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    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

    I am deeply concerned by the decision of the Bahraini High Administrative Court to dissolve Al Wefaq. I urge the Government of Bahrain to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens. I encourage all sides to engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue to promote social cohesion and inclusivity, including political representation, for all Bahrainis. I understand there is a right of appeal, and we will continue to follow the case closely.

    Read full statement here

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the authorities imposition of a travel ban and new charges against journalist Nazeeha Saeed.

    Bahraini human rights defender and correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, Nazeeha has fallen once again victim of the government’s crackdown on freedom of expression. 

    Saeed was arrested for the first time in May 2011, after covering the pro-democracy movement spreading throughout the country, she was subjected to beatings and torture while in police custody, and released only after signing a false confession. Describing her torture, Saeed said 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.”

    Although she had three independant medical reports - two of them issued by Bahrain’s MOI - and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for torturing her and those who were brought to court were later acquitted of all charges.

    In its most recent attempt to silence Saeed from publicly reporting on the escalating human rights violations in Bahrain, the government forbade her from leaving the country. She was prevented from boarding a plane to Germany on 29 June, when airport security authorities informed her that a travel ban had been imposed on her, without providing any reason or additional information.

    Saeed enquired at the Nationality, Passport, and Residence Department which confirmed that she wasn’t banned from travel; however, when she attempted to travel through King Fahd Causeway, she was again not allowed to leave the country and was told that she is banned from travel.

    On 17 July 2016, the public prosecution summoned Saeed for interrogation over charges of “exercising media work without an authorisation.” According to the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), Saeed has allegedly violated Article 88 of 2002 Bahraini Press Law, regulating the press, printing and publications as stated, which states that “correspondents of foreign newspapers, magazines, news agencies and radios shall not exercise their work in the Kingdom of Bahrain unless licensed by the ministry for a renewable one-year period.”

    Saeed asked for a renewal of her permit earlier in March, which was refused by the IAA. Now she faces a fine of up to 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650).

    Freedom of expression, as well as freedom of movement, are fundamental human rights preserved by both national regulations and international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Bahrain is a signatory.

    The charge filed against Nazeeha Saeed, and the travel ban imposed on her, are merely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate activities in the defence of human rights in Bahrain.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally lift the ban on Nazeeha Saeed, guaranteeing her right to freedom of movement;
    • Drop the charges against her, allowing her to carry out her journalistic work, and respect the sanctioned right to freedom of expression;
    • Allow all human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their activities, in Bahrain and abroad, without fear of harassment and retaliation; and
    • Immediately cease the ongoing crackdown on journalists, activists and civil society.
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    The verdict that a Bahraini court issued to dissolve Al Wefaq political society and to liquidate its assets is the last of a series of worrying developments in the country. The EU expects this judgment to be reversed.

    As already expressed, the EU considers that Bahrain's stability and security can only be achieved through reforms and inclusive reconciliation. The verdict on Al Wefaq, the arrest of activist Nabil Rajab and the revocation of the citizenship to Sheikh Isa Qassem go, on the contrary, in the direction to further divide Bahraini society.

    Read full article here

     

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    France deplores the decision of Bahrain’s Supreme Administrative Court to order, on July 17, that the political opposition movement al-Wefaq be dissolved.

    We call on the Bahraini authorities to establish an environment conducive to the resumption of a broader political dialogue, which is essential for national reconciliation and the country’s stability.

    Read full article here

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    The Bahrain correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya, Nazeeha Saeed went to the prosecutor’s office with her lawyer, Hameed Al Mullah, on 17 July in response to a summons without knowing what awaited her.

    It was only after being interrogated that she learned that she was charged with working illegally for international media.

    We condemn the authorities’ attempts to prevent her working, firstly by imposing an unjustified and incomprehensible travel ban on her and then by accusing her of working illegally although her papers were always in order.”

    Read full article here

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    Congress has requested an analysis of how the current security situation in Bahrain affects the safety of U.S. personnel in the kingdom, and for the Pentagon to suggest alternative locations should they have to move.

    Page 759 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Committee Print directs “the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, on threats posed to Department of Defense personnel and operations associated with United States military installations in Bahrain. The report should, at a minimum, include an assessment of the current security situation in Bahrain, the safety and security of Department of Defense personnel and dependents, and appropriate measures to mitigate the threat to U.S. operations and personnel including potential alternative facilities should U.S. personnel require temporary relocation.”

    On Sunday the main opposition group Al Wefaq was dissolved. Leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is currently on trial, hauled before a court for tweeting criticism of the repressive government. Leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim has had his citizenship stripped and leading members of civil society are prevented from leaving the country.

    Read full article here

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    We deeply regret the decision by a Bahraini court on Sunday to dissolve Al Wefaq, the country's largest opposition group, following its initial closure on 14 June. In spite of strong calls from the international community for Bahrain to seek to de-escalate the worrying tensions in the country, we regret the decision to press ahead with the ban. Reports suggest that the court hearing on the ban was carried out without due regard for the principles of fair trial. 

    The ban on Al Wefaq is the latest in a series of measures over the last few months that appear to be designed to quash dissent. We urge the authorities, and the national human rights institutions in place in Bahrain, to take immediate confidence-building measures to ensure the rights to freedom of peaceful expression, assembly and association are respected. We urge them to review the decision to ban Al Wefaq and other organisations that have been suspended for peaceful exercise of their rights.

    Read full article here 

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    Today (18 July), a Federal Foreign Office spokesperson issued the following statement on the most recent developments in Bahrain:

    "We have noted with unease the dissolution of the Bahraini opposition party Al Wefaq with yesterday’s ruling by the High Civil Court in Bahrain. The charge brought by the public prosecution office against Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim also gives us great cause for concern.

    Read full article here

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    In recent months, Bahrain has been cracking down on dissent, activists, journalists, and political opposition, primarily targeting members of the Shi’a community and arguing that criticism of the government promotes sectarianism and threatens national unity and security.

    Recently, the police re-arrested human rights activist and outspoken government critic Nabeel Rajab on accusations of “spreading false news.” Furthermore, travel bans have been placed on civil society actors and journalists, including reporter Nazeeha Saeed, in addition to activists planning to attend this month's UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The government also announced that it revoked prominent Shi’a cleric Shekikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship without giving him the opportunity to appeal that revocation in court.

    Read full article here

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    The United States really should react to these reprisals forcefully, publicly and quickly. Around 20 people have been hit with travel bans in recent weeks as Bahrain’s government chokes off voices of peaceful dissent.

    Those targeted include Rula Al Saffar, president of Bahrain’s Nursing Society and one of the medics arrested, detained, and tortured in 2011 after treating injured protestors and telling the media the truth about the regime’s violence. She spent 18 years training and working in the United States and has a PhD from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Although subjected to a sham trial in military court and sentenced to 15 years in jail, she was finally acquitted on appeal in June 2012. 

    Read full article here

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    (Beirut) – A Bahrain prosecutor on July 17, 2016, charged a correspondent for a French media outlet with violating the country’s licensing law for journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The criminal charges against the journalist, Nazeeha Saeed, who has covered Bahrain’s domestic unrest for France 24 since 2009, violate her right to free expression and further undermines media freedom in Bahrain.

    The authorities charged Saeed with working for foreign media without a license. United Nations human rights experts have stated that state licensing of journalists inherently violates freedom of expression. Saeed is also one of 23 people subjected to travel bans since the start of June. They include human rights lawyers and activists, trade union leaders, teachers’ and nurses’ representatives, and the president of the Bahrain chapter of Transparency International.

    Read full article here

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over the ongoing targeting of poets and writers for merely excising their freedom of artistic expression and creation.

    On 22 July 2016, poet Khalil Al-Ismaeel was summoned to Budaiya police station, where he was arrested. The following day, he was taken to the public prosecution. He was interrogated over a poem he wrote and recited in a public gathering. Consequently, the authorities charged him with allegedly “reciting a political poem” and “illegal gathering” at Duraz. The public prosecution remanded him for 15 days in detention pending investigation of these charges.

    Al-Ismaeel is well-known in Bahrain for his political poems – in which he expresses his support for the popular pro-democracy movement.

    At least one other individual has been targeted over freedom of artistic expression recently. Religious singer Sayed Hasan Al-Alawi is being tried over a poem he recited during a funeral service. He served three months in pre-trial detention until he was finally released on 20 July 2016. His trial is ongoing.

    BCHR has recorded other cases during the past year, including the past few months, of poets being summoned or arrested for writing and reciting poetry. This is a direct violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which contends that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of the frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”This right includes the right to all forms of art and artistic expression.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini government to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release poet Khalil Al-Ismaeel and all political prisoners, arrested for merely exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression;
    • Abide by international legislation upholding the right to freedom of expression without any restrictions or arbitrary legal procedures;
    • End the politically-based retaliation against poets or singers and other artists, and allow them to freely exercise their rights to free speech; and
    • End the practice of imposing arbitrary restrictions on freedom of speech.
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    A Prominent Bahraini human rights activist faces up to 12 years in prison for criticizing the Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today. Bahrain has been taking part in the Saudi-led coalition, whose operations have included unlawful airstrikes on markets, homes, hospitals and schools.

    The charges against Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, a nongovernmental group, constitute a serious violation of his right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. The conditions of his detention also appear to amount to arbitrary punishment. He was in solitary confinement for more than two weeks after his arrest and denied compassionate leave to attend a relative’s funeral. He faces an additional three years for comments about the Bahrain government’s response to prison unrest..

    Read the full article here.

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    Bahrain's uprising on 14 February 2011 introduced radical changes among both the political classes and the public at large. From the beginning and increasingly over time, high levels of participation from both Bahraini youth and women were noticeable on many different planes.

    Read the entire article here.

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    The Bahraini government has intensified state restrictions on the right to freedom of religion for the country’s Shia majority. While the authorities have obstructed and prosecuted Shia religious practices, they have simultaneously escalated their use of repressive measures against the country’s religious clerics. The government has targeted Shia clerics with summons, arrests, and judicial harassment, and has rendered leading cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim stateless.

    Bahrain’s High Criminal Court today held its first hearing  in the trial of Sheikh Isa Qasim along with two other individuals. The court postponed the trial of the Shia spiritual leader to 14 August 2016.

    The public prosecution charged Sheikh Qasim and the two others with allegedly receiving secret foreign funding, and “withdrawing, depositing, purchasing, allocating, and distributing the amounts in a way that shows that their sources are licit, contrary to the facts/ reality.” These charges are related to the Shia religious practice of Khums.

    Khums, a major religious practice and obligation for those of the Shia faith, is an annual payment undertaken by Shia Muslims to Shia clerics, who then distribute the money to orphans, other vulnerable members of society, and projects to improve the community. The aim of Khums is to promote social solidarity and eliminate poverty.Sources have also indicated that many families of Bahrain’s prisoners of conscience are dependent upon this money. It is believed that the Bahraini government is charging Shia clerics with allegations of illegal fundraising due solely to their central role in this long-established religious practice.

    In June 2016, the authorities closed down two of the remaining institutions of the Shia Muslim community in Bahrain, the Al-Risala Islamic Society and the Islamic Enlightenment Society (Al-Taweya), over allegations related to the practice of Khums.

    On 16 July 2016, the Public Prosecution stated that “three cases related to raising funds illegally, money-laundering, and carrying out transactions to conceal their sources and make them appear legitimate will be reviewed by a court.” The government has charged nine individuals with these allegations, including Sheikh Qasim. If convicted, these individuals face up to seven years in prison and a fine of one million dinars (USD $2,650,000).

    The authorities stripped Sheikh Qassim of his Bahraini nationality on 20 June 2016, triggering mass protests in Duraz. These demonstrations were met with further restrictions by the government. Since 20 June, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented the summoning, interrogation, and arrests of at least 23 Shia clerics over charges related to their freedom of religion, expression, and assembly.

    We, the undersigned, find that the prosecution of Sheikh Isa Qasim and other Shia clerics to be a discrimination against Shia Muslims in Bahrain and violative of their right to freedom of religion and belief. The charges in relation to Khums breaches Bahrain’s law of 1956 on collecting donations; as well as Article 22 of Bahraini constitution which states that “freedom of conscience is absolute. The State shall guarantee the inviolability of places of worship and the freedom to perform religious rights and to hold religious processions and meetings in accordance with the customs observed in the country.”

    We, the undersigned, call on for the Government of Bahrain to:

    • End immediately the persecution of Shia clerics for their religious activities;
    • End restrictions on the rights to freedom of religion and expression; and
    • Comply with all international human rights standards, particularly those concerning the freedom of religion and expression.

    Signed:

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Justice Human Rights Organisation

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

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    July, 26 2016 - We in the Bahraini human rights community condemn the recently expanded press restrictions in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Decree 68/2016, issued by the Minister of Information, Mohammed Al Rumaihi, constrains what little press freedom remaining in the kingdom by increasing government oversight on the dissemination of electronic media and empowering the state to easily target content producers with prosecution.

    According to the decree, licensed newspapers may disseminate electronic media only after receiving a temporary license from Bahrain’s mass media directorate. The law does not detail under what criteria Bahraini officials will judge and approve applications for a one-year, electronic media license. As a part of the application to receive these licenses, applicants are required to give a list of social media accounts, website addresses, and the names of those responsible for them. This could lead to quick prosecution of individuals, if the content be deemed violating.

    Once granted a license, newspapers may not post videos over two minutes in length and are forbidden from live-streaming. The content of the videos is excessively regulated, with the law stipulating that “electronic media should be part of the printed content or a reflection of it, and tackles the same topic [sic].”

    “These regulations are the latest in tools the government has to control the press,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “Not only does this new edict restrict the content of what can be disseminated, it leaves individuals in the press more vulnerable to government persecution.”

    Decree 68/2016 is an extension of Bahrain’s 2002 Press Law (Royal Decree 47/2002), which is already frequently used to impose severe restrictions on journalists, correspondents, bloggers, and newspaper editors.  It contains 17 types of violations for which journalists may be fined or imprisoned. Earlier this year, Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) used an aspect of the 2002 law to ban newspapers from publishing videos on YouTube. Al-Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper was forbidden from using its YouTube channel though it disputed the government’s claims that they were in violation of the law.

    The timing of the edict corresponds with a massive crackdown of the political opposition. Earlier this month, a Bahraini court dissolved the country’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq. “At a time when international media are focused elsewhere in the world on one crisis after the other, Bahrain is quietly losing its foothold on the path to democracy. Without freedom of expression, the country risks sliding closer still to other authoritarian regimes in the region,” said Sayed Yousef Al-Muhafdah, Vice-President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). While the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, added further concern that, “by tightening its grip on the media, Bahraini authorities seek to control the narrative inside the country and stifle dissenting voices.”

    While the Bahraini government increases their control of the press in order to secure their dominance in unstable times, there is a direct connection between the government’s suppression of independent media and the destabilization of society. We in the Bahraini human rights community condemn these alarming new restrictions on the media. We call on the Government of Bahrain to amend these press laws to conform with international press standards and to fully respect the universal right to free expression.
     

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    Justice Human Rights Organization

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    Bahraini prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Sharif was released from Jaw prison having served a one-year prison sentence over a peaceful speech he made in July 2015. The prosecution have appealed the verdict and he is due back in court on 13 October.

    Read the report here.

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    The spiritual leader of Bahrain's Shi'ite Muslim majority went on trial on Wednesday on charges of collecting donations illegally and money laundering in a case that has increased tensions in the Western-allied Gulf Arab state.

    Ayatollah Isa Qassim, who also faces expulsion from the country after authorities revoked his citizenship last month for alleged foreign links and fomenting violence, says the charges are part of a political crackdown on majority Shi'ites to stop them from pushing for political reforms.

    Read the full article here.

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    We, the undersigned, express our deep concern with the Bahraini Public Prosecution’s decision to chargeNazeeha Saeed, correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, with unlawfully working for international media. We consider this an undue reprisal against her as a journalist and call on Bahrain’s authorities to respect fully the right of journalists to practice their profession freely.

    Nazeeha Saeed is an award-winning journalist and correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24. She has previously reported on the protest movement in 2011, and has reported on the mounting dissent against the Bahraini government for the last several years.

    On Sunday 17 July 2016, the Public Prosecution summoned Nazeeha Saeed for interrogation based on a legal complaint from the Information Affairs Authority (IAA). The prosecution charged her under article 88 of Law 47/2002, which regulates the press, printing and publication. Article 88 states that no Bahraini can work for foreign media outlets without first obtaining a license from the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), which must be renewed annually.

    Read the entire article here.

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    A detainee being held in the Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain has died while in custody, authorities announced Sunday.

    The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the unidentified detainee died of natural causes after being taken to the Salmaniya Medical Complex. It gave no further details on the circumstances of his death other than that he was suffering from an unspecified "medical condition" and had been referred to a doctor. Questions sent to the ministry seeking clarification went unanswered.

    Bahrain's Sunni-led government has faced years of low-level unrest following its crushing of a 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising led by the country's Shiite majority. Authorities have intensified a crackdown on political opponents and activists in recent weeks, and earlier this month ordered the country's main Shiite opposition group, al-Wefaq, to be dissolved.

    Opposition activists and rights groups have previously alleged that some detainees face torture in the country, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. The government says it is opposed to any kind of mistreatment.

    Read the entire article here.

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