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    (Beirut, November 23, 2015) – Bahraini security forces are torturing detainees during interrogation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Institutions set up after 2011 to receive and investigate complaints lack independence and transparency.


    The 84-page report, “The Blood of People Who Don’t Cooperate: Continuing Torture and Mistreatment of Detainees in Bahrain,” concludes that security forces have continued the same abuses the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) documented in its November 2011 report. The commission was established after the fierce repression of pro-democracy demonstrators in February and March of that year. Bahraini authorities have failed to implement effectively the commission’s recommendations relating to torture, Human Rights Watch found.

    “The claims of Bahrain and its allies that authorities have ended torture in detention are simply not credible,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “All the available evidence supports the conclusion that these new institutions have not effectively tackled what the BICI report described as a ‘culture of impunity’ among security forces.” 

    The United Kingdom has taken the lead internationally in arguing that Bahrain has reformed its security forces and accountability mechanisms, as the BICI mandated, but Human Rights Watch found the operations of those mechanisms seriously flawed.

    In 2012 and again in 2013, Bahrain postponed indefinitely the scheduled visit to the country of the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.

    Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 detainees who said they endured coercive interrogations at the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and in police stations since 2012, and four former inmates of Jaw prison, who said authorities had tortured them in March 2015.  

    All said security officers had physically assaulted them. Several described being subjected to electric shocks; suspension in painful positions, including by their wrists while handcuffed; forced standing; extreme cold; and sexual abuse. Six said that the CID interrogators boasted of their reputation for inflicting pain on detainees.

    “I’ll show you why Wifaq [Bahrain’s leading opposition party] calls Bahrain the capital of torture,” a former detainee quoted an interrogator as telling him. Another said a CID officer held something to his nose and told him it was “the blood of people who don’t cooperate.”

    BICI investigators in 2011, and Human Rights Watch researchers in 2010, documented similar torture methods.

    King Hamad appointed the BICI in July 2011 in response to international criticism of the security forces’ violent and disproportionate response to largely peaceful anti-government protests that began in February 2011. The BICI concluded in its report, released on November 23, 2011, that the National Security Agency and the Interior Ministry “followed a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees in their custody.”

    The BICI’s recommendations led the government to establish three bodies since 2012 – the Office of the Ombudsman in the Interior Ministry, a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the Office of the General Prosecutor, and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC) – with a collective mandate to end torture in interrogation and detention facilities.

    Human Rights Watch found, though, that little information is available from those bodies about complaints, investigations, and prosecutions. Since Bahrain announced the institutional reforms in early 2012 there has been only one prosecution for torture and none relating to detentions associated with Bahrain’s political unrest.

    The use of the techniques detainees described to Human Rights Watch violate Bahrain’s own laws as well as its obligations as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other international treaties.

    Bahrain should issue an immediate and open invitation to the UN special rapporteur on torture to conduct a country visit and allow unfettered access to detainees and all places of detention, Human Rights Watch said. Bahrain should ensure the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and the PDRC by removing them from the Ministry of Interior and taking steps to guarantee the independence of the SIU from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, which has until now failed to establish a record of holding perpetrators of torture accountable.

    Human Rights Watch further recommended that the government set up a civilian oversight committee, including well-regarded independent experts, to scrutinize the work of the SIU and ensure its independence from the Interior Ministry and public prosecution.

    “Since the peaceful anti-government protests of 2011, which the authorities responded to with brutal and lethal force, the Bahrain government has overseen a campaign of incarceration that has decimated its pro-democracy movement,” Stork said. “Bahrain can’t claim any progress on torture while its anti-torture institutions lack independence and transparency and until it takes some serious steps to address the complete lack of accountability for the abuse of detainees.”

    During the embargo period, “The Blood of People Who Don’t Cooperate: Continuing Torture and Mistreatment of Detainees in Bahrain” is available at:
    http://hrw.org/embargo/283352/a6982d7e818ad4f8474102f30054bf55

    Upon release, it will be available at:
    http://hrw.org/node/283352

    For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Bahrain, please visit:
    http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/bahrain

    For more information, please contact:
    In London, Nicholas McGeehan (English): +44-751-395-6155 (mobile); or mcgeehn@hrw.org. Twitter: @Ncgeehan
    In London, Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or houryn@hrw.org. Twitter: @nadimhoury

    In London, David Mepham (English): +44-757-260-3995 (mobile); or mephamd@hrw.org. Twitter: @Ncgeehan

    In Washington, DC, Ahmed Benchemsi (English, French, Arabic): +1-929-343-7973 (mobile); or benchea@hrw.org. Twitter: @AhmedBenchemsi

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    25 November 2015 – Award-winning photographer Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison and had his nationality revoked, along with 12 others, after covering a series of demonstrations in early 2014. Security forces detained Al-Mousawi for over a year without trial or official charges, accused him of being a part of a terrorist cell and subjected him to torture. The undersigned NGOs condemn the government’s continued attacks on independent journalism, policy of media censorship and severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Bahrain.

    Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, a winner of 127 international photography awards, has been incarcerated since his arrest on 10 February 2014, when security forces raided his home in Duraz village. According to al-Mousawi’s father, a group of plainclothes masked policemen arrested Sayed Ahmed and his brother. The police provided no arrest warrant and confiscated al-Mousawi’s cameras and electronic devices. Al-Mousawi alleges that he was tortured during his detention and interrogation.

    Al-Mousawi’s torture follows a pattern of abuse Human Rights Watch documented in a new report released on 24 November on the ongoing use of torture in Bahraini police detention and prison. Police disappeared and tortured al-Mousawi for five days, subjecting him to severe beatings on his genitals, electrocution and hanging from a door. For the duration of his disappearance, he was stripped naked and forced to stand for long periods of time. Officers did not allow a lawyer to accompany al-Mousawi when they transferred him to the Public Prosecutor. Courts renewed al-Mousawi’s pre-trial detention six times, and he spent over a year in prison without formal charges.

    “Sayed al-Mousawi’s torture took place at a time when the UK has been increasing its spending on a ‘reform programme’ for Bahrain to bolster its institutions,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “It is becoming increasingly clear that this programme has failed. Torture is still systematic and unrelenting and the government has broken all promises of reform.”

    During his extended detention, al-Mousawi continued to win international awards for his photography. In spite of this, the government accused him of giving SIM cards to “terrorist” demonstrators and taking photos of anti-government protests. As a result, Bahrain tried al-Mousawi under Bahrain’s vague anti-terrorism legislation. A judge later accused him and his brother of membership in a terrorist cell, which al-Mousawi continues to deny.

    “Al-Mousawi’s case exposes Bahrain’s continued misapplication of its counterterrorism law to hide evidence of its human rights abuses,” said Husain Abdulla the Executive Director of ADHRB. “Taking photos of peaceful protestors is not a crime and Bahrain’s overreaction shows just how fearful the Bahraini government is of its own people.”

    Bahrain’s continued arrest of journalists and photographers, who expose human rights violations, reflects a systematic campaign by the authorities to quell freedom of expression and the press. Bahrain is ranked 163 out of 180 in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index according to Reporters Without Borders. Last year, a Bahraini court also convicted another renowned photojournalist, Ahmed al-Humaidan to 10 years in prison under similar charges. Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of more than 130 individuals since 2012.

    "Yet again the Bahraini government has wielded citizenship as a weapon of censorship against journalists," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. "We call on the Bahraini judiciary to overturn this disturbing sentence, recognize al-Mousawi's citizenship, and free him immediately."

    We, the undersigned NGOs, call for the immediate release of Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, and on Bahrain to end the criminalization of free speech and press. We also call on the UK government to suspend its spending on technical assistance to Bahrain, and on the US government to reinstate the ban on arms sales to the country, until systematic torture has been eradicated and restrictions on the enjoyment of internationally-codified human rights are lifted

    Sincerely,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

    Index on Censorship

     

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    Human Rights Organizations(Bahrain Forum for Human Rights;European Bahraini Organizations for Human Rights;Salam for Democracy and Human Rights; Justice Human Rights Organization;  Lualua Center for Human Rights ;Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights;Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Bahrain Human Rights Observatory; exprress a great  concern regarding  the support of the death penalty sentence of  two young men whom were exposed  to a brutally tortured to extract a confession of having committed the murder of a policeman in the Dar village near the Bahrain International Airport area.

    The Court of Cassation  had issued on November 16, 2015 its decision to uphold the death sentence against both: Mr. Mohamed Ramadan, and Mr. Hussein Ali Moussa, on the basis of evidence extracted under torture, and from the judicial institution that has been criticized international from human rights organizations for not implementing any radical reforms which will lead to their autonomy and an end to the  impunity policy, as well as the rest of the violations against the terms of a fair trial.

    These provisions come at a time when authorities did not allow until now the Special Rapporteur of the UN / special Rapporteur on torture, "Mr.Juan Méndez" to visit Bahrain in addition to the rapporteurs and the non-implementation of the Bassiouni recommendations, especially those related to the torture, which supports the views of activists and human rights in that power of abuse use of the judiciary as a tool to persecute dissidents and reprisals against them.

    This harsh sentence against two of the prisoners of conscience and five citizens are still waiting for the final decision to the Court of Cassation, in addition to all unfair trials held against hundreds of all citizens reflect a fundamental flaw in the judicial system in Bahrain and penalizing those who exercise their right to express opinion.

    Based on the foregoing, the organizations signing this statement calls for the following:

    - Drop the death sentences immediately
    - Release of all detainees who have been detained because of their opinions or because of the political situation in the country
    - Hold everyone and those responsible for torture.

    The undersigned organizations also called on international human rights organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain in order to immediately cease all violations and full commitment to the UN Bill of Human Rights and implementation of the above demands and begin to implement the recommendations of the Independent Fact-Finding Commission and the recommendations of the Human Rights Council.

    Read this statement in French

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    Among the thousands of Bahraini citizens who participated in peaceful protests to call for political reforms and respect for human rights, the al-Khawaja family has been at the forefront of the ongoing struggle for human rights reform in Bahrain. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Salah al-Khawaja, Zainab al-Khawaja, and Maryam al-Khawaja have taken on an active role in campaigning against the government’s violent silencing of dissent, imprisonment of political dissidents, and targeting of human rights defenders.

    This month, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) highlight four members of the al-Khawaja family who have been sentenced to prison in violation of their universal human rights, including the rights to free speech and assembly. In 2011, the Government of Bahrain arrested Abdulhadi, Salah, and Zainab for their participation in the pro-democracy protests. At the time of their arrest, Maryam was abroad conducting advocacy for the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain, and was told to remain abroad for fear of arrest if she returned.

    Abdulhadi and Salah are currently serving prison sentences for charges related to their free expression, while Zainab has been sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the monarch and is still contesting several other sentences out of prison. Maryam was sentenced to prison in absentia when she attempted to return to Bahrain to visit her ailing father, and continues to advocate for human rights in Bahrain from exile in Denmark.

    In highlighting members of the al-Khawaja family, we seek to raise awareness of the shrinking space for critical voices in Bahrain and recognize the al-Khawajas’ efforts to promote meaningful reform.

    Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is a human rights defender and one of the founders of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He played a prominent role in Bahrain’s peaceful pro-democracy protest movement that began in 2011. On 9 April 2011, Bahraini security forces arrested Abdulhadi at his daughter’s apartment. During both his arrest and detention, officials tortured Abdulhadi, who suffered psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and physical beatings.

    In June 2011, a military court sentenced Abdulhadi to life in prison for his peaceful activism, alongside 12 other leading activists and opposition leaders known as the Bahrain 13. Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s 2012 decision that Abdulhadi should be released, he remains imprisoned under the charges of organizing and managing a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the government by force, and collecting money for a terrorist group.

    In 2012, Abdulhadi started a hunger strike that lasted 110 days to protest his detention. On 7 January 2013, Bahrain’s highest appeal court upheld the sentence against Abdulhadi. He has gone on several additional hunger strikes since 2012, in August 2014 and spring 2015, to protest the ill treatment of detainees in prison. Abdulhadi suffers from several medical conditions as a result of his treatment in detention, and he has not received adequate medical treatment.

    Abdulhadi remains in prison, despite calls by international organizations and UN bodies for his release.

    Zainab al-Khawaja is the eldest daughter of Abdulhadi and a prominent blogger and active critic of the Bahraini government’s human rights violations. In December 2011, security forces arrested Zainab for her role in staging a sit-in protest. Security forces rearrested her several times afterwards for her continued activism in the pro-democracy movement. Most recently, on 4 December 2014, Bahraini courts sentenced Zainab to nearly five years in prison on charges of insulting the king (by tearing his photograph), insulting a police officer, and entering a restricted area.

    On 21 October 2015, an appeals court reduced Zainab’s sentence for insulting the king from three years to one year in prison. She remains at risk of being arrested at any time. On 17 November 2015, the courts postponed Zainab’s appeals hearing for another charge of entering a restricted area and insulting a police officer to February 2016, and she faces another appeals hearing on 3 December 2015 for her activism. She has stated that if she is imprisoned, she will fight to keep her infant son with her.

    Salah al-Khawaja, the brother of Abdulhadi, is a Bahraini political activist. In 2011, Salah attempted to document the events happening on the ground and provide information to international media outlets. On 17 March 2011, National Security Agency forces broke into Salah’s home and arrested him. Security forces physically and verbally abused Salah’s wife during the arrest and confiscated the family’s belongings. When they arrested Salah, they threw him from the roof of the house onto the street. During his detention, security forces beat and tortured Salah. The National Security Court sentenced him to five years in prison under accusations of incitement to overthrow the regime. The court never presented any evidence during Salah’s trial to convict him of this charge. Salah remains in prison serving a five-year sentence.

    Maryam al-Khawaja is the youngest daughter of Abdulhadi and the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR). After attending early pro-democracy marches in February 2011, Maryam left the country to raise awareness of Bahrain’s human rights crisis overseas. When it became apparent that she may face arrest if she returned to Bahrain, she elected to stay in self-imposed exile and continue her human rights work abroad.

    On 30 August 2014, Maryam flew to Manama to visit her ailing father Abdulhadi, who was on hunger strike at the time. Security forces arrested her upon arrival at the airport and charged her with assaulting a police officer, which she denies. In interrogations at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Maryam refused to answer questions after the government prevented her from contacting her lawyer. The courts released Maryam on bail on 18 September 2014, and on 2 October, she fled Bahrain.

    Maryam later stated that she had chosen to boycott her trial due to the judiciary’s lack of independence and the human rights violations she had suffered during interrogation. The criminal courts sentenced Maryam in absentia to one year in prison on 1 December 2014. She is at risk of imprisonment if she returns to Bahrain. Maryam continues to advocate for human rights and democratic reform from abroad. 

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    The Bahrain National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) issued its second annual report on 3 December 2015 regarding promotion and protection of human rights in Bahrain throughout 2014. While the report addresses some areas of concern, a majority of the report did not address key systematic issues of human rights abuses in the kingdom. ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD are concerned that the NIHR’s second annual report does not comprehensively reflect developments throughout 2014, and instead dilutes Bahrain’s national human rights discourse and fails to universally fulfil its mandate.

    The Government of Bahrain established the NIHR in 2009 to be an independent body tasked with monitoring human rights conditions in the country. However, the king continues to appoint the institution’s 11 members, many of whom maintain direct ties to the government. Complaints to the NIHR fell by 25 percent since 2013, evidencing not a more stable human rights situation, but a lack of public confidence in the institution to effectively discharge its duties. Further, the second annual report document’s the institution’s inability to implement last year’s recommendations, a failure it characterizes as having resulted from a recent election and a new cabinet. As a result of compromised impartiality, the institution remains unable to fulfil its mandate of directly and positively impacting the human rights situation on the ground.

    “Despite some substantive criticism and recommendations in the NIHR’s 2013 report, the government has not taken any steps toward improving the human rights situation here,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR. “For its human rights bodies and mechanisms to be credible and effective, the government must be committed to implementing positive changes to combat systematic abuse.”

    Fully half of the second annual report is dedicated to the legal provisions of the NIHR, and much of the remainder documents its activities to promote and protect human rights in Bahrain. However, the report fails to address cases of torture, unfairness of election and politically motivated human rights violations, though numerous international organizations continue to document the systematic use of torture and criminalization of free speech in Bahrain. The report additionally lacks any details concerning incidents, violating parties, how it addressed these violations, or how it resolved the 36 complaints it claims were resolved.

    ADHRB has submitted approximately 40 complaints to the NIHR since 2014. Despite repeated follow up over the last two years, the NIHR has only acknowledged one of ADHRB’s complaints. While the NIHR’s report addresses Bahrain’s legislative and legal mechanisms that purportedly prevent human rights abuses, such as human trafficking, the right to self-determination, and protection against enforced disappearance, it does not cite examples of any of the numerous human rights abuses that continue in the country. Instead, the report reiterates the NIHR’s calls for the concerned authorities to uphold Bahrain’s human rights obligations. 

    “Bahrain needs more than rhetoric to solve the gross human rights violations that continue with impunity,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The NIHR’s second report lacks any in-depth investigation into the violations that we and other human rights organizations continue to report.”

    The NIHR’s Annual Report is only the most recent example of the institution’s misleading public comments regarding the country’s human rights record. Following the release of Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) November 2015 report on torture in Bahrain, the NIHR mischaracterized HRW’s recommendation for conditional UN technical assistance programming with Bahrain. In October, the NIHR attempted to reframe the narrative of the dire human rights situation expressed by 35 states in a joint statement at the September session of the UN Human Rights Council.  

    “The NIHR continues to try to white wash the systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Unless the NIHR becomes fully independent and stops being a mouthpiece for the government, Bahraini citizens will continue to suffer the consequences.”

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    The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. Two years later, it was agreed that date should mark a moment in the calendar to remember the world of the need and the importance of human rights.

    In commemorating Human Rights Day, it is necessary to reflect on the human rights situation in Bahrain. As Human Rights Watch made clear in their November report, "The Blood of People Who Don't Cooperate", torture is still a favorite weapon used by Bahraini security forces to silence political and human rights dissidents.

    Ever since pro-democracy protests erupted in the country in February 2011, the Bahraini government has cracked down on those it deems as threats to its security and stability. In its attempts to silence peaceful opposition, the government considers every measure valid: securing confessions with torture, stripping citizenship and even imposing false charges of terrorism on those who try to exercise their freedom of speech peacefully.

    This October, the United Kingdom began constructing a new, permanent naval base in Bahrain, with significant financial support given by King Hamad’s government. The base marks the return of British forces to the area 44 years after Bahrain declared independence from Britain in 1971. Both Bahraini and British media reported it as a pinnacle moment in the relationship between the two kingdoms and the new beginnings of an even closer alliance.

    No sooner had construction began than British government officials came out to whitewash their new ally’s image . British MPs commended Bahrain’s transparency on security and human rights. British delegate and member of the Parliament Sir Alan Duncan told Bahrainis that “those who accuse Bahrain should be more informed before criticizing.” To which I ask, how much more informed do torture survivors, asylum seekers and the stateless need to be before we can criticize Bahrain?

    Global human rights organizations keep a close watch on Bahrain's record of abuse, torture and prosecution of all opposition. As the above-mentioned HRW report stated, the authorities have shown no substantive interest in stopping the sorts of abuses the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry documented in 2011. For this reason, the UK's funding and support should be suspended until it is assured that Bahrain is fully complying with the recommendations and completely embracing a human rights culture and policy: this means stopping torture, compensating victims, releasing prisoners of conscience and having a real negotiation with the political opposition societies. For Bahrainis, seeing Britain build a naval base in our country demonstrates how little our rights and lives matter to them compared to their own geopolitical and economic interests.

    On 16th November, Bahrain's Court of Cassation rejected the final appeal of two death row inmates, which means that the sentence could be carried out at any time. Both men confessed under conditions of torture to involvement in the death of a police officer.

    Hundreds of people have been stripped of their Bahraini nationality in 2015 alone. Such punishments and practices are clear violations of our rights to a fair trial, to not be tortured and to not be rendered stateless. But Bahrain keeps relying on these methods to punish government oppositors who think differently.

    The authorities in Bahrain are fully aware of the violations they are committing, and their use of state-sponsored violence is reprehensible. The same goes for all of those foreign powers who overlook moral and ethical issues in favor of strategic and commercial interests and benefits.

    What else has to happen for the international community to put pressure on Bahraini authorities to fully comply with human rights? How far does a government which clearly represses its opposition have to go before its allies take action?

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    The undersigned organisations condemn the practice of capital punishment in Bahrain and urge the Government of Bahrain to commute any and all death sentences issued by its courts.

    On 29th December 2014, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a February 2014 bomb explosion. Both defendants state that authorities tortured them into confessing to the crime. According to Moosa, authorities hung him from a ceiling for three days, beat him and on several occasions threatened to harm his relatives. Ramadan was allegedly arrested without a warrant and violently beaten on sensitive parts of his body until he agreed to confess. Both have subsequently had their sentences upheld by the Court of Cassation on 16 November 2015 despite having recanted their confessions and reiterating that they confessed under torture. Their allegations have not provoked any investigation. Ramadan and Moosa are just two of nine individuals on death row in Bahrain and are the first to be sentenced to death since 2011.

    We are concerned with Bahrain’s regression towards the practice of capital punishment. We are also concerned over reports that those individuals on death row have been denied basic rights to a fair trial, and have been reportedly subjected to severe torture during their detention and interrogation. Such practices have afflicted the Bahrain justice system since 2011, as documented by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. It is appalling that these practices have continued on a systematic and wide-scale basis despite numerous promises of reform.

    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. We both welcome and join these calls.

    As a State party to the ICCPR, Bahrain should ensure that death penalty can only be handed for most serious crimes and pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court. The ICCPR also guarantees that fair trial standards should be applied including an absolute prohibition against torture.

    We condemn the practice of capital punishment in Bahrain, and call on the government to immediately commute all death sentences. We also call on Bahrain to investigate all allegations of torture made by persons sentenced to death, and to dismiss any and all convictions made on the basis of confessions obtained under conditions of torture. Finally, we urge Bahrain to re-impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view towards abolishing the practice.

    ACAT - Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture
    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    Center for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)
    Center for Constitutional Rights (NY, US)
    Center for Prisoners' Rights (CPR)
    European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)
    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    Hands Off Cain
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    Le Centre d'Observation des Droits de l'Homme et d'Assistance Sociale (CODHAS)
    No Peace Without Justice
    Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
    Reprieve
    Sentinel HRD
    World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (alliance of more than 150 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions) 

     

    Read this statement in French.

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    Outspoken Bahraini human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati faces six months in prison if an appeals court upholds a sentence handed down one year ago for his human rights activities. The undersigned organisations call for the verdict to be overturned when his case is heard by the Court of Appeals on 22 December 2015, and call for an end to the more than three years of judicial harassment of Al-Maskati.

    Al-Maskati is the founder and former president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) who is currently a digital security consultant at Front Line Defenders. On 31 December 2014, the Lower Criminal Court in Bahrain sentenced him to six months in prison but he remained free on bail of 100 BHD until the appeal.

    On 16 October 2012, Al-Maskati was first summoned for interrogation at Al-Naem police station. He was then arrested and brought the following day before the public prosecution on charges of allegedly “rioting and participating in an illegal gathering.” The charges were in reference to a Friday protest in Manama (on 12 October 2012) entitled “Self-determination”. He was released the following day after interrogation, and brought to trial in June 2013. For more on his case, see: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/MohammedAl-Maskati

    Al-Maskati has been active in documenting and reporting violations committed by the Bahraini authorities in recent years. A few weeks before his arrest in October 2012, he had participated in side events at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. The undersigned organisations call on the UN and its member states to take action to protect Al-Maskati and all human rights defenders who participate in UN events.

    The organisations are gravely concerned that the sentencing of Mohammed Al-Maskati is part of an on-going trend of politically-motivated charges being used against human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain in an effort to stop them from carrying out their legitimate human rights work.

    Please add your voice on twitter using the hashtag #DropAlMaskatiCharges and join the call for the Bahraini authorities to end the judicial harassment of Mohammed Al-Maskati and other human rights defenders, for the sentence against him to be overturned, and to refrain from exploiting the judicial system for political purposes. 

     

    Signed,

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
    FIDH, within the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    Front Line Defenders
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Maharat Foundation
    Social Media Exchange (SMEX)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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    Since the 2011 uprising, the Government of Bahrain has introduced laws granting authorities the ability to further prosecute and suppress peaceful opposition. In the past several weeks, the Bahraini Parliament and Shura Council approved amendments to Bahrain’s anti-terrorism law, “Protecting Society from Terrorism Acts” and the Political Societies law. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) are gravely concerned by these new amendments, which could grant authorities additional powers to suppress peaceful dissent in Bahrain.

    On 1 December 2015, the Bahraini Parliament approved amendments to several articles of Bahrain's Anti-Terrorism law, which has been widely criticized by the international community for its vagueness, overreach, and failure to comply with international human rights standards. The government has thus far employed the law to restrict basic freedoms. 

    The new law gives judicial officers additional powers that exceed those of the public prosecution. Not only can detainees be held up to 28 days without charge, but they are also handed over to the Terrorist Crimes Prosecutor at the end of the detention period, who is entitled to extend the detention up to another six months. This provision allows the Bahraini authorities to imprison a person without trial for close to 7 months, thereby the right to a speedy and fair trial.  

    The law additionally extends sentencing guidelines for most crimes related to the to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Combined with the frequency with which the government engages in unfair trial and sentencing, which BCHR records as occurring often, the new law further endangers the freedom of peaceful dissenters, human rights defenders, and opposition political leaders.

    Moreover, under article 27 of the anti-terrorism law, the practice of collective punishment is legalized; security forces are fully entitled to "search individuals, stop and search vehicles, restrict the right of movement of vehicles, public transport or pedestrians, cut communications and messages sent from the scene of the crime and sites where anti-terror operations are taking place, for a period of up to 12 hours."

    Based on cases documented by BCHR, individuals arrested under the Anti-Terrorism law have reported being subjected to torture and being prevented from their rights to due process and fair trial.

    In a further attempt to restrict the work of political societies and limit the Bahraini people’s freedom of expression, on 6 December 2015, Bahrain’s Shura Council approved amendments to several articles of law 26 of 2005 concerning political societies. The new amendments prevent clerics who are members of political societies from delivering religious speeches or preaching. This restriction directly violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees in Article 19 the right to free expression for all, and in Article 26 prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. These proposed amendments are now being discussed by the lower parliament.

    On the other hand, Bahrain’s Parliament hasn’t reached an agreement on acceding on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Many members of parliament objected to this decision by trying to justify that it is in violation of Islamic Law (Sharia).

    Despite its claims to be implementing reforms, the Government of Bahrain has used its local laws to further suppress dissent, increased the powers and authority of the security forces beyond reasonable scope, and passed broad and vague laws to be used against the opposition. Through its legislative process, the Government of Bahrain is legalizing human rights abuse.

    Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD call upon the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and all other close allies to the Kingdom of Bahrain to urge Bahraini authorities to:

    • Revise anti-terrorism legislation to bring it in line with international human rights standards;
    • Uphold the rights of all persons to a fair and impartial trial and to the presumption of innocence during all court proceedings; and
    • Release all political prisoners who have been subjected to unfair trials and submit all terrorism cases to independent judicial review.

    Text of Anti-Terrorism Law Amendments

    Article 8:

    A life sentence, or a prison term of no less than 7 years, for any individual found to have trained another person or multiple persons in the manufacture or use of weapons, explosives or other similar material, or who is found to have trained another in activities used to prepare for or facilitate their use, with the aim of committing terrorist crimes. 

    Any individual who is found to have received training in the manufacture or use of weapons, explosives or other similar material, or to have received training in activities used to prepare for or facilitate their use in a terrorist crime, shall be ordered to serve a prison sentence of no less than 5 years.

    The same sentence stipulated in the foregoing paragraph will also fall on any individual who fights abroad or Commits acts of mass violence not directed against the kingdom of Bahrain, or who participates in these actions in any way.

    Article 15:

    It is an offence punishable by prison to attack any person implementing this law with force, violence or threats while he tries to carry out his duty or because of it. Any individual who unintentionally causes actual bodily harm another in this fashion shall be given a sentence of no less than 7 years in prison. The same sentence is applied to anyone who bears a weapon or who abducts or detains an official implementing this law, or who does the same to the spouse, dependent or relative of an official, up to the fourth level of relation. The sentence may not be less than 10 years in prison where an individual has intentionally caused actual bodily harm, and where an attack unintentionally or intentionally resulted in death, a life sentence must be applied. 

    Article 26:

    A new prosecution unit is hereby established, to be known as the 'Terrorist Crimes Prosecutor', whose members are appointed by royal decree based on a request by the prosecutor general. The unit is tasked with investigating crimes of terrorism as defined by the present law. The unit has the right while investigating these crimes to issue a detention order from its lawyer or the individual fulfilling that position for an individual for a period or consecutive periods totaling no more than 6 months.

    Article 27:

    The judicial officer has the right, providing that there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with one of the crimes stipulated in this law, to detain the suspect for no longer than 28 days.

    The judicial officer is obliged to give a fair hearing to the detained suspect and transfer him to the Terrorist Crimes Prosecutor at the end of the period referred to in the preceding paragraph.

    The Terrorist Crimes Prosecutor must interrogate the suspect within 3 days, and must either apply to detain the suspect for a further period or release him.

    Pursuant to this article, the national organization for human rights judged that the amount of time that the law allowed the judicial officer does not comply with the judgements of Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in addition to relevant international standards. It was decided that this amendment represented a violation of human rights as they concern the right to freedom, personal safety and a fair trial.

    Article 2 (new):

    The judgements of this law apply to all citizens and to all foreigners who commit, outside Bahrain, an act that makes him either the main author of or a partner in one of the crimes stipulated by the law.

    Article 27 (new):

    The judicial officer, should a terrorist crime occur or providing there is sufficient evidence that one might occur, has the right to do the following in the area surrounding the crime: search individuals, stop and search vehicles, restrict the right of movement of vehicles, public transport or pedestrians, cut communications and messages sent from the scene of the crime and sites where anti-terror operations are taking place, for a period of up to 12 hours. The officer may also prevent any person about whom there is strong evidence linking them to involvement in terrorist activity from entering areas or specific places for stated times or days. 

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    On Monday, Bahraini security forces arbitrarily arrested journalist Mahmood al-Jazeeri, increasing the number of journalists, photographers, bloggers and internet activists under arrest in Bahrain to more than twenty. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) expresses its grave concern over the authorities’ ongoing policy of targeting free media and journalists.

    On Monday, 28 December 2015 at approximately 1:00 A.M., security forces raided the house of journalist Al-Jazeeri’s in-laws. They proceeded to Al-Jazeeri’s nearby apartment, where they confiscated his laptop and mobile phone and arrested him. The security forces did not present a legal warrant to arrest Al-Jazeeri, nor did they inform him or his family of the cause of his arrest. Since his arrest, Al-Jazeeri was able to make one short call to his family to tell them that he was being detained at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations. Al-Jazeeri’s lawyer stated that he has not been taken to the public prosecution.

    Al-Jazeeri works as a journalist with Al-Wasat Newspaper, the only independent newspaper in the country, for which he reports on the activities of the Bahraini Parliament and Shura Council. Al-Jazeeri is well-known for his articles about political detainees and his coverage of discussions in the Shura Council and Parliament. His latest report, in which he covered one of the Shura Council’s member’s demand to remove the housing unit of those who have had their citizenship revoked by the authorities, was considered politically sensitive. The list includes human rights defenders, opposition political activists, and peaceful protesters, all of whom were convicted based on confessions extracted under torture in what BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD consider to be politically-motivated cases.

    The Bahraini authorities have detained dozens of journalists, photojournalists, and bloggers on charges related to the exercise of free expression since 2011. BCHR has reported over the last several years on escalating restrictions, and the implementation of broader and harsher laws to further crackdown on free speech and media. (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/7645)

    BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD are concerned that the arrest of Al-Jazeeri is part of the Bahraini authorities’ targeting of journalists free media. The journalist’s arrest is in direct violation of international legal standards, including the right not to be deprived arbitrarily of liberty set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 9 of the ICCPR states that “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him;” Article 17 continues by stating that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.”

     

    Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD call on Bahrain’s allies and international organizations to put pressure on the Bahraini government to do the following:

    • Respect Mahmood Al-Jazeeri’s right to due process, including by immediately informing him of the reasons for his arrest and providing him access to legal counsel;

    • Immediately end all forms of restrictions that threaten freedom of expression and opinion in Bahrain; and

    • Guarantee respect for human rights and basic freedoms according to international standards for human rights.
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    Today, 31 December 2015, Bahraini authorities summoned five prominent activists for interrogation over speeches they delivered at an event for solidarity with detained opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini government’s continued targeting of human rights defenders and political opposition leaders.

    On 26 December 2015, human rights defender Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, Al-Wefaq political society leaders Khalil Marzooq, Sayed Jameel Khadem and Sayed Mohammed al-Ghuraifi, and Wa’ad political society Secretary-General Radhi al-Mosawi delivered speeches at a public event at Al-Wefaq headquarters. The event was held in solidarity with Al-Wefaq’s detained Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Salman. Following the event, government loyalists called for the prosecution of those activists for insulting the king. On New Year’s Eve, security forces summoned the four political opposition leaders and the human rights defender for interrogation at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). According to their lawyers, Khalil Marzooq and Sayed Mohammed al-Ghuraifi were taken to the public prosecution over charges of inciting hatred against the regime.

    This is not the first time that these activists have faced harassment by Bahraini authorities. Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, who is known for his human rights work in relation to religious freedom and anti-extremism, was arrested earlier this year from the Bahrain airport. He was transported to the CID, where government agents interrogated him for hours regarding remarks in which he expressed concern over the government’s use of collective punishment. He was later accused of inciting hatred against the regime. Sayed Jameel Kadhem was arrested, detained and sentenced to months in prison over a tweet critical of the government. Similarly, Khalil Marzooq was arrested and charged with inciting hatred and incitement to overthrow the regime over a speech he delivered at an al-Wefaq meeting.

    Bahraini authorities have recently escalated their crackdown on opposition political societies. The General-Secretaries of three opposition political societies are in detention, including Sheikh Ali Salman, who is serving a sentence of four years in prison; Fadhel Abbas, who was recently sentenced to five years in prison; and Ebrahim Sherif, who was re-arrested shortly after completing a five-year prison sentence on political grounds. Over the past year, many members of opposition societies were summoned and interrogated over charges related to the exercise of free expression and opinion over social media or at public events.

    Bahraini authorities have intensified their targeting of free expression and have applied further restrictions to the work of political societies in Bahrain by either prosecuting activists and members of these societies or by passing additional restrictive laws. BCHR is concerned over this serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain, as well as the country’s total disregard for the international community's calls to implement real reform.

     

    Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD call on Bahrain’s allies and international organizations to put pressure on the Bahraini government to do the following:

    • Put a stop to all forms of restrictions that threaten freedom of expression and opinion in Bahrain; and
    • Guarantee respect for human rights and basic freedoms according to international standards for human rights.

     

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    (Beirut) – An arbitrary travel ban is preventing a prominent rights activist from leaving Bahrain. The ban against Nabeel Rajab is based on charges that violate his right to free expression. Prosecutors should immediately drop the charges and lift the travel ban. 

    Activist Nabeel Rajab has played a key role in condemning human rights abuses in Bahrain.

    Rajab’s lawyers told Human Rights Watch that because prosecutors have not formally closed the investigation into these charges, Rajab could be arrested at any time and face a criminal trial. Rajab’s lawyers have filed appeals to the travel ban with the investigating prosecutor on September 2, 2015, the attorney general on September 16, and the office of the Public Prosecution on October 1. After receiving no responses, the lawyers submitted a second appeal to the attorney general on December 3.

    “Nabeel Rajab is not at liberty to speak his mind or to leave the country,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “This travel ban against Rajab is just the latest unlawful effort by Bahrain’s government to keep a critic quiet.”

    A public prosecutor imposed the travel ban on Rajab on July 13, the day Bahrain’s King Hamad-Bin-Isa-Al-Khalifa pardoned and released him for “offending national institutions” by criticizing the government on social media. The travel ban is based on two speech-related charges that led to his arrest on April 2, which prosecutors have not dropped.

    One of the outstanding charges is for insulting a statutory body, under article 216 of Bahrain’s penal code, based on his social media comments about the alleged torture of detainees in Jaw Prison. The second accuses him of “disseminating false rumours in times of war,” under article 133, based on social media posts criticizing Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen. Violations of articles 133 and 216 carry maximum sentences of 10 and three years in prison, respectively.

    Rajab posted numerous tweets about the violence in Jaw Prison. On March 17, Rajab tweeted that he had met with a recently released inmate. The photographs accompanying the tweet “will tell you how they were treated,” he wrote. They show abrasions and contusions on the man’s back and injuries to his right arm.

    In the weeks before his arrest, Rajab also posted numerous tweets purporting to show the effect of Saudi Arabian air-strikes in Yemen. On March 26, the Interior Ministry cautioned against criticism of the government’s decision to send eight fighter jets to take part in air-strikes in Yemen as part of a Saudi Arabia-led, US-backed coalition against Houthi forces. It warned against “any attempt to exploit the situation through division or sedition, or issuance of statements against the approach Bahrain has taken.” The ministry “would take appropriate steps against individuals that put the safety and security of the country at risk,” the statement said.

    The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, issued an authoritative interpretation on the scope of the right to freedom of expression and opinion. In its General Comment 34, the committee stated that, “In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high.” It also stated that “states parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

    Article 12(3) of the covenant states that the right of any person to leave their country, provided for in article 12(2), can be restricted to protect “national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others,” or if the restriction is “consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.” Given that the charges on which the travel ban is based manifestly violate Rajab’s right to free expression under article 19 of the convention, the travel ban violates his right to free movement, and Bahraini authorities should lift it immediately, Human Rights Watch said.

    Rajab is a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa advisory committee.

    Read this report in French. 

     

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    Since Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising began in 2011, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) have documented numerous cases of government retaliation against human rights defenders and activists. Less well-known, however, are cases of retaliation against these individuals’ families and friends – those targeted simply for knowing or being related to an activist or a victim. This retaliation can take many forms, from arbitrary detention and torture to recurrent harassment. For the relatives of those killed by the authorities, the experience is one of injustice compounding injustice – an additional act of intimidation meant to discourage them from seeking accountability for the death of a loved one. January’s Champions for Justice highlights victims of government reprisal who were targeted because of their association with victims and activists.

    Ali Isa Ali al-Tajer is a manager at the Al Khunaizi Group construction company and the brother of Mohamed al-Tajer, a prominent human rights defender and lawyer who has worked with the United Nations Secretariat on the situation in Bahrain.

    On 5 November 2015, Bahraini security forces surrounded Ali’s home with more than nine vehicles. Ten masked men forcibly entered the house and arrested Ali. They failed to present a warrant or provide any reason for the raid and arrest. With the exception of two brief phone calls, officials held Ali incommunicado for 25 days.

    On 30 November, without prior warning, the public prosecution called Mohamed al-Tajer to represent his brother in court. By the time Mohamed arrived, the hearing had already begun, and Ali had not had access to any counsel. The public prosecutor claimed that Ali confessed to joining an illegal terrorist organization for the purposes of overthrowing the government. Ali maintained his innocence, telling the court that the authorities had tortured him into providing a false confession. Moreover, he stated that he had been blindfolded when he was forced to sign the document; he never knew what he was signing. The prosecutor told Ali to stop explaining his torture, stating that he would refer the allegations to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a branch of the public prosecution purportedly dedicated to pursuing cases of government abuse. 

    After the proceedings concluded, Ali told Mohamed that security officials severely tortured him while he was in detention, subjecting him to humiliation, physical beatings, and sexual assault. He also revealed that the prosecutor had threatened him prior to Mohamed’s arrival at court.

    As of 4 January 2016, Mohamed was able to see his brother twice more since the original hearing. Ali has developed several long-term injuries as a result of the torture he has suffered while in detention, including a bulged disc, a hernia, and the loss of hearing in his left ear. Authorities took Ali to a forensic medical examiner, who reportedly recommended Ali see an orthopedist and urologist. Although the forensic examiner has not released a report on Ali's examination, the Public Prosecutor stated to the court that the forensic examiner found no evidence of torture.  

    After one of his visits with Ali, Mohamed informed the SIU that clothes he took from his brother at the Criminal Investigative Directorate (CID) had bloodstains on them. The SIU summoned Mohamed for questioning, which he reported was routine in nature. The authorities continue to postpone Ali's appointments with the medical specialists, and he has since missed three appointments. This delaying tactic has been previously documented by ADHRB, BIRD, and BCHRAmnesty International and Human Rights Watch as a way for the SIU to report that an investigation has been opened to satisfy the courts.

    Mohamed describes Ali as an apolitical person and suspects that the government is prosecuting him in retaliation against Mohamed’s own human rights work. Though Ali’s family has filed a complaints on his case with the Bahrain National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), the Ministry of Interior’s Office of the Ombudsman, and the SIU, they worry that the complaint process will be a futile exercise at best. At worst, they fear that the authorities may exploit the mechanism’s lack of independence as a means for further reprisal. ADHRB, BIRD, and BCHR have found that several victims have been targeted for additional torture in retaliation for filing complaints with the Ombudsman, for example. If the government is actively targeting Ali as a reprisal against Mohamed, he and his family may be at risk of further abuse simply for submitting a complaint.

    Abdulhadi Mushaima is the father of Ali Mushaima, a 21-year-old Bahraini citizen who was shot and killed by security forces on 14 February 2011. Ali was the first demonstrator to be killed during the pro-democracy protests that began in 2011.

    Since the death of his son, Abdulhadi has faced repeated harassment by the authorities. On 22 August 2013, security forces raided his home without warrant or permission. They arrested Abdulhadi without providing any reasons and held him in custody for a week before his eventual release on 29 August.

    Almost a year later, on 9 May 2014, Abdulhadi received a summons to appear at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on 12 May. When Abdulhadi arrived, the authorities ordered him to refrain from participating in any demonstrations, specifically those calling for government accountability for Ali’s death. The officials demanded that Abdulhadi sign a pledge stating that he would never take part in any marches or demonstrations again.

    Makky Abu Taki is the manager of a real estate company and the father of Mahmoud Abu Taki, a 22-year-old student who was shot and killed by Bahraini authorities on 17 February 2011 when security forces stormed the Pearl Roundabout.

    Like Abdulhadi Mushaima, Makky experienced persistent government harassment after the loss of his son. On 26 November 2013, security officials summoned Makky to the Al-Naim police station and arrested him. The next day, authorities took him to the Public Prosecutor’s office for interrogation. When the prosecutor finished with his questions, he charged Makky with unlawful assembly and inciting hatred against the government, ordering his detention at Dry Dock (Al-Howdh Al-Jaaf) Prison pending further investigation.

    While in custody, security officials severely mistreated Makky. In a phone call to his family, Makky said that prison guards regularly beat and humiliated him. Makky’s family reportsthat the Dry Dock administration infringed on their visitation rights, consistently preventing them from seeing Makky without providing any justification. The government held Makky for nearly a year, until 9 January 2014, when he was released.

    Four months after his release, Makky received the same summons as Abdulhadi Mushaima, requiring him to appear at the CID office on 12 May. There, he faced the same harassment: the authorities told him that he could no longer participate in any marches or protests – particularly those related to his son’s killing or the current political situation – and forced him to sign a corresponding pledge. 

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned about the Bahraini authorities continued harassment of human rights defenders and its policy of restricting their right to free expression. Human rights defender Sheikh Maytham al-Salman was again summoned for interrogation over a speech he delivered in a public event last month.

    On 31 December 2015, the Bahraini authorities handed Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, and others, a summons to be present at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) later on the same day. At the CID, al-Salman was interrogated about his participation in an event a few days earlier on the anniversary of Sheikh Ali Salman’s arrest, during which he delivered a speech. He was later released, only to be summoned again by the public prosecution on 6 January 2016. At the public prosecution, the interrogation focused on the content of the speech he delivered on 27 December during the aforementioned event, which the prosecution claimed to have incited hatred against the regime and incited people to disobey the law. Not only that, he was questioned about his activism, including his international human rights ties, relationships and activities, as well as his views on some controversial issues. At the end of the interrogation, the prosecution accused him of “expressing views regarding a case still at court" and "inciting hatred against the regime."

    The speech over which Sheikh al-Salman was charged aimed to bring into focus the deceptions about international standards for fair trials Bahraini authorities have committed in the trial of Sheikh Ali Salman, whom he considered to be a prisoner of conscience. (Find the full text of the speech at the end of this statement.) This is not the first time Sheikh al-Salman has been summoned and interrogated by the authorities for similar reasons related to his work and his right to free speech.

    It is important to point out that Sheikh al-Salman is an international spokesperson and a human rights defender, particularly on topics related to freedom of religions, anti-extremism, anti-violence and strengthening positive relations between cultures and religions. He has taken part in a number of human rights conferences, as well as meetings with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

    The BCHR believes that the Bahraini authorities’ actions are an indication of its increasingly harsh policies aimed at further harassing human rights defenders in order to silence them, in addition to its continued implementation of further restrictions both in law and practice on the right to free expression. Moreover, human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain have been ongoing targets of the authorities who have attempted countless times to silence them, stop their work and oppress their right to freedom of expression, including BCHR President Nabeel Rajab, activist Zainab al-Khawaja, and human rights defender Naji Fateel, to mention but a few.

    Accordingly, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Drop all charges pending on Sheikh Maytham al-Salman for exercising his freedom of speech
    • Release all prisoners who have been convicted for their political opinions; and
    • Fully comply with the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendations and international laws.

    Sheikh Maytham al-Salman’s speech of 27 December 2015:

    "The joint letter sent to the authorities in Bahrain by the Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Consciousness, the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers clearly revealed that United Nations experts consider the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman as a direct response by the authority to his public expression of political views.

    The international consensus on the invalidity of the trial of Sheikh Ali Salman and its breach of the tenth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that: 'Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him', is clear and not in doubt by international experts, legal scholars and international human rights organizations.

    There is a consensus that the trial is a retaliation against Sheikh Ali Salman for expressing his political views publicly. Those views clearly call for the improvement of the political system in the country, so that the people become true decision makers in the political process. Sheikh Ali Salman has constantly called for activating the first article of the constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain which states that 'the system of government in the Kingdom of Bahrain is democratic; sovereignty being in the hands of the people, the source of all powers'.

    In order to conduct a fair trial the following principle has to be applied: 'a crime or penalty can only be determined by law'. Is there anything in law that criminalizes someone who calls for activating the first article of the constitution - which says 'the people are the source of all powers'? Is there a legal provision that criminalizes the call for democracy and developing the political system to address the social and economic challenges the country is facing?

    Does it make Sheikh Ali Salman a criminal to call for the implementation of the UN Periodic Review and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry [BICI] recommendations? There is no single provision in law that criminalizes Sheikh Ali Salman for his pro-democratic views and calls to end human rights violations and implement the international human rights commitments on Bahrain.

    Sheikh Ali Salman's trial does not comply with the principle of 'a crime or penalty can only be determined by law', and therefore, it is not a fair trial in accordance with international standards.

    Sheikh Ali Salman's arrest is another proof that authorities have not implemented the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations. The report, in paragraphs 1279 and 1281, stated that some Criminal Code Articles are used to punish the opposition and violate the right of freedom of expression contrary to Bahrain's international commitments. The report found that these articles are being used to ban and suppress freedom of expression regarding the country's governance structures and system or even the call to develop them.

    The report has clearly recommended abolishing all the sentences against the opposition members who peacefully expressed their political views, because that clearly contradicts article 19 of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.

    Sheikh Ali Salman’s imprisonment as well as Ibrahim Sherif's trial reveal the unwillingness of the government in implementing Professor Bassiouni's recommendations as head of the BICI commission.

    If you are serious and eager to implement the BICI recommendations invite Professor Bassiouni to officially visit Bahrain again in order to verify the implementation of his own recommendations.

    One year has passed and Sheikh Ali Salman still calls on the authority, from his prison cell, to engage in a serious, meaningful dialogue process which could achieve political, social and economic stability. The government must utilize these calls. Continuously ignoring them does not serve Bahrain. If the government continues to refuse to open doors for dialogue, the international community will clearly understand that the authorities are responsible for the continuance of the political crisis and the ongoing human rights violations. It is also important to point out that any future dialogue should include the imprisoned leaders who have constantly called for dialogue as the only means to resolve social and political disputes in the country."

     

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    8 January 2016 — Bahraini and international NGOs strongly condemn the repeated use of the death penalty by Bahraini authorities and call for the government to commute the death and life sentences.

    On 31 December 2015, Bahrain’s Fourth Criminal Court sentenced a man to death and 22 others to life imprisonment, bringing the total number of persons on death row in the country to ten. The government additionally revoked the nationalities of all the defendants, raising the number of denaturalizations in the country to over 200 in 2015 alone. On the same day, death row inmate Salman Isa’s first appeal was rejected.

    The criminal court sentenced 12 of the 23 defendants in absentia, including Hussein Abdullah Khalil Ebrahim, 27, who was sentenced to death. The court found him and defendant Ahmed Isa Abdulhussein Hussein guilty of forming a terrorist organization, recruiting agents, engaging in rioting and planting explosives to disturb the peace and targeting police officers, and killing a police officer in 2014 with the aim of the violent overthrow of the regime. However, only Hussein Ebrahim was sentenced to death.

    Eleven of the defendants, including two juveniles aged 16 and 17, were arrested in December 2014 in connection with the death of a police officer killed in an explosion in Demistan village on 8 December 2014. Police subjected most of the arrested defendants to enforced disappearance for over ten days and denied them access to their lawyers during interrogation. The defendants have reported that government agents tortured them during their disappearances.  The court found all 23 defendants guilty of terrorism and killing a police officer. Two defendants were additionally fined 200,000 Bahraini Dinars (USD $530,000).

    Mohsen Ebrahim Hasan al-Majed is one of defendants who was subjected to severe torture following his overnight arrest on 14 December 2014. Following his arrest, the government transferred al-Majed to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) for interrogation. While there, officers physically beat al-Majed, focusing on his head and genitals, and subjected him to electrocution. Al-Majed told his family that officers beat him with a wooden plank with nails. Officers insulted his faith and subjected him to sexual assault. After three days of sustained torture, al-Majed confessed to the charges. Despite this, he continued to receive beatings. Police then transferred al-Majed to the Public Prosecution, who threatened physical violence if he recanted. Al-Majed was sentenced to life and fined BD 200,000.

    Bahrain has seen a rise in the use of the death penalty and denaturalization in 2015. Bahraini courts passed seven new death sentences last year. On the same day Hussein Ebrahim received the death sentence, the First High Appeals Court rejected the case of Salman Isa Ali, who in April 2015 the Fourth Criminal Court sentenced to death in a bombing case.

    In November 2015, the Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s highest court of appeal, rejected the appeal of death row inmates Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa. Ramadan and Moosa are the first people since 2010 to have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal, and stand at risk of imminent execution. Human rights activists on the ground fear that this risk has heightened following Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others inflamed tensions last week.

    Meanwhile, an independent Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) investigation found that the government had stripped the citizenship of 208 persons in 2015 after amendments in the law empowered courts to denaturalise defendants found guilty of terrorism charges. The majority of such individuals were subjected to unfair trials, tortured, and left stateless.

    The documented unfair trials, use of torture and death sentences Bahrain has carried out may be in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain acceded to in 2006, in particular article 6, which protects the right to life; article 7, which protects the right to not be tortured; and article 14, which protects the right to a fair trial. Bahrain may also have breached article 15.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to a nationality.”

    We the undersigned organizations strongly condemn the use of the death penalty in Bahrain, especially in light of the unfair trials and use of torture which many death row inmates have been subjected to. In light of this, we call on the Government of Bahrain:

    •  To commute all death sentences.
    • To establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition.
    • To investigate and prosecute all acts of torture, mistreatment, enforced disappearance.
    •  Establish procedures to ensure the fairness of all criminal trials and appeals.

    Signed:

    • Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT)
    • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    • Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
    • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    • European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    • Redress
    • Reprieve

    Get pdf file here.

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    For its last event of the Fall semester, on December 3rd, the AGS Middle East Society hosted a talk on the Human Rights Situation in the Gulf Region, highlighting Bahrain as one of the countries that participated in the Arab Spring in 2011.

    The guest speakers were three human rights activists from Bahrain: Hussein Jawed, Chairman of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, Said Yousif, Vice-president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and his fellow activist Mohamed Sultan.

    Below is an excerpt from the recount that they shared during the event. This quote reflects the perspective of its author. The American Graduate School in Paris respects freedom of expression and diversity of opinions (see AGS mission).

    “Bahrain was influenced by the Arab Spring in 2011. Many of the people protested to demand true democracy and human rights. They were confronted with excessive force and violence by the government institutions, which received the support of Saudi Arabia. Over 140 people were killed either under torture during police custody, or by tear gas suffocation or extra-judicial killings. Amongst them were kids. Thousands were arrested and still linger behind prison bars, some of them serving harsh sentences of death penalty or life imprisonment. All human rights defenders in Bahrain are now either in jail or forced into exile, like myself. (…) Bahrain is a State Party of the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which establishes the right of everyone to freedom of association and participation in the conduct of public affairs, allowing for only very narrow restrictions ‘necessary in a democratic society’ to protect national security and the rights and freedoms of others. However, these recommendations were never implemented by Bahrain in a responsible manner. (…) Bahrain authorities have to act in a responsible manner by respecting and guaranteeing human rights in every aspect.”

    The AGS middle East Society is a platform for information and discussion about Middle Eastern politics, culture, and current issues. It was started as a student initiative in Fall 2015, with the support of AGS faculty members. Activities include regular guest talks, screenings or debates and are open to students, faculty and the wider public. More information at info@ags.edu.

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    NGOs from the around the world call for the immediate release of prisoner of conscience Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace on his 300th day of hunger strike. Dr. al-Singace began his hunger strike in March 2015 as a response to police subjecting inmates at the Central Jau Prison to collective punishment, humiliation and torture.

    Since 21 March 2015, Dr. al-Singace has foregone food and subsisted on water and IV fluid injections for sustenance. Days later, Jau prison authorities transferred him to the Qalaa hospital, where he is still being kept in a form of solitary confinement. 


    Dr. al-Singace’s family, who visited him on 7 January, state that the prison administration is controlling his treatment at Qalaa hospital, and has for five months continuously, denied his need for a physical checkup by his hematologist at Salmaniya Medical Complex.

    According to Dr. al-Singace’s family, he is not allowed to walk outside. He remains isolated in the Qalaa hospital, and is provided only irregular contact with his family. He is frequently denied basic hygienic items including soap, and is not allowed to interact with other patients in the hospital.

    Dr. al-Singace is a member of the Bahrain 13, a group of thirteen peaceful political activists and human rights defenders, including Ebrahim Sharif and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, sentenced to prison terms for their peaceful role in Bahrain’s Arab Spring protests in 2011.

    Dr. al-Singace was first arrested in August 2010 at Bahrain airport. He had just returned from a conference at the British House of Lords regarding human rights in Bahrain. Security forces detained Dr. al-Singace for six months, during which he was tortured, and released him in February 2011 during the height of protests. However, Dr. al-Singace was rearrested on 17 March 2011, after his participation in peaceful pro-democracy protests. In detention, officers blindfolded, handcuffed, and beat Dr. al-Singace in the head with their fists and batons. Officers threatened him and his family with reprisals.

    On 22 June 2011, a military court sentenced Dr. al-Singace to life for attempted overthrow of the regime. Since then, he has been imprisoned in the Central Jau Prison, and has only recently received treatment for a nose injury sustained during torture. He has been denied treatment for a similar ear injury also sustained during torture since his incarceration.

    In 2015, Dr. al-Singace was awarded the Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award by the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and was named one of Index on Censorship’s 100 “free expression heroes” in 2016. He has long campaigned for an end to torture and political reform, writing on these and other subjects on his blog, Al-Faseela, which remains banned by Bahraini Internet Service Providers. Bahrain has become a dangerous place for those who speak out, with peaceful dissidents at risk of arbitrary arrests, systematic torture and unfair trial.

    We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the government of Bahrain to immediately secure the release of Dr. al-Singace and all prisoners of conscience, and to provide all appropriate and necessary medical treatment for Dr. al-Singace. 

     

    Signatories:

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    ARTICLE 19

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

    Croatian PEN

    Danish PEN

    English PEN

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Ghanaian PEN

    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    Icelandic PEN

    Index on Censorship

    Italian PEN

    Norwegian PEN

    PEN America

    PEN Bangladesh

    PEN Bolivia

    PEN Canada

    PEN Català

    PEN Center Argentina

    PEN Center USA

    PEN Centre of German Speaking Writers Abroad

    PEN Eritrea in Exile

    PEN Flander

    PEN Germany

    PEN International

    PEN Netherlands

    PEN New Zealand

    PEN Québéc

    PEN Romania

    PEN South Africa

    PEN Suisse Romand

    Peruvian PEN

    Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF)

    San Miguel PEN

    Scholars at Risk

    Scottish PEN

    Serbian PEN

    Trieste PEN

    Wales PEN Cymru

    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Zambian PEN

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses serious concern about the Armenian authorities’ arrest of activist Fadhel Radhi Abbas to have him extradited to Bahraini authorities over politically motivated charges, which could put Fadhel at a high risk of being tortured by the Bahraini authorities.

    In 2013, the authorities arbitrarily arrested Fadhel Radhi Abbas, 25, from his workplace. He was then transported to the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where he was kept in custody for a day, during which, security forces reportedly subjected him to torture. They beat him and forced him to stand for long hours. Bahraini public prosecution charged Fadhel with illegal assembly, vandalism of public vehicles, deliberately setting fire to a public property for terrorist purposes and setting an explosion for terrorist purposes. Fadhel was not allowed legal representation during the interrogation. After a few months, Fadhel was released and he and his brother Ahmed fled the country three weeks before the sentence was issued. In 2014, a Bahraini court sentenced Fadhel to seven years in prison, which based conviction of crimes on the defendant’s confessions extracted under torture.

    On 2 January 2016, Fadhel and a friend travelled to Armenia, planning to go to Germany from there in order to apply for political asylum. However, Fadhel was arrested before leaving Armenian territory as a result of an international warrant issued by the INTERPOL based on a request from the Bahraini authorities. Following his detention, Fadhel is now under custody of the Armenian authorities awaiting an extradition to Bahrain.

    Before his arrest, Fadhel had also gone on a trip to Thailand with other friends. On this trip, Thai authorities arrested Fadhel’s friend Ali Haroun, a Bahraini political activist Ali Haroun, and extradited him to Bahrain, following an arrest warrant that had been issued against him. Ali was violently detained and he was allegedly subjected to torture at the hands of the Bahraini authorities at Jau Central Prison. It is feared that Fadhel will face a similar treatment as his friend Ali Haroun in case he is extradited to Bahrain.

    Bahrain has a proven history of abusing and torturing detainees with the acquiescence of the authorities, as Human Rights Watch warned on their November 2015 report. The BCHR urgently appeals to the international community and the Armenian authorities to release Bahraini activist Fadhel Abbas Radhi.

     

    Based on the above, BCHR issues the following requests:

    To the Government of Armenia:

    -Not to comply with Bahrain’s requests to extradite Fadhel Radhi Abbas, without making sure there is a clear criminal case against him that came about through an impartial and independent judiciary that possesses capabilities to administer fair trials;

    To the Government of Bahrain:

    -Vacate the original convictions of Fadhel Radhi Abbas and Ahmed Abbas and properly re-conduct their criminal trial by excluding all information obtained by the commission of acts of torture, including any and all confessions found to be coerced;

    -Impartially investigate all credible allegations of torture in the country, with the goal of vacating all sentences of those convicted on the basis of coerced confessions.

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    His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa,

    King of Bahrain

    Fax: +973 176 64 587

    CC.  His Excellency Lieutenant General Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa 

    Minister of Interior

    Email: info@interior.gov.bh

    His Excellency Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa

    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Fax: 00973 17 21 05 75; ofd@mofa.gov.bh

    And Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva

    Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50; Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

     

    21 January 2016 

    Your Majesty, 

    We, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Bahraini authorities to lift the arbitrary travel ban on human rights defender Nabeel Rajab in order that he be able to travel abroad with his family for the purpose of securing medical assistance for his wife, Sumaya Rajab.

    Nabeel Rajab is President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights and on the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division.

    A public prosecutor imposed the travel ban on Nabeel Rajab without any judicial determination on July 13 2015, the day that Your Majesty pardoned him and ordered his release following his conviction for “publicly insulting official institutions” by criticizing the government on social media. The travel ban is related to two other speech-related charges that led to his arrest on April 2 2015, charges which prosecutors have not dropped.

    The first outstanding charge is for allegedly “insulting a statutory body”, under article 216 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, based on his social media comments about the alleged torture of detainees in Jaw Prison in March 2015. The second accuses him of “disseminating false rumours in times of war,” under article 133 of the Penal Code, based on social media posts criticizing Saudi Arabia-led coalition air strikes in Yemen. Violations of articles 133 and 216 carry maximum sentences of 10 and three years in prison, respectively. Neither of the alleged acts upon which these charges are based were in any way recognisable criminal offences under international human rights law, and both involved the peaceful exercise of internationally protected rights to freedom of expression and to promote and protect human rights.

    In November 2015, Sumaya Rajab was diagnosed with medical conditions requiring urgent and highly specialized treatment according to the medical expert team monitoring her condition. She was told that this treatment is not available in Bahrain.

    In December 2015, Nabeel Rajab’s lawyers submitted their fourth appeal against the travel ban – they have submitted two requests to the attorney general, one request to the investigating prosecutor and one request to the Public Prosecution Office - requesting that it be lifted so he could accompany his wife. The Bahraini authorities have not responded to these appeals and the travel ban remains in place.

    In November 2015, 81 Members of the European Parliament called on Your Majesty to lift Nabeel Rajab’s travel ban. The European Parliament passed a resolution in July 2015, shortly prior to Nabeel Rajab’s pardon, calling for his immediate and unconditional release alongside other prisoners of conscience. The same month, 44 members of the UK Parliament called on the government of Bahrain to drop Nabeel Rajab’s current charges and to release all political prisoners and those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression. After his release, three UN human rights experts – Michael Forst, David Kaye, and Maina Kiai – called for Nabeel Rajab’s charges to be dropped. This followed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, call for the release of all those detained in relation to their peaceful activities in Bahrain in June.

    We, the undersigned, therefore call on the Bahraini authorities to:

    • Drop all pending free speech-related charges against Nabeel Rajab;
    • Lift the travel ban immediately and unconditionally, thus allowing Nabeel and Sumaya Rajab to travel; and
    • Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

     

    Signatories:

    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)

    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

    CIVICUS

    English PEN

    European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Freedom House

    Front Line Defenders

    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    Human Rights Watch

    Index on Censorship

    International Media Support (IMS)

    International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)

    Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada (LWRC)

    Maharat Foundation

    No Peace Without Justice

    PEN International

    Physicians for Human Rights

    Rafto Foundation for Human Rights

    Salam for Democracy and Human Rights

    SENTINEL Human Rights Defenders

    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

     

    Read the French version here.

     

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    On Monday, 25 January 2016, Bahrain’s public prosecutor announced that a court had sentenced 57 men to additional 15-year jail terms for their alleged involvement in the Jau Prison riots last March. The prosecutor accused the men of having “unleashed acts of chaos, riots and rebellion inside (prison) buildings,” and officially charged them with a variety of offenses, including “damaging public property, attacking police, arson and resisting authorities.” According to prisoners since released from Jau, the riots were in response to the prison’s substantial overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions. Mounting evidence suggests that Bahraini authorities responded to the riots by engaging in collective punishment, subjecting the prisoners to severe, en masse human rights abuses before, during, and after the riots. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the European Center for Rights and Democracy (ECDHR), and Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO) condemn the sentencing of the 57 persons as a miscarriage of justice, and call on the Government of Bahrain to hold accountable any person responsible for acts of collective punishment and human rights violations.

    As documented by ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD in Inside Jau: Government Brutality in Bahrain’s Central Prison, “physical torture, prevention of medical care, and massive overcrowding remain a systemic failure of Bahrain’s prison system.” In response to the riot in March 2015 specifically, prison officials and security personnel employed excessive force to suppress the unrest, beating inmates indiscriminately and firing tear gas into confined spaces. Though reports suggest that only a minority of prisoners took part in any unruly behavior, the authorities punished them all collectively – and long after the government had re-established control of the facility. Now, the government has sentenced 57 people to lengthy prison terms amidst allegations of abuse, torture, and due process violations, not only calling into question the veracity of the convictions but also whether any security officials will be held accountable for the abuse.

    “What happened at Jau was a tragedy on all sides,” said Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of ADHRB. “While we never support violence in any case, we are very concerned that today’s convictions resulted from the collective use of torture and abuse and seems to be a means of intimidation to prevent any future protests in the prisons.”

    The Bahraini government’s response to Jau has been a cause of significant concern in the international community, particularly at the United Nations. In June, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated it was “concerned about the harsh treatment of detainees in Jau Prison…” following the riot, and called on the Government to “conduct impartial, speedy, and effective investigations and to ensure that any victims of torture or ill-treatment have access to appropriate remedies.” In September, the Special Procedures of the United Nations communicated concerns regarding “Bahraini security forces using rubber bullets, tear gas, and shotgun pellets, which led to the injuries of at least 500 prisoners.”

    “Although the UN called for speedy investigations into the Bahraini government’s assault on Jau’s prison population, thus far the government has yet to hold any security personnel accountable,” said Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdhah, Vice President of BCHR. “The government must conduct an investigation into what happened at Jau, and punish those responsible for human rights violations.”

    Five years after the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) called on the government to prevent torture and hold perpetrators accountable, the court’s decision to sentence 57 Jau inmates to additional, lengthy prison terms demonstrates the authorities’ continued unwillingness to reform. Mohammed al-Tajer, an attorney for the accused and the brother of Ali al-Tajer, who is currently arbitrarily detained in Bahrain,argued that the government ultimately disregarded the evidence of human rights violations at Jau: “We raised a complaint that our clients were beaten during the unrest in Jau prison, but the court sentenced them at the end of the day, ignoring these complaints.”

    “It’s been four years now since the BICI called for the Bahraini government to hold torturers accountable,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Instead of jailing the torturers, however, the government continues to only punish the tortured.”

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