expression, association and assembly;

    - Reform the judicial system with a view to ensuring its independence and hold to account all those responsible for human rights abuses, including by carrying out independent, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of torture at the Criminal Investigations Directorate and the killing of protesters.

    Click here to read the full report

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    Human Rights First Campaigns and Topics: Anniversary of Bahrain Protests by Brian Dooley

    February 14 this year will be the fourth anniversary of the start of widespread protests in Bahrain for democracy. They were met with a  violent government crackdown that left thousands of people in jail, many of them tortured. The protests never went away, and this year’s anniversary is likely to see another spike in demonstrations. 

    Since 2011 the marches have stayed mostly peaceful, but a minority now have a violent element. The grievances that brought people onto the streets in 2011 remain – anger at corruption, the lack of democracy and accountability and the behavior of security forces drawn almost exclusively from one sect. A ruling family still retains power in the kingdom.  

    Watch the video below, and click here to view full statement

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    HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ARRESTED, RISKS TORTURE

    Bahraini human rights activist Hussain Jawad was arrested in the early hours of 16 February and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate. He is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

    Human rights activist Hussain Jawad was arrested at around 1.30am on 16 February by masked police officers in plain clothes. They searched his house and then took him to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). They did not say why they were arresting him, but Amnesty International fears it may have been because of his human rights work.

    Around 10 hours after his arrest, he phoned his wife and said that he was fine. She asked him whether the police had hurt him: he said “yes” and the line was cut off. Many of those taken to the CID in recent weeks and months have said they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated. His lawyer has written to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) asking to be told when Hussain Jawad is brought for interrogation, so that she can be present with him. Amnesty International has written to the PPO to ask why he was arrested and ensure that he is not tortured or otherwise ill- treated.

    Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European-Bahraini organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), was arrested before, after giving a speech during a protest rally in 2013. He was charged with “criticizing government institutions”, “insulting the flag and emblem of the country”, “attempting to disrupt public security” and “illegal gathering”. He is currently on trial for those charges and the next hearing is scheduled for 25 February.

    Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

    • Expressing concern that Hussain Jawad may have been arrested because of his human rights work;
    • Calling on the authorities to release him unless he is charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence;
    • Urging them to ensure that Hussain Jawad is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and is given prompt access to his lawyer, family and any medical attention he may require.

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    Hussain Jawad’s father, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, is serving a 15-year sentence in Jaw Prison as one of 13 jailed opposition activists. Hussain Jawad was arrested on 24 November 2013 while at the al-Wusta Police Station south of the capital, Manama, where he was filing a complaint against a Bahraini daily newspaper and an organization with close links to the authorities for defamation. They had published the photos and the names of 18 Bahraini human rights defenders and political activists and alleged that they were responsible for “human rights violations” and “terrorist attacks” in the country and called for them to be punished. Their actions came in apparent response to a campaign organized by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) called “End Impunity in Bahrain”, which ran from 1 to 23 November. During the campaign the BCHR published the names of people it deemed responsible for, or involved in, ongoing human rights violations in the country.

    Name: Hussain Jawad Gender m/f: m

    See full pdf file here.

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    A Bahraini court of appeal rejected a political opposition figure’s appeal against his six-month prison sentence on 15 February. He was immediately taken to prison. He is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. Sayed Jamil Kadhem, a member of Bahrain’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was arrested in court on 15 February after a judge upheld his six-month prison sentence.

    He is serving his sentence at Jaw prison, south of the capital, Manama. Sayed Jamil Kadhem had been sentenced on 13 January to six months in prison and a fine of 500 Bahraini Dinars (about US$1,325) by the Lower Criminal Court in Manama, under the 2002 Law on Exercising Political Rights, for “violating freedom of the elections by disrupting and spreading false statements about them with a view to impacting its outcome” after he tweeted about “political money” offered to people to run as candidates in the November 2014 elections.

    He also tweeted a call to boycott the elections. The High Electoral Committee, headed by the Minister of Justice, filed a complaint against him shortly after he posted this tweet, accusing him of undermining the electoral process through his comment on Twitter: the case was then referred to the Lower Criminal Court for trial. He was arrested the day after he was sentenced, and taken to prison to serve his sentence. He was released on bail on 1 February, the day of the first hearing of his appeal.

    Additional Information

    Sayed Jamil Kadhem was re-elected in December as President of the al-Wefaq Shura (consultative) council. He was one of 18 members of parliament from the main opposition group al Wefaq National Islamic Society who resigned from their seats in parliament in 2011 in protest at the crackdown on dissent that year.

    The Secretary General of al-Wefaq, Sheikh ‘Ali Salman, had been arrested on 28 December 2014 in connection with speeches he made in 2012 and 2014. He 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”. Amnesty International has reviewed his speeches and believes he has been targeted for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    The charges against Sheikh ‘Ali Salman and the trial of other outspoken activists as a result of their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression highlight the Bahraini authorities’ increasing intolerance of criticism and their aim to silence legitimate demands for reform and respect of human rights.

    Numerous provisions contained in Bahraini legislation, including the penal code, the law on political associations and the anti-terrorism law are not compatible with international human rights law and standards guaranteeing freedom of expression, association and assembly. These provisions have been used to silence any dissent.

     

    Read full article here.

     

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    Amnesty International today called on the Bahraini authorities to fully uphold freedom of association and expression as the authorities moved to prosecute the largest opposition group on an array of offences.

    On 17 February, the Ministry of Interior said that it referred the case of the political opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, to the Public Prosecution for “violations that amounted to crimes punishable by law”.

    According to the Ministry of Interior, the referral is based on statements by Al-Wefaq on its twitter accounts and website which purportedly incited hatred against the government, and a foreign government. Al-Wefaq is also accused of spreading false news in a way that could harm civil peace and national security and calling for illegal rallies.

    Al-Wefaq told Amnesty International that they have not yet received any notification or summons to appear before the Public Prosecution in relation to the Ministry of Interior’s accusations.

    Al-Wefaq has been relentlessly targeted by the authorities since it decided, alongside other political opposition groups, to boycott the November 2014 elections. It has an ongoing case against it for alleged breaches of the Law on Political Associations filed in July 2014, although it submitted to the Ministry of Justice a report on the process and results of its General Assembly Meeting in December 2014.

    After the elections, the authorities targeted the group’s leadership. Its Secretary General, Sheikh Ali Salman, has been charged with a number of offences, including inciting to overthrow the government by force, despite his repeated calls for peaceful protests. His arrest and detention on 28 December 2014 came a few days after he was re-elected as the head of Al-Wefaq. His trial before the High Criminal Court in Manama will resume on 25 February.

    Another prominent leader of Al-Wefaq, Sayed Jamil Kadhem, was re-arrested again on 15 February from the court after an appeal judge upheld his six month prison sentence and a fine of 500 BHD (approx. 1,325 USD). He was convicted and sentenced on 13 January by the Lower Criminal Court in Manama after the High Electoral Committee, headed by the Minister of Justice, filed a complaint accusing him of undermining the electoral process. He was arrested on 14 January 2015 to serve his sentence before he was released on bail on the first hearing of his appeal trial on 1 February.

    Sayed Jamil Kadhem, president of the Al-Wefaq Consultative (Shura) Council, was charged in October 2014 under the 2002 Law on Exercising Political Rights with “violating freedom of the elections by disrupting and spreading false statements about them with a view to impacting their outcome” after he tweeted about “political money” offered to individuals to run as candidates in the November 2014 elections. He also tweeted calling for a boycott of the elections.

    The targeting of Sheikh Ali Salman and Sayed Jamil Kadhem is a clear indication that the government is intent on muzzling the largest political opposition group which represents the Shi’a majority population. Amnesty International urges the Bahraini authorities to drop all charges against Al-Wefaq leaders as they have been arrested solely for expressing their views peacefully. The organization considers both of them to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

     

    Link to the article here.

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    Eskafi: victim of excessive force used at peaceful demonstrations

    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the violations carried out by the Bahraini regime against those calling for democracy and the right to self-determination. Among these violations is their denial of adequate healthcare to activists. Riot police arrested Hassan Mahdi al-Eskafi (27 years old) on Saturday 14 February 2015 in his home district of al-Bilad al-Qadim which, like other villages and towns in Bahrain, was the site of peaceful demonstrations to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the popular movement in February 2011[1]. Eyewitnesses have reported that Eskafi was sitting by a cafeteria near to his home when he was subjected to beating that targeted his head. His head was also slammed into a wall at the time of his arrest. Eskafi has been prevented from contacting his lawyer and his relatives for a period of over 60 hours after arrest. He was subsequently able to get in touch with relatives and tell them that he had been transferred to al-hodh al-Jaf (Dry dock) detention center and would be held there for a week while an investigation takes place.

    Hassan al-Eskafi (27) was injured in July 2011 by a direct bullet to the head[2] which shattered his skull and caused him to lose an eye. He was taken to hospital to receive treatment, and remained in the intensive care unit for 3 months before being investigated and arrested on charges of occupying Police Station Number 5. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but was subsequently acquitted and released[3]. After being taken to hospital abroad to receive further treatment, Eskafi has had 9 operations to create an artificial skull to replace his natural, smashed, skull. His family say that he frequently suffers seizures that cause him to lose consciousness for periods of 15 minutes at a time[4]. His relatives expressed their grave concern at the possibility of a further deterioration in his health condition while he is detained. He requires specialist medical treatment, and his family do not know whether the prison administration is giving him medication prescribed to him by his doctors or new medication. They are also uncertain as to whether he is being given medication regularly.

    Archive image of Eskafi in hospital

    Picture of one of Eskafi’s medical reports confirming his injury and describing his medical condition

    Article 25 of the International Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that “every person has the right…to medical treatment.” Depriving prisoners of health and sufficient medical care is considered a clear violation of international law that vouchsafes the right to medical treatment even in times of war. In Bahrain this right is continually ignored – this led to the death of Mohammed Mashimaa, a 22-year-old prisoner of conscience. He had sickle cell disease, and the appropriate medical treatment was not available in prison. There are a large numbers of prisoners still deprived of their right to sufficient medical treatment in Bahrain’s prisons. This leads to health complications and engenders their health.

     

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, as well as all other human rights groups and relevant international organisations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

     

    • Offer sufficient medical care to Hassan Eskafi and all other detainees held in Bahrain’s prisons.
    • Release immediately and without restrictions Eskafi and all prisoners of conscience.
    • Put an immediate stop to the human rights violations, especially the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
    • Bring to account those responsible for violations, however high their position.
    • Pay fair reparations to the victims in line with their injuries.

     

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    The BCHR’s team on the ground works to document human rights abuses in order to hold the government of Bahrain responsible for their actions, and to bring about a prosperous democratic Bahrain, free of discrimination, severe infringements on the freedom of expression and other basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of human rights. Check the info graphic below to get an overview of facts and figures illustrating Bahrain’s human rights violations in 2014.  The info graphic provides a record summary of political prisoners and arrests; causes of death; revocation of citizenship; the demolition of mosques and other human rights violations in Bahrain. You can find further information on specific topics by checking the “issue” segment on our website.

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    On 22 February 2015, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) received confirmed reports that Bahraini authorities tortured Husain Jawad Parweez, a well-known human rights activist and head of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), to extract a coerced confession. The undersigned NGOs condemn in the strongest terms the Government of Bahrain’s continued use of torture to extract coerced confessions and call for an immediate investigation into the allegations.

    Parweez was arrested on 16 February and taken to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). At the CID, interrogators beat Parweez and deprived him of sleep, water, and use of a toilet. Interrogators kept him handcuffed from behind and blindfolded in a small, cold room for the duration of his interrogation. Parweez was subjected to psychological torture as well, with interrogators insulting him, threatening to harm his wife, and forcing him to listen to other detainees being electrocuted. Parweez was also sexually assaulted by a female officer, who took of his clothes and touched his genitals. He was not allowed access to his family or lawyer while at the CID.

    On 21 February, Parweez was taken to the Public Prosecution where he confessed to the charges leveled against him to avoid further torture. Despite showing signs of abuse, the prosecutor did not ask Parweez about his apparent exhaustion or dirty clothes. Instead, Parweez was accused of additional charges, such as receiving money from inside and outside Bahrain to support and fund riot groups.

    The Government of Bahrain has ignored appeals to release Parweez from well-respected international organizations, such as Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, and The International Federation for Human Rights. Bahraini authorities have also disregarded repeated requests from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, to visit the country to investigate allegations of torture.

    Parweez’s father, Mohammed Hassan Jawad, is currently serving a fifteen-year sentence in prison for his peaceful activism. He was subjected to torture in 2011 and sentenced by military court before he was re-tried at the civilian court.

    The continued use of torture by Bahraini authorities to extract a coerced confession is a clear violation of international covenants and conventions. In Article 14 (3 – g), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that no one should be “compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.” Also, Articles 12, 14, and 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) ensures that each State party should guarantee “a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction,” and “ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.” Additionally, Articles 10, 11, 12, and 13 of the CAT prohibit the use of torture other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of punishment and guarantees fair treatment at all stages of judicial proceedings.

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

    • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Husain Jawad Parweez and all other human rights activists and prisoners of conscious, especially those whose convictions are based on confessions extracted under torture and duress;
    • Demand that the Government of Bahrain stop using torture as a mean to extract confessions;
    • Demand that the Government of Bahrain end systematic impunity, investigate torture complaints, and hold accountable those officials who were involved in torture, especially at the high ranks;
    • Urge the Government of Bahrain to reform the judicial system to stop using it as a tool for reprisal against human rights and political activists; and
    • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to allow United Nations procedures access to the country.
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    Last week President Obama got it right about terrorism and its causes.

    Speaking at a Washington summit on countering violent extremism, he said "we have to address the political grievances that terrorists exploit... When people are oppressed, and human rights are denied -- particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines -- when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful, democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available."

    Among the U.S. allies represented at the conference was Bahrain. Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Undersecretary, Ambassador Abdulla Abdullatif heard the president say that "lasting stability and real security require democracy. That means free elections where people can choose their own future, and independent judiciaries that uphold the rule of law, and police and security forces that respect human rights, and free speech and freedom for civil society groups."

    At the same time as the president was speaking last week, prominent human rights defender Hussain Jawad says he was being tortured in Bahrain's Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Jawad is known in Geneva, London and elsewhere as a leading human rights activist, a peaceful critic of the Bahrain government, and chair of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (OBOHR). His wife, Asma Darwish, told me he had been seized from their family home in the early hours of February 16 by masked officers in civilian clothes and that later that day he called briefly from detention, for a few seconds. "I asked if he had been harmed and he said yes," she told me.

    Jawad was already in trouble. When he went to a police station in November 2013 to register a complaint about being targeted by a local newspaper loyal to the government, he was arrested and detained for 46 days. He was then charged with insulting the monarchy and inciting hatred against the regime in a speech earlier that month. His trial on those charges has already opened, with the next court date set for this Wednesday, February 25.

    Last week turned into an agonizing wait for Jawad's friends and family. Despite the Bahrain authorities' claims to have addressed abuses in the criminal justice system by establishing an Ombudsman's Office to handle complaints, the CID offices have a reputation for torture.

    Asma says the public prosecutor actually ordered her husband's release after 48 hours in the CID but he stayed there, incommunicado. She says neither she nor his lawyer were allowed to see him. I called the CID offices repeatedly last week and on Saturday someone finally answered, confirmed that Jawad was there but would give no more details.

    Later that day Asma says he appeared before the public prosecution "in very bad physical condition." She says he was forced to confess to crimes he didn't commit, and was physically and sexually abused. She says he confirmed to her that he had been "stripped fully naked while blindfolded and handcuffed from behind, and by a woman he was not able to see. She handled and abusively interfered with his genitals in a humiliating and demeaning way,' that he was "forced to listen to other detainees being tortured by electric shock," he was blindfolded and handcuffed throughout the period of detention, and he was subjected to death threats.

    The Bahraini authorities have confirmed they have opened an investigation "regarding an individual who collects money from Bahrain and abroad to aid and abet saboteurs."

    His lawyer, Reem Khalaf, told me that when she was with him at his appearance at the public prosecution office he said he hadn't been tortured but later told her that he had been threatened at the CID not to mention any torture or they would "take him to hell and back." He's now been transferred to Bahrain's Dry Dock Prison.

    By throwing its peaceful critics in jail Bahrain only encourages those pushing violence as a solution to the country's political crisis.

    A few weeks ago Jawad told me he hoped the U.S. government would take an interest in his case and send someone to observe his trial on the charges of insulting the king.

    If President Obama's words on terrorism are to be anything more than rhetoric, the U.S. government needs to speak out about Jawad's case and remind its military ally that when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism.

     

    Read full article here.

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    The trial of Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of Bahrain’s main opposition group Al Wefaq, opens on Wednesday, January 28 and marks a massive step away from hopes of an inclusive political settlement in the turbulent country. Bahrain, a U.S. military  ally, has failed to implement long-promised reforms. The last few years have seen a steady polarization of the country as a dangerous sectarianism has taken root, threatening the remaining social cohesion of the tiny kingdom.

    Bahrain is governed by a ruling family—the king’s uncle has been the unelected prime minister for over 40 years. Leading opposition figures were jailed with long sentences following the widespread 2011 popular uprising, but the main group—Al Wefaq—was allowed to exist and its leadership largely spared prison. It was harassed in the courts and vilified in the state press, yes, but its senior leadership had not been subjected to long-term detention. Until now.

    Sheikh Ali Salman was arrested in December and charged with a series of speech-related offenses that could result in a very long jail term.  Putting peaceful critics in jail is pretty standard for the Bahrain regime, but Salman’s jailing is a new departure—sending the message that the previously tolerated opposition voices are now to be silenced.

    This means no hope for the inclusive political settlement Bahrain needs, no prospect of power sharing, and the likelihood of many more bleak years of unrest and discontent, particularly from Al Wefaq’s Shia base.

    This is bad for democracy, bad for the United States, and bad for Bahrain. Last month, influential international credit rating agencies Standard & Poor and Fitch revised Bahrain’s rating from stable to negative, citing a failure to end political unrest.

    “Talks between the government and opposition aimed at reaching a political compromise ahead of the November elections came to nothing and the opposition boycotted the elections… There are no plans for further talks and the political stalemate continues,” said Fitch, noting that it “does not expect a comprehensive political solution to be achieved in the near term.”

    In October 2014 the World Bank noted that Bahrain’s “financial sector has lagged as international finance corporations shift their activities away from Bahrain, in favor of Dubai, Doha, and Riyadh.” In addition, “the ongoing political stasis continues to hurt Bahrain. Without a political solution, which would facilitate steps to cut expenditure and broaden the private sector, government debt as a percentage of GDP is forecast to increase to 60 percent in 2018, which would be extremely high by GCC standards.”

    Targeting Ali Salman makes the sort of political solution Fitch refers to unlikely to the point of inconceivable. The Bahraini government has now sliced away so much of what it formerly recognized as tolerable opposition that there’s virtually nothing left—making street politics and violent dissent all the more likely.

    If the authorities decide your criticism of them on social media amounts to an insult, you’ll get a prison sentence—as was the case with human rights defender Nabeel Rajab on January 20.  Tear up a picture of the king? Get sentenced to jail, as Zainab al Khawaja was in December. Peacefully call for change as Ali Salman did? Find yourself on trial for incitement to non-compliance with the law and other trumped-up charges.

    The U.S. government has rightly warned that targeting a senior leader of the opposition like Salman “will only inflame tensions,” but doesn’t seem to be doing much to spell out what consequences there will be for its military ally should he be sent to jail. Washington hasn’t even called for the dismissal of the case against him.

    The Bahraini government could be forgiven for thinking that such a tepid response from the U.S. government means they are free to move against al Wefaq without censure. This looks like the beginning of the end of Bahrain’s tolerated opposition movement

     
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    BAHRAIN

    The government continued to stifle and punish dissent and to curtail freedoms of expression, association and assembly. Security forces used excessive force to disperse protests, killing at least two people. Opposition activists sentenced after unfair trials in previous years continued to be held, including prisoners of conscience. Torture of detainees continued and a climate of impunity prevailed. Twenty-one Bahrainis convicted on terrorism charges were stripped of their nationality. The courts sentenced five people to death; there were no executions.

    BACKGROUND
    Tension between the Sunni-dominated government and main opposition political associations remained high throughout the
    year following the suspension in January of the National Dialogue initiative. There were new protests by activists from the Shi’a majority population demanding political reform, including some violent protests, to which the security forces frequently responded with excessive force, including shotgun fire. In March, a bomb explosion at al-Daih village killed three police officers. In December, bomb attacks in the villages of Karzakan and Demistan killed a police officer and another person. The government banned the “14 February Coalition”, a youth movement, and two other organizations declaring them terrorist groups.

         Bahrain’s first parliamentary elections since unrest broke out in 2011 were held on 22 November but were boycotted by the main opposition, led by al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest Shi’a political association. Amendments to anti-terrorism legislation adopted in December increased police
    powers, allowing them to detain terrorism suspects incommunicado for up to 28 days. Representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bahrain from February to May to assess human rights training needs. In September, the government issued a mid-term review of its progress in implementing recommendations it had accepted at the UN Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain in 2012.

    FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
    The authorities continued to clamp down on dissent. In February, shortly before the third anniversary of the outbreak of public protests in 2011, the government increased the penalty for publicly insulting the King, the Bahraini flag or the national emblem to between one and seven years in prison and a heavy fine.

         Dr Sa’eed Mothaher Habib al-Samahiji, an ophthalmologist, was arrested on 1 July to serve a one-year prison term imposed on him in December 2013 on a charge of “publicly insulting the King” in a speech at the funeral of a protester killed by a police car. He was held at Jaw Prison, south of Manama, at the end of the year.

         Other prisoners of conscience held at Jaw Prison included opposition leaders and human rights activists sentenced after unfair trials in previous years. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was released in May after completing a two-year prison term for “illegal gathering” but was rearrested in October on charges of insulting public institutions. He was released on bail in November but banned from travel, pending 70  a court verdict on his case in January 2015. Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested in October and sentenced in November and December to prison terms totalling four years and four months, including three years on a charge of “insulting the King”. She was at liberty at the end of the year awaiting the outcome of an appeal. Women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer, arrested in September, faced trial on various charges, including assaulting a police officer. She was released on bail in December.

    FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY
    All public gatherings in the capital Manama remained indefinitely banned under government decrees issued in 2013. However, sporadic protests were held in other places. The security forces arrested scores of people for participating in protests; some received prison sentences.

         Ahmad Mshaima’ stood trial in May, five months after his arrest, charged with “illegal gathering with an intent to commit crimes and disturb public security”. He alleged that security officials tortured him in the days following his arrest, but the authorities did not investigate his allegations. He was released on bail in June but rearrested in November and sentenced in December to one year’s imprisonment on a charge of “insulting the King”.

         In December, human rights defender Mohammad al Maskati and 10 other defendants were sentenced to six-month prison terms on charges of “illegal gathering”.

    FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
    The government restricted freedom of association using new powers that allowed the Minister of Justice to suspend or dissolve political associations on vague grounds. The Minister filed suspension cases against two main political opposition associations, Wa’ad and al-Wefaq, for alleged irregularities during their activities. The Ministry of Justice dropped its case against Wa’ad in November. In October a court ordered the suspension of al-Wefaq for three months. The court action began shortly after the Public Prosecution charged al-Wefaq’s leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, and his deputy with “meeting foreign officials without notifying” the government, after they met with the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski. In late December, the authorities arrested Sheikh Ali Salman on charges including incitement to promote the change of the political system by force, threats and other illegal means.

    DEPRIVATION OF NATIONALITY
    In July, the King decreed amendments to the 1963 Nationality Law giving the courts new powers to strip Bahrainis of their nationality, including if they are convicted of terrorism offences. The law also allowed the authorities to revoke the nationality of people who live abroad continuously for more than five years without informing the Ministry of the Interior. Twenty-one people had their nationalities revoked by the courts in 2014. In August, the High Criminal Court revoked the citizenship of nine Bahraini men after it convicted them on terrorism-related charges. They also received prison sentences of up to 15 years after the court convicted them partly on the basis of “confessions” that some defendants alleged had been obtained through torture. In October, a court sentenced to deportation several people whose Bahraini nationality was arbitrarily revoked in 2012. The court considered that they had remained in the country illegally after their nationality was revoked. Their appeal was set for April 2015.

    TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT
    Torture continued to be reported despite the establishment of a number of official bodies to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in custody. In some instances, detainees complained that police or other security officials violently assaulted them during arrests and house searches, or while they were being transported to police stations or prisons in police vehicles, and during interrogation by Criminal Investigations Directorate officers, when they were held without access to their lawyers and families for several days. Methods of torture reported included severe beating, punching, electric shocks, suspension by the limbs, rape and threats of rape, and deliberate exposure to extreme cold.

         Mohamed ‘Ali al-‘Oraibi alleged that security officials tortured him over five days following his arrest on 2 February at Manama International Airport when he arrived from abroad. He said officials kept him naked while they interrogated him, subjected him to electric shocks on his genitals, suspended him by his limbs and beat him with a stick, and sexually assaulted him. He was released on 17 April, pending further investigations. He complained to the authorities but no investigation into his alleged torture was known to have been conducted.

    EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE
    In March a royal decree (Decree 24 of 2014) was issued regulating the use of force and firearms.

         The security forces regularly used excessive force to disperse opposition protests. Among other methods, they fired shotguns and tear gas at protesters, causing injuries and at least two deaths.

         Sayed Mahmoud Sayed Mohsen, aged 14, died on 21 May after security forces fired tear gas and shotguns at protesters participating in a funeral procession on the island of Sitra. His family said he had shotgun pellets in his chest suggesting that he had been shot at close range. The Ministry of the Interior announced an investigation but had not disclosed its outcome by the end of the year.

    IMPUNITY
    The number of investigations into torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained low and the authorities continued to detain some of those that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry said had been tortured in 2011. In practice, despite a few prosecutions of low-ranking officers, the security forces operated with a large degree of impunity amid continuing reports of torture of detainees and the use of excessive force against protesters. The authorities prosecuted eight police officers in connection with the killing of one person and the death in custody of another. One officer, charged with assault, was acquitted; the others remained on trial at the end of the year. In the two years since trials of members of the security forces began, a total of 15 security officers were acquitted of torturing or killing protesters and six were sentenced to between six months’ and three years’ imprisonment in relation to deaths in custody and killings of protesters.

         Two officers accused of causing the death of 16-year-old Hussein al-Jazairi at a protest on 14 February 2013 in al-Daih reportedly remained at liberty and did not stand trial in 2014. They faced charges of assault resulting in death, but were released on bail in May 2013 by the High Criminal Court. Hussain al-Jazairi died after he was hit in the chest by shotgun pellets fired at close range.

         In September, the High Court of Justice in England quashed a ruling by the United Kingdom (UK) Crown Prosecution Service that the King of Bahrain’s son, Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, had diplomatic immunity in the UK. The High Court ruled that he could face prosecution in the UK for alleged complicity in torturing detainees in 2011 if he entered the UK.

    DEATH PENALTY
    The death penalty remained in force for murder and other crimes. The courts passed five death sentences during the year, one of which was annulled by the Court of Appeal in December. There were no executions.

         Mahir Abbas al-Khabaz was sentenced to death on 19 February after he was convicted of killing a police officer in 2013. The court accepted a “confession” allegedly obtained through torture as evidence against him. An appeal court confirmed his death sentence and he was awaiting a final decision by the court of Cassation at the end of the year.

    Click here to read the full report

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    On 26 February 2015, amid allegations that severe torture was used to extract coerced confessions, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced three Bahrainis to death after convicting them of killing three policemen in 2014. Reprieve, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the continued use of the death penalty in Bahrain, as well as the practice of using torture to extract a coerced confession, and call on the Government of Bahrain to launch an immediate investigation into the allegations of torture and to vacate the sentences.  

    “These sentences are a mockery of justice – once again, the Bahraini authorities are rushing to execute perceived political opponents, despite evidence of torture and serious concerns about the government’s framing of the situation”, said Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team. “The international community must request unequivocally that Bahrain abide by its obligations and reverse this ruling, before it’s too late.”

    In total, ten defendants were charged with participating in the 3 March 2014 bombing. A judge sentenced seven defendants to life imprisonment, revoked the citizenship of eight of the defendants, and fined all ten defendants each BDH 920,621 ($2,441,710 USD). The defendants all deny the charges against them and claim that security forces subjected them to severe torture, including electrocution, beatings, and sexual assault. The defendants were also denied legal counsel throughout their initial detention and interrogation by the Public Prosecution. 

    “Given the lack of due process and the inclusion of confessions obtained under torture, it is clear that the Bahraini justice system failed to uphold the defendants’ right to a fair trial,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR. “Without an independent judiciary, such breaches of justice, including the public prosecutor’s reliance on confessions obtained under torture, has become the norm in Bahrain.”

    According to Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his right to life. According to Article 6(2), countries that have not abolished the death penalty may not impose a death sentence against individuals if their right to a fair trial cannot be guaranteed or if other ICCPR rights have been violated. This includes the absolute right under Article 7 of the ICCPR not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for any purpose.

    “When Bahrain acceded to the ICCPR in 2006, the government made a promise to the international community to uphold the rights protected under the covenant,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “It is clear that the Government of Bahrain violated these young men’s internationally protected rights, and the international community must hold Bahrain responsible for these violations.”

    The undersigned NGOs call on Government of Bahrain to:

    • Vacate the death penalty convictions levelled against the three defendants;
    • Guarantee the right to a fair and impartial trial and the right to legal counsel;
    • Immediately launch an investigation into the allegation of torture and prosecute all individuals found responsible for the crimes of torture and or/cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment; and
    • Allow the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyer to visit Bahrain to provide recommendations for reforming the judiciary to bring it in line with international standards. 

     

    More Information


    On 26 February 2015, Bahrain’s Higher Criminal Court sentenced Sami Mashaima, Abbas al-Samea, and Ali Abdulshaheed al-Singace to death for the killing three police officers on 3 March 2014 in the village of Daih. Seven additional defendants in the case, Ahmed Jaffar, Ali Jameel al-Samea, Taher al-Samea, Husain Ahmed, Hasan Sabah, Ahmed Matooq, and Redha Mushaima, were sentenced to life imprisonment. The court revoked the citizenship of eight of the ten defendants and fined all of the defendants each BDH 920,621 ($2,441,710 USD).

    On 3 March 2014, an explosion occurred in the village of Daih that killed three on duty police officers. Security forces arrested 29 people for supposed connection to the incident, including several members of the al-Samea and the Mushaima family. Abbas al-Samea and Sami Mashaima were held in incommunicado detention for at least 11 days.

    One of the defendants is Abbas al-Samea. During his arrest, which occurred only three hours following the explosion, security forces repeatedly kicked him in the head and body and hit him in the face using a gun. After arriving at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), security forces took Abbas into a series of rooms, subjecting him to different kinds of torture in each one. In one room security forces handcuffed and stripped Abbas naked before kicking him repeatedly in his genitals. In another room, five officers stood on Abbas’s chest. Security forces also subjected Abbas to electric shocks in private and sensitive areas, including his genitals. Security forces beat Abbas while he was suspended from the ceiling, and denied him access to food and water for three days. Abbas has also reported that the Public Prosecutor threatened him with additional torture if he did not confess to being culpable in the explosion.

    Ali Jameel al-Samea, another defendant in the case, was also stripped naked by security forces and kicked in his genitals. Security forces electrocuted al-Samea a number of times over a three-day period and repeatedly slammed his face into the ground. After security forces tortured Ali for three days he signed a confession, without ever being allowed to see a lawyer.

    Security forces also subjected Sami Mashaima, another defendant, to the same kind of treatment. When Sami’s family was finally allowed to visit him in prison, his mother noted that his front teeth had either been broken or pulled out. 

    During their initial detention, the Public Prosecution denied the defendants’ access to legal counsel.  In the lead up to the trial, Bahrain’s public prosecution prevented the defendants’ lawyers from accessing the case files and evidence, which included witness statements as well as video and photographs taken at the scene of the explosion. Following their arrest, state newspapers published photos of the defendants’ alleging that they were guilty of the explosion.

    During the trial, the judge prevented the lawyers from cross-examining the public prosecution’s witnesses. As a result of these due process violations, the defendants’ lawyers withdrew from the case, and a number of the defendants’ boycotted the hearings, to protest the grossly unfair and biased investigation and trial.

    In a statement issued 1 June 2014, one of the defendants’ lawyers referred to the court’s actions as “a clear breach of the right to a fair trial” arguing:

    “The court and its clerk’s decision was clear in preventing the defence from gaining access to a hard copy of the case file, and in doing so, their actions constitute an obstruction the defence team’s representation of their clients and to defend their clients appropriately.”

    The case document submitted by the Public Prosecutor, which relies almost entirely on confessions obtained through torture, claims that the defendants’ were “born from the womb of the devil”, had “breastfed from its evil” and had “graduated from its school to become a devilish mutant monster”. It went on to say that the defendants were “devils wearing human clothes walking amongst humans but with the soul, heart and mind of the devil...nay but with all of the devils attributes”.

    In total, Bahrain’s judicial system has sentenced six persons to death in the past two years. 

    According to Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, every person has the right to life, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his right. According to Article 6(2), countries that have not abolished the death penalty may not impose a death sentence against individuals if their right to a fair trial cannot be guaranteed and where other ICCPR rights have been violated. The right to a fair trial includes the presumption of innocence and the right to examine witnesses. The UN Human Rights Committee has interpreted the provision to mean that all ICCPR provisions must be upheld throughout proceedings. This includes the absolute right under Article 7 not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for any purpose. Article 14(3)(b) states:

    “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing”.

     

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    The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the summoning of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and FIDH Deputy Secretary General , to Hamad Town police station. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

    New information:

    On February 26, 2015, Mr. Rajab received a summoning order to the Hamad Town police station for accusations of “inciting hatred towards the regime”. On March 1, 2015, Mr. Rajab went to the police station where he was interrogated about a speech he made in February 2011. Mr. Rajab has denied all accusations, and his lawyers called for the accusations to be dropped. According to procedure, the police is in charge of collecting evidence and submitting it to the Public Prosecution, which will decide whether to press charges against Mr. Rajab.

    The Observatory is highly concerned about the new summoning of - and potential new charges against - Mr. Rajab, who was already sentenced to six months imprisonment on January 20, 2015, and whose hearing in appeal is due to take place on March 4, 2015 (see background information).

    The Observatory recalls that accusations of “incitement hatred towards the regime” are contrary to international human rights law, and in particular to the right to freedom of expression. The Observatory considers that Mr. Rajab has been targeted because of his legitimate human rights activities.

    Therefore, the Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Rajab, and to comply with relevant international standards, in particular the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, as well as international human rights instruments ratified by Bahrain.

    Background information:

    On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to six months imprisonment on charges of insulting public institutions via Twitter (see below). Mr. Rajab’s lawyers appealed the sentence and paid a bail of 200 Bahraini dinars, so that he is not imprisoned until the appeal is issued. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, sentences issued by lower criminal courts can be suspended with a bail posted, upon the agreement of the judge. However, a travel ban against Mr. Rajab is still in force pending the appeal . The hearing in appeal is due to take place on March 4, 2015.

    On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court Jaber Al Jazar had ordered Mr. Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country, and announced that the verdict would be issued on January 20, 2015.

    Previously, on October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab had been summoned by the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department on the charge of “insulting a public institution” via Twitter. The investigation concerned certain tweets he published on Twitter, which the CID alleged were insulting the Ministry of Interior, pursuant to Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. The CID decided to detain Mr. Rajab overnight before presenting him to the Public Prosecution on October 2 for further investigation. The Public Prosecution decided to keep Mr. Rajab under arrest for 7 days, pending further investigations. On October 9, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was brought again before the Public Prosecution Officer in Manama and informed that the Ministry of Defence had filed a complaint regarding the same tweet, which was the subject matter of the previous investigation. The interrogation lasted about 40 minutes.

    Mr. Rajab reiterated his previous position denying all allegations against him and stressing that he was only exercising his freedom of expression in regard to a matter forming part of a large public debate and an open discussion in the local press, social networks and even in Bahraini officials’ public statements. On the same day, the Public Prosecution ordered the continued detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and decided to refer the case for trial before the Third Lower Criminal Court. On October 19, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court started the trial against Mr. Nabeel Rajab. The hearing was postponed to October 29 and then November 2 for the verdict.

    In a previous case, on July 9, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested after he had tweeted the following on June 2: "Khalifa, leave the residents of Al Muharraq, its Sheikhs and its elderly. Everyone knows that you are not popular here, and if it wasn’t for the subsidies, they wouldn’t have gone out to welcome you. When will you step down?".

    On the same day, the 5th Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three months imprisonment for allegedly libelling the residents of Al Muharraq through tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.

    However, on August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court had also sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to three years imprisonment for three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy:

    - The first case related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” and “calling others to join”, in relation to a protest organised on March 31, 2012 in Manama to denounce the detention of the founder of GCHR, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and former MENA Director at Front Line, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
    - The second one related to charges of “involvement in illegal practices and incitement to gatherings and calling for unauthorised marches through social networking sites” for a protest in Manama on January 12, 2012.
    - The third one on related to charges of “participating in an illegal assembly” in relation to several protests that took place in Manama in February 2012.

    The Court thus sentenced Mr. Nabeel Rajab to one year imprisonment for each of these three cases.
    In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years imprisonment. Mr. Nabeel Rajab completed his sentence and was released on May 24, 2014.

    Actions requested:

    The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

    i. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

    ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

    iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
    - its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
    - its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ;
    - and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

    vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

     

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    March 2015 – Bahrain’s Court of Appeals convened today over human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s appeal case; unfortunately the court again postponed the decision until 15 March. Rajab’s lawyers requested that a travel ban that has been in place since 2 November be lifted, however the court has declined this request. Nabeel Rajab may also face charges of inciting hatred against the regime in a new case. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB) and English PEN condemn the original sentencing of Nabeel Rajab and call on the Government to overturn its decision during the appeal. The aforementioned NGOs condemn the latest allegations brought against Nabeel Rajab as attempts to further intimidate human rights defenders.

    Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Deputy Secretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a member of Human Rights Watch’s advisory board, received a six-month sentence in January for insulting the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence in a tweet, though he remains on bail until the Appeals Court’s verdict. The September 2014 tweet in question read: “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.” If Rajab’s sentence is upheld on 15 March, he will be imprisoned for his free expression.

    Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, said, “Any criticism of the government is now treated as an insult against the regime. Bahrain’s international allies must bring strong pressure upon Bahrain and send a message that criminalizing free speech is never acceptable.”

    The trial and persecution of Nabeel Rajab on charges related to his freedom of expression has been criticised by both State actors and international human rights organisations alike. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights described his arrest as “chilling” and called for Bahrain to halt reprisals against human rights defenders. The Special Procedures raised concerns regarding his treatment in their latest joint communications report. In January, over 50 organisations signed a statement calling for all charges against Mr. Rajab to be dropped. Over 100 Members of European Parliament and 21 Members of the UK Parliament have made similar calls in condemning his previous arrest and detention. The United States, Norway, France have called for Bahrain to respect freedom of expression and abide by their commitments under international law.

    In an incident unconnected to the current case, Nabeel Rajab may soon face new charges. On 26 February, Rajab received a summons to Hamad Town police station. Rajab presented himself at his local police station on Sunday 1 March.  At the station the police questioned Nabeel on a speech he gave at a memorial service for Abdulredha BuHamaid who was killed in Feb 2011 as he was heading to the pearl roundabout. If he is arrested, he fears that he will serve several years in prison. Police accused Rajab of inciting hatred against the regime, based on many allegations, including accusing the Ministry of Interior staff and officials of torturing detainees; of having killed people; discriminating against Shia and calling for the re-opening of the Pearl Roundabout which was destroyed in March 2011. However, police have not officially pressed charges.

    Nabeel Rajab stated: “There does not seem to be any tolerance to writing or saying anything against the policy of the government. I do not have an army nor am I part of any political group. What I have is my pen and my tongue and I speak and I write, which they see as a threat.”

    Nabeel Rajab’s appeal hearing and latest allegations coincide with the opening of the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Since the 27th Session in September, Bahrain has seen no improvements in its human rights record. BCHR, BIRD and ADHRB find that Bahrain continues to neglect its commitments under the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention against Torture (CAT), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Bahrain has also failed to implement the majority of its 2012 Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

    Speaking yesterday at the Human Rights Council, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Abdullah Abdullatif Abdulla, gave an optimistic view of “the Kingdom’s commitment to implement the legal safeguards enshrined in the constitution and in the various national legislatures … and that the promotion and protection of human rights is indispensable.”

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, stated: “With these latest allegations against Nabeel, the government is now threatening to punish him for his human rights work. If calling for accountability, equality and justice is incitement of hatred, then Bahrain has clearly not reformed, despite what the government may say.”

    Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager at English PEN, stated: “English PEN and our colleagues from PEN centres all over the world remain seriously concerned for Nabeel Rajab. The authorities may think that this additional delay, combined with the fact that his next hearing is due to take place at a weekend, means that the outcome of the hearing will go unnoticed by the international community. That is not the case. We will continue to call for all charges against Nabeel Rajab to be dropped, and for the immediate release of the many other Bahrainis detained or on trial in violation of their right to freedom of expression.”

    The Government of Bahrain’s continued reprisals against Nabeel Rajab for his spoken opinion are in violation of international covenants and conventions. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinion without interference.” This right is reaffirmed in Article 19 of the ICCPR.

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

    • Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to overturn the conviction against Nabeel Rajab 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 protected 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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    3 March 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy take this opportunity to respond to the statement made today by Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Abdullah Abdullatif Abdullah, at the 28th Session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC).  We disagree with the Government’s optimistic assessment of reform efforts in the country. We urge the international community to continue to call on Bahrain to cease further deteriorating the status of human rights in the kingdom and urgently recommit to fulfilling its international human rights obligations.

    In his statement, the Undersecretary reiterated, “[the] kingdom’s commitment to implementing the legal safeguards enshrined in the constitution and in the various national legislatures. We will continue to honor our pledges to the united nations and its bodies… And that the promotion and protection of human rights is indispensable.”

    Since the last session of the Human Rights Council in September 2014, Bahrain has increased restrictions on civil society and political opposition groups. The government has expanded its ability to utilize pre-trial detention to incarcerate individuals without due process, and has continued its systematic use of torture to coerce confessions and detain voices of dissent. Since September, the government has used these powers to arrest and charge Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders and leading political opposition figures. Bahrain has also extra judicially revoked the citizenship of additional human rights defenders, lawyers, teachers, journalists and others who have criticized the government, and has arbitrarily sentenced dissidents to death on unsubstantiated charges of terrorism.

    Particularly concerning has been the charges against Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, less than 24 hours after returning from advocating for Bahraini human rights reform at the Human Rights Council and in the European Union. Such blatant acts of reprisals directly undermine the Undersecretary’s claims that the Government prioritizes and respects international standards of human rights.

    In spite of these ongoing abuses, the various human rights institutions highlighted in the Undersecretary’s statement have failed to either criticize or counteract these destructive developments. The Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman continues to lack the necessary independence to properly and effectively carry out his mandate. Meanwhile, despite the limited progress represented in the National Institution for Human Rights’ First Annual Report, the government has failed to implement any of the report’s recommendations.

    The Government of Bahrain likewise continues to disregard its commitments to international human rights standards. Since the 27th Session of the HRC, Bahrain has continued to neglect its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Furthermore, Bahrain still has yet to accomplish any meaningful implementation of the vast majority of the 158 recommendations the kingdom accepted during its 2012 Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    Therefore, ADHRB, BCHR and BIRD call upon United Nations Member States, the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Recommit to a full, transparent and expeditious implementation of the recommendations from Bahrain’s 2012 Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and;
    • Fulfill its international commitments to uphold international standards of human rights, including the ICCPR, CAT, CRC, and CEDAW, and ratify the optional protocols of the major international human rights treaties;
    • Release all individuals detained in relation to their expression of their human rights, including human rights defenders, journalists, photographers, doctors and medics, and religious and political opposition figures, especially those found to be arbitrarily detained by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other Special Procedures;
    • Conclude negotiations with OHCHR to establish a full mandate country office in Bahrain that includes both a technical capacity building and a reporting mandate and enjoys full and unfettered access to the country.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights on behalf of the undersigned organizations invite you to the event: Civil Society Documentation and Engagement with UN Mechanisms. See below for more details about the event.

     

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    Champions for Justice for March 2015

    More than four years since the Bahrain government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, arbitrary arrests, injuries to protesters and politically motivated prison sentences continue.  Numerous Bahrainis remain behind bars today, including thousands of prisoners of conscience.

    Every month, ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR ask all defenders of human rights to take part in highlighting each of these prisoners as a Champion for Justice by tweeting about them and changing their Facebook profile picture to a picture of the featured person. Since March is designated as Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the cases of Bahrain’s female prisoners of conscience.  We ask that you write to your Member of Congress about these prisoners and advocate for their release on social media using hashtag #BahrainWomen.

    Below is a summary and update on six of the over 300 women who have been arrested for expressing their support for human rights and advocating for reform in Bahrain since 2011.  These women have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for their advocacy work, and their stories provide a glance at how the Bahraini government responds to activists seeking reform.  From misuse of social media to harboring fugitives to plotting terrorist attacks, the government has used spurious accusations to intimidate these women. Though each of their stories are unique, they reveal a troubling new trend of persecution against women in Bahrain.

    Maryam Marzooq

     Maryam Marzooq is a mother of seven children, including her youngest of two years old.  She was arrested on 16 February 2015 under the charges of harboring fugitives.  She was not allowed any visitors after her arrest until 2 March.  While the details of her treatment are currently unavailable, she was coerced into confessing she committed the charges against her and has denied confessing in the public prosecution.  Her case was remanded by the prosecution to 6 March. **Update 3/5/2015: Maryam Marzooq was released on 5 March before her scheduled court appearance.

     

     

    Jaleela al-Sayed

    Description: Macintosh HD:Users:travisbrimhall:Desktop:jalila-sayed-ameen.jpg Jaleela al-Sayed was arrested on 10 February 2015 under the charges of misusing social media, inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the king.  Security forces raided her house at 5:50 am, searching for and confiscating computers and cellphones as well as arresting al-Sayed.  She was taken to the CID for interrogation, where she needed to be taken to the clinic due to fainting after the ill-treatment she was subjected to.  She was not allowed to contact her family or lawyer when she was initially arrested, and her family has still not been permitted to visit her.  Her court hearing is on 10 March.

     

     

    Zahraa al-Shaikh

    Description: Macintosh HD:Users:travisbrimhall:Desktop:zahraa.pngZahraa al-Shaikh is a university student arrested on 27 October 2014 when she went to visit her husband in Dry Dock Prison with their child.  Al-Shaikh was sentenced to one year imprisonment for participating in an illegal assembly,and the sentence was upheld in January 2015.  She is currently in detention with her 10-month-old son, who has been receiving inadequate medical care for his multiple illnesses and the poor conditions within the prison.  Al-Shaikh was previously arrested in 2012 on the same charges, but was released on bail after four months.  During her previous time in prison, she needed to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital as her mental health deteriorated due to the stressful conditions.

     

    Ayat al-Safar

    Description: Macintosh HD:Users:travisbrimhall:Desktop:ayatAlsafar.jpgAyat al-Safar is an unemployed mother of two daughters.  She turned herself into the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) on 30 September 2014 after her home had been raided multiple times by security forces and her husband signed a pledge stating she would turn herself in.  She was falsely charged with harboring fugitives and sentenced to one year in prison.  She was subjected to psychological torture and degrading treatment during her detention at the Criminal Investigation headquarters.

     

     

     

    Nafeesa al-Asfoor

    Nafeesa al-Asfoor is an activist known for providing medical treatment for protesters.  She was arrested on 20 April 2013 under the charges of attempting to plant an explosive device at the Formula 1 racetrack and being associated with the February 14 coalition after attempting to stage a protest there.  She was subjected to torture and degrading treatment during her detention, particularly with the threat of electric shocks, in order to extract false confessions from her.  She is currently at the hospital after being denied adequate medical care for a dislocated jaw, suspicious breast lumps, and other illnesses developed during her time in prison.  Her family has been forbidden from seeing her in the hospital.

     

    Rihanna al-Mosawi

    Description: Macintosh HD:Users:travisbrimhall:Desktop:Rihanna.jpgRihanna al-Mosawi is a housewife and activist arrested on 20 April 2013 under the charges of attempting to plant an explosive device in the Formula 1 racetrack and being associated with the February 14 coalition after attempting to stage a protest there.  While detained, al-Mosawi was subjected to various types of torture and degrading treatment, including being stripped of her clothes twice and security forces threatening to rape her.  She was also beaten, threatened with electrocution and the arrest of her relatives to force her into signing confessions.  The courts sentenced her to five years in prison. She started a hunger strike in May 2014 to protest her ill treatment.

     

    A fair and free society cannot exist without respecting the rights and dignity of women. These Bahraini women should be praised for their struggles to create a Bahrain where they can freely exercise their rights, instead of languishing in its prisons.  On March 8th, when the world celebrates the economic, political, and social achievements of women on International Women’s Day, the struggle of Maryam, Jaleela, Zahraa, Ayat, Rihanna and Nafeesa must not be forgotten.

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    Champions for Justice for March 2015

    More than four years since the Bahrain government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, arbitrary arrests, injuries to protesters and politically motivated prison sentences continue.  Numerous Bahrainis remain behind bars today, including thousands of prisoners of conscience.

    Every month, ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR ask all defenders of human rights to take part in highlighting each of these prisoners as a Champion for Justice by tweeting about them and changing their Facebook profile picture to a picture of the featured person. Since March is designated as Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the cases of Bahrain’s female prisoners of conscience.  We ask that you write to your Member of Congress about these prisoners and advocate for their release on social media using hashtag #BahrainWomen.

    Below is a summary and update on six of the over 300 women who have been arrested for expressing their support for human rights and advocating for reform in Bahrain since 2011.  These women have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for their advocacy work, and their stories provide a glance at how the Bahraini government responds to activists seeking reform.  From misuse of social media to harboring fugitives to plotting terrorist attacks, the government has used spurious accusations to intimidate these women. Though each of their stories are unique, they reveal a troubling new trend of persecution against women in Bahrain.


    Maryam Habib Marzooq   

    Maryam Marzooq is a mother of seven children, including her youngest of two years old.  She was arrested on 16 February 2015 under the charges of harboring fugitives.  She was not allowed any visitors after her arrest until 2 March.  While the details of her treatment are currently unavailable, she was coerced into confessing she committed the charges against her and has denied confessing in the public prosecution.  Her case was remanded by the prosecution to 6 March. **Update 3/5/2015: Maryam Marzooq was released on 5 March before her scheduled court appearance.

    Jaleela al-Sayed Ameen

    Jaleela al-Sayed was arrested on 10 February 2015 under the charges of misusing social media, inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the king.  Security forces raided her house at 5:50 am, searching for and confiscating computers and cellphones as well as arresting al-Sayed.  She was taken to the CID for interrogation, where she needed to be taken to the clinic due to fainting after the ill-treatment she was subjected to.  She was not allowed to contact her family or lawyer when she was initially arrested, and her family has still not been permitted to visit her.  Her court hearing is on 10 March.

     Zahraa al-Shaikh

    Zahraa al-Shaikh is a university student arrested on 27 October 2014 when she went to visit her husband in Dry Dock Prison with their child.  Al-Shaikh was sentenced to one year imprisonment for participating in an illegal assembly,and the sentence was upheld in January 2015.  She is currently in detention with her 10 month old son, who has been receiving inadequate medical care for his multiple illnesses and the poor conditions within the prison.  Al-Shaikh was previously arrested in 2012 on the same charges, but was released on bail after four months.  During her previous time in prison, she needed to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital as her mental health deteriorated due to the stressful conditions.

    Ayat al-Safar

    Ayat al-Safar is an unemployed mother of two daughters.  She turned herself into the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) on 30 September 2014 after her home had been raided multiple times by security forces and her husband signed a pledge stating she would turn herself in.  She was falsely charged with harboring fugitives and sentenced to one year in prison.  She was subjected to psychological torture and degrading treatment during her detention at the Criminal Investigation headquarters.

    Rihanna al-Mosawi

    Rihanna al-Mosawi is a housewife and activist arrested on 20 April 2013 under the charges of attempting to plant an explosive device in the Formula 1 racetrack and being associated with the February 14 coalition after attempting to stage a protest there.  While detained, al-Mosawi was subjected to various types of torture and degrading treatment, including being stripped of her clothes twice and security forces threatening to rape her.  She was also beaten, threatened with electrocution and the arrest of her relatives to force her into signing confessions.  The courts sentenced her to five years in prison. She started a hunger strike in May 2014 to protest her ill treatment.

    Nafeesa al-Asfoor

    Nafeesa al-Asfoor is an activist known for providing medical treatment for protesters.  She was arrested on 20 April 2013 under the charges of attempting to plant an explosive device at the Formula 1 racetrack and being associated with the February 14 coalition after attempting to stage a protest there.  She was subjected to torture and degrading treatment during her detention, particularly with the threat of electric shocks, in order to extract false confessions from her.  She is currently at the hospital after being denied adequate medical care for a dislocated jaw, suspicious breast lumps, and other illnesses developed during her time in prison.  Her family has been forbidden from seeing her in the hospital.

    A fair and free society cannot exist without respecting the rights and dignity of women. These Bahraini women should be praised for their struggles to create a Bahrain where they can freely exercise their rights, instead of languishing in its prisons.  On March 8th, when the world celebrates the economic, political, and social achievements of women on International Women’s Day, the struggle of Maryam, Jaleela, Zahraa, Ayat, Rihanna and Nafeesa must not be forgotten.

     
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