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    The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their grave concern over the lack of justice in Bahrain. Bahraini citizens, including human rights defenders and journalist, have been victims of the judicial system where trials do not meet the international standards and follow the due process. Human rights defenders, Naji Fateel, and Nazeeha Saeed, are just two examples of the unfair judicial system, which is used to create false charges against human rights defenders and activists.

    Naji Fateel, a board member of the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society (BYHRS), was arrested on 2 May 2013 from his home in Bani Jamra and held incommunicado for 3 days before being transferred to the Dry Dock prison. The Public Prosecution Office ordered his detention for 45 days. On 23 May 2013, Naji was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment for “illegal assembly”. On 12 June 2013, Bahrain national television aired names and photos of Bahraini citizens it claimed that they are behind the set up of the so-called “Coalition of 14 February”, Naji was one them.

    Naji Fateel faces the alleged charged of “establishing a terrorist group for the purpose of disturbing public security, disabling constitution and law, preventing public institution and authorities from performing their duties, attacking public and personal rights, and harming national unity”, under the internationally condemned 'Terrorism Law'. In his first court hearing, which was held on 11 July 2013, Naji talked publicly about the torture he was subjected to and took his shirt off to show the torture marks on his back. However, instead of  taking immediate action and carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the allegations of torture, the judge did not allow the defendants to complete their testimonies and refused to take note of their allegations. (For more information please see:  http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6227).

    On 26 July 2013, the second hearing of the trial was held, and yet in another violation to his legal rights, Naji Fteel was not brought to court, which is believed to be due to his public allegations that he had been tortured during his interrogation and detention. BCHR’s head of documentation, Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafadha, has attended the trial on behalf of BCHR and GCHR. He stated that “the investigation with Naji Fateel and others involved in the case was not about the “Coalition of 14 February”, rather about their participation in protests, the Pearl roundabout, and other activities.” He added that “the court took an illegal decision when postponed the hearing to 5 September 2013 in order to call the witnesses, although the lawyers did not request that.” He concluded by saying “it is clear that this court is violating the international standards for fair trials as they want to continue this 'mockery of justice' without the lawyers and defendants.”

    The lawyers in the “Coalition of 14 February” of which Naji is one of the defendants, have submitted a letter to the court explaining the reasons why the judge Ali Khalifa Al-Dhahrani should step down. The letter stated that the defendants are accused of aiming to “prevent the public institution and authorities from performing their duties” and no doubt the House of Representatives is one of these institutions which is headed by Khalifa Al-Dharani, the father of judge Ali Al-Dhahrani who is heading the court which deals with this case. This, in addition to the fact that the House of Representative and its members have publicly stated their pro-government positions in relation to the case which may influence the court, thus a conflict of interest is present here, according to article 221 of the code of criminal procedure law. The letter was submitted on 25 July 2013, however, the lawyers did not receive any response as yet. (For more information please see: http://www.alwasatnews.com/3975/news/read/795879/1.html).

    The second case is that of human rights defender and journalist, Nazeeha Saeed, Bahrain correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, who was subjected to torture in Riffa police station at the hand of security personnel in 2011. Describing her torture Nazeeha stated that “she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession.” (For more information please see: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5598).

    It is worth mentioning that Nazeeha managed to obtain three independent medical reports which confirmed that she was indeed subjected to torture, two of these reports were issued by doctors working for the Ministry of the Interior. Despite all the evidence in her case and the fact that she was able to identify 5 of her alleged torturers, only one of them, policewoman Sarah Al-Moosa , was taken to court by the Public Prosecution Office.

    On 22 October 2012 a Manama Court had acquitted Sarah Al-Moosa of the charges on the basis that the evidence presented by Nazeeha Saeed was ‘contradictory’ and ‘not consistent’ with the forensic report. The policewoman walked free, although the above mentioned medical reports, have corroborated her accounts of torture she suffered while in police custody.

    On 23 June 2013, a Court of Appeal in Manama upheld the acquittal of policewoman Sarah Al-Moosa on charges of torturing and mistreating Nazeeha. The Public Prosecution Office has had 30 days, as per the law, to take the case to the Cassation Court, but decided not to do so.

     

    The GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and leading human rights organizations to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    1- Guarantee the legal rights and due process of the prisoners of conscious and victims of tortures;

    2. Immediately release human rights defender Naji Fateel as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;

    3. Initiate an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture of Nazeeha Saeed, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

    4- Stop the on-going daily human rights violations as well as the escalated attacks against human rights defenders;

    5- 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;

     

     

    The GCHR and BCHR remind the Bahraini government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels  (b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups” and Article 12 (2) “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jureadverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

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    The National Assembly: a Tool of Repression Used by the Government of Bahrain Against Citizens

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the ongoing and escalating harassment campaign by the Government of Bahrain against the right of the opposition and individuals to express their opinion and to claim their right to self-determination. Even more concerning is the use of the National Assembly, which is supposed to be representative of the people, in demanding the activation of laws which violate the basic rights of citizens in Bahrain.

    On Sunday July 28th, 2013 a special session for the National Assembly was held at the request of the president of the House of Representatives, Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Dhahrani, which was supported by the National Assembly members– which consists of members of the Shura (Higher) Council and Representatives- to hold an special session to discuss toughening punishments in Law No. 58 of 2006 with respect to protection of the community from terrorist acts. In response to the request, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, granted them permission to hold the session.

    It is important to note here that there was a debate that holding the special session of the National Assembly was not consistent with the constitution of Bahrain in essence. Lawyer Abdulla AlShamlawi stated in an article that the special session of the National Assembly was not constitutional, and added "The constitutional provision which authorized the call for a session talked about the role of each of the Shoura (Higher) Council and Representatives separately, and there is no constitutional provision which authorizes the invitation for the National Assembly with its two chambers." Link to the full article: http://bh-mirror.no-ip.org/news/10418.html

     In Bahrain, the elected parliament, which does not hold legislative or monitoring powers, holds 40 seats. The Higher Council, which also consists of 40 seats, is completely assigned by the King.

    The special session, which lasted over three hours, made several recommendations which were issued in what seemed to be an already prepared statement and which was agreed upon and released within 20 minutes of the decision making process. The recommendations included explicit calls for a further crackdown on political activities and the right to freedom of expression, as it has recommended to prevent all marches and sit-ins and gatherings in the capitol Manama in a direct violation of the right to peaceful assembly in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,". Bahraini authorities have persistently attempted to prevent protests and gathering in the capitol, suppressing demonstrations by use of excessive force.

    The assembly also recommended activating the legal procedures against those who use social media "illegally" as mentioned in the statement, and the punishment of anyone who uses these sites "to promote false information to third parties," which represents a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek information and ideas, receive and impart any media and regardless of frontiers." This comes after an extensive campaign to target those who use the internet as a means of free expression or to criticize the government; several people are in prison today for tweeting (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5595). Calling for a harsher crackdown will be used to further target activists who are using social media to expose the widespread ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain and to express their views and opinions.

    To add to that, the recommendations included giving further abilities to the executive authorities and the security apparatus; including the unconstitutional legislation to impose a state of National Safety (state of emergency). The assembly waived its role in legislation giving the executive authorities the right to pass any decrees and laws to toughen punishments under the internationally criticized terrorism law, to implement the made recommendations, and other procedures for the maintenance of security which alerts that more repressive laws will be passed.

    The full recommendations were as follows:

    1. Issuance of Decree Laws during parliament's summer recess in order to toughen penalties in the terrorism law and, if necessary, to implement such recommendations, in order to face any event requiring expediting the adoption of measures that brooks no delay, and needs swift actions to protect national security and stability, in line with Article 38 of the Kingdom’s Constitution.
    2. Revoking the citizenship of those who carry out terrorist crimes and those who instigate terrorism.
    3. Inflicting tough penalties on those who incite all forms of violence and terrorism.
    4. Inflicting severe punishment on all kinds and forms of violence and terror crimes.
    5. Drying up all sources of terrorist financing.
    6. Banning sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama.
    7. Taking all necessary measures, including the declaration of the State of National Safety, to impose civil security and peace whenever the law is violated, the security of citizens is compromised and/or if private and public property is under threat.
    8. Taking legal actions against political societies which incite and support acts of violence and terrorism.
    9. Amending Law 58 of 2006 with respect to protection of the community against terrorist acts so as to inflict punishment on those who instigate and support terrorism.
    10. Granting the security bodies all required and appropriate powers to protect society from terror incidents and prevent them from spreading.
    11. Requesting that all ambassadors to Bahrain to not interfere in the kingdom’s domestic affairs, in line with international laws and regulations.
    12. Toughening penalties on those who involve children and exploit them in acts of terrorism and vandalism of private or public facilities.
    13. Total commitment to applying all punitive laws related to combating violence and terrorism.
    14. Adherence to a balanced moderate discourse in order to preserve the social fabric of the Bahraini society.
    15. Direct relevant state bodies to activate the necessary legal action against those who use social networks in an illegal way, and toughening penalties against those who use those networks to disseminate false information to foreign actors which plot against the country’s security and stability.
    16. Basic liberties, particularly freedom of opinion, should be affected so as to strike a balance between law enforcement and human rights protection.
    17. Examination of the educational and pedagogical policies of the kingdom and to review and change educational curricular in a way that protects society from violence and terrorist actions and improves the behavior of students.
    18. Using the media to shed light on the dangers of terrorism and its negative impacts on national stability and economy.
    19. Backing the loyal efforts of HM the King to encourage national dialogue and push it forward, as serious national dialogue is the best means to resolve all issues and maintain national cohesion.
    20. To not include those involved in terrorist acts in royal pardons.
    21. Devising an integrated national security strategy in order to be able to face all developments and supporting the efforts of those in charge of it and ensuring their protection.
    22. Launching programs to rehabilitate youths who were exploited in various crimes.

    These recommendations were raised to ruler of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who quickly issued a statement calling for the speedy implementation of the recommendations that emerged from the special National Assembly session. The Crown Prince and the Prime Minister both publicly endorsed the recommendations and called for their implementation.

    The legislators did not make any effort or reference either at this meeting or earlier to address the fundamental problems within the Terrorism Law which has been criticized internationally because of egregious violations of fundamental human rights which according to UN experts:

    “ - the definition of terrorism is overly broad since there is no requirement of specific aim to commit a terrorist act and some acts are deemed to be “terrorist” without the intention of causing death or serious bodily injury – thus this definition goes against several human rights instruments;

    - Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly would allow the criminalization of peaceful demonstrations by civil society;

    - excessive limitations are being placed on freedom of speech due to the use of broad and vague terms regarding the offence of incitement to terrorism since there is not a clear threshold for criminalization established;

    - rights to due process would be denied because of the excessive powers of the Public Prosecutor regarding detention without judicial review.”

    In addition, the law empowers the courts to impose the death penalty and fails to provide essential procedural safeguards for people facing a possible death sentence. 

    The Terrorism Act was used since its release as a tool against political activists, human rights defenders, as well as to suppress peaceful protest movements, which began to escalate in recent years and which calls for civil rights, democracy and the right to self-determination. Despite of the clarifications issued by the authorities that the bill, which was issued ​​by the government to the House of Representatives, is to reduce terrorism coming from abroad, but it has become apparent that after the adoption of the law this has not been the purpose. In April 2013 two children received 10 years imprisonment sentences on charges of allegedly participating in burning an armored after their trial under the Terrorism Act. The BCHR documented that their confessions were taken under duress (Read: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5701). The BCHR has also documented that the evidence used against those charged under the terrorism law was almost, if not always, confessions extracted under torture.

    The participants of the special session considered the approval of the ruler of the country to hold this extraordinary session as a response to the desire of the people's will, while it is noteworthy that the current parliament witnessed in February 2011 the withdrawal of 18 deputies belonging to the Wefaq parliamentary bloc, representing 60% of citizens (according to the polls). This was a permanent withdrawal in protest of the government’s violent and unjustified use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings in an attempt to end peaceful protests staged by at certain points more than 50% of the citizens of Bahrain at the Pearl roundabout. The members of parliament who withdrew were later replaced through a supplementary election which was boycotted by the opposition.

    It is ironic that the meeting included calls to law enforcement regarding sanctions for inciting violence, especially actions that targets igniting a sectarian crisis in Bahrain as they claimed, while the extraordinary session included insults and lobbying against the Shia community. One of the representatives referred to Shia’s as "dogs", and some participants demanded in the session to take strict security measures against Shia opposition leaders in a clear retaliation for their peaceful public work.

     

    Video: One of the representatives referred to Shia’s as "dogs" in his speech

    Two of the representatives – Ali AlAsfoor, Khaled Abdulaal - withdrew from the session in protest of took place during the discussions. Before the withdrawal, Khalid Abdulaal gave a speech about the grave and widespread human rights violations that are ongoing, and referred to how the Prime Minister was correct in saying that the ruling family and their security agencies are above the law.

    The Ministry of Interior (MoI) claimed through its account on the social media website Twitter its intention to develop deterrent laws in addition to the social, educational and awareness efforts to stop violence, yet at the same time MOI personnel continue to commit repeated violations including but not limited to hundreds of house raids and arbitrary arrests in just the past couple of weeks. This is in addition to carrying out collective punishment in the form of shooting excessive teargas in residential areas and the use of the pellet shotgun (both of which have resulted in extrajudicial killings) to prevent peaceful gatherings in areas which witness protests on a daily basis.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) regards the approval of the country's ruler Hamad bin Isa to hold the extraordinary session of the National Assembly as a green light to all state agencies to further escalate the crackdown against the opposition and those who continue to protest for rights and self-determination.

    Mariam AlKhawaja – the Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights- commented:

    “At a time when the authorities continuously talk about empty promises of reform, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate. Today’s special session was not about introducing new punishments; these measures have been put in practice previously. It was about presenting these measures under a new title and face. The authorities have been attempting to create fear since the announcement of planned protests on August 14th under the Tamarod campaign; and this appears to be a part of it. The further deterioration to the human rights situation is directly linked to the international impunity the Bahraini authorities enjoy; and the lack of real pressure from their allies, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, to put an end to the ongoing widespread violations.”

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the following:

    • An immediate end to the targeting of the opposition and restriction of peaceful political activities.
    • The immediate cancellation of the recommendations of the special session of the Assembly, an end to the ongoing human rights violations, and the initiation of real reforms.
    • An end to the culture of impunity practiced at the highest levels of government, and accountability for those who have committed, ordered, or allowed human rights violations to occur; especially those in high positions.    
    • To revoke the Terrorism Law, drop all trumped up charges against those tried under this law.
    • An immediate end to the political trials under the Terrorism Law which do not constitute the basic conditions of a fair trial because of the conflict in the terrorism laws and penalties with international standards of a fair trial, and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain.
    • Reparations and compensation for all victims of torture; as well as rehabilitation.
    • Accountability for those who incite sectarianism and violence against certain sects, including members of the ruling family.

     

     

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    Hassan Mshaima’, one of the 13 jailed prominent Bahraini opposition activists, told his family that he has been denied urgent medical treatment. He is a prisoner of conscience.

    Hassan Mshaima’, a diabetic and former cancer patient, phoned his family from Jaw prison and complained to them that he had had a severe pain in his right ear and a smelly discharge from it for more than a week but that the prison authorities had denied him specialized treatment outside prison because he refuses to wear the prison uniform.

    Hassan Mshaima’, aged 65, suffers from multiple health conditions and needs regular hospital check-ups. In February the prison doctor said he needed an examination by a specialist in a hospital and would probably need surgery. The prison authorities have been refusing to take him to a hospital unless he wears the prison uniform. In 2011 he was punched and kicked, including on his right ear, by police officers in a military court during the trial of the 13 prisoners of conscience. He had an operation on the ear in 2012.

    Until about two weeks ago all 13 opposition activists had been refusing to wear the prison uniform, saying it is only worn by criminals and to wear the uniform would be to admit criminality. Since mid-March they had been denied family visits: every time families went to the prison they were told they could not visit because the prisoners were “refusing prison instructions”. About two weeks ago, 11 out of the 13 started to wear the prison uniform reportedly under pressure from their families. Hassan Mshaima’ and Dr ‘Abdel-Jalil al-Singace still refuse to wear it.

    The High Criminal Court of Appeal in the capital, Manama, issued its verdict on 4 September 2012, upholding the 13 defendants’ sentences of between five years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”. The Court of Cassation upheld the sentences on 7 January 2013. See “Additional Information” for a list of all 13 prisoners’ names.

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

    Urging the authorities to provide Hassan Mshaima’ with medical care for his right ear and access to regular check-ups in specialized hospitals;

    Urging them to release all 13 opposition activists immediately and unconditionally, since they are prisoners of conscience, convicted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 09 SEPTEMBER 2013 TO:

    King

    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

    Office of His Majesty the King

    P.O. Box 555

    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying)

    Salutation: Your Majesty

     

    Minister of Interior

    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Interior

    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1723 2661

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    Salutation: Your Excellency

     

    And copies to:

    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1753 1284

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

     

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

     

    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the twelfth update of UA 139/11. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/019/2013/en

     

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    An Amnesty International delegation visited Jaw prison on 24 January and met Hassan Mshaima’. He complained about the medical treatment he was receiving, which he said was inadequate. Hassan Mshaima’, who fears that his cancer may have returned, has not been given any test results, though he insisted on receiving them. He said, "It is harassment as when I go to hospital for the treatment that lasts up to six hours, my face is covered and I cannot see the doctor or the medical staff." For further information see the report “Freedom has a price”: Two years after Bahrain’s uprising(http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/005/2013/en).

    Fourteen prominent opposition activists were arrested between 17 March and 9 April 2011. Most were arrested in the middle of the night by groups of security officers who raided their houses and took them to an unknown location, where they were held incommunicado for weeks. Many of the 14 have alleged they were tortured during their first few days of detention when they were being interrogated by officers from the National Security Agency (NSA). None of the 14 was allowed to see their lawyers during NSA interrogations just after they were arrested. Some saw their lawyers during questioning by the military prosecutor ahead of the trial, while others were only allowed to see them during the first court hearing in May 2011, which was the first time any of the activists had seen their families since their arrest.

    On 22 June, Bahrain's National Safety Court, a military court, announced its verdict and sentenced them to between two years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”. Seven of the 14 activists were sentenced to life imprisonment: Hassan Mshaima’, ‘Abdelwahab Hussain, ‘Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr ‘Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad and Sa’eed Mirza al-Nuri. Four people, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, Mohammad ‘Ali Ridha Isma’il, Abdullah al-Mahroos and ‘Abdul-Hadi ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Mukhodher, were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Two people, Ebrahim Sharif and Salah ‘Abdullah Hubail al-Khawaja, brother of ‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, were given five-year prison terms while Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh received a prison sentence of two years.

    On 28 September 2011, in a session that lasted only a few minutes, the National Safety Court of Appeal, a military appeal court, upheld all the convictions and sentences imposed on the 14 opposition activists. On 30 April 2012, the Court of Cassation in Manama ordered them to appear before a civilian court for an appeal trial; on the same day it reduced Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh's two-year sentence to six months. He was immediately released as he had already served his sentence. However, the other 13 remained behind bars in Jaw prison. Their appeal before a civilian court of appeal started on 22 May 2012.

    On 14 July 2012 the Appeal Court ordered the press not to report any information relating to the case of the 13 opposition activists and stated that its future hearings into the case would take place behind closed doors. The final verdict on the case was due to be announced on 14 August 2012 but the session was further postponed until 4 September. Dr Ghanim Alnajjar, an internationally recognized human rights expert who observed the court proceedings on behalf of Amnesty International, said, “The decision to postpone the final verdict is unjustified, and is tantamount to a denial of justice.” Amnesty International sent Ahmad Nashmi al-Dhaferi, a Kuwaiti lawyer, to observe the court hearing on 4 September 2012. For more information on this case and others see the report Flawed Reforms: Bahrain fails to achieve Justice for protesters(http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/014/2012/en).

    Names: Hassan Mshaima’, ‘Abdelwahab Hussain, ‘Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr ‘Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad, Sa’eed Mirza al-Nuri, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, Mohammad ‘Ali Ridha Isma’il, Abdullah al-Mahroos, ‘Abdul-Hadi ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Mukhodher, Ebrahim Sharif, Salah ‘Abdullah Hubail al-Khawaja

    Gender m/f: All male

    Further information on UA: 139/11 Index: MDE 11/025/2013 Issue Date: 29 July 2013

    http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/025/2013/en

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    LONDON, July 28, 2013 – Bahrain Press Association ("BPA"), the London-based association concerned with defending and addressing issues related to Bahraini media and press people, is condemning the outputs of the Bahraini National Assembly, composed of the lower and upper houses that convened for the first time since inception. In an extraordinary session held jointly by both houses, the Assembly, upon a call by King Hamad Bin Salman Al Khalifa to convene in an extraordinary fashion to discuss the toughening of penalties pertaining to terrorism acts committed against the community although the session is believed to have essential constitutional suspicions.

    The BPA-after thorough follow-up on the session deliberations, its final concluding statement, and its recommendations- is expressing its disappointment with most of the members' speeches and the recommendations that were full of instigating backed by an open authorization to the security forces to commit atrocious cruelty and threaten the 'citizenship' rights of the Bahrainis calling for the political reforms. Such speeches and recommendations pave the way for an open-ended war that would eliminate the freedom of expression, if any, and the freedom of conscience under no-stand judgments and unacceptable reasons.    

    The BPA conceders the outputs of the session a national disaster bringing back the scene Bahrain went through while the State of National Safety was on in March 2011. At the time, many crimes and violations were reported and documented that claimed the lives of 120 Bahrainis and the imprisonment and torture against thousands of other Bahrainis.

    The BPA stresses that the recommendations are an open authorization to the country's king, the executive authorities, and security forces to issue decree laws and amend certain laws that would impose and iron fist on civil liberties and press freedoms and would ban demonstrations from being called for in the capital city of Manama. The outputs would also impose the state of national safety 'martial laws', would lead to the arrest of some leaders and political activists, and to deprive them of their nationality in clear violation to the law on the allegations to protect the community. Undoubtedly, this violates the international law and the international conventions of which Bahrain is a signatory with a commitment to implement the bylaws contained therein with the focus on the universal human rights.

    The BPA is doubtful about the preamble of the undertaking vowed by the Bahraini authorities to abide by the human rights commitments. The Bahraini authorities, with the testimony of the international community and human rights organizations, still turn a blind eye to the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry "BICI" along with the recommendations made by the Human Rights Council of the UN.

    The BPA Chair, Mr. Adel Marzooq, said "The National Assembly's statement – and its recommendations – is a black dot in the history of the legislative authorities with its two houses. It also gives a green light to the fierce security fist practiced by the Bahraini authorities. Furthermore, it is a dangerous escalation paving the way to new violations which the country may witness as per this 'rejected' authorization when it comes to the international law and all other humane considerations."

    Mr. Marzooq also stressed that "Such recommendations allow the Bahraini authorities to enact many suppressing policies and laws on the freedom of opinion and the freedom of the press. It also flings to the wall all previous undertakings made by the regime and violates the universal human right to citizenship." 

    Therefore, the BPA is calling upon the international community – especially the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom – to very quickly move to stop imposing such recommendations and to oblige the Bahraini regime to satisfy its international undertakings and commitments and to initiate a real and meaningful political solution capable of lifting the country from its long-standing crisis. 

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned over the ongoing arbitrary arrests of citizens in Bahrain regardless of their health condition, and especially in regards to the reckless driving of the policemen which has caused in the most recent case to the death of a detained mentally challenged Bahraini while being transferred by a military vehicle from a police station to an unknown place.  

    Picture of the accident published by the Ministry of Interior

    Hussain Mansoor Abdulla Kadhem, 33 years old and mentally challenged, was killed yesterday, Monday July 29th, 2013 due to the injuries caused from an accident that occurred because of a police officer’s reckless driving. According to the family, Hussain Kadhem went the morning of that day to Isa Town Police Station to report that his mobile telephone was stolen when police informed him that there is a case against him at the Samaheej Police Station; where he was then transferred. The case referred to was Hussain Kadhem had been charged with “misuse of his mobile phone” and was sentenced in absentia to one month imprisonment and a bail of 500 BHD to halt the execution of the sentence which he did not pay.

     

    Medical report of Hussain Kadhem

    Kadhem’s brother went to the Samaheej police station where he presented the police with medical documentation of Kadhem’s mental condition; and was able to see him. The police told the brother that that they will notify him after they receive the decision of the officer in charge. In the evening, on the same day, news has spread about Hussain’s death due to a police vehicle accident while being transferred to an unknown place. The Ministry of Interior (MoI) published a statement about the death of a “passenger” and the injury of two policemen following the deterioration of a police vehicle that belongs to the Ministry of Interior. According to the MoI statement, the accident occurred around 6:30 pm while the vehicle was driving on Al Fateh road heading to Muharraq area. The MoI stated that because of the roadwork construction, the lack of care and attention of the driver, and because he was driving over the speed limit, the driver was surprised when he saw the warning signs on the road when he swerved to attempt to avoid hitting them and hit the pavement instead, leading to the deterioration of the vehicle. Link to the full statement: http://www.policemc.gov.bh/en/news_details.aspx?type=1&articleId=19326

    Following the news, the brother contacted the Samaheej Police Station again and they informed him to go to Salmaniya Hospital to Kadhem. When the brother went to the hospital at first, they denied his presence, but later he was able to see his dead body at the morgue of the hospital. The police only allowed him to see the head injury but not to inspect the rest of the body. The family put out a public statement that they hold the authorities fully responsibility for the death of their son, and that they have filed a complaint against the Ministry of Interior, and demands a credible investigation into the whole incident. They also demanded that there be an investigation into whether or not their son had been subjected to any kind of ill-treatment and/or torture while being held at the police station. This is due to the fact that there have been numerous credible complaints in the past about the torture and ill-treatment prisoners get subjected to at the Samaheej Police Station.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the reckless driving of the police officer is a result of the culture of impunity that allows officers to freely act outside the boundaries of the law. An example is the case of Ali AlBadah, a 16-year-old who died after he was run-over by a police vehicle during a protest in the Juffair area in 2011; to this day, no one has been held accountable for his death. Numerous videos continue to emerge online showing police officers driving over the speed limit on an almost daily basis. The BCHR fears that continuing to allow police officers to freely breach the driving laws, without being held accountable, will lead to further deaths, injuries, and accidents which will affect the lives of innocent civilians. The government has sent a clear message following the political uprising in Bahrain in February 2011, police officers have been increasingly violating the driving laws and endangering their lives and the lives of others even when driving in normal conditions as if they are above the law. The Prime Minister supported such reckless behavior when he thanked a police officer who was recently acquitted on torture charges (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6219).

    In the following video link, the police officer is clearly speeding and acting irresponsibly while driving:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dz6avykjgJQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

     

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the following:

    • Conduct an impartial, credible and transparent investigation into the incident, from the moment of his detention to the causes of the accident, and hold all the perpetrators accountable.
    • Enforce the law and introduce tougher disciplinary procedures and laws to lower the accidents caused due to the policemen reckless driving.
    • Put an end to the ongoing arbitrary arrests of the citizens in Bahrain.
    • The intervention of the international community and the United Nations bodies to prevent the Authority from continuing to further fasten and exploit the culture of impunity, which will lead to more innocent victims.

     

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    Gulf News-

    Manama: Three Asian workers died on Tuesday morning in Bahrain, apparently after succumbing to methane gas poisoning, the interior ministry said.

    One of the men fainted as he was working on pipes inside a nine-metre hole in Nabih Al Saleh, in the suburbs of the capital Manama, prompting his colleagues to go down to try to rescue him.

    However, they too succumbed to the poisonous gas, the ministry said on its Twitter account.

    Unprotected exposure to the colourless and odourless gas formed by the decomposition of animal and vegetable matter can be fatal.

    In May last year, a Bahraini national and two Asian workers died after inhaling toxic gas.

    The three men were working in a septic tank in West Al Eker, a village south of Manama.

    The first victim died when he went down a septic tank and inhaled the deadly gas. His colleagues died after they rushed to rescue him, but were exposed to methane.

    “We urge all contractors to take the highest levels of precautions to ensure the safety of all workers,” the ministry said. “Workers should be made well aware of the poisonous gas and of the risks associated with it. The law and the relevant regulations are very clear on these procedures and we urge full compliance.”

    http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/3-asian-workers-die-from-exposure-to-methane-in-bahrain-1.1214953

    Find more news on Migrant workers in Bahrain

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    For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques. Nothing could demonstrate the urgency of this situation more than the recentrevelations confirming the mass surveillance of innocent individuals around the world.

    To move toward that goal, today we’re pleased to announce the formal launch of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The principles articulate what international human rights law – which binds every country across the globe – require of governments in the digital age. They speak to a growing global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and needs to be restrained. They also give benchmarks that people around the world can use to evaluate and push for changes in their own legal systems.

    The product of over a year of consultation among civil society, privacy and technology experts (read here, here, here and here), the principles have already been co-signed by over hundred organisations from around the world, including Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The process was led by Privacy International, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    The release of the principles comes on the heels of a landmarkreport from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which details the widespread use of state surveillance of communications, stating that such surveillance severely undermines citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, freely express themselves and enjoy their other fundamental human rights. And recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nivay Pillay, emphasised the importance of applying human right standards and democratic safeguards to surveillance and law enforcement activities.

    “While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programmes, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Pillay said.

    The principles, summarised below, can be found in full at necessaryandproportionate.org. Over the next year and beyond, groups around the world will be using them to advocate for changes in how present laws are interpreted and how new laws are crafted.

    We encourage privacy advocates, rights organisations, scholars from legal and academic communities, and other members of civil society to support the principles by adding their signature.

    To sign, please send an email to rights@eff.org, or visit

    https://www.necessaryandproportionate.org/about

     

    Summary of the 13 principles

    Legality: Any limitation on the right to privacy must be prescribed by law.

    Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society.

    Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and demonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.

    Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfill the specific legitimate aim identified.

    Proportionality: Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to users’ rights and to other competing interests.

    Competent judicial authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.

    Due process: States must respect and guarantee individuals' human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public.

    User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation.

    Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers.

    Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.

    Integrity of communications and systems: States should not compel service providers, or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capabilities into their systems, or to collect or retain information.

    Safeguards for international cooperation: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one State could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of

    protection for users should apply.

    Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public and private actors.

     

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    TechWeek - 30 July 2013

    Politically speaking, little has changed in Bahrain, especially when compared to its Middle Eastern neighbours where the Arab Spring brought governments to their knees. Whilst opponents of the Bahrain regime are still very much active, their efforts have brought limited disruption to the rule of the al-Khalifa family.

    But for activists in the country, certain things have changed in the last year. For one, they are now being targeted by cruder, but possibly more effective attacks over the Internet. Having been hit by plenty of malware in the past, many are now being targeted by IP trackers, says Bill Marczak, a security expert doing research for Bahrain Watch and Citizen Lab whilst working on his PhD studies at UC Berkeley.

    He is currently working on an investigation into IP tracking, and a full report will be delivered later this year. According to Marczak, sites like IPlogger.org are being used, letting the attacker add IP tracking capability to a link. When that seemingly legitimate URL is clicked by the target, their IP address is sent to whoever created that link. Meanwhile, the victim has no idea what has just happened.

    It appears the attackers are masquerading as contacts of Bahraini activists, sending them links to get hold of their IP address, Marczak claimed. He has heard that government officials then visit the relevant ISP, hand over the address and the time of the click, and demand the identity of the IP owner.

    Twitter the tool to target activists

    Twitter is proving a useful attack platform for a number of reasons. First, it’s easy to create a fake account and send links to people. Second, as has been highlighted by recent events, account hijacking is not too tricky to carry out. Third, it’s easy to impersonate people on Twitter.

    One handy quirk for those looking to play copycat is that Twitter’s lower case L’s and capital I’s are rendered exactly the same. So to pretend to be anyone with either of those characters is simple and effective. “We have seen cases where accounts look almost exactly like the legitimate people,” Marczak claims.

    Sometimes, the accounts of arrested Bahrainis are being used, Marczak says. “I’m not sure how they get their passwords – maybe they confiscate their devices and then get them from there,” he adds.

    “People who have clicked on these links have suffered various types of consequences ranging from having their houses raided and being charged for saying insulting things about the king on Twitter, or losing their jobs.

    “It looks like, from our investigation so far, in one case, the government did lock up the wrong person. His only crime was running the Internet connection on which the link was clicked.

    “Once things like Facebook and Twitter get a significant following from activists, the government will use it to attack them.”

    He did not want to reveal the names of those involved, to protect their identity.

    The Bahrain government has taken a hard-line on anti-government protesters, who are planning a major demonstration on 14 August. The movement against the monarchy has at times been brutally repressed, most notably Bloody Thursday, when three protesters died following a raid on their encampments in Manama.

    Politicians now want to ban any kind of protest in the capital, and to crackdown on “misuse” of social media”, whilst the government has said anyone taking part in the August gatherings will face the ”force of the law”.

    The government of Bahrain told TechWeek it was “committed to safeguarding the privacy of its people”.

    “We value free speech and this is enshrined in our Constitution. There are established channels for addressing allegations of breach of privacy online or otherwise,” a spokesperson said.

    “But the anonymous allegations as presented are too general and vague to permit any sort of investigation and response: there is no date, time, or any sort of identification as to who the perpetrator may be, and further what particular sites and ISP are being referred to in the allegation.”

    This IP tracking threat shouldn’t affect those who are savvy about security, those using VPNs or the Tor Browser to hide their IP. But for anti-government activists, or anyone whom the regime dislikes, without adequate protection, IP tracking could cause much grief.

    “This demonstrates a disturbing trend, one where repressive regimes are increasingly becoming more technologically sophisticated in how they target those who oppose them,” Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, tells TechWeek.

    “Bahrain particularly has been at the forefront of this, using FinFisher and Trovicor [both intelligence gathering software that some have compared to malware], and now this method of IP tracking, to identify, arrest and mistreat those to challenge their authority.”

    Read more on http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/cyber-repression-attack-of-the-fake-activists-123239

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned in regards to the Bahraini authorities’ actions to legalize human rights violations and crackdown on activists and protesters in anticipation of “Bahrain Tamarod” on August 14th. The government has already rapidly escalated attacks on activists, protesters and whole villages on a daily basis in the form of around-the-clock house raids, dozens of arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment of detainees, politically motivated convictions and tough prison sentences.

    Bahraini authorities have taken swift and concerning steps to legalize its violations of human rights abuses and brutal crackdown on activists and protesters. On Sunday 28 July, 2013, the National Assembly held a special session during which many repressive recommendations were agreed upon to restrict freedoms of expression and assembly and issued in just 20 minutes of the ending of the session. This gave the impression that they had been previously prepared. Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa as head of the ruling family, readily accepted all recommendations and called for them to be promptly implemented (read more here http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6263).

    In less than 72 hours since the recommendations were made, actions were taken by the authorities to put these recommendations that call for a harsher crackdown on protesters into action.

    On Wednesday 31 July, 2013, two royal decrees were issued to amend laws on the Protection of Society against Acts of Terror and Charity Fundraising regulations, in accordance to the national assembly’s recommendations. The amendments on laws of protection from terror acts have provisioned harsher punishment of up to 15 years’ imprisonment, the death penalty or life, or revocation of citizenship according to the Terrorism Law.  The amended laws stated that article 10 to be changed to:  “the punishment of not less than 10 years shall be provisioned to whomever carries out a bombing or attempts to carry out a bombing for terrorism purposes” and “the punishment of execution or life imprisonment if the bombing/ explosion resulted in a death or injury. Imprisonment shall be the punishment of whoever puts or carries in public or private places for the same reason prototypes or models that look like or resemble explosives or firecrackers.”

    In addition, Article (24) repeated was amended to  “Repeating: In addition to the penalty prescribed of citizenship revocation of the defendants in the crimes stated in articles (5) to (9), (12) and (17) of this law” For the full text of these articles please check https://www.unodc.org/tldb/showDocument.do?documentUid=8520

    Terrorism has been the go-to accusation of the authorities in Bahrain, the most recent case is of “the February 14 cell” where 50 defendants were accused of terrorism, their photos and names broadcasted on national television before they were taken to. This of course is in violation of Bahrain’s own laws, namely Article 246 which prohibits publishing a person’s picture before the final verdict and without the authorization of the public prosecution. (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6227). With these new amendments, human rights defender Naji Fateel is now facing the possible revocation of his citizenship in case of conviction for “establishing a terrorist group for the purpose of disturbing public security”. This is the same situation for the other defendants in the same case who are accused with the same charge or with joining the group, which fall under articles 6 and 9 of the anti-terrorism law.  These articles are also widely used against activists, and have been also used against the political opposition leaders and activists in the case of Bahrain 13, though it is not clear yet if the new amendments will be applied to their case as well. (More on http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5405)

     

    Article 6

    Life imprisonment shall be the penalty for everyone who forms, establishes, organizes or operates, contrary to the provisions of the law, a society, association, organization, group, gang or a branch of any of the above or undertakes the leadership or command thereof for the purpose of calling for obstructing the enforcement of the provisions of the Construction or the laws or preventing any of the government organizations or public authorities from carrying out their activities or infringes upon the citizens personal freedom or other freedoms or public rights secured by the Constitution, the law or undermines national unity if terrorism is one of the methods used in the realization or implementation of the purposes called for by the society, association, organization, group or gang or any of their branches.

    Imprisonment for a period of no less than 10 years shall be inflicted upon any person who supplies them with weapons, ammunition, explosives, supplies, machinery or information or provides them with premises, accommodation or facilities to cover up, shelter or boarding facilities or conceals or damages items, properties or weapons that may have been used or intended for use in their activities or produced therefrom while being aware of what they call for and their methods in the realization or implementation thereof.

    A prison sentence for a period of no less than 5 years shall be inflicted upon anyone who joins any such societies, associations, organizations, groups or any of their branches or participants in their activities in any manner while being aware of their terrorist objectives.

    Article 9

    A prison sentence shall be the penalty for each one who runs an organization, society, institution or association established according to the law and exploits his management thereof to advocate the commission of any of the crimes provided for in this Law.

     

    The new amendment removes the maximum of the 5 year prison sentence under article 17 for “everyone who incites another to commit a crime for the implementation of a terrorist objective even though his acts shall be of no effect.” It is important to note here that the law does not define what inciting is or put boundaries to it; therefore it is vague and can be manipulated.

    While the second decree amendment updated the 1956 law of charity fundraising regulations which stated in article (30) that “the public prosecution office may give the order to view and obtain any data or information of accounts, deposits, or safes with banks or other {entities} to reveal the truth of crimes stated in this law.” The amendment also stated that all fundraising activities, except those carried out by governmental bodies, have to be authorized through permits requested from the concerned ministry at least two months prior to fundraising, “the request should include the way, period, place and purpose of the fundraising”.

    On a related note, the State Minister for Communication Affairs, Fawaz bin Mohammed AlKhalifa, ordered the immediate implementation of the recommendations related to communication mediums, especially that in respect of the “misuse” of social networks. The Ministry launched a hotline and email for the public to report “any websites or accounts inciting violence and terror acts” allegedly to safeguard national unity and civil peace. However, in the absence of a precise definition of “inciting”, it appears that the Ministry is merely calling for another ‘name and shame’ campaign similar to the one started in 2011 which targeted pro-democracy activists. Observers described this act as“a sanctioned witch hunt”. In the previous campaign, only activists, political dissidents and protesters were targeted for exercising freedom of expression over social networks and more than 106 months of imprisonment were collectively delivered against 12 online users since June 2012. This includes BCHR president, Nabeel Rajab, who is serving prison time for tweeting, five others who were sentenced to 1 year in prison for insulting the king on twitter[1], Jaffar AlDemistani who was abducted and detained for a few weeks for tweeting about the torture his father was subjected to[2], Mohammed Hassan a blogger whose house was raided and was arrested just recently and many other online users who are either detained or facing charges. On the other hand, there are accounts that have inciting violence since 2011 against pro-democracy people, which was documented in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report (set up and paid for by the king), however, no actions were taken against them until this day. This measure is believed to be an attempt to escalate the attack on freedom of expression over social media in an attempt to further silence people.

    The unelected prime minister of 43 years, Khalifa Bin Salman AlKhalifa, hailed the national assembly and confirmed that the government has to rapidly start the implementation of the recommendations and added that “Anyone in government who cannot achieve these recommendations {to become} reality, we will tell him thank you, as there are many of the youth of this county who are aspiring to this[3].

    Maryam Al-Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, commented:

    “With the authorities going to such lengths to escalate the crackdown prior to the Tamarod protests on August 14th, we call on all relevant human rights NGO’s, institutions and allies of the Government of Bahrain to step up the pressure to stop the ongoing and further anticipated crackdown. We also call for allowing international observers to enter Bahrain during that period for monitoring and reporting purposes, whether NGO staff and/or journalists.  This is an opportunity for the allies of Bahrain, namely the United States and the United Kingdom, to hold their allies to the same standards they hold their non-allies to, for once. This is also a good time to remind the authorities in Bahrain of their responsibility towards the right to free expression and assembly.”

    The government, headed by Hamad Bin Isa, Salman Bin Hamad and Khalifa Bin Salman, has presented a united front in this escalated campaign of violations against freedoms and in demanding that the recommendations be executed immediately. This comes at a time when, after almost two years of the BICI recommendations, and more than a year after the recommendations of Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, they continue to fail in implementing them.

    The BCHR also calls upon the United States, the United Kingdom and all other allies to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    1. Amend all laws so that they are in accordance to international standards and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    2. Immediately end the crackdown against those who practice their right to free expression and assembly.
    3. Allow people to assemble and protest according to the UDHR on the 14th of August.
    4. Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.
    5. Immediately start the implementation of all BICI and UPR recommendations.
    6. Hold all those responsible for human rights violations, especially in high positions in government, accountable.
    7. Allow access to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteurs to Bahrain for monitoring and documentation purposes.

     

     

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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: bill@bahrainwatch.org
    Twitter: @bhwatch

    July 31, 2013

    BAHRAIN GOVT USING FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNTS TO TRACK ONLINE CRITICS
    Over 120 accounts targeted and 11 Twitter users jailed for insulting King

    [Manama] The Bahraini security apparatus has been hunting down activists who conceal their true identity online to avoid reprisal or prosecution for criticizing the Government, according to a new project by activist organization Bahrain Watch.

    Since October 2012, the Government has jailed eleven netizens for allegedly writing anonymous Tweets that refer to Bahrain’s King Hamad using terms such as “dictator” (الطاغية) or “fallen one” (الساقط). An eight-month investigation by Bahrain Watch has revealed that the Government apparently identifies these anonymous online critics by sending them malicious IP spy links from a network of Twitter and Facebook accounts impersonating well-known opposition figures or other seemingly friendly individuals. When an individual clicks on an IP spy link, they reveal the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the internet connection they clicked from. The Government can then compel the internet service provider of the IP address to disclose the real name and street address of that internet connection’s subscriber.

    The report released today, “The IP Spy Files: How Bahrain’s Government Silences Anonymous Online Dissent,” documents the cases of five individuals arrested for insulting the King on Twitter who received, apparently received, or claimed to receive IP spy links. An examination of court records shows that the Public Prosecution’s case centers around linking the IP address of the defendant to the offending anonymous Twitter account. However the prosecution refuses to reveal how the IP addresses were acquired, citing information obtained through “private methods that cannot be disclosed.” In several cases, the defense argues that the accounts the individuals are accused of operating are still active while they are in prison. Bahrain Watch’s report shows that the Government apparently uses these accounts in secret, and may target their followers, friends, or contacts via private messages.

    The report found that using IP spy links to identify the author of an anonymous Tweet is inherently unreliable: individuals other than the author can click on the link, and the link can be clicked from an internet connection not registered in the author’s name. In at least one case documented by the report, an individual with no affiliation to the anonymous account in question was accused, convicted, and sentenced to one year in prison — he was the subscriber of an internet connection used to click on an IP spy link.

    The consequences of clicking do not always include prison: the report documents the case of Sami Abdulaziz Hassan, the leader of a labor union at Japanese engineering firm Yokogawa Middle East, who was sacked from his job after he was identified as the author of anonymous Tweets criticizing the company’s alleged violations of labor law. His Twitter account was targeted with IP spy links sent publicly via Twitter mentions. The report also lists over 120 other accounts — both pro- and anti-Government — that were also targeted over the past two years in Twitter mentions with IP spy links traceable to the Government.

    The investigation found that in at least six cases, links targeted at activists had also been clicked on from an IP address affiliated with Bahrain’s security forces in the Bahrain Internet Exchange. These links were in turn connected to hundreds of other links sent using the same network of accounts. The investigation also found that one of these accounts appeared to be operated by an employee of the Ministry of Interior Cyber Crime Unit.

    “It is outrageous enough that individuals have been arrested and jailed for mere tweets criticizing the Government,” said Bahrain Watch lead researcher Bill Marczak. “That these individuals are being tracked down and convicted based on such weak digital evidence only makes matters worse.”

    In its report, Bahrain Watch urged political and social activists in Bahrain, and around the world, to be vigilant about impersonation accounts and malicious links. The report contains a section giving advice about how to protect one’s identity online.

    “Given the government’s track record, it comes as no surprise that it would resort to such measures to stifle free speech,” said Marczak. “However, our hope is that this report will spread awareness of the methods that governments around the world use to trap digital activists.”

    Last year, Bahrain Watch’s Bill Marczak, along with the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, discovered that the UK-made spyware program FinSpy was operating on servers based in Bahrain.

    Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based activism. About Bahrain Watch: https://bahrainwatch.org/about.php

    Read the full report on http://bahrainwatch.org/ipspy

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    Jawad Fairooz was a member of parliament in Bahrain’s Council of Representatives from 2006 to 2010 and was re-elected as a member of parliament in 2010, for a further four-year term. Mr Fairooz has also been a member of the secretariat general of Alwefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain, since its inception on 2 November 2001, and a member of its board from 2006 to 2012. 

    On 17 February 2011, Mr Fairooz and seventeen fellow Alwefaq members of parliament withdrew from the Council of Representatives in protest at the response of Bahraini state authorities to large-scale protests in Bahrain and the deaths of two protesters. The events of this period have been examined in detail by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, and its findings were published in November 2011 (BICI Report). Those protests had begun on 14 February 2011, and after a degree of accommodation by the government, a state of National Safety was declared on 15 March 2011, the protesters were forcefully dispersed, with many arrested and a number of protesters and police killed.  

    On 11 and 12 April 2011, Mr Fairooz’s house was attacked by Molotov cocktails.  On 2 May 2011, Mr Fairooz was arrested from his home by three masked and hooded men who forced their way into his home. Mr Fairooz was detained until 7 August 2011. He was held in solitary confinement for more than 43 days, denied access to a lawyer except on two short occasions, and he was not allowed to contact his family until 27 days after arrest.  While detained, he was questioned repeatedly about his political activities, and was subjected to blindfolding, stress positions, beatings, sexual assault and humiliating acts and insults constituting torture and ill-treatment.  During this time his wife was also called into the police station for questioning over a period of several hours.

    Mr Fairooz was prosecuted on charges relating to his freedoms of expression and opinion, and freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and sentenced to a suspended prison sentence.  Mr Fairooz was bought both before the National Safety Courts, which demonstrated a lack of impartiality and independence. The structure of the National Safety Courts precluded the possibility of a fair trial. At the end of the period of National Safety, Mr Fairooz’s case was referred to the competent civil courts on 29 June 2011. However, due process failures continued.

    Further, together with thirty-one other individuals, Mr Fairooz has also been unilaterally stripped of his Bahraini citizenship, in violation of international law. The reason for the revocation was that those concerned had caused “damage to state security.”  Mr Fairooz is currently residing in the United Kingdom, while stateless.

    REDRESS has written to UN special rapporteurs and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on human rights to bring Mr Fairooz’s case to the attention of the Bahraini authorities.

     

    Source http://www.redress.org/case-docket/allegation-letter-concerning-jawad-fairooz 

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    AI Index: MDE 11/026/2013

    31 July 2013

    BAHRAIN: NEW ANTI-TERRORISM POWERS WOULD POSE FURTHER RISK TO HUMAN RIGHTS

    Amnesty International warns against the imminent adoption of proposed amendments by the Bahraini authorities to the anti-terrorism legislation as it will lead to further violations of Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.

    In response to recent increase in violence and in anticipation of planned large demonstrations by the opposition, on 28 July Bahrain’s parliament held an extraordinary session and then submitted 22 recommendations to Shaikh Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain. The recommendations toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law. On 29 July the King welcomed the recommendations and ordered his Prime Minister to ensure that they are implemented urgently by the government. Bahrain’s constitution (Article 38) gives the King the power to issue decrees that have the force of law when parliament is in recess. In these circumstances the government prepares the draft amendments and the King ratifies them.

    The recommendations include the banning of all sit-ins, public gatherings and demonstrations in the capital Manama indefinitely, giving the security forces additional sweeping powers to “protect society from all terrorist acts and incitement to such acts”; increasing punishment for anyone propagating false information about Bahrain in social media networks; taking legal action against certain political associations which incite and support violent and terrorist acts; taking all possible measures to impose peace and security, even if it means imposing a state of national safety (state of emergency); and the imposition of harsher sentences on anyone involved in acts of “terrorism” and violence and anyone inciting others to use violence; the revocation of Bahraini nationality from anyone committing terrorist acts or incitement to such activities,

    Given the manner in which authorities have abused existing legislation to suppress dissent, Amnesty International fears that these recommended amendments will further erode the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    The 2006 anti-terrorism legislation, known as “Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts,” defines terrorism in an overly broad and ambiguous manner. Amnesty International has expressed concern about provisions in the law that place arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and gives the Public Prosecution excessive discretion. The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism expressed fears in 2006 that the restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in the law would allow the criminalization of peaceful demonstrations by civil society. The UN Committee against Torture expressed in 2005 concerns about the broad and vague definition of terrorism and terrorist organizations and the erosion of judicial safeguards in the then draft law.

    Since February 2011 when large anti-government protests started the human rights situation in Bahrain has deteriorated sharply. Scores of opposition activists were arrested and tried before military courts. Many were tortured. Some, including 13 prominent figures, are serving lengthy sentences of up to life. Dozens of people died, including from torture, but mainly as a result of unnecessary and excessive use of force during protests. Human rights activists have been jailed for their work.

    In recent weeks violence has increased. There have been incidents where young men threw Molotov cocktails at policemen and police cars. On 17 July a car bomb exploded near al-Riffa’, south of Manama. No one was hurt and the bombing was condemned by opposition parties. The security forces have responded with mass arrests, excessive use of force, including through the use of shot-guns and tear gas, and reportedly torture and other ill-treatment of detained suspects. In the early hours of 29 July at least 27 people, mostly youth, were arrested in the village of Dar Kulaib where clashes between security forces and protestors had taken place.

    Despite these measures sporadic protests have continued. Bahraini opposition groups are planning to organise large protests on 14 August. Planning for this has started on social media networks. The event is called “Tamarrod” (rebellion).

    http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE11/026/2013/en/d9eef74e-866e-45b1-961f-bd53aeab8839/mde110262013en.html

     

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    (Beirut) – The Bahrain parliament’s call at an extraordinary meeting on July 28, 2013, to impose a series of emergency measures will severely restrict basic rights. The action would give the authorities excessive powers to act arbitrarily to restrict such rights as freedom of assembly and speech.

    Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdulla al-Khalifa said the meeting was convened “to toughen legal penalties with respect to the protection of community from terrorism acts.” On July 29, King Hamadinstructed the prime minister to codify the recommendations into law as soon as possible. Antigovernment groups told Human Rights Watch that the government is exaggerating the threat of terrorist activity to justify a renewed crackdown in advance of protest demonstrations set for August 14.

    “Bahrain has spent the last two years cracking down on peaceful protest, violating people’s rights from start to finish,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “Now it’s planning a whole new set of draconian restrictions, effectively creating a new state of emergency, even while peaceful protesters from the last round are sitting in prison with long sentences.”

    The parliament specifically set out 22 recommendations calling for new restrictions on freedom of expression, and an indefinite ban on all public gatherings in the capital, Manama. It also called for the authorities to revoke the citizenship of Bahrainis who have been convicted of terrorist offenses, and proposed declaring a “state of national safety” in order “to impose civic security and peace.”

    Bahrain’s government previously declared a National Safety Law on March 15, 2011, one month after large scale antigovernment protests began on February 14. The emergency law provided for the institution of national safety courts, which Human Rights Watch found repeatedly failed to respect and protect basic fair trial rights. The National Safety Law also granted wide ranging authority to the commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Force to issue regulations governing all manner of conduct and to enforce those regulations as well as existing laws. The emergency law ended on June 1, 2011.

    The parliament’s “Recommendation 2” called for the authorities to revoke the citizenship “of those who carry out terrorist crimes and their instigators,” raising the prospect that Bahrainis opposed to the government will be arbitrarily deprived of their citizenship rights after unfair trials on terrorism charges.

    The parliament’s recommendations, when codified into law, will suspend the right to free assembly indefinitely in Manama and may severely curtail free speech. “Recommendation 6” calls for the prohibition of all “sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings in the capital, Manama.” “Recommendation 16,” although vaguely worded, says that government measures should affect “basic liberties, particularly freedom of opinion, […] so as to strike a balance between law enforcement and human rights protection.”

    “The parallels with the 2011 protests and the government’s heavy-handed response then are of the utmost concern,” Houry said. “Clamping down further on people who have legitimate grievances will only fuel discontent and escalate an already tense situation.”

    Fifty people are currently on trial accused of “illegally establishing and managing” the 14th February Group – an informal loose-knit group whom authorities have linked to acts of violence – andof “engaging in violence against the persons and assets of state security” or “participation” in the group.

    Thirteen of the 50 are in custody. According to court documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the others have either left the country or have not been apprehended. The documents say that nine of the 13 have either “confessed” to charges or “confirmed” allegations put to them in police questioning during their pretrial detention.

    They include Naji Fateel, the alleged leader and founder of the 14th February Group. Fateel alleges that police tortured him in detention following his arrest on May 2, 2013, and that he signed a “confession” rather than endure further torture.

    In July 2008, a Bahrain court convicted him of destroying police property and stealing a weapon after a trial that Human Rights Watch found was “tainted with abuse.” He was sentenced to five years in prison, though he was released after nine months.

    On July 23, 2013, local media reported that another of the defendants, Ali Mohammed Ashoor, belongs to “an extremist group” known as the al-Ashtar Brigades that allegedly claimed responsibility for planting a car bomb that exploded near a Sunni mosque in the suburb of Riffa on July 17. No one was killed or injured in the explosion.

    Revoking citizenship on the basis of unfair trial convictions would violate the rights of Bahraini nationals under international law. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is considered reflective of customary international law, states that, “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” and, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” Unlawful deportations would also violate other rights, such as the right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference with family life under article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party.

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006, permits some restrictions on certain rights during an officially proclaimed public emergency that “threatens the life of the nation.” It requires countries to publicly declare a state of emergency and to ensure that any suspensions or limitations of rights are temporary and strictly required by the exigencies of the situation. Although Bahrain has faced sustained domestic unrest, it is questionable whether this amounts to an emergency threatening the life of the nation, Human Rights Watch said.

    It also appears that the measures approved by the parliament are neither appropriate nor proportionate, particularly as they would appear to virtually end any opportunity to exercise the right to peaceful assembly. Moreover, recent history suggests that any declaration of a National Safety Law will open the way for a new government crackdown in which citizens who oppose the government will face severe penalties for exercising their rights to free assembly and expression.

    The national safety courts created under the 2011 law flouted basic requirements of international human rights law, as well as many provisions of Bahraini criminal law. As Human Rights Watchdocumented, the courts demonstrated a lack of competence, impartiality, and independence, and they served primarily as a vehicle to convict defendants of alleged crimes stemming from the exercise of fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

    Under international law, countries may not invoke a public emergency to permit arbitrary deprivations of liberty or unacknowledged detentions, nor may they deviate from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence. People held as administrative detainees under a lawful state of emergency should, at a minimum, have the right to be brought before a judicial authority promptly after arrest, be informed of the reasons for detention, and have immediate access to legal counsel and family. They also should be allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a fair hearing, and to seek a remedy for mistreatment and arbitrary detention. Certain fundamental rights – such as the right to life, the right to be secure from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment – must always be respected, even during a public emergency.

    “The government has talked a lot about the need for national reconciliation but, once again, its actions in taking on a raft of stern new measures to suppress legitimate protest are undermining any prospects for successful dialogue,” Houry said.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/31/bahrain-parliament-moves-curtail-basic-rights

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    Update - 3 Aug 2013

    In an escalation against citizen journalists ahead of the planned Tamrraod (Rebellion) protests in Aug 14, photographer Qassim Zainaldeen has been arrested by masked men in civilan clothes linked to the security forces on Friday morning 2 Aug 2013 from his house at Duraz after confiscating his computer and mobile. His family went to ask about him at the Budiya police station but they were denied any information about him.

    Photo: Qassim ZainAldeen

     

    Update- 1 Aug 2013

    More than 45 hours after his arrest, there is still no confirmed information on the whereabouts and wellbeing of arrested blogger Mohammed Hassan, who is now considered subjected to enforced disappeared.

    Hassan’s family received a brief call yesterday from him in which they were informed he will be transferred to the dry dock detention center, but when they went there today, 1 Aug 2013, the prison administration denied having him. They were not able to get any further information or get access to Mohammed Hassan. His lawyer has been unable to contact him as well.

    In addition to the concern of Mohammed Hassan’s enforced disappearance, an award winning photojournalist and close friend of Hassan’s, Hussain Hubail (21), was arrested last night, 31 July 2013, from Bahrain International Airport while on his way to Dubai, UAE. His family went to ask about him at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) but the administration denied having Hubail in their custody. As such, Hussain Hubail is now also considered subjected to enforced disappearance as there is still no information on his whereabouts and wellbeing. Hubail won 1st place in a photography contest run by Alwasat newspaper in May 2013 for a photograph of protesters amid clouds of tear gas. BCHR has information that a photo in which Hussain appeared covering one of the opposition societies rallies, was shown to detainees in the past months at the CID and the interrogators were trying to find the identity of the photographer in that photo. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that Hussain Hubail has been targeted because of his work as a photojournalist. 

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the international community to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to demand the immediate release of blogger Mohammed Hassan and photojournalist Hussain Hubail. To add to that, the BCHR calls for an end of the Government of Bahrain’s systematic targeting of online users and news providers who are exercising their right to freedom of expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

     

    Bahrain: Arrest of blogger and media fixer Mohamed Hassan

    31 July - 2013

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to the recent arrest of blogger and media fixer Mohamed Hassan (27) during a dawn raid on his home.  His whereabouts and charges are still unknown and he has not made any communication with family and lawyer until the time of writing this report.

    At around 3am on 31 July 2013, masked men in civilian clothes belonging to the Ministry of Interior raided the house of blogger Mohammed Hassan and arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant and without giving any justification for the arrest or the charges pressed against him. They also confiscated his electronic devices.

    This is not the first time blogger Mohammed Hassan is targeted by the authorities in Bahrain.

    Mohammed Hassan, also known as @Safybh, was known for expressing his views on twitter and on his blog http://safybh.wordpress.com/ in support of the struggle for freedom and democracy in Bahrain. He stopped tweeting and blogging since April 2013.

    Hassan was arrested before on 21 April 2012 while he was escorting reporters to protesting villages to show them the violations of the authorities against peaceful protesters. He was hit with a gun barrel in his leg and reportedly severely beaten before getting arrested. He was denied access to a lawyer, and released the next day. He was then arrested again on 22 April 2012 at a checkpoint in Sanabis with journalist Colin Freeman from The Sunday Telegraph. They were taken to the Exhibition Center police station. Hassan was interrogated about his connection to the journalist and they were later released without any charges.  

    In June 2012 Mohammed Hassan was summoned for interrogation, and was accused with three charges: writing for websites and newspapers without a license, illegal gathering and tweeting. He wrote later on his twitter: "They asked me about all tweets, even the ones where I say goodnight, I was also questioned about the articles I write and the journalists I know, especially when I was arrested and beaten last April. I was accused of calling for “unlicensed" marches when I invited people to [participate in] Nabeel Rajab’s “Thank you” march, [the] problem is: it was actually licensed. After asking a lawyer I realized that I was correct about not needing a license for blogging or writing an op-ed for a website." 

    Hassan has been also a fixer for multiple reporters, including the Dan Rather crew when they were in Bahrain in March 2012. (Check this behind the scene report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkoj6jXCKfs&feature=youtu.be

    He appeared in the Dan Rather report. He was asked if it was safe for him to speak to the press, he replied “I don’t care anymore. My friends have been in prison, some of them are still in prison, and some of them are in hiding and some of them are dead.” He continues “by now if anything would have happened, I would’ve accepted it, I have no choice but to accept it.”

    Mohammed Hassan told his friends after the broadcast of that report: “I started getting some calls after appearing on the DanRatherReport, waiting to see their next move.” Their next move was to have him arrested and beaten in April 2012.

    He also participated in a Bahrain debate in Feb 2012, with a group of Bahraini youth of different views aiming to bridge their differences. Mohammed was clear in supporting the rights of people and firmly refused violence.


    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that Mohamed Hassan is repeatedly targeted merely due to expressing his views publicly over the internet and for assisting international media reporters.

    Based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the Government of Bahrain immediately release the blogger Mohamed Hasan as well as all detainees who have been arrested based on reasons related to them practicing their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembling which are guaranteed to them by international laws.

     

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    The Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; and Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, has decided to travel to Bahrain on Friday, 09th August 2013.

     

    She arrives in Bahrain at 7:05pm Bahrain time on Friday and will be staying there for approximately two weeks. Al-Khawaja will be traveling with her Danish passport, getting a visa at the Bahraini airport, due to the expiration of her Bahraini passport.

     

    Maryam Al-Khawaja has chosen to remain in self imposed exile due to the necessity of being abroad for her work and for safety and security reasons. While the same security and safety concerns are still valid, Al-Khawaja finds it necessary to make this trip at this specific time.

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    In the past few weeks, the human rights situation in Bahrain has rapidly deteriorated ahead of planned mass protests on August 14th. With many of the country’s most prominent Human Rights Defenders behind bars, local NGOs have inadequate resources to keep up with the unfolding situation, and it is challenging for them to ensure the safety of their members.

    Bahraini HRDs should not be left to stand alone. We urge international human rights organizations to attempt to visit Bahrain over the coming week, in order to document and monitor ongoing protests, especially on August 14 when Bahrain is expected to come under lockdown.  The government has already declared that all protests in the capital Manama are banned.

    International human rights organizations have done a good job of highlighting the human rights situation in Bahrain, though their physical presence in the country has been lacking due to a state policy of controlled access.  Nonetheless, their presence is important, as witnesses and in solidarity with those fighting for justice, human rights, and democracy.

    We call on mainstream media networks to dedicate particular attention to the situation in Bahrain in the build up to August 14 and to send journalists into the country. What happens in the coming week could be critical.

    To the Government of Bahrain’s closest allies; Mr. David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, we urge you to remain neutral, if not supportive of the peoples’ right to self-determination. This is not a call for intervention, but rather we urge you to live up to claims of ethical foreign policies that take human rights into consideration and to end your active support of the government of Bahrain.

    Finally, we call on the United Nations and its Special Rapporteurs to be proactive and to reiterate the rights of Bahrainis to free speech, freedom of assembly, the right to adequate medical care, and to pressure the authorities to refrain from using force, particularly tear gas and birdshot, ahead of August 14. Public statements reminding those who are responsible of guaranteeing these rights are needed as well as activating direct channels with officials in such positions.

    For the past two and a half years, the Bahraini regime has failed to realize its pledges to implement both the Universal Periodic Review and Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations. Domestic and international accountability mechanisms have so far failed, and Bahrainis have decided that August 14 is another step in the current struggle for justice.

    We, the undersigned, will be on the ground in Bahrain during this period to monitor and observe the human rights situation.  We hope that you will commit time, resources, and effort to support HRDs in the country in any capacity.

     

    Signed:

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Human Rights Society

    European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights

    Bahrain Watch

    Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

    Bahrain Human Rights Observatory

     

    CC:

    International NGO’s:

    Human Rights Watch (HRW)

    Amnesty International (AI)

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    Frontline Defenders

    Human Rights First (HRF)

    IFEX

    Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

    Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

     

    United Nations:

    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association

    Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

    Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

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    On February 14, 2011, thousands in Bahrain, both Shia and Sunni, took to the streets demanding democracy and reform in their country. The only Gulf country with a Shia majority governed by a Sunni ruling family, the Bahraini government responded to the protests with violence and suppression. Peaceful demonstrators, along with medics, journalists, and other citizens that came to their aid, were arrested, detained, tortured, and even killed for their involvement.

    In response to international pressure, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered the establishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to document human rights violations that occurred during the protests. The BICI report found over 500 cases of torture and 46 deaths as a result. Yet even with these documentations and a promise from King Hamad to hold accountable those responsible for human-rights abuses, the culture of impunity continues. The ruling family's suppression and intimidation tactics have included the use of arrest, detention, physical and psychological abuse, torture, and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

    Twitter has been frequently used during the Arab Spring as it provides immediate, and often anonymous, information. Witnesses can document abuses by security forces with photographs and inform participants where a protest is to occur. This type of instant news creates a challenge for governments that practice systematic censorship of unwanted information. In an effort to combat this, the government of Bahrain has begun to target Twitter users with harsh punishments, including torture and jail.

    Continue reading on http://www.policymic.com/articles/58235/bahrain-s-government-has-declared-war-on-twitte

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    Two new emergency decrees issued by the King of Bahrain last night, which include the banning of all protests, are a further shameful attempt to completely ban any form of dissent and freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    “Banning sit-ins, public gatherings and demonstrations in Bahrain’s capital and stipulating that parents could be jailed if their children repeatedly participate in demonstrations is outrageous, and violates international law,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “Authorities in Bahrain have, for years, abused existing legislation to suppress any form of dissent, but these new measures are taking their disregard for human rights to a completely new level. We fear that these draconian measures will be used in an attempt to legitimize state violence as new protests are being planned for 14 August.”

    One of the decrees makes new amendments to the 1973 Law on public gatherings and demonstrations, which include the banning of demonstrations, sit-ins, marches and public gatherings in the capital Manama.

    The 1976 juvenile law was also amended and now stipulates that, if anyone under 16 years of age takes part in a demonstration, public gathering or sit-in, his or her parents would be warned in writing by the Ministry of Interior. If six months after the warning the juvenile was found in a new demonstration, his or her father could face jail, a fine or both.

    The decrees are the latest in a series of measures by the Bahraini authorities to toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law, stifling dissent in the wake of increased protests.

    In recent weeks, the security forces have used shot-guns and tear gas against protesters and conducted mass arrests of protesters. Amnesty International has also received reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detained protesters.

    In the early hours of 29 July at least 27 people, mostly youth, were arrested in the village of Dar Kulaib in west Bahrain, where clashes between security forces and protesters had taken place. Bloggers, photographers and others active in social media networks have been targeted for arrest in recent days.

    Despite these measures, sporadic protests have continued with a new mass demonstration planned for 14 August.

    “Banning protests and using unnecessary and excessive force against protesters will risk leading to further violent clashes. Instead, the authorities in Bahrain should focus on ensuring people across the country can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Philip Luther.

    The 2006 anti-terrorism legislation, known as “Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts”, defines terrorism in an overly broad and ambiguous manner.

    Amnesty International said some of the provisions in the law place arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and gives the Public Prosecution excessive discretion.

    Since February 2011 when large anti-government protests began in Bahrain the human rights situation in the country has deteriorated sharply. Scores of opposition activists have been arrested and tried before military courts.

    Many were tortured. Some, including 13 prominent figures, are serving lengthy sentences of up to life. Dozens of people died, including from torture, but mainly as a result of unnecessary and excessive use of force by security forces during protests. Human rights activists have been jailed for their work.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/bahrain-new-decrees-ban-dissent-further-protests-organized-2013-08-07

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    Press briefing notes

    Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
    Location: Geneva
    Date: 6 August 2013

    We are concerned about the recommendations made by the National Assembly’s extraordinary session which was recently held to discuss toughening punishments under the 2006 Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism. These recommendations include increasing detention period or revoking citizenship of anyone found guilty of committing or inciting an act of terrorism. They also provide for banning sit-ins, rallies and gatherings in the capital Manama. On 31 July, a royal decree was issued to amend the above-mentioned law in accordance with these recommendations.

    While recognizing the responsibility of States to maintain law and order, we remind the authorities that any measure should respect international human rights standards.

    We reiterate that the right to nationality is a fundamental right protected by article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality. Any deprivation of nationality provided for by law must comply with procedural and substantive standards, including the principle of proportionality. We are concerned that arbitrary deprivation of nationality may also lead to statelessness with serious consequences for the protection of the human rights of the individuals concerned.

    Although we welcome the recommendation by the Parliament that "basic liberties, particularly freedom of opinion, should not be affected to maintain a balance between law enforcement and human rights protection," we reiterate our concern about the restrictions on public demonstrations and other public gatherings. 
    We call upon the Government of Bahrain to fully comply with its international human rights commitments, including respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and association – and urge all demonstrators to exercise these rights in a peaceful manner.

    In response to a question on Bahrain:

    In April 2013, the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, to Bahrain - which was scheduled to take place from 8 to 15 May – was postponed for the second time. He has not been able to visit Bahrain since. Discussions are underway to set up new dates for a future visit.
    To read the statement issued by the Special Rapporteur on 24 April 2013, please go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13261&LangID=E

     

    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13608&LangID=E

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    UA: 206/13 Index: MDE 11/028/2013 Bahrain Date: 2 August 2013

    URGENT ACTION: social media activists risk torture in bahrain

    Mohammad Hassan Sadef, a 26-year-old blogger and translator and Hussain Habib, a 23-year-old cameraman, were arrested separately on 31 July. They are held incommunicado and are at risk of torture. They may be prisoners of conscience.

    Mohammad Hassan Sadef, was arrested from his parents’ house in Sitra in the early hours of 31 July 2013 by plain clothed security officers ,without an arrest warrant. He was taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) in al-‘Adliya in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, where he is believed to still be held incommunicado and is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. His family and their legal representative have not been allowed to visit him.

    Hussain Habib was arrested at Bahrain International Airport as he was due to board a flight to Dubai on 31 July. He was taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate building for interrogation. He is believed to still be detained there incommunicado.

    The exact reasons for the arrest of the two men above are not known, but they may be linked to their use of social media networks. The government is cracking down on people disseminating information about the human rights situation in Bahrain through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Both have used these networks extensively. On 28 July Bahrain’s Parliament submitted 22 recommendations to the King toughening punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law. The King has welcomed the recommendations and has already issued two decrees to this effect. One of the recommendations is to make sending false information on Bahrain through social media networks a crime punishable by imprisonment.

     

    Please write immediately in your own language:

    • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammad Hassan Sayef and Hussain Habib if they are held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;
    • Urging the Bahraini authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of the two men and to allow them to meet with their families, legal representatives of their own choosing and to grant them any medical care needed;
    • Urging that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

    PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 13 SEPTEMBER 2013 TO:

    King

    Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

    Office of His Majesty the King

    P.O. Box 555

    Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1766 4587

    Salutation: Your Majesty

     

    Minister of Interior

    Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Interior

    P.O. Box 13, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1723 2661

    Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

    Salutation: Your Excellency

     

    And copies to:

    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa

    Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

    P. O. Box 450, al-Manama,

    Bahrain

    Fax: +973 1753 1284

    Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

    Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

     

    Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

    Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

    URGENT ACTION

    social media activists risk torture in bahrain

     

    ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

    More than two years after the uprising in Bahrain, and beneath the fanfare of subsequent reform, prisoners of conscience, including some arrested during the protests, remain behind bars and the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly continue to be suppressed. In recent months, not only have prisoners of conscience not been released, but more people have been jailed simply for daring to express their views, whether via Twitter or on peaceful marches. Bahraini courts have appeared more concerned with toeing the government’s line than offering effective remedy to Bahrainis and upholding the rule of law.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by Royal Order on 29 June 2011, was charged with investigating and reporting on human rights violations committed in connection with the 2011 protests. At the launch of the BICI report in November 2011, the government publicly committed itself to implementing the recommendations set out in the report. The report recounted the government’s response to the mass protests and documented wide-ranging human rights abuses. Among its key recommendations, the report called on the government to bring to account those responsible for human rights violations, including torture and excessive use of force, and carry out independent investigations into allegations of torture.

    However, many of the government’s pledges remain unfulfilled. The establishment of BICI and its report was considered to be a groundbreaking initiative, but, more than 18 months on, the promise of meaningful reform has been betrayed by the government’s unwillingness to implement key recommendations around accountability; this includes its failure to carry out independent, effective and transparent investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force, and to prosecute all those who gave the orders to commit human rights abuses. For further information see: Bahrain: Reform shelved, repression unleashed (Index: MDE 11/062/2012, http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/062/2012/en).

    In response to recent increase in violence and in anticipation of planned large demonstrations by the opposition, on 28 July Bahrain’s parliament held an extraordinary session and then submitted 22 recommendations to Shaikh Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain. The recommendations toughen punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism law. On 29 July the King welcomed the recommendations and ordered his Prime Minister to ensure that they are implemented urgently by the government. Bahrain’s constitution (Article 38) gives the King the power to issue decrees that have the force of law when parliament is in recess. In these circumstances the government prepares the draft amendments and the King ratifies them.

    The recommendations include the banning of all sit-ins, public gatherings and demonstrations in the capital Manama indefinitely, giving the security forces additional sweeping powers to “protect society from all terrorist acts and incitement to such acts”; increasing punishment for anyone propagating false information about Bahrain in social media networks; taking legal action against certain political associations which incite and support violent and terrorist acts; taking all possible measures to impose peace and security, even if it means imposing a state of national safety (state of emergency); and the imposition of harsher sentences on anyone involved in acts of “terrorism” and violence and anyone inciting others to use violence; the revocation of Bahraini nationality from anyone committing terrorist acts or incitement to such activities,

     

    Name: Mohammad Hassan Sadef; Hussain Habib

    Gender m/f: Both male

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/028/2013/en

     

    Document Type: 

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