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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns the authorities in Bahrain for targeting and prosecuting political opposition members. On 28 June 2015, Bahrain’s criminal court sentenced Fadhel Abbas the Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society (Al-Wahdawi Opposition Society) to five years in prison for “spreading false information that could harm the military operations of Bahrain and its allies” in Yemen.

    On 26 March 2015, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced that Bahrain had joined Saudi Arabia and other Arab States in air strikes in Yemen. Following the announcement, the MOI issued a statement warning that it would take steps against all those expressing his/her opinion “against the approach that Bahrain has taken” in the military operations against Yemen; and immediately following this warning the MOI announced the arrest of two people including Fadhel Abbas. Abbas’ arrest came shortly after the society released a statement on Twitter condemning the war against Yemen.

    Fadhel Abbas was charged and convicted by the court based on Article 133 of the Bahraini Penal Code that sentences anyone to up to 10 years in prison who “deliberately announces in wartime false or malicious news, statements or rumours or mounts adverse publicity campaigns, so as to cause damage to military preparations for defending the State of Bahrain or military operations of the Armed Forces, to cause people to panic or to weaken the nation's perseverance.”

    The sentencing of Fadhel Abbas and the article of law that his conviction was based on are in direct and clear violation of the right to free expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Bahrain is a signatory, which states that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately release and drop the charges against Fadhel Abbas and other people who have practiced their right to freedom of expression;
    • Respect Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which it is a signatory; and
    • Repeal laws that infringe upon the internationally protected right of free expression.
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    In Bahrain, political dissidence can be punishable by death. The Government of Bahrain employ the threat of capital punishment as a means of political intimidation. Between 2011 and 2014, Bahraini courts handed down 11 death sentences; in the last six months, they have handed down at least four more. Disproportionately, these sentences have been based on false confessions, extracted from detainees under severe duress. Though Bahrain has not carried out an execution since 2010, the threat of one remains very real. To demonstrate the human consequences of a capital punishment mechanism so dependent on torture and coercion, this month’s Champions for Justice features seven of Bahrain’s current death row inmates. Their stories highlight a growing culture of violence, political prejudice, and criminal disregard for due process within Bahrain’s legal system.

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    Mohamed Ramadan ‘Issa ‘Ali is a 32-year-old airport security guard in Bahrain. On 20 March 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Ramadan for his alleged involvement in a bomb explosion that killed a police officer on 14 February 2013. Without a warrant, and without informing his family, security forces detained Ramadan for at least four days. During this time, Interior Ministry officials subjected Ramadan to severe torture. Ramadan eventually signed a confession in order to stop the abuse, but when he attempted to explain this to a judge the authorities tortured him for another 10 to 13 days. According to Ramadan, he was told the government knew he was innocent, but his involvement in the pro-democracy movement made him a traitor who deserved the death sentence.

    On 29 December 2014, Ramadan was convicted of murder and sentence to death based on his false confession and the coerced testimony of other defendants. On 26 May 2015, an appeals court upheld the ruling. He is currently detained at Jau Prison, awaiting execution.

    Hussain ‘Ali Moosa Hussain, 28, was tried along with Mohammad Ramadan for his alleged assistance in the 14 February 2013 bombing attack. The authorities arrested Moosa on 21 February 2013 and took him to a security facility. For three days, security officials hung Moosa from the ceiling while they beat him with batons and threatened to harm his family, specifically his sisters. Like Ramadan, Moosa eventually signed a false confession in exchange for an end to his torture. Also like Ramadan, when Moosa recanted his confession, he was subjected to further torture. This period of abuse reportedly lasted three months.

    During his trial, Moosa was denied consistent access to legal counsel. When Moosa did have access to an attorney, the judge prevented the defense from properly preparing and refused to provide appropriate documentation. Furthermore, the prosecution used Moosa’s coerced confession to not only convict him, but  to falsely incriminate Ramadan as well. Moosa and Ramadan were sentenced to death on the same day, 29 December 2014. Moosa is also being held at Jau Prison, awaiting execution.

    Sami Mushaima was arrested on 3 March 2014, when Bahraini security forces raided the home of the prominent Mushaima family. Due to the family’s association with the pro-democracy movement, the home had been previously raided at least 23 separate times. On this occasion, approximately 15 security officials came to arrest Sami Mushaima for his alleged involvement in a bomb explosion that killed three police officers only a few hours earlier. Though he did not resist arrest, the security forces violently subdued Mushaima and transported him to a detention facility. Over the next several weeks, he was subjected to extreme torture. Security officials routinely beat, electrocuted, and sexually assaulted him, among other severe forms of mental and physical abuse. Mushaima’s family believes he was coerced into falsely confessing through the use of torture. Mushaima’s family claims that he is illiterate and lacks the skill necessary to assemble a remote-controlled explosive device. Nonetheless, on 26 February 2015, Mushaima was sentenced to death. He is currently waiting on an appeal.

     Abbas al-Samea is a 25-year-old teacher who was arrested on 3 March 2014, the same day as Sami Mushaima, for his alleged participation in the same bomb explosion. Despite credible evidence that al-Samea was in school at the time of the bombing, a judge sentenced him to death on 26 February 2015. Al-Samea was also featured in a previous Champion of Justice installment that highlighted victims of severe abuse at Bahrain’s Jau Prison, where many death row inmates are held. Read more about him and other detainees here.

    On 19 February 2014, the Bahraini government sentenced Maher al-Khabaz to death for his alleged use of a flare gun to kill a police officer on 14 February 2013. Three days after the alleged attack, plainclothes officers arrested al-Khabaz at his place of business and disappeared him to a local security facility. There, the officers subjected al-Khabaz to severe physical torture including electrocution and falaka, a specialized whipping of the most sensitive areas of the feet and hands. After a week, the authorities extracted a signed confession from al-Khabaz – despite him being illiterate and blindfolded. The ensuing trial was based on this false confession, the false confessions of alleged compatriots, and the testimony of the involved police officers. Throughout the proceedings, al-Khabaz was denied consistent access to an attorney and threatened with continued torture. The Court of Appeals upheld al-Khabaz’ death sentence on 31 August 2014. He is currently detained at Jau Prison, where he awaits execution by firing squad.

    Ali Abdulshaheed

    Security forces arrested Ali Abdulshaheed around the same time as Sami Mushaima and Abbas al-Samea, accusing him of having participated in the same bomb explosion. Like Mushaima and al-Samea, Abdulshaheed was sentenced to death on 26 February 2015 after an unfair trial.

    Salman Isa

    The High Criminal Court sentenced Salman Isa, 30, to death on 29 April 2015 for his alleged involvement in a bomb attack that killed a police officer a year prior. Along with Isa, the court sentenced 11 other defendants to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life. It is suspected that the authorities subjected all 12 defendants to torture or other forms of coercion in order to extract false confessions.

    We call on the Government of Bahrain to take substantive measures to protect the rights of suspects and detainees, as reports of torture and abuse in pre-trial detention and in Bahrain’s prisons continue to proliferate. To this end, we urge the government to allow UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit the country to investigate allegations regarding the systemic use of torture and coercion within its criminal justice system. Ultimately, we call on the government to thoroughly reevaluate all cases based on false confessions and/or testimony elicited using torture, and to commute the sentences of all death row inmates, hold accountable any officials responsible for their abuse, and – pending the proper investigations – ensure their release.

     

    Click here for the pdf version.

     

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    Freedom House is annually releasing reports on political rights and civil liberties. Bahrain is considered "not free" and has one of the lowest scores in the world when it comes to political and civil rights. The newest report states that “Bahrain’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 [the lowest score obtainable] due to grave flaws in the 2014 legislative elections and the government’s unwillingness to address long-standing grievances among the majority Shiite community about the drawing of electoral districts and the possibility of fair representation.”

    Click on the report to continue reading.


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    10 July 2015 – The European Parliament yesterday passed an Urgency Resolution calling for an EU-wide ban on tear gas and crowd control equipment to Bahrain and for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab and other prisoners of conscience, in a move welcomed by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB).

    The Urgency Resolution “on Bahrain, in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab”, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR, and other imprisoned rights defenders and political activists, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Sheikh Ali Salman, Naji Fateel, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Muqdad, and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace. It also criticises Bahrain’s failure to implement key recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and the Universal Period Review.

    “Nabeel is being punished for speaking to the world,” said Said Yousif Almuhafda, Vice-President of BCHR. “He has been harassed ever since his return from his trip to Europe last year, when he met with the European Union in Brussels.”

    In a key recommendation, the resolution calls for an EU ban on tear gas and crowd control equipment exports to Bahrain, until investigations into their improper use are conducted and perpetrators of excessive force are held accountable.

    “Human rights abuses continue on a massive scale,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “It is heartening to see the EU recognise this, especially at a time when the United States has decided to rekindle its ‘security’ relationship with Bahrain through renewed arms sales.”

    The passing of the Urgency Resolution follows major security developments between Bahrain and its international allies. In late June, the United States announced that it is lifting the four-year ban on military sales to the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard that was first instituted following the violent suppression of protests in 2011. Earlier in June, the United Kingdom also finalised its plans for its new Bahrain naval base, the construction of which is expected to begin later this summer.

    “As the European Parliament sends a message against Bahrain’s rights violations, the British government should be ashamed of its base being built there, which symbolises their complicity in the abuse of rights defenders and political activists,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD.

    This is the first resolution on Bahrain to have been adopted by the current parliament, elected in April 2014, and marks continued European concern for the state of human rights in the Gulf country. It follows a February 2014 Urgency Resolution that expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.

    BIRD, BCHR and ADHRB call on the Government of Bahrain to follow the recommendations of the Urgency Resolution. In particular, and in line with its obligations to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture, Bahrain must immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, end the use of torture in prisons, repeal the law allowing the arbitrary revocation of citizenship, and re-open dialogue with the opposition to reach a peaceful, lasting political resolution.

     

    Click here to read the full resolution

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over the ongoing practice by the government of Bahrain to silence dissident voices and suppress freedom of expression through harassment and arrest of activists and politicians who take an opposition stand from the regime. On Sunday 12 July 2015 at dawn, police forces arrested opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif following a political speech that he had delivered at a peaceful gathering.

    Just last month, Ebrahim Sharif was released on 19 June 2015 after completing over four years in prison. On 10 July 2015, he delivered a speech at a gathering in which he criticized the violence of the authorities and called for real political reforms. Less than 48 hours after the speech, Bahrain authorities responded by arresting Sharif at dawn. He was taken to the Muharraq police station and he was interrogated without his lawyer on charges of “inciting to hatred of the regime.” The public prosecution decided to keep him in detention for 48 hours pending investigation.

    The arrest of Sharif is in violation of the conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory, including Article 19 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights which states that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This act comes as part of a systematic approach to punish those who stand against the authorities and adopt opposition opinions, as they regularly get accused of incitement to hatred of the regime, as illustrated in several previous well-known cases.

    Based on the above, the BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all other close allies and concerned international institutions to exercise real pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif and all prisoners of conscience;
    • Halt further harassment of opposition members and those who seek to express opposition opinions; and
    • Protect all human rights in Bahrain, including the right to freedom of expression.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini authorities’ use of capital punishment in politically motivated cases amid concerns that charges are based on confessions extracted by means of torture and as a result of unfair trials.  

    On 29 April 2015, a Bahraini court convicted 12 men in the case of killing the policeman Mahmoud Fareed and sentenced yet another person, Salman Isa, to death, while others were handed down imprisonment sentences ranging between life to 10 years, and all have had their citizenship revoked.

    Salman Isa, 30 years old, who is the most recent of 8 cases of death penalty, was first arrested on 27 December 2014, following houseraid in the village of Aker by security men in civilian clothes at around 23:00 pm. Eyewitnesses said Salman was beaten at time of arrest by the security men.

    Salman was taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) where he was detained for 14 days without being allowed to contact his family or lawyer. He was allegedly subjected to physical and psychological torture, including electric shocks all over his body, sexual assaults and threats of further assaults if he spoke of it, being kept in a very cold temperature for 6 hours. As a result of torture, Salman suffers from hearing impairment and a broken nose. The BCHR received reports that Salman was tortured at the hands of the infamous torturer Turki Al-Majed.

    Therefore, the BCHR believes that the authorities did not provide Salman and other defendants in the case with due processes and their trial lacked the basics standards of fair trials. The case of Salman is an example of the unjust judiciary system in Bahrain that orders capital punishment in unfair trials and base conviction on confessions extracted under duress. The BCHR has previously documented cases similar cases of death sentences that have been based on confessions extracted through the means of torture, including the cases of Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, Maher AlKhabbaz, Abbas Alsalmea, Sami Mushaima and Ali Abdulshaheed Al-Singace.

    Based on the aforementioned, the BCHR calls on the United States, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Vacate the use of death penalty;

    • Put an end to the use of torture in detention centres and hold accountable anyone responsible in all torture cases carried out in Bahrain

    • Request the Government of Bahrain to comply with UPR recommendations, adopt the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and abolish the death penalty
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the deprivation of adequate medical care of detainees in Jaw Prison, including in cases where the detainees are suffering from serious diseases. The BCHR has regularly documented the refusal by prison officials to give the detainees the medical assistance that they need.

    For example, Mohammed Faraj (21 years old) was arrested on 27 October 2014, when he was sentenced to 10 years on charges of alleged “criminal burning and illegal gathering,” which was reduced upon appeal to 7 years on 26 January 2015. He was arrested at the court where he presented himself in a wheelchair.

    Since then, he has been detained at Jaw Prison. According to medical reports obtained by BCHR, Faraj is suffering from a rare disease called Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Before his arrest, he was receiving treatment at the neurology clinic in Salmaniya Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Issa Al-Shroogi. His disease requires injection treatments three times a week and a regular intake of medicine. However, the administration at Jaw Prison refuses to accept the injections and medicine that his family has tried to provide many times. As Faraj’s disease has worsened, his lawyer, Sami Siadi, has submitted two letters to the judge in question requesting a suspension of the prison sentence. However, this request has not been answered despite the fact that Faraj continues facing serious risks such as sight loss and paralysis.

    Based on the above, the BCHR calls on governments and international organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Provide Mohamed Faraj and all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment; and
    • End the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation and punishment for exercising their human rights.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) welcomes the release of BCHR’s president and leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab late on 13 July 2015, and calls for all charges against him to be dropped, in addition to the release of all unjustly detained prisoners of conscience, especially those who are suffering from a lack of medical care in prison.

    Rajab has been in detention since 2 April  2015 and has completed four months of a six-month imprisonment sentence on charges of “insulting the Ministry of Interior.” The charges are related to a tweet he published in September 2014, in which the military institutions in Bahrain are described as “incubators” of extremist ideologies. Though he was released on “health grounds,”  Rajab still faces up to 10-years’ imprisonment in other cases related to the exercise of freedom of expression. He faces charges of “spreading false news” and “insulting a statutory body” for tweeting about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen and about the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison, which has been documented in several reports by BCHR. (See the latest report: Inside Jau: Government Brutality in Bahrain’s Central Prison)

    BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to cease all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in Bahrain, and to drop all outstanding charges against human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, as well as to release all prisoners of conscience including leading human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif who was re-arrested less than a month after his release in June, because of a speech.

    BCHR encourage the government of Bahrain to consider the health grounds of dozens of reported detainees who suffer from the lack of medical care in prison, including the most recently reported cases of Mohamed Faraj, Hasan Al-Qattan, as well as photographer Hussain Hubail, Mohamed Sahwan, and many other frequently reported cases.

    The release of Rajab comes one week after the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for the immediate release of Rajab and other prisoners of conscience. This comes following other calls for the release of Rajab from several parties including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United States.

    BCHR encourage the major players of the international community to continue to apply public pressure on the government of Bahrain to secure the protection of human rights in Bahrain and the release of all prisoners of conscience.

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over recent reports and evidence indicating Bahrain’s purchase of advanced surveillance tools primarily used to spy on human rights activists and political opponents.

     

    The recent hack by an unknown source of the Italian surveillance technology company Hacking Team revealed some troubling connections with Bahrain. Over 400 gigabytes of data, ranging from e-mails to personal WhatsApp backups, linked the company and its services to several governments around the world. This sensitive information entailed a purchase of the notorious spyware “Remote Control System” which spies on political opponents, human rights advocates, journalists and digital activists. It does so by recording Skype calls, controlling the target’s devices and eavesdropping via a computer’s webcam.

     

    This spyware and other surveillance services were used by 37 countries, including Bahrain. Among the 400 gigabytes of data, was a file called “Midworld Pro – Bahrain” which indicated a Bahraini purchase of the “Remote Control System” spyware worth €210,000 (over 87,000 Bahraini dinars), likely used to target human rights activists and political opposition.

     

    This is not the first time Bahrain has been found to be using malware to spy on activists and violate their privacy. Research published in August 2014 found Bahrain to be using the UK FinFisher spy software (also known as FinSpy) to hack on human rights lawyers, politicians and even members of a government commission investigating human rights abuses.  

     

    BCHR considers these new findings to be compelling evidence of the repressive conditions in Bahrain, and sees it as a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 of that Declaration urges that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Article 19 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

     

    Bahrain is known to have been arresting and torturing online users who have practiced their freedom of expression over the Internet. in its latest report about freedom on the Internet, Freedom House has ranked Bahrain as not free.  

     

    Based on the above, the BCHR calls on European governments to:     

    • Apply stronger measures to prevent such technology from being supplied to states that do not comply with international human rights norms and practices.

     

    And to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately stop purchasing and engaging with Hacking Team and any other spyware provider.
    • Stop spying on human rights activists and political opponents
    • Respect its obligation to protect human rights, including the right to privacy and to freedom of expression.

     

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    Your organization, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), has the following mission statement: “Our vision is a prosperous democratic country free of discrimination and other violations of human rights.” What kinds of human rights violations precipitated the establishment of BCHR? Are those violations commonplace in Bahrain?

     

    These are the common human rights violations in Bahrain that BCHR continues to advocate against:

    • Violations to freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and internet

    • Torture and inhumane treatment

    • Arbitrary arrests and unfair trials

    • Incommunicado detention

    • Violations to freedom of assembly

    • Violations of women’s rights and discrimination against women

    • Violations of children’s rights

     

    What has been the greatest obstacle in your struggle to promote democratic change and human rights in Bahrain, thus far? Is it a problem you see extending into the future?

     

    BCHR members were subject to various attacks from the government. They have been victims of threats, smear campaigns and even violence, arrests, long detention periods, ill treatment in detention and torture, as well as unfair trials and prison sentences. BCHR has been dissolved in Bahrain since 2004, which makes it hard for it to receive any official support or grants, and its continued work depends on the personal dedication of its members and volunteers.

     

    What kinds of reforms, if any, has the government instituted since the casualty-heavy, Shia-led demonstrations in 2011? Has there been a decrease in repressive policing?

     

    Only superficially; we have a fancy report generated by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) that may look very nice in a museum, but actually its recommendations were not implemented. As a matter of fact, more people died after that report was released than before, and more people are in prison today than there were in 2011. Military trials stopped, but unfair trials continued in ordinary courts. More than ever, human rights defenders – the very people who document human rights issues and share relevant information about the topic with the world – have become targets of the government. Now most of the leaders of Bahraini NGOs are either in prison or in exile, like myself. BCHR’s own President, Nabeel Rajab, is back in prison only a few months after having served a two-year prison sentence. Demonstrations are not being granted official permission to assemble in the streets, including the non-political, annual Labour Day march that was banned this year. And if a demonstration takes place without permission, demonstrators can be sure they will be attacked with tear gas and shotguns, as well as targeted with arrests. There are more police cars on the roads than there are public transport buses.

     

    The president of BCHR, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, is perhaps Bahrain’s most prominent international human rights activist; he is also currently imprisoned. Considering that Mr. Rajab was arrested on the grounds of insulting the Ministries of Interior and Defense with the following tweet:

    “many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator”

    What is the state of political expression and free speech in Bahrain?

     

    It is not allowed, and anyone who voices an opinion that the government doesn’t like risks arrest. On the Internet people prefer to use nicknames, but even with a nickname they have lowered their tones, and you won’t see as many critical tweets as there used to be in 2011. People have become cautious following the many arrests of online users. They are arrested not only for criticizing Bahraini authorities, but also for even tweeting about the Saudi king. Numerous photographers are in prison and some are sentenced for many years when their only “crime” is taking photos of the protests. The government doesn’t want the world to see photos of their repression, or that show there are still people resisting the repression. Its judicial attacks towards Nabeel, for example, are not only a form of revenge against his human rights work, but also a lesson intended to silence everyone else. All the leaders of important political groups in Bahrain are currently imprisoned.

     

    Bahrain is a member of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Has the activity of the coalition affected the state of human rights in Bahrain? How has the presence of pro-democracy, Western governments been received by Bahraini citizens?

     

    Although Bahrain is an ally of democratic Western governments, Bahrainis have yet to see that alliance have any positive impact on their lives. The West has to do much more than just sell arms to Bahrain, it has to put real pressure on the government to stop its campaign against pro-democracy protesters, and honor its commitment to the protection of human rights internationally.

     

    Another aspect shared by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America is their retention of capital punishment (though Qatar is technically categorized as “de facto abolitionist” since it has not carried out a documented execution since 2003). In 2013, Bahrain expanded domestic laws to make more crimes punishable by execution. Which kinds of crimes are considered capital offenses in Bahrain? Are accused capital offenders afforded fair representation in the judicial system?

     

    Bahrain punishes murder and crimes of terrorism with capital punishment. Crimes of terrorism are determined by a law that fails to precisely define terrorism, leaving the life of a human being to the subjective interpretation of a prosecutor. And because the courts lack a system to guarantee fair trials, people can be sentenced to death based solely on confessions taken under torture, or based on the statements of biased witnesses. At least 8 pro-democracy protesters have been sentenced to death in Bahrain in the last few years. In comparison, just last month, the Court issued a death sentence in the case of a protester accused of killing a policeman, sentenced another seven to life in prison, and gave a few others ten years in prison; all of them also had their Bahraini nationality revoked. On the same day, a policeman was acquitted from the death of a protester who died in 2011 from a shotgun injury.

     

    Although Bahrain abstained on the 2014 Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the United Nations General Assembly – rather than vote against the resolution as it had in previous years – it has made use of capital punishment as recently as February 2015. Three men were sentenced to death by a Bahraini court for allegedly killing three policemen last March. Is the death penalty in these sentences likely to be appealed or commuted? If not, how is capital punishment carried out in Bahrain?

     

    The protesters have a chance to appeal the sentence. The appeal normally takes years during which the detainee and his family will be under significant pressure. As per previous reports we’ve had, the detainee could be subject to further ill treatment in prison by other prison guards who would punish him for the alleged crime of killing their colleague. There was one detainee – imprisoned since 2011 and sentenced to death – who had his conviction recently overturned, but had also already spent three years in solitary confinement causing him to develop a mental illness. He is still going through the appeals process.

     

     

    Said Yousif AlMuhafdah is the Vice President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, a non-profit organization based in Bahrain and Denmark. Mr. AlMuhafdah resides in Berlin, where he has been forced to live in exile since October 2013, after being a target of arbitrary arrests and torture for his human rights work in Bahrain. To read more about Mr. AlMuhafdah’s work and exile, please see: http://mic.com/articles/74665/i-ve-been-forced-into- exile-for-defending-human-rights-in-my-home-country-bahrain

     

    To read the full report "International Affairs Forum: Capital Punishment Around the World" click here.

     

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    GENEVA (16 July 2015) – Three United Nations human rights experts* today call on the Bahraini authorities to drop all charges the prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was released from prison earlier this week for health reasons. While welcoming Mr. Rajab’s release, the experts called it “only a half measure, given that the he is still facing charges that carry up to fifteen years of imprisonment.”

    Mr. Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was jailed in October 2014 in connection with statements made on his Twitter account and was initially charged for ‘publicly insulting official institutions.’ This was only months after he had completed a two-year prison sentence after calling for and participating in peaceful demonstrations.

    Despite his recent release, Mr.Rajab’s pending charges include ‘disseminating false rumours in the time of war,’ ‘insulting public officials’ and ‘disseminating false news causing damage to the public security.’

    “Criminalizing, prosecuting and imprisoning human rights defenders for carrying out their vital human rights work and enriching public debate are unacceptable under international law,” the experts stressed. “Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation or imprisonment.”

    “We call for the immediate release of all Bahraini activists, as well as political dissidents, detained for peaceful exercise of their rights,” said the the experts, who have expressed serious concerns on a number of occasions to the Bahraini Government concerning the harassment of civil society and political activists in the country.

    The UN experts continue to urge the authorities to review domestic laws and practices to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law, in particular the freedoms of expression and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

    (*) The UN experts: Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

    The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; 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.

     

    Cklick here more more information.

     

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    16 July 2015 – Geneva – Today, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), joined together with Amnesty International, the Asian Legal Resources Centre, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Conectas Direitos Humanos, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Service for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch to call on the Member states and Observer states of the Human Rights Council to “promote and support the adoption of a resolution expressing concern over and improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain”. In the letter, CSOs raise concern over the lack of progress in human rights in the country since a joint statement on Bahrain was delivered on behalf of 47 UN Member States during the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council in June 2014.  See the full letter below:  

     

     

    To Permanent Representatives of 
    Member and Observer states of the
    UN Human Rights Council

    Geneva, 16 July 2015,

    RE: Situation of human rights in Bahrain


    Your Excellency,

    We urge your delegation to promote and support the adoption of a resolution expressing concern over and calling for improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain by the Human Rights Council.

    It is now over a year since Switzerland delivered the fourth and most recent joint statement on the situation of human rights in Bahrain on behalf of 47 UN member states at the 26th session of the Council.

    We are deeply concerned that during this period the Government of Bahrain has made no significant progress towards genuine cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms. To the contrary, the Government of Bahrain has intensified its repression of dissenting voices, including through the arbitrary detentions of high-profile opposition activists and human rights defenders, trials that fail to adhere to international fair trial standards, ill-treatment of detainees, excessive use of force, and restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly that go far beyond those permitted under international law. 

    We urge your delegation to resume efforts to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the upcoming 30th session of the Council and to promote and support a resolution that calls on the Government of Bahrain to:

    -          Implement promptly and fully the recommendations of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and the recommendations agreed by the Bahrain Government in the context of the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, in particular:
     

    o   Release  protesters, activists and human rights defenders detained or convicted solely for having exercised their rights to peaceful assembly, association or expression;
     

    o   Ensure independent, thorough, and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment;
     

    o   Demonstrate  the effectiveness, impartiality and independence of newly established human rights institutions, including the National Human Rights Institution, the Ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission;
     

    o   Revise or repeal laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
     

    o   Engage in comprehensive reform of the legal system to ensure effective independence of the judiciary; and 
     

    o   Ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations that took place during and after the 2011 protests, including but not limited to those documented in the BICI report
     

    -          Cooperate with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including by swiftly providing access to Special Rapporteurs who have outstanding requests for visits to Bahrain, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, and
     

    -          Authorise the opening of a country-office of the OHCHR with a full mandate to oversee implementation of the afore-mentioned recommendations and monitor the human rights situation on the ground, with periodic reporting to the Human Rights Council.
     

    In light of the continued deterioration in human rights conditions in Bahrain, we urge your delegation to build upon the three earlier joint statements delivered at the Human Rights Council on this issue, and to send a strong message to the Government of Bahrain that it should take urgent, concrete and effective steps to improve the human rights situation in the country. The Government of Bahrain should also allow regular access to Bahrain by independent human rights NGOs to assist in monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.

    We look forward to continued collaboration on these issues and we remain available to provide further information as required.

    Sincerely,

     

    ·         Amnesty International

    ·         Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    ·         Asian Legal Resource Centre

    ·         Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    ·         Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

    ·         Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

    ·         CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    ·         Conectas Direitos Humanos

    ·         Gulf Centre for Human Rights

    ·         International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    ·         International Service for Human Rights

    ·         Human Rights Watch

     

    Annex: 
    Human rights situation in Bahrain


    Bahrain’s courts continue to convict and imprison peaceful dissenters. On the rare occasions when authorities have prosecuted police officers or members of the security forces, they have either acquitted them or imposed lenient sentences that do not reflect the gravity of the crimes committed. No senior officials have been held accountable for serious rights violations, including torture.

    By contrast, the high rate of convictions of defendants before the courts on vague terrorism charges, the courts’ imposition of long prison sentences in such cases, as well as the  judiciary’s failure – and that of the executive  authorities - to address the security forces’ repeated use of lethal and apparently disproportionate force, all reflect the lack of independence and weakness of Bahrain’s criminal justice system.

    Human rights activists and members of the political opposition continue to face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for their peaceful activities.

    ·         On June 16, for example, a Bahrain court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of Al Wefaq, the country’s largest legally recognized opposition political society, to four years in prison solely for public remarks he had made criticizing the government.  

    ·         On June 28, 2015 Fadhel Abbas, Secretary-General of opposition political party al-Wahdawi was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing the Saudi-Arabia-led airstrikes in Yemen.

    ·         On June 30, authorities called in Khalil al-Marzooq, another Al Wefaq leader, for questioning about critical remarks he made at a public meeting several days earlier, and next day arrested Majeed Milad, an Al Wefaq board member, on charges that remain unclear. 

    ·         On 12 July, Bahraini police re-arrested recently released opposition figure Ebrahim Sharif, who is now facing new charges related to his right to freedom of expression.

    In this context, the pardon and release of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab on July 13 is welcome. However his detention was arbitrary in the first place, because it related to peaceful criticism of the authorities and he may still face other charges related to the exercise of his freedom of expression, still pending at the time of writing of this letter.  His pardon “on health grounds” follows international pressure around his case, but comes on the heels of continued detention of many other dissenting voices and human rights activists in Bahrain.

    In addition, twelve high-profile activists, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, remain in prison serving lengthy prison terms. Their convictions imposed by charges that relate solely to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, notably, their participation in Bahrain’s reform movement. According to local activists and legal experts, the Bahraini authorities have also arbitrarily detained many other critics and opponents of the government solely for expressing their opinions, and have detained, prosecuted and jailed scores of individuals, including children, for participating in peaceful anti-government protests.

    The government also obtained powers to arbitrarily strip critics of their citizenship and the rights attached to it. The July 2014 amendments to Bahrain’s citizenship laws gave the Interior Ministry further powers to revoke the citizenship of people who it deems to have failed in their “duty of loyalty” to the state, while amendments to Bahrain’s counterterrorism law, exacerbated by the failure of the criminal justice system to provide fair trials and deliver impartial verdicts, provide further legal grounds for the arbitrary stripping of citizens’ Bahraini nationality, rendering many of them stateless, in clear violation of international law.

    Bahraini authorities have set up various bodies mandated to prevent the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit, and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission. However these bodies have yet to demonstrate their impartiality and independence in carrying out their mandates. There is evidence that the security forces continue to mistreat and in some cases torture detainees, in particular during interrogation at the Criminal Investigations Directorate.

    Former inmates from Jaw Prison recently described to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International how riot police used teargas, birdshot, and beatings to retake control of four buildings within the prison after unrest broke out there on March 10, 2015. According to the former inmates, riot police moved prisoners outside and kept them in the open, exposed to the elements, for weeks, and repeatedly beat them, doused them with cold water and forced them to shout pro-government slogans. Prison officers also took some inmates to rooms in which there were no closed-circuit TV cameras and then beat them, according to former prisoners.  While the authorities said they have investigated the Jaw Prison incident, the details of the investigations are yet to be made public. 

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights(BCHR) expresses concern over the recent charges against more twitter users exercising their internationally recognised right to free expression, including on the Internet.

    On 9 July 2015, reports gathered by BCHR indicated that the electronic crimes directorate has started investigations of some owners of twitter accounts for alleged insults toward elected members of parliament, and one user was arrested. The investigation started following a complaint submitted by a number of MPs regarding criticism of the MPs following their approval of the state budget for 2015 and 2016, with a deficit of 1.504 billion dinars in 2015 and a total of 1.505 billion dinars in 2016, and with cuts to some of the subsidies. On 17 July, parliament sources announced the arrest of three more users and plans for the arrest of another four users following the Eid holiday. It said that there was a cooperation between the parliament and the ministry of interior “to stop the abusive tweets.”

    On 5 July 2015, the court held another hearing in the case of Jaleela al-Sayed Ameen who was arrested on 10 February 2015 and still detained under the charges of misusing social media, inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the king. The next hearing in her case will be on 28 July 2015.

    On 18 June 2015, 18-year-old university student Saeed Al-Singace was arrested during a house raid at 3am on his house in Hamad Town by security men in civilian clothes. His family was told he was arrested “because of Internet.” No arrest warrant was provided to his family. Two phones were confiscated. He was charged with “inciting hatred of the regime through phone.” He is currently detained pending investigation.

    On similar charges, Ali Hasan Al-Maqabi, 29 years old, was arrested on 26 January 2015 through a house raid at around 4:30am by security men in civilian clothes. His computers and other electronic devices were confiscated and he was not allowed visits or contact with his family for about a week after arrest. Currently, he is held at Dry Dock detention center during the ongoing trial with the primary allegation of running an opposition twitter account @media_bahrain, which posts news regarding ongoing protests. His last session was on 5 July 2015.

    Ali Hasan Al-Maqabi’s house after the raid on the day of his arrest

    On 26 May 2015, former MP Khalid Abdulaal was sentenced to one year in prison by the First Lower Criminal Court on charges of “insulting the Ministry of Interior”, based on a tweet he posted in April 2014, while still an MP at that time, to condemn the use of torture to extract confessions. In his view, the tweet was not aimed to insult the government, but to solely point out a criticism.

    Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR, served over three months in prison from 2 April 2015 to 13 July 2015 out of a six-month sentence because of a tweet he published in September 2014, in which the military institutions in Bahrain are described as “incubators” of extremist ideologies. He still faces further sentences of up to ten years in prison over two other charges for “disseminating false news in a time of war” and “insulting a statutory body” for tweeting about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen and about the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison. (See the latest report: Inside Jau: Government Brutality in Bahrain’s Central Prison)

    Bahrain is categorized as “Not Free” in the Freedom On The Net report by Freedom House in 2014. According to BCHR’s records, at least 20 persons were arrested since the beginning of 2015 for posting online.

    The imprisonment of Internet users expressing their opinions online is a direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on governments and international organizations to advocate for the government of Bahrain to:

    • Release all persons imprisoned solely for expressing their opinions online immediately as they have practiced their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and opinion, which are guaranteed to them under international law; and

    • Withdraw all actions that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression online.
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    22 July 2015—Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) commend the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) for their decisions released today declaring an additional eight Bahraini prisoners of conscience to be arbitrarily detained. However, we are concerned that, despite the Working Group’s efforts to engage the Bahrain government, the government has not implemented the recommendations of the WGAD.


    The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an independent group of human rights experts tasked with adjudicating if cases of detention raised to their attention may be arbitrary in nature. Last week, the group of experts issued a series of official decisions on the Bahrain government’s detention of Jassim al-Hulaibi, Mohamed Sudaif, Abdulaziz Mousa, Ebrahim al-Sharqi, Ahmed Abdulla Ebrahim, Taleb Ali Mohammed, and two unnamed minors. The Group found that these detentions were arbitrary and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Bahrain acceded to the ICCPR in 2006. Additionally, the WGAD held that the detention of one of the minors contravened the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain acceded in 1992.


    The Working Group emphasized, “secret and/or incommunicado detention constitutes the most heinous violation of the norm protecting the right to liberty of a human being under customary international law” and noted any individual subject to such detention is “left outside the cloak of any legal protection.” The opinion also pointed out, “Under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.” With regard to one of the minors, the WGAD identified that “the present opinion is only one of several opinions in which the Working Groups finds Bahrain in violation of its international human rights obligations.”


    Although the Bahrain government has released one of the minors, Jassim al Hulaibi, Mohamed Sudaif, Abdulaziz Mousa, Ebrahim Abdulla, and the other minor remain in detention. “There is evidence definitively proving that Jassim could not have been involved in the protests for which he was arrested,” stated Sayed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. “These detainees must be released so they can return to school.”
    The WGAD held that an adequate remedy would be for the Bahrain government to release the detainees and provide a means for seeking compensation. Finally, the Working Group referred parts of the cases to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

    ADHRB applauds the decisions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and urges the Government of Bahrain to take immediate action in line with the Working Group’s recommendations. Specifically, we urge the government to immediately release the individuals that are being arbitrarily detained and to provide an adequate means for all the individuals to pursue just compensation for their detention.


    “The Working Group’s holdings mark an important step for the full realization of human rights in Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of ADHRB. “Now it is on the government to implement the decision, release the detainees, and provide them with their due and just compensation.”

     

    To read the original statement in pdf please click here.

    Please feel free to download the full WGAD Official Statements on Bahrain, July 2015.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) raises concern over the recent decision by the United States to renew the arm sales trade with Bahrain, which doesn't reflect the ongoing drop in respect for human rights in the country, as reported by the US State Department. This decision is likely to have profound consequences for Bahrain’s protesters and human rights.  

    On 29 June 2015, the plan to lift the long-standing ban on arm sales from the US came to the world’s attention. Initially the ban was imposed in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings, when Bahrain’s government cracked down on protesters. A US State Department official claimed that the Ministry of Interior in Bahrain was the primary responsible body for the government abuses in 2011 and argued that the renewed trade of arms sales will instead be taken up with the Ministry of Defence. Another official argued that no equipment released for sale has the capacity of “being used against protesters in any scenario,” e.g. tear gas. Yet, the full list of the equipment, its purpose and planned usage will not be released.

    This lack of transparency is alarming given the power the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) possesses. the United States cannot guarantee the arms sales to the BDF  will not be used to crush unrest. The army is known to have been participating in the Ministry of Interior’s activities related to suppressing peaceful protesters. Evidently, army vehicles were used at that time to evacuate the pearl roundabout as well as to place neighbourhoods under siege (Video from 2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7uqDbcZwXc&sns=em).

    One of the cases illustrating army involvement  is the arrest and detention of Zainab Al-Khawaja, when in 2012 she tried to reach Manama’s Pearl Roundabout with other female demonstrators. Her charges were “illegal gathering of more than five people” and “participating in an illegal march.” The Pearl Roundabout area remains a restricted area, where the army is currently responsible for its protection and the arrest of anyone who attempts to enter the roundabout. Another indicator showing the lack of respect to the standard of arms use is the case of Jaw Prison, where on several occasions tear gas and shotguns were used against inmates. Since 2011, there were 26 cases of deaths in Bahrain related to use of guns by the officials.    

    The State Department report on the status of human rights in Bahrain states that:“The most serious human rights problems included arrest and detention of protesters (some of whom were violent) on vague charges, occasionally leading to their torture and mistreatment in detention; Other significant human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life; impunity for security officers accused of committing human rights violations;”

    “The US decision is a step backwards in the efforts to improve the human rights situation in Bahrain,” says BCHR Vice President Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdah. He continues: “After reporting serious human rights violations, and lack of reform, the US is giving Bahrain a green light to continue in the same direction by lifting the arms ban.”

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the United States:

    • To stop supplying military aid and arms to Bahrain;
    • To put pressure on the Bahraini government to fully reform and respect human rights.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over acts of discrimination and a lack of transparency associated with the scholarship distribution system in Bahrain. The organization deems the system to be unjust, lacking transparency and preventing talented students with high GPAs and aspirations from pursuing further education.

     

    Since 2011, the Ministry of Education has stopped publishing the names of students who received scholarships publicly in newspapers. On 18 July 2015, the results were endorsed by the Minister and were available to each student upon logging in to his or her account on the Ministry’s website. Since then, widespread public complaints about the results have been published over social media as well as mainstream media. For example, there are several cases of Shia students with GPAs over 90% who received no scholarship, but a mere grant of up to BDH400 (around €960) annually, which does not cover even a half of their tuition fees and cost of living. Around 600 students have scored over 95% GPA, and there were 2144 scholarship offered (2073 scholarships in Bahrain and 71 in other GCC countries). For example, Nawraa Abdulnabi is a student with 99.1% GPA who has requested to study medicine, but instead of a scholarship she was provided a grant. Zainab Mohamed, who also scored 99.1% and was looking to study medicine, has been provided with a scholarship in Nutrition.

     

    Another flaw concerning the scholarship system implemented by the Ministry of Education is its process. In order to apply for a scholarship, the top students need to apply for 12 majors to which they aspire, a number far greater than their interests. The process of applying for a scholarship is based 60% on academic achievement and the remaining 40% depends on a personal interview. Some students recalled uncomfortable questions regarding politics and their support for the regime. This generates a very subjective assessment of one’s capability of receiving a scholarship, with a major focus revolving around awarding loyalty to the state of Bahrain.

     

    Moreover, in some instances, instead of getting a scholarship, top students sometimes land in jail. The recent caseof Mustafa Mohammed Ismael, a top Bahraini Shia student with a GPA averaging 98.8%, was arrested for allegedly taking part in an “illegal gathering” instead of being able to pursue his medical studies.   

     

    These cases are alarming and BCHR suspects a breach of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, “Everyone has the right of education. Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Furthermore, Bahrain is a signatory of the International Convention on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of the Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which reads, “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.” It also says: “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.”

     

    The BCHR believes that the current scholarship distribution system lacks transparency, and its mechanism of awarding scholarships leaves room for practical discrimination based on opinion or sect.

     

    Based on the information provided above, the BCHR urges the international community to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

     

    ·     Reform the scholarship distribution system so that it is more effective, just and transparent;

    ·     Put an end to all possible discrimination related to religion and beliefs in the context of distributing the scholarships; and

    ·     Respect and obey the treaties and declarations signed which advocate for fair and equal accessibility to higher education based on academic merit only.

     

     

    For more on Government Discrimination Against Shia in Bahrain, read BCHR’s latest report: Apart in Their Own Land.

     

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    20 July 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) are concerned with the arbitrary detention of 18-year-old student Mustafa Mohammed Ali in Bahrain. We are also concerned by reports that Mustafa’s arbitrary conviction will prevent him from receiving his certificate of good conduct from school, a requirement for Mustafa to access higher education in Bahrain.

    Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member the prominent group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the ‘Bahrain 13’. We are concerned that Mustafa’s detention may be directly related to the ongoing persecution of his family, who have suffered ongoing government intimidation since 2011.

    In August 2013, security forces arrested Mustafa and interrogated him at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). At the CID, authorities threatened Mustafa with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Because of these threats, Mustafa signed the confession and was charged with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel at just 17 years of age.

    After obtaining the forced confession, the government immediately transferred Mustafa to Dry Dock Prison, where he served three weeks in pre-trial detention until he was released on bail. A Bahraini criminal court convicted Mustafa of his charges and sentenced him to six months in prison; an appellate court later upheld Mustafa’s conviction, but reduced the sentence to three months imprisonment. Both courts relied substantially upon Mustafa’s forced confession in securing his conviction and sentence.

    On 10 July 2015, Mustafa turned himself into Sitra police station, whereupon the government immediately transferred him to the facility for minors at Dry Dock Prison. Mustafa has been detained since, and is currently being denied clean clothes and access to money with which to purchase food.

    Mustafa completed his secondary school studies and graduated with honors, obtaining an outstanding 98.7% mark in his science courses. He intends on attending medical school and pursuing a career as a doctor. However, his arbitrary criminal conviction may interfere with his plans for higher education, as Bahraini universities require that students submit certificates of good conduct in order to obtain admission.

    “Mustafa should be preparing for his life at university,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB, “Instead, the government is punishing him for being the son of a political prisoner. Bahrain’s allies must reject this attack on Mustafa, as well as the greater attack upon his generation.”

    Mustafa’s conviction stands in direct violation of Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that ‘in the determination of any criminal charge,’ a defendant should be guaranteed the right ‘not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.’ It is also in violation of Article 13(c) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which states that ‘higher education shall be made equally accessible to all…’

    Since 2011, many students and children have been detained on arbitrary charges related to their free expression or assembly. Families of prominent activists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders have also been systematically targeted by the government.

    “Bahrain has not imprisoned a criminal, it has imprisoned its future,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, “Today’s generation of Bahrainis are being deprived of an education, and in the long term it is everyone in Bahrain who will suffer for it.”

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy condemn the arbitrary conviction and detention of Mustafa Mohammed Ali and call on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali, and all other students or individuals arbitrarily detained or convicted;
    • Urgently grant Mustafa Mohammed Ali the documentation required for him to pursue his studies at University level;
    • Remove all restrictions on current and former detainees’ access to education and other social, economic and cultural rights;
    • Take urgent and effective measures to reform the judicial system towards compliance with international standards and minimum guarantees for those convicted, as outlined in Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

    On the United Nations and its Member States to:

    • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali;
    • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging the Government to take urgent steps towards reforms in line with recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Second Cycle UPR Recommendations

     

    To read the original article, please click here.

     

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    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

    “Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

    By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

    “Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

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    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

    “Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

    By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

    “Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

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    More than four months since a crackdown on protests took place in Jaw Prison, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned about the treatment of prisoners who were hurt during the incidents in March, notably human rights defender Naji Fateel, a Board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. In addition, human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike for over four months in protest of the treatment of prisoners, causing serious concerns for his health.

    Naji Fateel, who was jailed for 15 years for his human rights activities in 2013, was reportedly badly hurt during the events of 10 March when a protest by prisoners was violently suppressed, even though he was a bystander.  In April, GCHR received reports that Fateel was among prisoners being subjected to “physical and psychological torture,” and that he had suffered a broken leg and nose. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/998

    Fateel is currently being held in ward 10 at Jaw Prison, which is famous for harassment of prisoners. He has reportedly not received proper treatment for his injuries even though he and his wife submitted several complaints to the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain, from which there was no response.

    On 23 July, Fateel appeared before the 4th division of the High Criminal Court in relation to the Jaw Prison protests on 10 March. Fateel was transferred to the court where he was spotted with a shaved head, a procedure usually used to punish prisoners. He is accused of the following three charges: alleged assault of a public servant, damage to public property, and burning public property. The hearing was adjourned to 17 September.

    Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 21 March 2015 to draw attention to poor prison conditions and torture, including the violence that occurred in Jaw Prison on 10 March. He is part of the group of activists and human rights defenders known as the Bahrain 13, which also includes GCHR Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the peaceful protests in 2011. Both men have alsoprotested the treatment of prisoners of conscience. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1006

    Dr. Al-Singace remains in Al-Qala’a hospital, where he has been kept since 1 April after he collapsed due to the deterioration of his health since he began his hunger strike. Dr. Al-Singace is taking liquids, is on an intravenous drip and getting basic treatment to respond to the health implications of the ongoing hunger strike. His family says hesometimes needs to be taken to Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF) hospital for treatment, but they won’t take him because he refuses to wear the prison uniform.

     

    He is in need of treatment for a sore disc in his neck and lower back for which he needs physiotherapy, needs urgent surgery for his ear and nose, and requires a white blood cell count test. As of 22 July his white blood cell count was 3400, whereas it should be 3800.

     

    As well, the prison authorities in Jaw Prison set the visit dates for Dr. Al-Singace according to their whims. They sometimes set visits after three weeks and not the standard two. His nephew passed away and the prison authorities refused to give him a condolence visit for it. They are also not allowing him to see his lawyer.

     

    The prison authorities came up with new regulations and tried to force the Bahrain 13 to wear the prison uniform (which Dr. Al-Singace refuses to wear because he believes that he is not a criminal, but a prisoner of conscience.) Previously he stopped receiving visits for 10 months in 2013-2014 because of this requirement, which Al-Khawaja has also protested. The prison authorities also tried to implement the humiliating physical body search, where prisoners are forced to take their clothes off and wear a light piece of cloth in order to be searched.

     

    The authorities are reportedly ignoring his concerns about prison conditions, apart from a visit from the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain on 7 July after 100 days of hunger strike, and a phone call from an officer to check on his condition.  Dr. Al-Singace told the Ombudsman he wouldn’t submit to wearing the prison uniform in order to go for medical tests and checkups. According to his family, he said, “I’m a respectable person, many officials in this country were taught by me. I’m being punished and humiliated further by making me look like a criminal. I refuse humiliation and insults. I’d rather die here than accept this.”

     

    GCHR joined other NGOs to express concern for Dr. Al-Singace earlier this month and call for his freedom. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1039

     

    Recommendations:

    The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing poor treatment of jailed human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on international supporters to:

    1.     Take action and sign a petition posted online by PEN International for Dr. Al-Singace at http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/bahrain-serious-concern-for-the-health-of-academic-activist-and-blogger-dr-abduljalil-al-singace/.

    2.     You can also send a letter to Dr. Al-Singace in prison via this link.

     

    The GCHR calls on Bahrain’s authorities to:

    1.   Free Naji Fateel, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and all wrongfully detained human rights defenders who are in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

    2.   Investigate allegations of poor conditions and the torture of inmates in Jaw prison;

    3.   Ensure human rights defenders are protected from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities; and

    4.   Provide detained human rights defenders proper medical care and attention, and the rights afforded to prisoners under the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

     

    Read the original article here.

     

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