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    At the 30th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, BCHR, along the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, submitted a written statement on the subject of human rights abuses in Bahrain. The statement discussed the continued failure of the Bahraini government to engage in a dialogue with the United Nations and other international organizations. Despite promises from Bahrain to improve its systematic offences and its claims to participate in a more open discussion regarding reform, there continues to be a lack of government effort to follow through with these promises. ADHRB calls on the UN Member States to renew their efforts in pressuring Bahrain to re-establish cooperation with the international community in order to improve the human rights situation.

    Click here to read the full statement.

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    To the Governments of: Albania, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Slovak Republic, and Spain

     

     

    RE: HRC30 Joint Statement on Bahrain                                                               24 September 2015

    Excellences,

    We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, write to voice our support for the joint statement on the human rights situation in Bahrain delivered by Switzerland at the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). 

    Since the last joint statement on Bahrain in June 2014, the government has continued to curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Human rights defenders, political opposition leaders, members of the media, and youth have faced intimidation, arrest, arbitrary detention, unfair trials and acts of reprisal by the authorities.  Furthermore, negotiations of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) for a program of technical capacity building in Bahrain have stalled in the period since the June 2014 joint statement.

    We urge your government, therefore, to sign the joint statement on Bahrain delivered by Switzerland at the HRC’s 30th session in order to refocus international attention on human rights in Bahrain and encourage the government of Bahrain to constructively address its ongoing violations.

    International pressure on Bahrain continues to assist in addressing human rights violations in Bahrain, as reflected by the decision of the King of Bahrain to release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab under a royal pardon after he spent over four months in prison for a tweet criticizing the government. 

    It is critical, therefore, to take action now to reaffirm the high level of international concern over human rights conditions in Bahrain. To abandon collective pressure on Bahrain at a time when the situation is continuing to deteriorate would send an entirely wrong message to the Bahraini government, and undermine both internal and external efforts to foster genuine reform. 

    Switzerland has indicated that this joint statement will be open for additional signatories throughout the session. We therefore call on your government to recommit to supporting human rights in Bahrain, and to add your endorsement to this joint statement.

     

    Sincerely,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Amnesty International

    ARTICLE 19

    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    English Pen

    European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    Human Rights Watch

    Index on Censorship

    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

    Pen International

    Rafto Foundation

    The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

    Attached:

    HRC 30 Joint Statement on the Human Rights Situa4on in Bahrain;
    Joint NGO Letter: Human Rights Situation in Bahrain (Dated: 16 July 2015) 

    Click here for pdf. 

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    Teachers have been at the forefront of Bahrain’s peaceful protests and democratic movement. They have also been amongst the harshest-treated victims of unfair trial and abuse. In 2011, the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA) was a leading union calling for strike action in solidarity with the protests. The government subsequently dissolved the BTA and imprisoned its leadership.

     

    The Government of Bahrain has abused many teachers since the beginning of the 2011 protests. Abduljalil al-Singace, former Head of Engineering at the University of Bahrain, currently serves a life sentence for his involvement in the protests. Authorities additionally arrested Ahmed Mirza and sentenced him for a crime which occurred while he was outside the country; his trial may have been an act of intimidation against his brother, Sheikh Ali Salman. Prison officials physically tortured Abbas al-Samea, a young teacher fresh into his profession, earlier this year. At least eight teachers are currently serving prison sentences for protest-related activities.

     

    On World Teachers Day, a day which should commemorate the work of the teaching profession in Bahrain, we remember these teachers and academics who have been punished for exercising their rights to free speech, assembly, and association.

     

    Mahdi Abu Dheeb was formerly the president of the BTA. In February and March 2011, the BTA joined protests calling for reform in Bahrain.

    Mahdi played an active role in criticizing human rights abuses and voicing the union’s concern for deteriorating standards of education. In April 2011, the BTA called for a strike in solidarity with pro-democracy protesters. Shortly after, on 6 April 2011, police arrested Mahdi from his uncle’s house and took him to a secret location. His family did not know his whereabouts for more than three weeks. During detention, Mahdi spent 64 days in solitary confinement. He reported that police officers beat him, and his family said that he suffered two broken ribs as well as severe neck and back pain. The Ministry of Social Development formally dissolved the BTA in April 2011.

    The state charged Mahdi with halting the educational process, inciting hatred of the ruling system, attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force, possessing pamphlets, and disseminating fabricated stories and information. A military court tried Mahdi and his deputy, Jalila al-Salman, in September 2011. The court found Mahdi guilty and sentenced him to ten years in prison, reduced to five years upon appeal. Al-Salman received a three year sentence, which was later shortened to six months.

    Mahdi reportedly suffered injuries to his back, including a slipped disk, during his torture in 2011. He continues to receive inadequate treatment. Since March 2015, following a prison riot in which a minority of inmates participated, authorities have denied Mahdi adequate medication and treatment for his back pain. On at least two occasions since March, prison medical staff informed Mahdi that his family needed to bring medication to him from outside the prison; the authorities later refused to allow his family to provide him  with the requested items.

    The BTA under Mahdi’s leadership was awarded the 2015 Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights.

     

    Dr Abduljalil al-Singace is a former professor of engineering at the University of Bahrain, a blogger, a political activist, and a civil rights campaigner. In March 2015, Abduljalil began a protest in which he stopped taking any solid foods in solidarity with inmates at Bahrain’s Central Jau Prison, where he is held. The protest continues today: 7 October will mark 200 days without food. Abduljalil has subsisted only on fluids and IV injections. This protest is in response to the deteriorating prison conditions, ill-treatment and prisoner humiliation. 

    Abduljalil was first arrested in August 2010. Bahrain police arrested him at the Bahrain International Airport on his return from the United Kingdom, where he had spoken at the House of Lords criticising recent human rights deteriorations in Bahrain, including mass arrests and torture. The government held Abduljalil in prison and tortured him until February 2011, when authorities released him and a number of other political prisoners in an attempt to quell protests.

    Authorities re-arrested Abduljalil weeks later, on 17 March, following the declaration of a state of emergency. Officials again tortured Abduljalil. On 22 June 2011, a military court sentenced Abduljalil to life imprisonment for his involvement in the protests, alongside a group of leading politicians and activists collectively dubbed the “Bahrain 13.” In 2012, the civilian High Court of Appeals upheld the sentence. He has served his sentence in Jau Prison ever since. See our joint-NGO urgent appeal for more information.

     

    Ahmed Mirza was a teacher in the Ministry of Education. Police arrested Ahmed on 11 September 2013. They did not publicize his charges until the first hearing in his trial. Despite being in Iran for medical treatment until 2 September 2013, authorities accused Ahmed of being part of the Sehla explosion incident that took place on 30 August 2013. The government charged him with financing the incident and inciting other defendants. On 22 May 2015, the court sentenced Ahmed to ten years in prison.

    Ahmed suffers from severe sickle cell anemia, and his health has dangerously deteriorated on several occasions during his detention. He is the half-brother of Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of al-Wefaq, whom the courts sentenced to four years in prison on 16 June 2015. Ahmed’s arrest in 2013 may have been an act of intimidation aimed at his brother.

     

    Abbas al-Samea, a 25-year-old teacher, was arrested on 3 March 2014 for his alleged participation in a bomb explosion which killed three policemen. Despite credible evidence that Abbas was teaching at the time of the bombing, a judge sentenced him to death on 26 February 2015.

    Police physically tortured Abbas following the March 2015 prison riot. Witnesses told BIRD, BCHR and ADHRB that Abbas was missing teeth and required medical attention for head injuries in April 2015. His case, and the case of other inmates, is covered in our joint report, Inside Jau. Abbas has previously featured in previous Champions for Justice instalments highlighting victims of severe abuse at Bahrain’s Jau Prison and death row prisoners.

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    Sheikh Maytham Al Salman met with Dr. Agnes Callamard, Director of Columbia global freedom of expression, and special advisor to the President of Colombia University, Lee Bollinger, to discuss a proposed draft bill by the government of Bahrain that would criminalize “contempt of religions.”  

    Sheikh Maytham Al Salman is one of some 60 high level global experts that are supporting Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, established in 2014 by President Lee Bollinger to document the development of global norms related to freedom of expression and information. This was Sheikh Maytham’s first visit to Columbia University since his arrest in August. 

    Sheikh Maytham Al Salman explained to Dr. Callamard that the draft bill would criminalize “any hate or sectarian discourse that undermines national unity, differentiates between individuals or groups on the bases of religion, creed or sect and triggers conflict between individuals or groups.” Bahrain’s cabinet discussed the draft law on August 31 2015, and referred it for further study without publishing the actual full draft of the law. Sh. Maytham Al Salman also stated that in his opinion, the draft bill could open the door to abuses, restricting freedom of expression rather than safeguarding society from incitement of hatred. Sh. Al Salman is of the view that the law could also reinforce an ever-present threat of prosecution towards those who express their religious, political and personnel views and opinions. He said: Blasphemy laws in non democratic countries are very selective and are often misused as a punishment tool to deal with outspoken voices. 

    Dr. Agnes Callamard first pointed out that the fact that the draft bill has not been published and shared with the Bahrain civil society, the Media and the Bahrain public at large constitutes already a serious limitation and contradicts the fundamental objective of all legal processes: to provide legal certainty. She called on the Government to make the draft law available so that national and international actors can review it and provide much needed suggestions regrading future drafts. 

    Dr. Callamard has read various Media articles about the law as well as reports from civil society organizations. She has reached the conclusion that the draft law appears to amount to a blasphemy law in disguise and not a law seeking to prohibit incitement to hatred, as per article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

    Dr Callamard concurred with Sheikh Maytham Al Salman that blasmpameny laws are very problematic.  Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and other academic initiatives have well shown that blasphemy laws are more often than not misused against religious groups facing violations of their political, civic, economic and/or social rights, and religious minorities. She pointed out that blasphemy laws seek to protect, and that usually means, enforce, a certain set of belief, rather than protect the believers, without discrimination on the basis of their religion.  She insisted that men, women and children that must be protected against incitement to hatred that may result in violence or discrimination, not a particular religious view or belief.  

    Dr Callamard also pointed out that the most important international UN group of experts, the human rights committee, had issued in 2013 its general comment 34  on the scope and limits to freedom of expression.  The Committee reiterated that blasphemy laws violate fundamenetal human rights including article 19 and article 18 of the international covenant of civil and political rights which was endorsed by the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2006. The Committee also stated that: "it would be impermissible for blasphemy laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith."

    Dr. Callamard has worked extensively on the issue of countering incitement to hatred for close to 10 years, including as one of the international experts behind the Rabat Plan of Action and the Camden principles.  She recognises Incitement to violence and discrimination is a real problem and indeed a human rights emergency in many parts of the world. But it must be addressed through appropriate legislative and policy measures, coupled with a strong involvement of civil society, along the lines of the recommendation of the rabat plan of action. The Bahrain draft law which has been described in the Media is far more likely to restrict and violate the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and religion, than it is to tackle effectively incitement to hatred that may lead to violence, discrimination or hostility.  

    Dr Callamard thus concurred with Sheikh Al Salman's views that the Bahraini anti hatred law will not address incidents and patterns of incitement to hatred. Instead, it may seriously stifle freedom of expression and information, and restrict open public debates, free of fears, both of which constitute essential conditions for dialogue between the opposition and the Government. 

    She also strongly endorsed Sheikh Al Salman recommendation that the Bahrain Government invites the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. David Kaye, to undertake a mission in Bahrain and issue recommendations to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression and information in Bahrain. 

    Dr. Callamard thanked Sheikh Al Salman for his work to protect freedom of expression and religion in Bahrain and the region, and reiterated that she and Columbia Global Freedom of Expression stand prepared to support him.    

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    7 October 2015 – Today marks the 200th day of Bahraini prisoner of conscience Dr Abduljalil al-Singace’s protest. Dr al-Singace has boycotted all solid food in response to the ill-treatment of prisoners  in Bahrain.

    21 human rights organisations reiterate their call for his release in a joint statement published today. The NGOs “voice our solidarity with Dr al-Singace’s continued protest and call on the United Kingdom and all European Union member states, the United States and the United Nations to raise his case, and the cases of all prisoners of conscience, with Bahrain, both publicly and privately.” They call for his immediate and unconditional release.

    Read the statement (PDF) here.

    The latest statement follows an urgent appeal which marked the 160th day of Dr al-Singace’s protest, and which coincided with a picket outside the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London. The United States, European Parliament and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have all raised the condition of prisoners of conscience and Dr al-Singace since the beginning of his protest.

    Prison authorities appear to have finally begun to take notice of the international attention his case is attracting. Dr al-Singace recently received treatment for a nose injury he suffered during his torture in 2011.  He had waited over four years to receive such treatment.

    However, Dr al-Singace’s condition remains critical. He suffered damage to his ear as a result of torture, but has not received adequate medical attention for this injury. His family states that he is often dizzy, his hair is falling out, and that he is “on the verge of collapse.”

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Dr al-Singace’s puts his life at risk for his belief in a torture-free and democratic Bahrain. To support democracy and reform in Bahrain, the United Kingdom and United States must call for Dr al-Singace’s immediate release.”

    Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager, English PEN: “We're pleased and relieved that the prison authorities seem to be taking notice of the growing international support for Dr Al-Singace, having finally allowed him medical treatment and access to a pen in recent weeks. However, there is still a long way to go and the UK government has a crucial role to play. We urge them to join our call for justice for the many writers and activists detained in Bahrain.”

    Read the statement (PDF) here.

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    Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) is proud to issue its 2015 Advocate for Peace Award to Sheikh Maytham Al Salman.


       
    Sheikh Al Salman, an internationally respected interfaith leader, has been working with Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression since April 2015, advising the initiative on its global jurisprudence and global tolerance projects. He is well recognized for his work building tolerant societies and countering incitement to violence and discrimination in accordance with international human rights standards, in particular respect for freedom of expression as per Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
       
    Sheikh Al Salman's life and work exemplify ICUJP's mission that "Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence." He is the director of Tunis-based Middle East North Africa Coalition Against Hate Speech; chairperson of Bahrain Interfaith; head of religious freedom unit at Bahrain Human Rights Observatory; member of the UN advisory committee for the role of religious leaders in preventing genocide; and Arabian Gulf representative of International association for religious freedom.
       
    ICUJP applauds Sheikh Al Salman's call for equal citizenship, his condemnation of all forms of discrimination and his opposition to violence and extremism. ICUJP endorses Sheikh Al Salman's powerful statement that:

             "Anyone hostile to Sunnis because they are Sunni, or Shiites because they are Shiite cannot make any claim to good citizenship, which is grounded on civil coexistence and the acceptance of diversity.” 

    We heartily agree with him that resisting national division and the promotion of hatred among citizens constitutes both a national and a religious duty.
       
    ICUJP honors Sheikh Al Salman's work educating civil society, religious and faith-based organizations as well as political parties and policymakers to take responsibility in countering incitement to hatred that leads to violence, discrimination and hostility, in accordance with international human rights standards He also works to provide a platform for civil society, nongovernmental, religious and faith-based organizations; the media and social media; and minority groups to exchange knowledge and practices on region-wide strategies to counter incitement to hatred. For all of his work to create a more peaceful and just world, ICUJP honors Sheikh Maytham Al Salman with its 2015 Advocate for Peace Award.

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    10 October 2015 – On the occasion of the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the ongoing use of death sentences in Bahrain and call for the abolition of this practice in the kingdom. In Bahrain, the death penalty is often employed as a means of intimidation. Seven individuals are currently on death row in Bahrain, most of whom were convicted as a result of false confessions extracted under torture. Many of the cases lack any hard evidence linking the individuals to the crimes for which they were prosecuted.

    Bahrain’s use of the death penalty has followed a common pattern since 2011. Bahraini courts sentence to death persons who are suspected of killing policemen. These defendants are often subjected to torture, including whipping and electrocution, to coerce a confession. The criminal courts regularly dismiss the defence’s arguments and obstruct their access to an attorney. In 2011, military courts issued five death sentences, which the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommended to be commuted. Though Bahrain did so, death sentences continue to be handed down in unfair trials. In a troubling trend this year, the number of detainees on death row has increased by 75 percent since January.

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD: “The death penalty is a big problem in the Gulf. It has been Saudi Arabia’s ultimate tool of political repression for decades. Now we see Bahrain also threaten dissenters with this terrible weapon.”

    BIRD, BCHR and ADHRB have consistently documented the torture and unfair trials of Bahrain’s death row prisoners. On 19 February 2014, the criminal court found Maher al-Khabbaz guilty of killing a police officer with a flare gun. The court convicted al-Khabbaz despite the prosecution’s inability to provide tangible evidence of the murder weapon, and inability to rectify the theory of the cause of death with the defense’s forensic report of the officer’s wounds. Al-Khabbaz’s trial is typical of all Bahraini detainees currently awaiting a death sentence.

    Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at ADHRB: “Bahrainis on death row have endured humiliation, torture and unfair trials, and now they face the firing squad. No government should sanction the murder of its own citizens, least of all a country with a judiciary as corrupt and dysfunctional as that  of Bahrain.”

    The death penalty as practiced in Bahrain is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006. Article 6.1 of the ICCPR states that, “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their life.” As the seven Bahrainis on death row were subjected to torture, coerced confession and unfair trial, the sentence is therefore arbitrary, and in violation of Bahrain’s international commitments.

    The campaign for the end of the death penalty is a global phenomenon. The United Nations General Assembly passed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2007, which called for the end of its use with a view towards abolition. The European Parliament has this week also passed a resolution condemning the death penalty and called for stronger international pressures on countries continuing to exercise the penalty.

    Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR: “The death penalty violates fundamental human rights. It’s time for Bahrain to join the majority of countries in the world which have abolished the death penalty. We need to build a society based on peace, not violence.”

    ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR condemn of the practice of capital punishment in Bahrain, and call on the government to:

    • Commute immediately all death sentences;
    • Dismiss any and all judgments made with confessions obtained under conditions of torture;
    • Investigate all allegation of torture made by persons sentenced to death and prisoners of conscience; and
    • Abolish the death penalty.

     

    Read the statement in French here.

     

     

    Read more about death penalty in Bahrain:

    Champions for Justice: Death Row Prisoners

    NGOs Condemn Use of Death Penalty Amid Allegations of Severe Torture

    Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa death sentence upheld, despite strong allegations of torture

    NGOs Condemn Capital Punishment Sentence for Maher al-Khabaz

    The Terrorism Law in Bahrain

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    12 October 2015, Bahrain - The courts today postponed Ebrahim Sharif's trial to 12 November 2015. The former secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) faces up to ten years in prison for charges related to his free expression.
     
    On 10 July, Mr Sharif delivered a speech calling for continued peaceful opposition to the government. In his speech (available here), he stressed that opposition to the government must be "peaceful and moral" and called for democratic, constitutional monarchy. Two days later, police arrested him and charged him with inciting violence and the overthrow of the regime.
     
    Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights: "Due process is not the right call for international allies and observers to make. Peaceful opposition leaders like Ebrahim Sharif should be sitting at the negotiating table with the government and not subjected to judicial harassment."
     
    Mr Sharif is one of the "Bahrain 13", a group of prominent opposition leaders and activists arrested in March-April 2011, tortured, and sentenced by military court to between 5 years and life imprisonment. Mr Sharif was sentenced to five, and had served most of his sentence when in June 2015 the King of Bahrain granted him a pardon.
     
    Mr Sharif's release on 19 June came days after the sentencing of Ali Salman, leader of the largest political society Al-Wefaq, to four years. 
     
    International observers welcomed Mr Sharif's release at the time. The U.S. State Department announced the end of a 4-year ban on arms sales to Bahrain on 29 June and welcomed the release of political prisoners as a mark of progress. The European Parliament adopted a resolution in early July, days before Mr Sharif's re-arrest, criticising continued rights violations in Bahrain but welcoming Mr the former Wa'ad leader's release. In the UK, an Early Day Motion raising concerns on restrictions on free speech in Bahrain has been signed by 43 Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.
     
    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: "Britain must not allow her allies to silence voices of peaceful opposition. Free speech underpins all democratic values, and failure to publicly support Ebrahim Sharif is a betrayal of that core value."
     
    Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain: "The United States actually used Ebrahim Sharif's release as one of the pretexts of lifting the arms suspension on Bahrain. His rearrest undermines the American position. Where is the outcry against this miscarriage of justice?"
     
    Read the statement in French here. 
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    On 21 October 2015, human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja could mark her 32nd birthday by beginning combined prison sentences of over five years if several cases against her are confirmed by a Bahraini appeals court. She has been free on bail since she was sentenced last December on a number of charges. This includes a three-year sentence for simply tearing up a picture of the monarch, considered a crime in Bahrain, and a one-year sentence for insulting a public official. Please join the Thunderclap campaign to help wish her a happy birthday and call for her conviction to be quashed so that she and her baby son don’t go to prison.

    On 17 November, Zainab is also due in the appeals court after being convicted and sentenced to nine months on charges of entering a restricted area and six months in prison for insulting a public official, while seeking to visit her father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in prison in August 2014. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the Co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) who is serving a life sentence for his human rights activities, was on hunger strike at the time.

    The impact on the Al-Khawaja family has been extreme. Zainab has already spent more than a year in prison apart from her six-year-old daughter Jude; and her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, GCHR Co-Director, is in exile and also spent almost a month in jail last year.

    Families of prisoners of conscience pay a high price in Bahrain, and women human rights defenders are criticized for “abandoning their children.” Yet in this case, Zainab will join the list of other women who have been imprisoned with their children, facing the prospect of being jailed with a baby less than a year old.

    Through her actions, Zainab was making a powerful statement to thousands of Bahrainis and human rights activists in the Gulf area and around the world; to whom Zainab (@AngryArabiya) tweeted: “Ripping his pic is a 1st step to let him know that we r not afraid, that we are determined to gain our rights, to live as free ppl #Bahrain”.

    In support of the international right to freedom of expression, please join us to proclaim that tearing a photo is #NotaCrime. The GCHR urges supporters worldwide to celebrate this courageous defender’s birthday on 21 October by wishing her #HappyBirthdayZainab and calling for her conviction to be quashed. GCHR aims to show solidarity for Zainab’s right to freedom of expression. Seeking to bring more attention to her case, GCHR asks allies and the international community to support her case and help keep her and her son Abdulhadi out of prison.

    Al-Khawaja has thanked supporters on twitter, saying “My love and respect to all the people of Bahrain who continue to sacrifice every day so that someday our children can free. And thank you to all those who stand up and speak out on behalf of the people of Bahrain. You restore our faith in humanity.”

    What can you do?

    To participate in our campaign please join our Thunderclap campaign at https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/33052-happybirthdayzainab and also weet a message or photo of support to @AngryArabiya and @GulfCentre4HR with hashtags #NotaCrime and #HappyBirthdayZainab, starting on 14 October, a week before her birthday. A suggested tweet is “Wishing #HappyBirthdayZainab and calling for her convictions to be quashed. Tearing a photo is #NotaCrime”

    You can also share the teaser for the documentary film “We are the Giant” featuring Maryam and Zainab Al-Khawaja at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1-5zbBqU8E

    This campaign is endorsed so far by Amnesty International, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Civicus: World Alliance for Civic Participation, European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), Front Line Defenders, Index on Censorship, International Service For Human Rights (ISHR) and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC).

    Background:

    The longest sentence among the trumped-up charges was handed down on 4 December 2014 when Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 3000 BHD (approx. USD$8000) on the charge of ripping a picture of Bahrain’s monarch during a court hearing in October 2014. The fine has not been paid yet. That case goes to court on 21 October to confirm sentencing. Also, on 21 October, three of Zainab Al-Khawaja’s cases will be heard in the Bahrain Court of Appeals. They were postponed to notify the court that her lawyer has withdrawn from the cases, and neither she nor her lawyer will appear in court. Two charges of two-month sentences each were handed down on 9 December for “destroying public property” when she ripped a picture of the King at Budaiyah police station, as well as a charge of allegedly “insulting a public official” (a police officer) for which she was sentenced to one year in prison.

    On 17 November, Zainab Al-Khawaja is also due in court to hear the appeal of a nine-month sentence for entering a restricted area at Jaw Prison, for which a bail was paid of US $1325. (The only case with bail up until the appeal). Another case insulting a public official, for which she was sentenced to six months, will also be heard. She was released on bail from prison in November 2014 just prior to giving birth to a son, her second child.

    “No one has caused severe discomfort to the government of Bahrain or any of its authorities like the human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja has,” said GCHR Co-Director Khalid Ibrahim in a tribute to the Al-Khawaja family. Her courage in defending human rights publicly has cost her freedom, subjected her to judicial harassment, deprived her young son of a birth certificate, and imposed restrictions on her travels outside Bahrain due to the authorities’ continual refusal to renew her passport. The Bahraini government has by such arbitrary and unjust measures violated the basic human rights of this peaceful rights defender and her son.

    Useful links:

     

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    29 October 2015 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the Government of Bahrain’s recent violations of the Shia community’s right to religious freedom as they commemorate Muharram and the day of Ashoura.

    Since the beginning of Muharram, the month in which Shia Muslims mourn the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein, Bahraini security forces have arrested religious preachers and clerics, taken down flags and banners, and suppressed public demonstrations. The authorities have also repeatedly removed flags and banners put up to mark Ashoura (or the Day of Remembrance), the tenth day of Muharram. BCHR has already documented the removal of flags and banners from more than 30 villages across Bahrain in the first two weeks of Muharram.

    After the government’s removal of the Ashoura banners, residents of these villages organized several peaceful demonstrations in protest. Security forces responded by violently suppressing the protesters with extensive use of tear gas and shotgun pellets, resulting in several cases of near-suffocation, bodily injury, and damage to private property. The authorities also attacked a Shia religious hall, or Matam, in Karzkan village. They fired tear gas on mourners, causing many people to experience severe difficulty breathing, especially the elderly.

    To justify this infringement on Shia religious freedom, the Ministry of Interior stated that its forces took down flags and banners which had “political slogans that do not represent Ashoura,” and to better “ensure traffic safety.” Residents of the affected villages say that their banners and flags exhibited typical Ashoura slogans, and had been displayed during Muharram for years. Nevertheless, the authorities have considerably escalated their interference in Ashoura events and activities since the 2011 uprising.

    The government has also begun systematically summoning, detaining, and interrogating Shia clerics for their religious oration and their participation in Ashoura events. Since the beginning of this Muharram, Bahraini authorities have summoned and interrogated at least five Shia clerics. On 20 October 2015, for example, Sheikh Abdulzahra al-Mubasher was summoned for interrogation by the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). Reportedly, the CID wanted Sheikh al-Mubasher for questioning in regard to a series of lectures he has given so far this Muharram. He currently remains in the MOI custody.

    On 25 October 2015, the authorities also summoned Mulla Abbas al-Jamri for interrogation about a speech he delivered on Ashoura. After questioning, Bahraini officials transferred al-Jamri to the public prosecution, where the prosecutor ordered him remanded for seven days pending investigation. Two days later, on 27 October, the government summoned another Shia preacher, Mahdi Sahwan, for interrogation over accusations related to his participation in Muharram events. Just today, the authorities summoned two more clerics for the same reasons: Sheikh Mahmood al-Aali and Sayed Yasser al-Sari. Bahraini officials even summoned a youth group in order to interrogate them about a group prayer they held on the day of Ashoura.

    BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD have consistently documented discrimination against the Shia majority in Bahrain. Both volumes of the report Apart in their Own Land: Government Discrimination Against Shia in Bahrain carefully describe the violation of Shia rights at all levels, showing that the government has worked to alienate the Bahraini Shia community since the nation’s independence in 1971 and especially following the pro-democracy protest movement of February 2011.

    Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdah, vice president of BCHR explains: “The discrimination against the Shia majority in Bahrain is very particular. After the pro-democracy protests in 2011, 38 Shia mosques and religious sites have been destroyed by the Government of Bahrain. The recent attacks on the Muharram ceremonies show the unwillingness of the Government of Bahrain to put an end to the persistent oppression of this community.”

    BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD condemn the Government of Bahrain’s attacks on Shia communities during the Muharram ceremonies, as well as its removal of flags and banners associated with Ashoura. We call on the government to cease both its violations of the right to freedom of religion and its systematic use of violence against the Shia majority.





     

     
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    2 November 2015 - On this day in 2013, two French journalists were murdered in Mali. To commemorate their loss, the United Nations (UN) proclaimed 2 November the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The corresponding UN resolution dedicated the date to all members of the press who have suffered from violence. It condemned the continued imprisonment, torture, and murder of journalists who simply strive to do their job with professionalism and integrity. Accordingly, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) would like to take this occasion to express grave concern regarding the Government of Bahrain’s continued harassment of those who exercise their freedom of speech through traditional and social media.

    Since the onset of unrest in 2011, the Government of Bahrain has increasingly criminalized the freedom of expression, in part by systematically prosecuting journalists and bloggers. This year, Freedom House rated Bahrain “Not Free” in its annual report, noting that ambiguous legal provisions “allow the state to imprison journalists for criticizing the king or Islam or for threatening national security.” As BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD have extensively documented, the authorities have used such legislation to prosecute, imprison, and torture members of the press.  Empowered by an administrative decision made earlier this year, the government has even revoked the citizenship of several journalists, bloggers, and social media activists.

    Currently, the Bahraini authorities hold at least ten journalists and photographers on charges related to their freedom of expression.

    Arrests and Detentions

    Journalists and Photographers

    Ahmed Humaidan, an award-winning photojournalist, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for documenting the pro-democracy demonstrations in Sitra. He has been incarcerated since December 2012, accused of taking part in an attack on a police station. During Ahmed’s interrogation, the authorities subjected him to ill-treatment. They beat him, forced him to stand in freezing temperatures for hours at a time, and threatened to arrest and fabricate criminal cases against his brothers. Throughout his detention, the government has prevented Ahmed from consistently communicating with his family, and on several occasions it has denied their visitation rights.

    Security forces arrested photographer Jaffar Marhoon on 26 December 2013. Prior to this official arrest, the authorities interrogated Jaffar for three days, reportedly subjecting him to torture. A Bahraini court later convicted him on several politically motivated cases; on 24 February 2015, the court sentenced Jaffar to life in prison.

    Hussein Hubil, a freelance photographer, was arrested before boarding an international flight to Dubai on 31 July 2013. Hussein was interrogated for four days, during which time the authorities reportedly tortured him and threatened him with rape. Hussein’s lawyer called for an internal investigation into these reports, but his request was denied. On 28 April 2014, a court sentenced him to five years in prison on charges related to his right to free expression, including "using social media networks to incite hatred of the regime", "calling on people to ignore the law" and "calling for illegal demonstrations".

    On 2 August 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Qasim Zainal Deen, a freelance photographer who previously filmed opposition protests, at his home. By December 2013, a court had convicted Qasim on charges of illegal assembly, sentencing him to three months in prison. A month later, in January 2014, he was convicted on new charges of illegal assembly and vandalism, and sentenced to an additional six months imprisonment. On 25 February 2015, the appellate court upheld Qasim’s sentence of three years in prison. Most recently, on 10 March 2015, a riot broke out at the prison where Qasim is currently detained, preventing his family from visiting. Security forces badly beat many of the prisoners during the riot, including Qassim, who now suffers from a back injury.

    Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, a photographer who has won 127 international awards for excellence in his field, was arrested on 10 February 2014, after security forces raided his house. According to Sayed Ahmed’s father, the authorities took him and his brother into custody. They also seized several of Sayed Ahmed’s belongings, including 4 hard disk drives, a laptop, his cameras, and other professional photography equipment. Following the raid, Bahraini officials subjected Sayed Ahmed to enforced disappearance for at least four days. During this period, security forces tortured Sayed Ahmed by beating his genitals, hanging him on a door, forcing him to stand for days, stripping him naked, and electrocuting various parts of his body. Throughout the interrogation, officials also deprived Sayed Ahmed of his right to due process, denying him access to a lawyer.

    On 4 September 2014, security forces arrested three journalists, Hussam Suroor (17 years), Ahmed Zainaldeen (20 years) and Mustafa Rabea (19 years), as they raided their houses in Duraz. These three men were subjected to enforced disappearance for up to five days following their original arrest. On 30 September 2015, a court sentenced the men to 10 years in prison for illegal assembly and charges related to an explosion in Duraz. Ahmed Zainaldeen is also awaiting a court ruling in a separate case.

    Bloggers and Internet Activists

    BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD have also documented the government’s prosecution of bloggers and social media activists. During the last several years, the Government of Bahrain has intensified its repression of free speech on the internet, most recently passing a broad Cybercrime Law that further criminalizes online dissent. The authorities have routinely used such legislation to prosecute and incarcerate peaceful critics of the government. Since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have collectively sentenced activists to more than 400 months in prison for exercising their right to free expression on independent social media.

    Security forces arrested Jaleela al-Sayed on 10 February 2015. During their raid on Jaleela’s house, the authorities confiscated her computers and mobile phones. Later, they charged her with misusing social media, inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the king on Twitter. The authorities also subjected Jaleela to ill-treatment, causing her to faint and require medical attention. Following the initial arrest, Bahraini official additional prevented her from contacting her family or her lawyer. Jaleela is currently held at the Isa Town Women’s Prison.

    Blogger and Internet activist Ali al-Mearaj was arrested on 6 January 2014. The authorities accused him of misusing information technology and insulting the King on his blog, “Awal Pearl.” During his interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), officials allegedly beat Ali, threatened to harm his youngest son, and verbally abused him. In court, the judge reportedly refused to listen to defense witnesses or receive evidence in Ali’s case. Nonetheless, on 9 April 2014, the court sentenced Ali to 30 months in prison. Ali is currently awaiting his next appeal hearing on 1 December 2015. The court continues to refuse submissions of evidence from the defense.

    Masked security forces abducted Jassim al-Nuaimi, an Internet activist, from his home on 31 July 2013. The authorities reportedly subjected Jassim to torture for at least four days before they took officially detained him on charges of inciting anti-government hatred and posting messages on social media calling for illegal demonstrations. During one of his hearings, Jassim told the court that he had not been in the country at the time the alleged messages had been posted, and that he had actually sold the computer from which he could have submitted said posts. The criminal court rejected Jassim’s alibi and sentenced him to five years in prison on 28 April 2014.

    In October 2015, Bahraini authorities raided the house of Ebrahim Karimi, confiscated his electronic devices, and arrested him – all without ever presenting a warrant. The security forces took Ebrahim to the CID where he was subjected to ill-treatment including forced standing for prolonged hours and sleep deprivation. Officials also threatened to harm his family if he did not confess. During his interrogation, the authorities questioned Ebrahim about posts on the Twitter account “FreejKarimi”, and prevented him from contacting his lawyer. The public prosecution later charged Ebrahim with inciting hatred against the regime, insulting the king, and misusing of social media, among other related offenses. In 2012, the Government of Bahrain additionally revoked Ebrahim’s citizenship through an administrative decision. The court has since ordered his deportation, a decision Ebrahim is attempting to appeal.

    In September 2015, security forces arrested the two social media activists behind the “BuKhamis” and “HajiAhmed” Twitter handles. The Ministry of Interior announced that it had arrested them because of their posts on Twitter were insulting to the country’s martyrs in Yemen. The posts in question allegedly denounced and criticized Bahrain’s participation in the ongoing military operation in that country.

    In January 2015, the Bahraini authorities arrested another nine Internet activists for alleged criticism of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Twitter. The Ministry of Interior stated that these individuals were arrested for “misuse of social media,” and that according to Bahrain’s Penal Code, they could face imprisonment for up to two years as well as a BHD200 fine.

    The authorities arrested several other social media activists on similar charges of social media misuse, dissemination of false news, and/or insulting government officials in Bahrain or other GCC countries. BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison for a tweet in which he described Bahrain’s military institutions as incubators of extremist ideologies. The government is also prosecuting him on charges related to tweets about the war in Yemen, and for insulting a statutory body on social media; it is currently holding Nabeel under a travel ban.

    Likewise, the Bahraini authorities also arrested political activist Fadhel Abbas on charges related to a tweet in which he denounced the war in Yemen. A court sentenced him to five years in prison.

    Citizenship Revocation

    In January 2015, the government revoked the citizenship of 72 Bahrainis, of whom the majority were activists. Among those whose citizenship was revoked were four members of the independent media: founder of the Bahrain Online forum Ali Abdulemam, critic and blogger Ali al-Dairi, journalist Abbas AbuSafwan, and blogger Husain Yousif. The government stated that it had revoked their citizenship because of “acts resulting in harm to the Kingdom’s interest.”

    Suspension and Prosecution of Free Media

    The Government of Bahrain has also targeted entire media outlets. In February 2015, the Bahraini authorities suspended the Al Arab television channel after only its first day on air. According to the government, Al Arab did not have the proper licenses to operate in Bahrain. Other sources have contradicted this claim, however, reporting that the suspension was related to the “failure of those in charge [of Al Arab] to abide by the prevailing norms in the Gulf, including the neutrality of media positions and staying away from anything that could negatively impact the spirit of Gulf unity". During Al Arab’s first and only program, it aired an interview with a Bahraini opposition leader about the government’s revocation of citizenship.

    On 6 August 2015, the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), part of Bahrain’s Ministry of State for Information Affairs, announced that it had indefinitely suspended Al Wasat newspaper for “violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries.” The IAA had previously suspended Al Wasat in 2011, and had also issued it an official warning regarding an opinion column it had published. The article, written by Hani al-Fardan, discussed persons who accuse opposition members of treason on social media; al-Fardan criticized the activity in general, and did not specifically name anyone in his column.

    Though Al Wasat was later allowed to resume its work, in June 2015, a member of parliament filed a case against Hani al-Fardan and Al Wasat’s Editor-in-Chief, Mansoor al-Jamri. The law suit accused them of defaming the Member of Parliament in an article that addressed the MP’s meeting with an illegal armed group in Syria. Al Wasat had a similar case filed against it in 2014 as well, because of yet another opinion column.

    Al Wasat is widely considered to be the only independent newspaper in Bahrain that covers both government and opposition news. It is also the only newspaper in Bahrain that publishes content related to Shia community events and political demonstrations.

    The Government of Bahrain has systematically targeted those who dissent from the official state narrative, or who present an opportunity for alternative discourse. Be they photographers who document abuses of authority with their cameras, or journalist and bloggers tell the stories of wounded protestors, members of the media represent a democratic challenge to government repression in Bahrain. Rather than acknowledge or protect the independent press, Bahraini authorities have worked with authoritarian efficiency to constrain and silence it. To conceal its unremitting violation of human rights, the government continues to maintain a general media blackout – starting with the prosecution, imprisonment, and intimidation of journalists.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy call on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Release and pardon all wrongfully imprisoned journalists, photographers, bloggers and social media activists; and
    • Repeal any laws that restrict, criminalize, or otherwise infringe on the freedoms of expression, speech, and press in Bahrain.

    Click here to download the report.

     

     

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    The Figure of Dialogue and Tolerance Behind Bars,

    The Higher Criminal Court in Bahrain convicted Sheikh Ali Salman and sentenced him to four years imprisonment in June 16th 2015 , on baseless charges related to promoting the change of the political system , inciting hatred of the government , encouraging disobedience of the laws , and insulting  the Interior Ministry .This trail is considered to be void and lacks the basic standards of justice . Sheikh Ali Salman , leader of the opposition arrest came two days after he gave a speech calling for non-violent political reform is still imprison instead of sitting at the national dialogue table to get out of the current crisis.

    The appeals court held its first hearing in September 19th 2015 , the judge refused to diclose exculpatory evidence as well as what happened in the court of first instance , and this is considered a violation of the international fair trial principles . In the second appeal hearing took place on October 14th 2015 , Sheikh Ali Salman denied all the allegations against him , and said that he was seeking peaceful political and constitutional change , and that he was handed for expressing his opinion.  Indeed , campaign group Amnesty International stressed in its report of October 18th 2015 , commenting on the appeal hearings ," Sheikh Ali Salman, a prisoner of conscience on trial for exercising freedom of expression ".

    Sheikh Ali Salman , a prominent leader and Secretary General of the largest opposition party in Bahrain , in his speeches called for political reform , serious dialogue and absolute rejection of all means of violence ,  he believes that the ideal approach to achieve the great objectives is " pro-democracy peaceful activism".  Also , he called for justice , freedom , equality and to stop corruption and discrimination between citizens , these are the principles of a civilized society.

    The government of Bahrain is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , also on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which in Article -19 guarantees " The right of freedom of expression " , however it has violated its international obligations by arresting Sheikh Ali Salman , instead of supporting genuine dialogue that leads to reforms which engage with the aspirations of the Bahraini people , but it's clear that the authority is launching a broad crackdown against a non-violent opposition and arrested its critics , who have different policy views .

    That civilized and peaceful conflict in Bahrain is a historic struggle going on between the authority that has all the centers of influence within marginalization of the whole Bahraini people , this conflict will not end until they attain full rights guaranteed by international conventions which have been signed by the government should be respected , and not to disregard it.

    Since February 14th 2011 , Bahrain has seen frequent peaceful protests demanding political change , but the security forces have responded harshly with it . The popular uprising is still continuing today , dozens were killed and thousands were wounded , also the authority has detained  the opponents of political human rights activists , and the pollitical critics , and they often use torture forcing them to confess . Prison sentences has been issued against prisoners for many years , some are life imprisonment . Moreover , seven citizens are sentenced to death against the backdrop of demonstrations , also many opposition figures were systematically stripped of the Bahraini identity.

    The majority of international organizations issued many statements condemning the use of violence and the wide array human rights violations in Bahrain . Furthermorer , the media coverage of the national protests is adequate and biased , as the satellite channels covers protests in different countries , while it ignores human rights violations in Bahrain where people demonstrate for the sake of peaceful struggle.

    The international community, which claims supporting  democracy , and specifically the close allies of Bahrain , including the United States and the United Kingdom have to exercise an effective and influential pressure on the government of Bahrain for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, and all prisoners of conscience and to call for respecting human rights , to take the initiative to perform reforms that ensure the ambition of Bahraini people , to disable the security option , and to create the appropriate atmosphere for the democratic transformation of the country until moving to the other side of security and stability . Indeed , the Bahraini people who pay valuable prices for their freedom , are continuing peaceful struggle and resistance to oppression , until their legitimate demands for freedom , dignity and democracy are achieved .

     

    Reema Shallan, Lawyer and Wife of Sheikh Ali Salman

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    Sheikh Maytham Al Salman the head of the Religious Freedom unit at BHRO called upon the international community to exert effective pressure on authorities in Bahrain to lift the 11 months ban on all public rallies, assembly and demonstrations that have been banned since January 2015.

    Al Salman said: the 11 months ban on all forms of assembly and demonstrations is a glaring example of the failure of authorities in Bahrain to comply with their international commitments to adapt democratic reforms and end systematic human rights abuses. Al-Salman demanded authorities in Bahrain to lift the ban immediately and comply with the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI) recommendations and the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations which both stressed on the role of authorities in protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Al Salman also revealed that BHRO received reports that confirmed that authorities have rejected receiving more than 130 notifications of peaceful demonstrations since January 2015; scores of other notifications have been refused by authorities prior to that date.

    Al Salman added: As a member of the United Nations and as a party to the ICCPR, Bahrain has legal obligations to ensure and protect freedoms of assembly and expression.


    Article 21 of the ICCPR clearly recognizes freedom of assembly and confirms that authorities should not restrict the exercise of this right:


    "The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

    Sh Al Salman renewed his demands to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Mr. Maina Kiai to visit Bahrain in order to independently evaluate and analyze the situation on the ground. On the other hand Mr. Maina Kiai Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association has expressed his willingness and intention to visit Bahrain to assist Governmental and Non- Governmental actors in protecting fundamental rights associated with freedom of assembly & association.

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    16 November 2015 – Washington, DC – The Bahraini government has only fully implemented two, and has not made any progress on eight of the 26 recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, finds a new report released today by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

    In Shattering the Façade: A Report on Bahrain’s Implementation of the BICI Recommendations Four Years On, ADHRB, BIRD, and BCHR provide recommendation- by-recommendation analysis of the Government of Bahrain’s implementation of the recommendations made by the BICI in 2011. Despite government rhetoric to the contrary, the report finds that some of the most fundamental abuses addressed by the BICI continue unabated in Bahrain.

    Despite the government’s claim that it has fully implemented 19, partially implemented six, and one recommendation remains inapplicable, Shattering the Façade finds that the government has fully implemented only two of the BICI’s recommendations, with 16 remaining partially implemented and eight having not been implemented at all. The eight recommendations the government has not implemented represent some of the BICI’s most vital components, including recommendations to decriminalize free speech and relax censorship, integrate government security forces and implement extensive human rights training to end human rights abuses, avoid arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, and undertake measures to prevent incitement to sectarianism.

    Instead, the government has specifically acted to undermine many of these recommendations, undertaking a mass campaign of arbitrary detention to silence dissent, criminalizing free speech and assembly in public and private forums, and holding security forces largely unaccountable for the torture and excessive force that continues to this day.

    “The government’s claims to have fully implemented the BICI couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Sayed Ahmed, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Instead, it has actively worked to impede implementation of some of the BICI’s most important reforms, while the human rights situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate as any sense of urgency the government may have once felt to implement reforms has dissipated.”

    The Bahraini government’s piecemeal approach to reform is partially due to a lack of consistent international pressure. Despite Bahrain’s backsliding on reform, the international community only voices its concern over Bahrain’s lack of progress from time to time, insisting that Bahrain must be recognized and rewarded for the steps that it has taken towards reform and reconciliation. However, this report shows that rhetoric from Bahrain’s international allies has made little impact towards pushing Manama to make meaningful progress on reform and reconciliation.

    “The Government of Bahrain continues to point to the same cosmetic reforms that have not actually impacted the conditions that led to the events of 2011 or the issues that continue preventing Bahrain from achieving actual progress,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Instead of using its significant leverage to push for the release of the country’s thousands of political prisoners, the international community, including the US and UK, has continued to laude cosmetic reforms rather than push for initiatives that could actually contribute to national reconciliation and bolster human rights.”

    Four years on, as the government continues to claim that the BICI’s recommendations are no longer relevant, it is even more critical that international allies concerned with Bahrain’s long-term stability and security, particularly the US and UK, push for reform in action. Without the Government of Bahrain’s full commitment to transparently implementing the BICI recommendations, holding security forces and government officials accountable for ongoing human rights abuses, releasing political prisoners, and engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the entire opposition, Bahrain’s persistent unrest will continue and the hope created by the BICI in 2011 may be lost.

    “The government must refocus its efforts on promoting human rights in the country if it wants to see lasting change and peace,” added Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR. “When the government respects human rights, the people will respect the government.”

     

    For the full report, click here.

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    16 November 2015 – Washington, DC - Bahrain’s Court of Cassation today rejected the final appeal of death row inmates and torture victims Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. The decision finalizes their convictions; absent a royal pardon, the government may carry out their execution at any time. Both defendants allege that they were tortured into confessing the crimes. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the final decision to execute Ramadan and Moosa and call for the government to commute their sentences, and express serious concern that the Bahraini courts have allowed the government to execute defendants that confess under duress.

    The government arrested Husain Ali Moosa in February  2014, where Moosa states that security officers subjected him to torture until he confessed to carrying out a bombing attack. According to Moosa, government agents hung him from the ceiling for three days and took turns beating him with police batons. He additionally states that they threatened to harm his relatives, on several occasions claiming that they would rape his sisters. Moosa confessed as a result of the torture, but later recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor. After he recanted, security forces tortured him further.

    Bahraini security forces arrested Mohammed Ramadan on 20 March 2014 without a warrant. During his initial detention, Ramadan alleges that security officers tortured him, violently beating him on his hands, feet, body, neck, and head. In order to stop the torture, Mohammed agreed to “confess to anything.” When Mohamed told a judge that he had been tortured into confessing, security officers tortured him further, placing him in solitary confinement and subjecting him to further beatings.

    On 29 December, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair in February 2014. They were sentenced alongside ten other defendants, nine of whom received six years’ incarceration and the last receiving life in prison. The defendants state that the court relied substantially upon the confessions obtained through torture, casting significant doubt on the veracity of their convictions.

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

    “Not only did government agents torture Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, but the prosecutor and the judge did not investigate, ” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “The criminal justice system has altogether failed these men.”

    Earlier this year, five UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture, expressed serious concerns that both Ramadan and Moosa had confessed under duress. The European Union found that Bahrain’s use of the death penalty had expanded to politically-motivated cases in an urgency resolution over the summer, and called for Bahrain to immediately ratify and implement international treaties banning the use of capital punishment.

    "For a strong ally of the United Kingdom and United States to take these actions is appalling," Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “The international community must act to demonstrate that abuse can never lead to convictions, that torture cannot be the gateway to execution.”

    Read the French version of this statement.

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    16 November 2015 – London – Bahrain’s Court of Cassation today rejected the final appeal of death row inmates and torture victims Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. The decision finalizes their convictions; absent a royal pardon, the government may carry out their execution at any time. Both defendants allege that they were tortured into confessing the crimes. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) condemn the final decision to execute Ramadan and Moosa, and express serious concern that the Bahraini courts have allowed the government to execute defendants that confess under duress. We call on King Hamad to commute their sentences.

    The government arrested Husain Ali Moosa in February  2014, where Moosa states that security officers subjected him to torture until he confessed to carrying out a bombing attack. According to Moosa, government agents hung him from the ceiling for three days and took turns beating him with police batons. He additionally states that they threatened to harm his relatives, on several occasions claiming that they would rape his sisters. Moosa confessed as a result of the torture, but later recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor. After he recanted, security forces tortured him further.

    Bahraini security forces arrested Mohammed Ramadan on 20 March 2014 without a warrant. During his initial detention, Ramadan alleges that security officers tortured him, violently beating him on his hands, feet, body, neck, and head. In order to stop the torture, Mohammed agreed to “confess to anything.” When Mohamed told a judge that he had been tortured into confessing, security officers tortured him further, placing him in solitary confinement and subjecting him to further beatings.

    On 29 December, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair in February 2014. They were sentenced alongside ten other defendants, nine of whom received six years’ incarceration and the last receiving life in prison. The defendants state that the court relied substantially upon the confessions obtained through torture, casting significant doubt on the veracity of their convictions.

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

    “Not only did government agents torture Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, but the prosecutor and the judge did not investigate. The criminal justice system has altogether failed these men.” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “The King must commute their sentences.”

    Earlier this year, five UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture, expressed serious concerns that both Ramadan and Moosa had confessed under duress. The European Union found that Bahrain’s use of the death penalty had expanded to politically-motivated cases in an urgency resolution over the summer, and called for Bahrain to immediately ratify and implement international treaties banning the use of capital punishment.

    “For a strong ally of the United Kingdom and United States to take these actions is appalling,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “The international community must act to demonstrate that abuse can never lead to convictions, that torture cannot be the gateway to execution.”

     

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    On 19 November 2015, Member of the European Parliament Mr. Pier Antonio Panzeri, together with 80 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), issued a letter to Bahrain’s King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, calling on the Bahraini government to immediately lift the travel ban and drop all charges against human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The undersigned 20 international NGOs welcome the letter and echo the call to lift Mr. Rajab’s travel ban and end the judicial harassment against him.

    Mr. Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, is currently subject to a travel ban and faces up to 10 years in prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression in Bahrain. Mr. Rajab is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.

    Mr. Rajab previously served a two-year sentence in 2012 for three cases related to his participation in peaceful gatherings in favour of fundamental freedoms and democracy. On 1 October 2014, he was arrested and detained for one month over a tweet he wrote while in Europe, and was sentenced to six months in prison on 20 January 2015 for “publicly insulting official institutions.” He was released early after a pardon was issued by the King on 13 July 2015, following heavy criticism by the international community, and an Urgency Resolution issued by the European Parliament on his case on 9 July 2015. On the day of his release, the Public Prosecution imposed a new travel ban on Mr. Rajab in relation to another criminal case, for which he had been previously arrested on 2 April 2015. He was charged with "insulting a statutory body" and “disseminating false rumours in time of war,” for which he could face up to 10 years in prison, following a series of tweets and opinion pieces he wrote in March 2015 regarding the treatment to which Jaw prisoners were subjected and Bahrain’s involvement in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

    In their letter, the MEPs highlight that the Bahraini government’s treatment of Mr. Rajab was in breach of international human rights law, as his detention violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Further, the MEPs recall the European Parliament’s Urgency Resolution of 9 July 2015 which calls for all charges against Mr. Rajab to be dropped, referring to his release as “only a ‘half measure’” as he “remains subject to a travel ban” which “greatly limits his freedoms and is a clear obstacle” to his human rights activities.

    Furthermore the MEPs call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)’s 2011 report, the UN Human Rights Council’s 2012 Universal Period Review on Bahrain, and the European Union’s repeated calls about the human rights situation in Bahrain, via the March 2012, January 2013, September 2013 and February 2014 Urgency Resolutions on the Human Rights situation on Bahrain. The signatory members of the European Parliament particularly condemn the “criminalisation of dissent and free speech” in Bahrain, and the ill-treatment and imprisonment of hundreds of human rights defenders, civil and political activists, including minors.

    The signatory NGOs support the MEPs’ call to the government of Bahrain to respect its human rights obligations. Accordingly, we call on the Bahraini government to drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and lift his travel ban, and fully implement the BICI recommendations and abide by its obligations under international human rights law.  The European Union should concretely take action to prevent human rights abuses and stop the prosecution of peaceful human rights defenders by the Bahraini authorities.

     

    The signatory NGOs:

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Amnesty International

    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

    CIVICUS

    English PEN

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    Front Line Defenders

    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    Index on Censorship

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)

    Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada

    Maharat Foundation

    PEN International

    Rafto Foundation for Human Rights

    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

     

    Read the statement in Arabic or French.

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    Bahrain authorities violate the rights of hundreds of children violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
     
    The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, Salam for Human Rights and Democracy, The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Justice Human Rights Organisation, the Pearl Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights express deep concern about the continuing violations by Bahraini authorities against hundreds of children and the violation of its commitments to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
     
    Since 2011 until today, the authorities in Bahrain have violated children's right to security by killing more than 10 children under 18, and the right to freedom by arresting more than 1500 children some of which are still in detention facing charges under the Terrorism Act. Dozens of children are denied the right of citizenship by the authorities including those whose parents were arrested because of the political situation or the children of those whose nationalities were arbitrarily revoked. Hundreds of children were denied to the right of education because of detention, especially as the schools claimed by the authorities in the juvenile prison are not specialised and do not meet children's educational needs.
     
    Mr. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, thinks that this violation of children's rights is only a reprisal against juveniles whose only crime is living in a country that does not recongnise the rights of the child, living in an area with ongoing protests or being members of a family well-known for its political activity.
     
    Mr. Youssif Rabi'a, the president of Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, has seen that children in Bahrain are exposed to the risk of ongoing violations up to losing the right to live.
     
    Mr. Hussain Barweez, the president of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, considered children's rights as high human rights that should be respected by Bahrain as long-standing democracies have been doing. No progress could be made without respecting children's rights.
     
    "Bahrain joined the UN convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and thus be fully responsible for all violations committed after its entry into force. Therefore, Bahraini authorities must stop violating children's rights and amend its laws to ensure full compliance with the international standards", said Ms. Jaleela Al-Salman, the representative of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory.
     
    Mr. Jawad Fairooz said that all these grave violations against children in Bahrain including killing with live ammunition, detention, torture, long-term sentences and denial of education are all indications to Bahrain's indifference to its local legislations and international conventions and treaties.
     
    Ahmed Al-Hujairi stressed that although twenty-six years have passed since the UN convention on the Rights of the Child has been issued and fifteen years on the two Protocols thereto, we still see dozens of children under 18 being exposed to violations which result in psychological troubles that may lead to violent acts and laws opposition.
     
    Mr. Nader Al-Salatna expressed his regret as Bahraini authorities continues to try children under 18 before court under Terrorism Act and the Bahraini Children Law 2012 which considers children under 15.
     
    Accordingly, NGO's signing this statement call Bahrain allies and international organisations to put pressure on the government for:
     
    - Immediate release of all children unconditionally.
     
    - Stopping denial of children's right to freedom and reprisals due to the political situation in the country.
     
    - ensuring children's rights in accordance with the international treaties and conventions ratified by Bahrain.
     
    - amendment of Bahraini Law to raise the child age to 18 instead of 15.
     
    Read the statement in French here. 
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    The Bahraini government last week sentenced opposition politician Majeed Milad to two years’ imprisonment for acts related to his exercise of free speech. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Rights and Democracy (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the criminal prosecution of peaceful political dissidents, and demand that the Government of Bahrain release all those currently incarcerated for their peaceful acts of free expression.

    Majeed Milad is a member of Al Wefaq, the largest political society in Bahrain, and the former president of the Capital Governorate Municipal Council. Police arrested Milad on 1 July 2015, just two days after he gave a speech in Ma’ameer in which he criticized the ruling family for “seizing the national wealth,” and making decisions “without involving the Bahraini people.” The government charged and convicted him of “inciting non-compliance with the law.”

    “The trial of Majeed Milad was a sham,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Advocacy Director of BIRD. “If due process truly existed in Bahrain, Milad would never have been arrested. He should be at the negotiating table, not in chains.”

    In addition to sentencing Milad to two years in prison, the government also postponed its trials against Sheikh Ali Salman, the imprisoned Secretary-General of Al Wefaq, and Ebrahim Sharif, the former president of Wa’ad. Sheikh Ali Salman is currently appealing a four-year sentence for inciting public disobedience and insulting the government; his next trial date is scheduled for 14 December. Ebrahim Sharif, who had his next trial date postponed to 15 December, stands accused of “inciting hatred” and “encouraging the overthrow of the regime.” Last week, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) released a decision in which it ruled that Sheikh Ali Salman’s imprisonment is arbitrary and stands in violation of international human rights law.

    “The detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, Ebrahim Sharif, and Majeed Milad only adds to the monumental number of political detainees in Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “With the majority of the opposition now behind bars, Bahrain has rejected reconciliation and reform in favor of silence.”

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