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    1 August 2016

    The Honorable John F. Kerry
    Secretary of State
    U.S. Department of State
    2201 C Street NW
    Washington, DC 20520

    Dear Secretary Kerry,

    We write to raise our serious concerns with the Government of Bahrain’s continued repression against peaceful dissent, including the renewed prosecution of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). The State Department Spokesperson recently noted the Government of Bahrain’s detention of Nabeel is “not consistent” with its promise to implement human rights reforms. In June, Vice President Biden called King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa to express “strong concerns regarding recent negative developments” in the country, while you, yourself, recently stated that Bahraini authorities’ recent actions “undermine Bahrain’s cohesion and security” and threaten broader regional stability. Yet, the crisis in Bahrain is continuing to worsen.

    On 13 June, the Bahraini government arrested Rajab, the country’s most prominent human rights defender. He is the Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of the MENA Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch (HRW). The Public Prosecution subsequently charged him with allegedly “spreading false news and rumors about the internal situation in a bid to discredit Bahrain,” in connection with two television interviews. While in jail on this charge, he was then sent to trial for a previous charge related to two tweets he posted in 2015. If he is found guilty in the latter case, Rajab may face up to 13 years in prison, merely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    Since Rajab’s arrest, authorities have subjected him to solitary confinement and unsanitary living conditions. Rajab has lost approximately 15 pounds and suffers from a number of health conditions, which have worsened since his arrest. Bahraini authorities have postponed his trial, and refused his defense lawyers’ request for release pending his court appearance.

    Rajab’s arrest comes amid a deepening human rights and political crisis in Bahrain, in which the government has moved to close nearly all space for civil society and peaceful dissent. The Bahraini government has shut down the largest opposition political party in the country, more than doubled the prison sentence of that party’s leader for his peaceful speech, and revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the preeminent spiritual leader for Bahrain’s Shi’a community.

    The United States, as a close ally of Bahrain, must demonstrate a firm commitment to human rights in Bahrain and show that further steps to silence peaceful dissent will not be overlooked. Therefore, we call on you to direct the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, William Roebuck, to attend Rajab’s trial tomorrow, 2 August, as an international observer. His presence will help demonstrate that further moves toward repression in Bahrain only undermine the country’s stability and strain the bilateral relationship.

    Sincerely,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
    Human Rights First (HRF)
    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)
    Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
    Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    Solidarity Center

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    The undersigned NGOs call on the government of Bahrain to immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into the death of 35-year-old detainee Hassan Jassim Hasan Al-Hayki amid credible allegations of torture. Officials must prosecute and hold accountable anyone found to have caused or contributed to Mr. Al-Hayki’s death. These torture allegations also raise further concerns regarding the inability of the Ministry of the Interior’s Ombudsman and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC) to prevent ongoing abuses in Bahrain’s detention centers.

    On 31 July 2016, the Al-Hoora police station reported the death of Mr. Al-Hayki to his family in a phone call, informing them that he had died at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. No specific causes of death were provided but a post on the Interior Ministry’s website alleged that he “suffered from a medical condition” and had died from “natural causes”. His family has confirmed that Al-Hayki did not suffer from any health issues prior to his arrest and have alleged that he died from injuries sustained during torture at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID).

    Mr. Al-Hayki was detained on 4 July after masked security forces raided his home in Isa Town at approximately 6:00am. The authorities did not present an arrest or search warrant. Mr. Al-Hayki was subsequently accused of taking part in a 30 June bombing at the village of Al Ekar which led to the death of a civilian, Fakhriya Msallam.

    Following his initial arrest, Mr. Al-Hayki, in a short phone call, informed his family that he was being held at the CID and asked them during a second call for clothes. The government denied him access to a lawyer.

    On 8 July 2016, Mr. Al-Hayki told his family that he was taken to the Public Prosecution for interrogation where he refused to sign a confession. When he returned to the CID, he alleged that he experienced further ill treatment and was threatened at gunpoint.

    On 10 July 2016 he was taken to the Public Prosecution for the second time, where officials allegedly subjected him to sexual abuse and forced him to sign the confession. His family has reported that despite his multiple requests to the Public Prosecution for a lawyer, the authorities continued to interrogate Mr. Al-Hayki without one. When his lawyer went to the Public Prosecution, officials told him that Mr. Al-Hayki had not been brought in yet.

    Two days later, on 12 July 2016, the Ministry of Interior published a video reconstruction of the reported Al-Eker blast, which included a photo of Al-Hayki, along with two other defendants. The video claimed that they were involved in the incident that allegedly caused the death of Fakhriya Msallam.

    On 24 July 2016, Mr. Al-Hayki informed his family that he was moved to Building 10 of the Dry Dock Detention Center. His family was able to see him a day later on 25 July 2016. They told the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) that he looked exhausted and unnaturally thin during the visit. They also said that security forces subjected him to severe and frequent beatings on his head and genitals at the CID. The authorities also allegedly hung him in chains on multiple occasions over the course of four days, causing him to collapse and lose feeling in his body.  Mr. Al-Hayki’s family say that he last made contact during a phone call on 30 July.

    The family has not been allowed to see Al-Hayki’s body and have filed a case at Hoora police station of a criminal suspicion, giving details of his alleged torture at the CID, and requesting an autopsy. The family has not yet received the death certificate.

    The Government of Bahrain has an obligation to respect the right to life under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also under an obligation to prevent the use of torture under the UN Convention Against Torture. The lack of due process during Al-Hayki’s arrest, interrogation, and detention, combined with a denial of the right to a fair trial and allegations of torture, raise further questions over Bahrain’s commitment to its international human rights obligations and its promises of reform. These allegations of mistreatment coupled with the deceased lack of previous health problems raise serious concerns over his sudden death. It is reminiscent of cases documented by the Bahraini Independent Committee of Inquiry (BICI) - which reported at least five cases of death in custody presumed to be due to complications suffered as a result of torture. In November 2014, another person reportedly died in prison due to torture. No senior officials were held into account for the torture and mistreatment against prisoners, instead the Bahraini authorities  have resorted to detaining and prosecuting those who discuss torture, including the president of BCHR, leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

    The undersigned call the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Allow an immediate visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to conduct an impartial investigation into the death of Hassan al-Hayki.
    • Prosecute and hold to account any person proven to be responsible for ill-treatment or torture, including those who authorised or oversaw such abuses.


    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

     

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    Nabeel Rajab, the Bahraini human rights activist and Index on Censorship award winner, is due to stand trial on 2 August over comments he made on Twitter criticising government institutions. In Bahrain, such comments can land you in jail, as Rajab has seen before, having spent two years behind bars for tweets made in 2012.

    Read the entire article here.

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    2 August 2016 - The High Criminal Court in Bahrain today postponed for the second time the trial of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab until 5 September 2016. The charges against Rajab amount to a serious violation of his right to freedom of expression. The judge again refused a request made by Rajab’s lawyer for his release on the basis of his poor health and the lack of evidence presented by the prosecution. The undersigned NGOs strongly condemn the ongoing harassment of Nabeel Rajab and the further extension of his detention.

    The Government of Bahrain first arrested Rajab on 2 April 2015, charging him in relation to to comments he shared on Twitter concerning torture at Jau Prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Authorities initially released him on 13 July 2015, but they did not drop the charges. Less than a year later, on 13 June 2016, the government once again incarcerated Rajab on a separate and new charge of spreading “false or malicious news, statements, or rumors”.

    According to Rajab’s representation, government security forces kept Rajab in solitary confinement since his arrest under very poor conditions, thereby causing his health to seriously deteriorate. His lawyer has stated that government security forces regularly subject Rajab to harassment in detention. In addition, government officials closely monitor his conversations during family visits, thereby violating his right to privacy. The government recently denied compassionate leave after the death of a close relative.

    Rajab will remain detained at least until his next trial date, which the courts continue to postpone. The High Criminal Court in Bahrain first postponed Rajab’s trial on 12 July, where the court first heard all charges made over a year ago, and his lawyers learned of an additional charge related to insulting Saudi Arabia.

    Rajab faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of spreading “false or malicious news, statements, or rumours” under article 133 of Bahrain’s penal code. If convicted under article 215 of the penal code for “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” for tweets related to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, he faces a further two years imprisonment. He faces an additional three-year sentence if convicted of “offending a statutory body” under article 216 of the penal code for comments relating to Jau prison in Bahrain. In total, Rajab could serve up  to 15 years imprisonment for his statements over Twitter.

    The Government of Bahrain must end its continued reprisals against human rights defenders. We call on the international community to speak out strongly against the arrest of Nabeel Rajab. We further demand that the Government of Bahrain immediately and unconditionally release Rajab, and begin respecting his basic human rights.

     

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

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    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The nightly disruption of internet access in a Bahraini neighborhood home to a prominent Shiite cleric targeted in a government crackdown appears to be deliberate, an advocacy group said Thursday.

    With independent news gathering growing more difficult in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the report suggests the internet slowdown is intended to disrupt protesters in the Duraz neighborhood. That's where protesters have held a sit-in and demonstrated in support of Sheikh Isa Qassim, who lost his citizenship in June over government allegations he fanned extremism

    Locals in Duraz have complained about poor internet connectivity in recent weeks, as well as heavy police presence. Each night around 7 p.m. and lasting until about 1 a.m., online traffic there slows to less than a crawl on mobile phones and some fixed-line internet connections, Bahrain Watch said.

    Read full article here

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    A Foreign Office minister has been accused of “covering up” an alleged case of torture in the state of Bahrain, a key Middle Eastern ally whose prisons system has received millions of pounds worth of support from Britain.

    The statements by MP Tobias Ellwood concern the case of Mohammed Ramadan, a 32-year-old airport policeman who was arrested for involvement in the killing of a police officer in February 2014 and subsequently sentenced to death. Activists say he confessed falsely to the crime after being tortured.

    On 19 April this year, Ellwood submitted an answer to the House of Commons in which he said British embassy officials had been in direct contact with Bahrain’s prison ombudsman and that the watchdog, which is part of a programme that receives £2 million worth of support from the Foreign Office, had told his department there had been “no allegations of mistreatment or torture” in relation with the case.

    Read full article here

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    Human rights defender Maytham Al-Salman issues a video statement on the recent repressive measures and crackdown on civil society organizations and Shiite citizens in Bahrain, and on rearresting Nabeel Rajab and stripping the nationality of Ayatollah Isa Qasim Bahrain.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned over the wellbeing of detainees in Bahraini prisons and their access to adequate medical care, including cases where the detainees are suffering from serious diseases, thus violating their right to medical care, and putting their health, and in some cases their lives, at risk.

    BCHR was able to document 89 cases, both current and ongoing since 2011, of detainees who are suffering from a wide range of illnesses in prison, amid concerns and allegations that they do not have adequate access to medical care.

    Among the list, there are 10 persons who are suffering due to injuries caused by police use of excessive force prior or during arrest, including four persons where the injury resulted in disability to the detainee. They were injured by security forces using shotguns, and many of them suffered from injuries to their head, eyes, and chest. What’s common between these detainees is that most of them allege that they are deprived of medical care, which could be related to the authorities’ attempts to hide their alleged abuse, especially in cases where the detainee has suffered disability due to the injury. For example, Abbas Ali Hasan lost his eye after being hit by shotgun bullets and is still suffering a lack of medical care for his other eye, which is at risk.

    The list also includes at least eight persons who are still suffering the consequences of torture on their health, including one person who is suffering a disability resulting from torture.

    In addition, there are at least four special needs persons including one person who lost vision due to lack of treatment after detention, which raises the total number of people suffering disability while in detention to nine persons. Finally, at least four persons have recorded a deterioration in health including psychological health after imprisonment, which could be attributed to the prison conditions.

    As per the information received by BCHR, at least 61 detainees are suffering illnesses that could be due to a natural cause, although their health conditions have deteriorated due to the limited or lack of medical care. The largest group is that of 17 detainees who are suffering from sickle cell disease (SCD), which is a widespread inherited blood disorder in Bahrain, and is the 9th most common cause of death in Bahrain, according to the 2012 Ministry of Health statistics. SCD causes a lot of health problems to patients, which vary in each individual case; however, pain episodes or crisis are the most common complication of SCD. It can be treated with pain medication, while some people may need to be admitted to the hospital for intense treatment. Since 2011, Bahrainis with SCD have suffered from denial of medical access, inadequate medical care, and ill treatment while in detention, resulting in the death of two detainees, Mohammed Mushaima and Jaafar Al-Durazi, while in custody in 2012 and 2014, respectively. (For more information, see this report.)

    According to BCHR’s records, prisoners regularly suffer from back problems, heart problems, vision problems, bone injury and diabetes, among other illnesses, as demonstrated on the below chart:  

    Number of detainees suffering from different types of health problems

    As per family complaints received by BCHR, some detainees have reportedly been denied adequate medical care for months or even for years. Some detainees are only allowed to go to the prison clinic, which lacks specialised doctors and equipment. This lack of specialised medical care leads to further deterioration in their health. Other detainees are allowed to visit the hospital, whether Salmaniya Hospital or Bahrain Defense Force Hospital. However, some of them are only allowed to go for their first or sometimes second appointments; they are denied follow-up appointments on a regular basis. In many cases, detainees are only given painkillers, instead of receiving any medical treatment for their health conditions. Moreover, in many cases, the treatment appears to be deliberately delayed, which leads to further deterioration in the detainee's’ health.

       

    Some of the detainees who are taken to the hospital report that they are subjected to harassment and ill-treatment by the guards accompanying them. Furthermore, BCHR has received reports that whenever political prisoners are taken to the public hospitals, they are handcuffed all the time including while receiving treatment. Some of them have been seen with chains on their legs as well. BCHR consider these excessive restrictions to be a form of humiliation and unnecessary measures used against political prisoners.

    That being said, even if detainees receive some medical care, poor prison conditions play a role in furthering the deterioration of their health conditions. As per a recent report of the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission on its visit to Jau prison, it noted that “Medical staff were knowledgeable but lacked specialized training, and there was no medical consultant other than the psychiatrist who only attended twice a week. There were some delays in responding to emergency cases or when transporting the prisoners outside Jau Prison because the ambulance driver was not always available. There was no qualified paramedic but an assistant paramedic. The clinic was old and small and did not match the specifications of medical clinics.”  

    As documented previously by BCHR, Dry Dock Detention Center, Jau Prison, and Isa Town Women’s Prison, all have poor living conditions. They all have been substantially overcrowded for the past few years, due to the large number of arrests and detentions that occur in Bahrain over politically motivated charges. In Jau Prison, due to overcrowding, some inmates end up sleeping on the floors alongside waste and cockroaches. Prison  cells  and  toilets  are  unsanitary,  the  healthcare  facilities are inadequate and the clinic is not equipped to deal with emergency situations. Damaged or unclean bedding is rarely replaced, and many inmates go without these basic necessities. Furthermore, detainees have to deal with physical abuse and ill-treatment from the guards, and even allegedly torture in some cases, just like during Jau prison events in March 2015, when detainees protested poor prison conditions.

    It is important to note that some detainees carry out hunger strikes multiple times to receive adequate medical care, such as Ali Al-Bannaa, Abdullah Al-Samoom, Ayoub Adel, Habib Ayoub Al-Mughani, Jaafar Eid, and Qasim Hamada, but they don’t always end up receiving the medical care that they need.

    Detainee Ebrahmi AlMiqdad fully chained in hands and legs

     

    Sample Cases:

    The following are sample cases of detainees suffering due to lack of medical care or improper detention conditions that are adding more risk to their deteriorating health:


    1. Nabeel Rajab

    BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on 13 June 2016 with very poor and unsanitary conditions in pre-trial detention, in addition to ill-treatment. This is causing further deterioration to his physical and psychological health. On 28 June 2016, he was transferred to Bahrain Defense Hospital due to irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure; but he was transferred back to the police station the next day, though his health was still unstable. He lost 8 kgs in two weeks, and he continues to suffer from heart, gallbladder and blood pressure problems. His heartbeat was at 53bp, whereas a normal one ranges between 60-11. He cannot drink or eat well, or even use the toilet, due to the poor unsanitary conditions of his detention. Rajab also needs to have two different surgical operations to treat gallstones and an enlarged gallbladder. Rajab suffers from an enlarged prostate. He also needs to be seen by a hematologist. His operations were scheduled for August, but he has not yet received treatment. For more information, see here.

     

    2. Akbar Ali Ahmed Al-Kishi

    In 2012, Akbar Ali Ahmed Al-Kishi was arrested and sentenced to over 60 years in prison based on confessions extracted under torture. According to information received by BCHR,  Al-Kishi was reportedly subjected to torture again in March 2015, during Jau prison events, including beatings directed towards his head, which led to the severe deterioration of his psychological health, to the extent that he started to have hallucinations. He tried to commit suicide more than once. Due to the efforts of his mother, he was taken at some point to a psychiatrist, but according to his mother, he was not given any real attention by the doctor, and this didn’t help him at all. His mother says that there is no improvement in his mental state; he has been like this for a whole year and 3 months. For background information, see here.

     

    3. Mohammed Faraj (22 years old)

    Mohammed Faraj was arrested on 27 October 2014 and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Faraj suffers from Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. His treatment requires injections three times a week and a regular intake of medicine. At first, the administration at Jau Prison - where he is held - refused to accept his injections and medicine that his family tried to provide many times. Afterwards, he was allowed to have the injections but not on a regular basis. As a result of that, his illness reached his spinal cord, and he was prescribed Gilenya pills by a specialist doctor. This would require him to have regular check ups in the hospital, which he is not allowed by the prison’s administration. Lately, his family demanded to contact him, as they didn’t hear from him for over 15 days. For more information, see here.

     

    4. Elias Faisal Al-Mulla (25 years)

    Elias Faisal Al-Mulla was arrested on 11 May 2012, and sentenced for 15 years in prison. In March 2015, during Jau prison events, Elias was reportedly subjected to torture, and was allegedly beaten repeatedly in his stomach by the security forces. In May 2015, he started to have a severe stomach ache. On 1 August 2015, he was taken to the hospital because he was continuously vomiting a lot of blood. In the hospital, he had a right hemicolectomy (open right colectomy), a surgery involving the removal of the right ascending part of the colon, and then attaching the remaining part of the large bowel to the small bowel, without the knowledge of his family. On 5 August 2016, he was diagnosed with colon cancer stage 3, but he was taken back to prison the same day, without knowing of his diagnosis. Al-Mulla didn’t suffer from any diseases in his colon before, nor does he have a family history of such diseases either. He started chemotherapy on 8 October 2015, and took 7 doses in total, then his 8th dose was canceled. He also took chemical pills and vitamins. Though he was supposed to take a dose every 3 weeks, his appointments were often postponed, because his immunity was too weak due to chemotherapy. For that reason, he was given injections to improve his immunity. However, he was sometimes not given all the pills that he needed, other times not given the pills at all, and at times not given the immunity injection as well. In addition, the poor prison conditions put him at risk of getting more sick due to his weak immunity. During his chemotherapy, he wasn’t given the food recommended to him by the doctor. Also during chemotherapy he suffered from general fatigue; pain all over his body, particularly in the joints, and in his legs; stomach ache; broken teeth; hair loss; vision loss;weight loss; back pain; his skin changed color and peeled off; paresthesia in his fingertips; irregular body temperature; and dizziness.

    He still suffers from stomach aches (pain in the place of the surgery), pain all over his body and particularly in the joints, paresthesia in his fingertips, vision loss, and hair loss.
    Al-Mulla was supposed to have an operation on 23 June 2016, of which his family doesn’t know the details. He refused to go, because he was feeling fatigued, and because he is mistreated by those who accompany him to hospital. In addition, he still feels pain in the place of the last surgery. His last family visit was on 11 July 2016, before which his family wasn’t able to contact him for 20 days. He needs to be taken to a specialist doctor for his vision and teeth; and he needs an appointment for a CT scan, and an operation. His health is deteriorating, and his family is afraid that if his cancer reaches stage 4 that he may be at risk of losing his life due to inadequate medical care.

     

    5. Taiba Darwish (42 years old)

    In March 2016, Bahraini authorities sentenced Taiba Darwish to five years in prison on charges of harboring wanted fugitives. Prior to her detention, doctors diagnosed Taiba with uterine fibroids. The symptoms worsened after her arrest, for which she was allowed some treatment, but it didn’t continue throughout her detention. In April 2016, pain and bleeding from her uterine fibroids returned. Darwish was allowed to go to the military hospital for treatment; however, no doctor was present during her medical examination. Doctors instead sent questions to Darwish via a police officer who then reported back to the doctor. Authorities did not give Darwish any medical reports from her examination. After her examination, doctors told Darwish they would provide her with two-months’ worth of treatment. Doctors said they would remove Darwish’s uterus if the fibroids did not respond to the treatment after two months. Before her April visit to the military hospital, Darwish’s test results showed no new fibroids in her uterus. Her existing fibroids had begun to shrink. Darwish later reported to prison warden Mariam Al-Baloudi that she felt humiliated by the doctor’s threat to remove her uterus. Al-Baloudi took no action as a result of these complaints. In addition, Darwish has problems with her kidneys, and continues to suffer from pain in her back and kidneys. Authorities promised Darwish access to treatment for this problem; but they have yet to allow medical care for her kidneys. Darwish’s prognosis has affected her psychological state. Darwish’s family worries about the lack of medical treatment Darwish is receiving while in detention. The family is also concerned about the verbal abuse inflicted on Darwish while they were present at a visit. Darwish reported to her family that authorities have subjected her to abuse worse than what the family witnessed.


    6. Ali Al-Moaaily (51 years)

    Ali Al-Moaaily was arrested in 8 May 2016, and was reportedly subjected to torture by security forces. His alleged torture led to the deterioration of his health; his heart muscle has gotten weaker, and his lungs filled up with excess fluid. In addition, on 4 June 2016, he had a stroke in his left side. He didn’t receive adequate medical care, as he was taken to Salmaniya hospital for only two days while in handcuffs, then was taken back to prison on 6 June 2016. His family visited him on 6 June 2016, and his voice seemed weak, and he was barely able to move. He also suffers from other diseases such as high blood pressure, herniated disc in his back, chronic pain in his legs, which puts his health at risk.  He was taken in a wheelchair to renew his detention.

     

    7. Jaffar Ali Oun (29 years old)

    Jaffar Ali Oun has been in detention at Jau prison since Jun 2014. He has reportedly been subject to torture on different occasions since his arrest including during the events of March 2015. He was allegedly beaten on his head, ears, and back with plastic hoses, iron rods and wires until he was bleeding. His family reported in August 2016 that he has been suffering from a growing swelling in the head in the past three months, described as “a second head of Jaffar.” As per the family’s reports, Oun has been requesting for months to go to the hospital, but the prison authorities are only taking him for emergencies to the prison clinic. He was given an appointment at the military hospital but was never taken to his appointments. Whenever he asks about the appointment date he is told that it cannot be shared with him due to “legal reasons.” Since the swelling on his head has not been diagnosed by a medical specialist, there is a great concern over its nature and possible effects on the life of Oun.

     

    Recommendations:

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) reiterates the importance of upholding the international conventions related to the protection of individuals subjected to incarceration, specifically article 1 of the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, which states that “all prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.” The government should abide by the unconditional prohibition of torture stated in the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) (ratified 1998), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (ratified 2006) article 7. The government should also abide by the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including article 10 which states that “all accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation;” and article 22 which states that “Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.”

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release detainees held for politically motivated charges, and convicted using confessions extracted under torture;
    • Put an end to the the practice of systematic torture and ill treatment of detainees;
    • Improve the daily living conditions in detention centers and prisons;
    • Immediately and unconditionally provide all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment;
    • End the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation and punishment for exercising their human rights;
    • Abide by the international standards for the treatment of prisoners;
    • Sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which states that there should be a committee which supervises prison conditions and allows for surprise visits; and
    • Hold accountable all, particularly those in high positions, who are involved in the practice of supervising or ordering of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

     

    For reference: A list of the examined cases of prisoners suffering illness in detention.

     

     

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    Nightly mobile network disruption has been detected in a Bahraini village at the centre of recent protests, an advocacy group has said.

    Bahrain Watch has published a report in which it describes disruption to 3G and 4G networks in the village of Duraz.

    Anti-government protests have been held in Duraz, which is home to Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

    Phone calls and SMS messages functioned normally during tests by Bahrain Watch, but data services were not available.

    Read full article here.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is alarmed about information received regarding the further deterioration of the health of its president, leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, in detention.

    As reported by his wife, Sumaya Rajab, on 4 August, Bahraini authorities delayed urgent hospital appointments until early September. Rajab was scheduled to attend a consultation with specialists at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital in order to discuss an operation for the removal of gallstones and an operation to treat an ulcer on his back.

    Prior to his arrest on 13 June 2016, the SurgiCare clinic in Bahrain had recommended that he have surgery for the ulcer following treatment to clear a related infection with antibiotics. According to information received by BCHR, this ulcer has now worsened to the level of bleeding due to the poor conditions in detention. Rajab has requested his wife to provide bandages for the bleeding.

    In addition, the Bahraini authorities have also postponed a further consultation with a blood disease specialist, who is supposed to treat Rajab’s immunity problems which are caused by a low white blood cell count, a condition that Rajab had not experienced prior to his detention.

    Since his arrest, Rajab has been placed at West Riffa police station in solitary confinement and under extremely poor conditions. The living conditions in his cell are highly unsanitary, as the toilet and shower are unclean, unhygienic, and filled with potentially disease-carrying sludge. There is either no or very little water in the bathroom. Rajab has occasional contact with other inmates for no more than a few hours or overnight. The effect of these poor conditions is clearly resulting in his deteriorating health as he has requested painkillers to treat severe headaches and lower back pain, which have been provided by his family.

    On 28 June 2016, he had been transferred to hospital on an emergency basis due to irregular heartbeats. This was his only access to specialist medical treatment since his arrest.

    Despite Rajab’s poor health condition, the judge of the high criminal court refused to release him on 2 August 2016. The government has already placed a travel ban on Rajab, and his continued detention - at risk to his health – can be considered punishment for his human rights work.

    In addition to being a founder and the President of BCHR, Rajab is the Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, and a member of the MENA Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch.

    Rajab is facing up to 15 years in prison for a number of charges related to tweets and retweets concerning torture allegations at Jau Prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. His trial is ongoing despite lack of evidence by the prosecution.

    BCHR is deeply concerned about Nabeel Rajab’s well-being. We therefore call on the international community to press for his basic human rights to be respected, for his immediate and unconditional release, and for an end to the government of Bahrain’s reprisals against human rights defenders.

    For updated information please see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/updates-arrest-and-detention-bchrs-president-nabeel-rajab

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    8 August 2016 - The government of Bahrain introduced further restrictions to the right to freedom of expression over the Internet last week, centralizing website-blocking powers under Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

    On 5 August 2016, the head of the TRA Board of Directors, Mohammed Ahmed Al-Amer, issued Decision 12/2016 regarding regulations on safety over the Internet. The decision states that all telecommunication companies in Bahrain must purchase and use a unified technical system for blocking websites. The control over this system will be centralized and entirely managed by the TRA.

    During the previous years, and albeit not having a centralized Internet filtering system, the Bahraini government has been indirectly enforcing its filtering policies to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country through orders from the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) and the Ministry of Interior, which the ISPs are obliged to follow in order to maintain their licenses with the TRA. However, with the new centralized system, the government will take direct control of the filtering process, allowing government agents  to block content they deem undesirable.

    It is believed that this new centralized filtering system is linked to the recently-awarded USD$1.2 million tender awarded to the Canadian company Netsweeper for a “national website filtering solution” in February 2016.

    Hundreds of website are blocked in Bahrain. On the pretext of combatting terrorism, authorities have blocked websites critical of government policies and actions, including news sites, human rights organizations homepages, and Shia religious websites. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights’ (BCHR) website has been blocked since 2006. Recently, the authorities have also blocked BCHR’s alternative website addresses created to circumvent the government Bahrain. On the other hand, many websites affiliated with Da’esh (ISIS) can be easily accessed in Bahrain.

    The TRA is a governmental body whose members are appointed by royal decree. Its main responsibilities are to regulate mobile phone services and ISPs. The TRA is also responsible for licensing telecommunication providers. Although ostensibly a purely regulatory agency, the TRA is used by the government to monitor activists and restrict the freedom of expression. In February 2016, the TRA revoked the license of the telephone and Internet services provider 2Connect for alleged failure to comply with national security obligations, including not providing a plan to allow security units’ access to the calls data and access related information sent over the provider’s network. 

    We believe that the authorities are escalating restrictions on freedom of Internet in order to silence free, critical voices. BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab was arrested in June and is being tried over charges related to tweeting and retweeting remarks regarding credible allegation of torture in Bahrain’s Jau prison and human rights violations in the war in Yemen.

    We, the undersigned, condemn these repressive measures, and call on the government of Bahrain to cease its restrictions on digital freedom and provide a space for its people to practice their rights to freedom of expression and opinion.

     

    Signatories:

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

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    Bahrain Mirror: A Bahraini court held the first trial of head of the largest Shiite religious body in the country, on Monday (August 8, 2016), over charges of illegal assembly and rioting.

    The Court abruptly held this afternoon the first trial hearing of the Islamic Scholars' Council president, Sayyed Majeed al-Mashaal. It then decided to adjourn the trial until August 17, so that the defense team is provided with a copy of the case documents. Meanwhile, the court announced that Sayyed al-Mishaal would remain in custody.

    Sayyed al-Mishaal had declared the start of the open-ended sit-in outside the house of the supreme Bahraini Shiite religious leader, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim last month, when authorities decided to strip the Sheikh of his citizenship.

    Read full article here

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    In the past week, the authorities have escalated their targeting of protesters in Duraz. The number of individuals summoned and arrested over the past week has substantially increased. We strongly condemn the Government of Bahrain’s violation of the protesters’ right to peaceful assembly and we raise concerns over the safety of the remaining protesters at the Duraz sit-in.

    On 20 June 2016, the Bahraini authorities revoked the citizenship of Bahrain’s Shia spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qasim. His supporters took to the streets in numbers unprecedented since 2011. With reports of the authorities’ intention to forcibly deport him, the protesters staged an open sit-in.

    Despite the authorities’ attempts to limit participation at this sit-in by issuing official statements threatening the protesters, restricting access to Duraz, and frequently summoning and arresting participants, the sit-in in front of Sheikh Isa Qasim’s house in Duraz has continued for more than 50 days. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented a recent escalation in the number of summons and arrests of individuals, which appears to be an attempt by the authorities to end the sit-in or reduce the numbers of protesters.

    The authorities have launched a mass campaign of summons and arrests over participation in the Duraz sit-in. Since the beginning of August, the BCHR has documented the summons of 73 persons, 44 of whom are Shia clerics and religious singers. The majority were kept in detention overnight before being presented to the public prosecution. Moreover, the public prosecution has remanded at least 23 of them to 15 days in detention over charges of participating in illegal assembly. Among them are well-known clerics and activists. This is believed to be a form of intimidation to prevent people from exercising their right to free assembly. Several of them reported being asked to sign a pledge not to participate in the sit-in. The complete number of those summoned and detained is suspected to be much higher.

    Since the beginning of August, the public prosecution has published seven public statements regarding the number of individuals summoned and interrogated over “illegal gathering” in Duraz. On 4 August 2016, the public prosecution stated that it has referred eight cases to the courts on charges of “unlawful gathering, instigating hatred of the regime and unlicensed rallying.”

    On 8 August 2016, the trial of Sheikh Majeed Al-Mesha’al, the head of the dissolved Ulema Council, has hastily commenced. His lawyer was not informed of the timing of the trial. It was postponed to 17 August 2016. On 30 July 2016, security forces raided the house of Sheikh Al-Mesha’al. The public prosecution charged him with allegedly persisting in inciting others to disobey the law and over his participation in an illegal gathering. Sheikh Al-Mesha’al actively participated in the sit-in in front of Sheikh Isa Qasim’s house. He was summoned several times since the start of the sit-in on 20 June 2016.

    The authorities have taken a number of repressive measures against protesters in Duraz. They have effectively put the whole community under siege. All entrances to the village have been closed. There are two entrances to the villages, both subjected to strict checkpoints. Only persons with addresses in Duraz on their ID cards can enter the villages. Families of persons from Duraz have been prevented from visiting since the start of the sit-in. Restrictions have been placed on the Internet. All Internet service providers – mobile and broadband – shut down their services between 7 P.M. to 1 A.M. (Read more: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/8005)

    Since the 14 February 2011 pro-democracy movement, the Bahraini authorities have introduced laws to further restrict the right to freedom of assembly. In 2013, the government passed amendments to the gathering law, placing a ban on all demonstrations unless permitted by the Ministry of Interior. It has especially banned demonstrations in Manama. The Bahraini authorities’ actions are in direct violation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 21 which states that “the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

    We call on the government of Bahrain to stop the restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, allow peaceful protesters to exercise their rights without fear of reprisal, and overturn all the recent repressive measures it has implemented.

    Signatories:
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

     

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    Bahrain's state-run news agency says 12 people have been detained and charged with unlawful assembly over demonstrations near the home of a Shiite cleric targeted in a crackdown on dissent in the tiny island kingdom. 

    Continue reading here.

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    The Bahraini authorities announced that telecommunications companies in Bahrain that provide internet services are obliged to purchase a unified technical system that blocks websites and is linked to a central system run by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). This new regulation allows the government to have full control over the internet infrastructure in the country, and directly block or provide access to sites.

    Read full report here.

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    The authorities have been increasing its targeting of Shiite clerics; while more than 15 religious scholars are in prison serving their sentences, among which are life sentences. The authorities recently summoned and arrested many more.

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    The Bahraini authorities summoned the human rights defender and scholar Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman to be present at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) for interrogation on Sunday, 14 August 2016. The authorities did not declare the reasons over which Al-Salman is going to be interrogated. We strongly condemn the targeting and prosecution of Al-Salman, and other human rights defenders and activists.

    Al-Salman is an international spokesperson and a human rights defender focused particularly on topics related to freedom of religion, anti-extremism, anti-violence and strengthening positive relations between cultures and religions. He is the head of the Religious Freedom unit at at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, the founding member and current coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Civil Society Coalition to Counter Incitement to Hatred; a multi-stakeholder platform and the Director of Bahrain Inter-Faith, a non-profit organization seeking to prevent religious and social discrimination and sectarianism, and working to encourage and support interfaith dialogue. Al-Salman also serves on a committee of the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

    He has taken part in a number of human rights conferences, as well as meetings with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Recently he has released a video statement about the recent crackdown on civil society in Bahrain and called for the international community to support efforts to end the crackdown.

    Al-Salman has been a target of repeated harassment by the authorities. In 2011, security forces arrested and subjected him to torture. The court sentenced him to four months in prison for inciting hatred against the regime. However, he was detained for six months before he was finally released. Since then, he has been repeatedly summoned and arrested over his human rights work. With each arrest, the authorities interrogated him over his activism and participation in international human rights conferences and forums. He was summoned several times during the past year, the latest in March 2016, when he was accused of allegedly “insulting religious figures.” The authorities have confiscated his passport since then. He has been prevented from traveling which hindered his ability to do his human rights work, and deprived him of attending the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law this summer.

    The targeting of Al-Salman and other human rights defenders, including President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab, is an example of the government of Bahrain’s attempts to restrict the space of human rights organizations and civil societies. We call upon the government of Bahrain to stop summoning and arresting human rights defenders and activists, release all detained defenders and drop charges against them, and provide civil societies with the space to practise their jobs without fear of reprisal.


     

    Signatories

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

     
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    British police have come under fire for their role in training Bahrain’s police force, which has been accused of ruthlessly suppressing public protests and dissent. A confidential 27-page “agreement for the provision of services”, obtained by the Observer, was signed on 14 June 2015 by the UK’s College of Policing and Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior. It spells out the explicitly commercial nature of the relationship between the two parties, but omits any mention of human rights issues.

    Read full article here.

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    In response to plans by Bahraini authorities to formally question interfaith leader Maytham Al Salman on August 14, Freedom House issued the following statement: “Authorities in Bahrain are using baseless interrogations to intimidate Maytham Al Salman and other human rights defenders, who are working to promote human rights, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue,” said Dokhi Fassihian, senior program manager for Middle East and North Africa programs. “These divisive tactics undermine the country’s social fabric and chances of reconciliation. The government should work with all of its citizens, especially its vibrant human rights community, to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.”

    Continue reading here.

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    In late July, the UK Foreign Office published an update report on human rights in Bahrain. From opening line to closing paragraph, the report implies the FCO is either being misled by its Gulf ally, or is knowingly minimising Bahrain's abuses. Bahraini human rights defenders (HRDs) suspect it's a bit of both.

    The report begins: "There has been a mixed picture on human rights in Bahrain between January and June 2016," standing in stark contrast to what HRDs are calling "the worst and most violent crackdown since 2011". The FCO's review continues with a largely upbeat story of reform in a kingdom that became famous in 2011 for crushing peaceful dissent, killing protestors, torturing medics and imprisoning human rights defenders for life following military trials.

    Read full article here.

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