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    As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton had a wrongheaded policy on Bahrain and supported the regime while it cracked down on protesters and trampled its own people’s human rights. But that folly had nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation; it was part of the Obama administration’s overall muddled reaction to the Arab Spring.

    Read the entire article here.

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    Bahrain—Today a coalition of nearly 30 organizations from around the world called on authorities in Bahrain to restore the internet in the country. Citing complex disruptions to internet service that were recorded in the neighborhood of Duraz, the letter (PDF) demands that the telecoms authority turn the internet back on and commit to transparency related to shutdown orders.

    “It’s clear that there is a coordinated effort across several ISPs to shut down mobile towers in Duraz at the same time every night, and deliberately degrade landline Internet traffic,” said Bill Marczak, co-founder of Bahrain Watch.

    Rights groups first recorded disruptions in June around street demonstrations that arose amidst a general economic slowdown, and directly followed the government’s decision to strip citizenship from a prominent cleric. The non-profit organization Bahrain Watch then conducted an in-depth technical study of the shutdown to understand how it was implemented, which turned out to be a more complex form than seen before.

    “The newly established regulatory bodies have given the authorities additional powers to control freedoms over the internet,”, observed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.“Through these bodies and the regulations it has imposed, the government has tightened the control and surveillance on the Internet – gaining easier access to Internet users thus having the ability for quick arrest and prosecution.”

    The letter, which was delivered to the Telecommunications Reglatory Authority of Bahrain, among other agencies, makes specific recommendations to authorities, including canceling any “service restriction orders” to telecommunications companies that enabled the shutdown; providing transparency around such orders; and respecting the right of Bahrainis to freedom of expression.

    The coalition signers of the letter are members of the #KeepitOn campaign to fight internet shutdowns around the world, and include groups from as far afield as Pakistan, Uganda, the Cook Islands, Lebanon, the United States, and Malaysia. Earlier this year UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai pushed back stronglyagainst the use of shutdowns during protests, and in July the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution that specifically condemns internet shutdowns. The Global Network Initiative also joined the Industry Dialogue — which together include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, AT&T and Vodafone — to speak out against shutdowns. This statement was swiftly followed by a policy position from the GSMA, one of the world’s largest technology associations, that laid out strict standards for orders issued to telcos to restrict service.

    Read the full letter here.

    Media Contact:

    Elena Mocanu
    Advocacy Officer and International Office Manager
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    +45 53893133
    Dronningensgade 14
    1420 København K
    Denmark

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  • 08/26/16--01:56: The "Miami Model" in Bahrain
  • How one American police chief exported his repressive tactics to the Middle East.

    Last week, John Timoney — the former New York Police Department chief who went on to lead the police forces of Philadelphia and Miami — died at the age of sixty-eight.

    For a cop who spent decades in the limelight, the obituaries have been glowing. The New York Times described Timoney  as an officer who “had the gall to change minds, one police department at a time.” Another Timesobituary cited his working-class roots and degrees in history and urban planning, celebrating that the police chief “plotted innovative strategies that helped reverse years of skyrocketing crime.” According to the New Yorker, “John Timoney was a good cop. No small thing in America, in 2016.”

    But for critics of militarized policing in the United States, Timoney is best remembered for pioneering the use of overwhelming force against demonstrators.

    At the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia — and again at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Miami — Timoney deployed a suite of crowd suppression methods that came to be known as the “Miami model”: mass arrests followed by mass acquittals; the criminalization of peaceful assembly through the denial of protest permits and banning of everyday objects; the sequestration of “embedded” reporters; the recruitment of “infiltrators” in activist groups; and the unrestrained use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “less lethal” weaponry.

    Also unmentioned by the Times, NPR, the Miami Herald, and nearly every other outlet was a seemingly discordant line on Timoney’s resume: consultant to the Ministry of the Interior, Bahrain, 2011–13.

    But the Bahrain connection is not as surprising, nor as tangential, as it may first appear.

    Continue reading here.

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    The courts in Bahrain have moved forward to hand down prison sentences against protesters from the Duraz sit-in. Two protesters were sentenced to one year of imprisonment each during the last week, after exceptionally speedy trials that lasted a few weeks only. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns the persecution and prosecution of peaceful protesters and the violation of their right to peaceful assembly and we raise concerns over the safety of the remaining protesters at the Duraz sit-in.

    Since late June 2016, in the wake of the citizenship revocation of Bahrain’s Shiite spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qasim, large numbers of supporters took to the streets of Duraz village in protest of the authorities’ decision, staging an open sit-in in order to show their support for Sheikh Qasim. Despite the authorities’ attempts to either limit participation by restricting access to Duraz, or to deter protesters by increasingly summoning and arresting participants, the sit-in in front of Sheikh Qasim’s house in Duraz has continued since. Previously this month, BCHR has already condemned the extensive violation of the protesters’ freedom of assembly, but the Bahraini authorities pressed forward with the prosecution of what they call “illegal gatherings.”

    Despite seasonally understaffed courts and minimal capacities, Bahraini authorities have swiftly pushed forward the prosecution of protesters of the Duraz sit-in and the first sentences have been issued within weeks of trials that started earlier this month. The first court verdict in relation to the Duraz protest was issued on 19 August 2016, in which Shiite cleric Sheikh Ali Humeidan was sentenced to one year in prison. The second sentence, passed on 22 August 2016, concerns Shiite religious reciter Abdullah Subah, who also was convicted and sentenced to one year of imprisonment “over charges of assembling in the Duraz area.”

    BCHR is very alarmed by the fast prosecution and the drastic sentences for charges based on peaceful assemblies and protest. We fear that many other protesters and participants of the sit-in will face sentences similar to Humeidan and Subah. The list of possible victims and verdicts is growing longer on a daily basis as the Duraz sit-in continues.

    On the same day as Sheikh Humeidan’s trial took place, the first hearing of Sheikh Hamza Al-Dairy’s trial was held, in which he is charged for "inciting hatred against the ruling system, joining among others a public assembly of more than five people and participating in an unannounced gathering." He is also accused of inciting hatred against the regime in a speech delivered at a rally in Duraz. His trial was adjourned to 29 August.

    The verdict in two cases of “illegal gathering and inciting hatred against the regime” against the head of the Council of Islamic Scholar (dissolved), Majeed Al-Mishal, whose trial started on 8 August 2016, is scheduled for 30 August 2016.

    In a number of similar cases at the beginning of this week, the Shiite clerics Sheikh Ali Naji (Al-Himli), Sheikh Mounir Al-Maatouk, Sheikh Imad Al-Shaala, and religious reciter Mullah Habib Al-Dirazi appeared in court for their first hearings, after which all their trials were adjourned to 30 August. All four were summoned for interrogation earlier this month and kept in custody for 15 days, based on charges for participating in the Duraz sit-in. In total as per BCHR records, at least 14 persons are currently in pre-trial detention for their participation at the Duraz Sit-in.

    Since the 2011 pro-democracy movement, the Bahraini government has introduced various laws with tightened restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly. In 2013, the public gathering law was amended, banning 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 Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 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.”

    Through their restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly, the Bahraini government also ignores the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council, disregarding its own commitment to follow up on these and further distancing itself from international obligations and standards.

    We call upon the Government of Bahrain to:
    -    Immediately release all those detained for peacefully practicing the freedom of assembly and withdrew all charges against them; and
    -    Annul and withdraw any restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and allow peaceful protesters to exercise their fundamental rights without disturbance and fear of interrogation, arrest or any other form of reprisal.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini government’s practice of holding detainees for a prolonged and indefinite period prior to being sentenced and convicted of any official charge. This is the case with Khalil Al-Halwachi, who has been detained for approximately two years without being sentenced, thus violating his right to due process.

    Khalil Al-Halwachi (59 years old) was arrested on 3 September 2014 through a house raid by security forces. The security forces presented neither a search nor an arrest warrant. Security forces transported Al-Halwachi to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where they allegedly subjected him to psychological torture and ill-treatment including keeping him in extremely low temperatures for hours at a time and preventing him from going to the toilet. Security forces then forced him to sign confessions while he was blindfolded.

    The interrogation focused on the activities of AMAL political society and its founders, although the society has been closed down since 2012 and Al-Halwachi is no longer a member of the group.

    At the public prosecution, the prosecutor interrogated Al-Halwachi without his lawyer, and charged him with alleged possession of a weapon. Security forces then transferred Al-Halwachi to the Dry Dock Detention Center. The authorities extended his detention three times under the Terrorism Law. After six months, on 22 March 2015, the authorities finally referred him to court. He made complaints about the ill-treatment he was subjected to with the ombudsman’s office, which transferred the case to the special investigation unit; but there was no outcome in Al-Halwachi’s case and he remains in detention during his trial.

    Since the commencement of his trial in March 2015, the court has postponed it 17 times thus far. The court postponed the trial several times due to the absence of the prosecution’s witness. When the witness finally showed up, his answer to most of the questions was “I forgot.” The defense lawyers of Al-Halwachi and 16 other defendants in the case were not allowed to call defense witnesses. The last session he had was on 21 June 2016 and it was postponed to 19 September 2016.

    Although Al-Halwachi has not been sentenced, prison authorities refuse to release him despite his deteriorating health, which includes repeated blood clotting episodes for which he is reportedly not getting proper medical care. He also has nerve damage, which caused paresthesia in his limbs, and has only gotten worse with his appalling prison conditions. He is currently isolated from other political detainees in ward 1 at Dry Dock Prison, apart from four political detainees with whom he had minimal contact, as they are not allowed to communicate with him.  

    The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006, requires state security forces to observe certain guidelines. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention;” and that “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Furthermore, Article 14 affirms the detainee’s right to a fair trial, as “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

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

    • Immediately and unconditionally release Khalil Al-Halwachi and all detainees who are held over politically motivated charges;
    • End the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention;
    • End the practice of holding detainees for a long time before they are sentenced, as it violates their right to due process;
    • End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions from detainees;
    • Bring to justice those who commit violations, including those who carry out and supervise abuses; and
    • Abide by international legislation, including conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory.

     

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    British police have been criticised for refusing to release details of an international deal to train security officials from Bahrain, a country accused of a litany of human rights abuses.

    Human rights campaigners have said the College of Policing (CoP), which sets standards for UK officers and offers worldwide training courses, should be compelled to explain their work in countries with poor records on civil liberties.

    The concerns come less than two months after MPs criticised the “totally unacceptable” opacity around the college’s provision of training to Saudi Arabia.

    Read full article here

     

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    The constitution declares Islam to be the official religion and sharia to be a principal source for legislation. It provides for freedom of conscience, the inviolability of places of worship, and freedom to perform religious rites. The constitution guarantees the right to express and publish opinions provided these do not infringe on the “fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine.” The law prohibits anti-Islamic publications and mandates imprisonment for “exposing the state’s official religion to offense and criticism.

    Read full report here

    Read PDF version here 

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    On the occasion of the International Day of the Disappeared, held annually on 30 August,

    the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) recalls the numerous cases of those Bahraini citizens who fell victim to enforced disappearance carried out by their own government, and raise concerns about the neglect of basic human rights by Bahraini authorities.

    Deriving from the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which entered into force in 2010 and has so far been signed by 96 and ratified by 52 states, this international day of commemoration was created to draw attention to all individuals taken and imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives. The day is also known as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

    According to the Convention, “‘enforced disappearance’ is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

    The act of enforced disappearance directly violates many basic human rights, including the right to liberty, right to security and dignity, right to recognition before the law, right to fair trial, and the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel and inhumane treatment.

    Even though Bahrain did not sign the Convention and it is thus not directly applicable to Bahrain, the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearances are preserved through three other international treaties that Bahrain has ratified: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the UN Convention against Torture (CAT).

    Nevertheless, enforced disappearance is still one of the recurring strategies of the Bahraini authorities as a mean of intimidation of civil society and deterring political opponents and activists from protesting violations and demanding their rights, affecting not only the victims themselves but the community as a whole.

    Victims of enforced disappearances are deprived of their liberty. Enforced disappearance occurs usually directly following an the arrest. This period of disappearance may last from a couple of hours up to several weeks. While in custody, they are deprived of their right to due process, not allowed to contact a lawyer or their families. They are frequently subjected to torture, ill-treatment and threats in order to make them sign confessions, with the consequence that victims are tried in unjust trials and subsequently sentenced to harsh and disproportionate sentences, including  the death penalty. Even if they are eventually freed, the physical and psychological scars stay with them for the rest of their lives. The victims’ families also suffer immense anguish and are subjected to emotional despair, fearing and concerned over the wellbeing of their loved ones.

    Two disturbing and shocking cases of how Bahraini authorities neglect their international obligations and commitments and carry out enforced disappearances, torture and coerced confessions are the ones of Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, who are both allegedly connected to a deadly bomb explosion, in which an officer and two policemen were killed in Al-Deir village on 14 February 2014.

    A few weeks after the explosion, Mohammed Ramadan was arrested without a warrant and without informing his family of his arrest. He was detained at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID), where he was subjected to sustained ill-treatment and torture for more than four days until he eventually signed a false confession stating that he was involved in the explosion in Al-Dair. Ramadan claims he was then informed that the government knew he was innocent, but that his participation in protests made him a “traitor” and therefore he supposedly deserved to be sentenced for his crimes. When Ramadan explained to a judge that he was forced to sign the false confession, he was brought to Riffa Police station for 13 days, where he was reportedly tortured once again.

    Similar to Ramadan, Husain Ali Moosa was arrested and kept in custody. He claimed that CID security officials hung him from the ceiling for three days while beating him with batons. CID officers threatened to harm his relatives and fabricate cases against them, and additionally threatened to rape his sisters. In order to stop his torture, Moosa confessed to being involved in the Al-Dair bombing. Three days later, when he recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor, he was again sent to CID and allegedly tortured for three months.

    Eventually, on 29 December 2014, Bahraini courts sentenced Ramadan and Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in the bomb explosion. Despite an Urgency Resolution of the European Parliament and international appeals, highlighting the lack of due process and impartiality present during the trials, the verdict was eventually upheld by the Bahraini High Appeals Court on 31 May 2016. Ramadan has exhausted all routes of the judicial appeals process on his case. Both Ramadan and Moosa are currently awaiting execution, which solely requires authorization by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and could be carried out at any time.

    These are just two cases that exemplify the worst case scenario: the death penalty. BCHR, however, continues to receive and observe similar cases from other victims of enforced disappearance. Bahrain also continuously appears in the annual reports of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) since 2011 and has been criticised in WGEID’s 108th session document for providing merely “insufficient” information regarding the clarification of the urgent cases of two men allegedly arrested by state agents in September and November 2015.

    In the light of the abovementioned, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned that Ramadan’s and Moosa’s prosecutions relied substantially on evidence obtained under torture and are in direct violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture. We therefore, exhort the international community to speak out against any form of human rights abuses, and further urge the Bahraini government to implement its commitments under international human rights law. Moreover, we call upon the government of Bahrain to:

    • Halt the application of the death penalty against Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa and vacate their sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
    • Conduct a full investigation into all credible allegations of torture, as mandated by the Convention Against Torture;
    • Implement international regulations against the use of torture as a means to extract false confessions;
    • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture; and
    • Sign and ratify  the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and transfer respective regulations into national law.

     

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    With the third UPR Process commencing in 2017, and the UN Human Rights Council’s 33rd Session starting in September, five NGOs have articulated a joint letter intended for UNHRC members regarding the pressing issues facing Bahrain.

    SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahraini German Organization for Human Rights and Democracy, and European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, all inputted their concerns that they have identified and verified, in the joint letter.

    The letter stressed that since the second UPR review in 2012, the Government of Bahrain has committed to introduce reforms recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, whilst opting to carry out no meaningful reforms, and also accepting recommendations but choosing not to properly implement them. Instead, repression remains the norm, and torture and mistreatment of human rights activists is rife. The signatory organizations confirmed their fear that there is a whitewashing of the true picture of what is happening in Bahrain. Not only is information about the real situation being withheld, but also those who do dare to speak out are being punished for doing so, and face torture, mistreatment and imprisonment.

    Continue reading here.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned over the continued targeting of its members. As of now, all the public figures of BCHR inside Bahrain are banned from leaving the country, some are detained or/and prosecuted.

    In the run-up to the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held in Geneva, the government of Bahrain, once more, has taken measures to hinder the work of human rights defenders and members of BCHR by imposing travel bans on them and preventing them from leaving Bahrain. Such actions are another step in a series of measures undertaken by the Bahraini authorities throughout the past months to disturb BCHR work and to impede our international advocacy efforts.

    In its most recent attempt to hamper BCHR’s work, the government of Bahrain imposed a travel ban on Nedal Al-Salman, BCHR’s Head of International Relations, on 29 August 2016. Based on an order by the public prosecution, she reported that she was not allowed to leave the country from the Bahrain International Airport. Al-Salman intended to travel to Geneva to participate in the UNHRC’s 33rd session, particularly in order to voice concerns about and draw attention to the recent and already several months-long government crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society members in Bahrain.

    On 23 August 2016, BCHR’s documentation team member, Hussain Radhi, was not permitted to leave Bahrain. He was informed by officials at the airport that the travel ban was imposed based on an order by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) order. When Radhi approached public prosecution to request the removal of the travel ban, his request was rejected and he was informed there is a case against him over remarks he made on Twitter, alleged to be "spreading false news and inciting hatred against the regime." The authorities have not officially informed Radhi of the case before nor he was questioned over these charges.

    This is not the first time Radhi has been prevented from traveling. On 12 June 2016, the authorities prevented him from leaving the country to participate in the UNHRC’s 32nd Session in Geneva. Last year, Radhi was tried for illegal gathering, and was eventually acquitted.

    On 22 August 2016, Enas Oun, head of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Section, was stopped by Bahraini authorities at Bahrain International Airport, while on her way to a human rights workshop in Tunisia. The authorities informed her that she cannot travel based on an order issued by the CID on the previous day.

    The Bahraini authorities arrested BCHR’s president Nabeel Rajab on 13 June 2016. They began a trial against him related to charges concerning remarks he made on Twitter about torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison and the war in Yemen. He awaits trial on 5 September 2016.

    Rajab is suffering poor detention conditions  since his arrest. His health has deteriorated as a result. He has been transported to the hospital several times. Most recently, on 25 August 2016, he suffered from shortness of breath and chest pain. This is not Rajab’s first arrest; he has been repeatedly arrested since 2011 and was detained for a total of two years between 2012 and 2015 in violation of his right to freedom of expression. Prior to his arrest, Rajab was arbitrarily prevented from traveling since 2014.

    Through its efforts to unveil abuses and raise awareness, BCHR has become a frequent target of government repression. The authorities dissolved BCHR in November 2004 following a speech by human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of BCHR at the time, in which he criticized the prime minister. Since 2010, there was not a single year where at least one of BCHR’s leadership members was not in prison. Moreover, BCHR’s Vice-President Said Yousef Al-Muhafdah was forced to seek exile in Germany after he became a target of arbitrary arrest for his human rights work. BCHR website is blocked in Bahrain and alternative links are frequently blocked to disallow locals from reaching the human rights data published by BCHR.

    The clampdown and travel restrictions placed on activists and human rights defenders have included: Ahmed Al-Safar and Ebtisam Al-Saegh of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer, Isa Al-Ghayeb, director of Lualua Center for Human Rights, and others who prefer to remain anonymous.

    BCHR believes that by enforcing travel bans and prosecuting human rights defenders, the authorities are attempting to prevent all human rights work and cover up the human rights violations in the country. The measures are in direct violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a signatory. Article 12(2) of the ICCPR states that “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his [or her] own,” while Article 19 guarantees the right to free expression.

    In view of the abovementioned, BCHR calls upon the government of Bahrain to:

    • Ensure the right to freedom of movement guaranteed through the ICCPR and Bahrain’s constitution by withdrawing all currently imposed travel bans in order to allow human rights defender to travel freely;
    • Facilitate cooperation with UN bodies and refrain from any actions that might interfere with the work of human rights defenders;
    • Immediately release all human rights defenders and political prisoners, including Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who are detained for expressing their opinions; and
    • Ensure the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech in Bahrain, as guaranteed through the ICCPR, and refrain from any acts of reprisal based on the right to free expression.


     

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    Bahrain's main opposition al-Wefaq has appealed against an administrative court ruling last month that dissolved the group and found it guilty of fostering terrorism, a leading Wefaq official said on Tuesday.

    The court decision to dissolve al-Wefaq was part of a wider government crackdown on an opposition mainly comprised of Shi'ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger say in running the Western-allied Gulf Arab state.

     

    Read article here.

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    Since May 2016 Bahrain has seen an alarming intensification in the crackdown on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement, particularly against the political opposition and those critical of the authorities. This is Amnesty International's written statement to the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 – 30 September 2016)

     

    Read the full statement here.

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    On 29 August 2016, human rights defender Ms Nedal Al-Salman was banned from travelling to Doha from Bahrain International Airport.
    Nedal Al-Salman is the Head of International Relations and Women & Children's Rights Advocacy at Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and active in the promotion of women’s rights in Bahrain.

    The human rights defender was travelling to Doha on 29 August 2016 on her way to Geneva to participate in several meetings at the United Nations Human Rights Council, when she was informed by officials at Bahrain International Airport that the Public Prosecution had ordered a travel ban against her. The human rights defender was not formally notified of this order nor its reasons.

     

    Read full statement here.

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    Today, 31 August 2016, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) published a new report entitled “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”, which examines and discusses the measures taken by the Bahraini authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and increase surveillance of content published online as well as the ongoing prosecution and detention of Internet users.

    read full report here

    Since the advent of the Internet in the country in 1995, civil society activists and opposition figures have used it for their activities, such as communications and advocacy. Particularly during and since the 2011 pro-democracy movement, social media platforms have gained widespread popularity. Nowadays, Bahrain is the country with the highest Internet penetration in the Middle East and North Africa region; however, it is also the country in which people feel the least safe to express their opinion, criticize the government or talk about politics.

    According to the report’s findings, since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have collectively sentenced at least 40 Internet users to more than 842 months in prison for exercising their right to free expression on the Internet and independent social media. As of August 2016, at least 17 Internet users remain in prison, including BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab, who is the first person in Bahrain to be tried for “retweets” and now faces up to 15 years in prison. Indeed, from putting bloggers on military trials in 2011, to prosecuting them for whatsapp messages and satirical online content, the reports shows how the Bahraini courts are devoted to passing the harshest sentences to silence the last remaining critical voices online.  

    Additionally, the report documents five incidents of Internet shutdown or disruption witnessed in Bahrain since 2011, as a regular practice by the government to limit data flow around critical events. The latest of these incidents is still going for over two months in the village of Duraz, impacting over 20,000 residences of the area.

    Also in 2016, the reports details how authorities have introduced new restrictive laws and regulations to limit the content published online, including a regulation to restrict newspapers’ usage of video reporting online, as well as to completely ban live broadcasting, and another regulation to force Internet service providers to use a unified filtering system that should aid the government’s efforts to censor the Internet. With the current situation of hundreds of websites blocked, including BCHR’s own website, the report’s findings reveal that Bahrain is misusing terms like “fighting terrorism” to block any website that is critical to the government’s views.

    “After detaining most of the critical voices, including political leaders, and locking  human rights defenders inside the country with travel bans, and successfully controlling the traditional press, the Internet has become the latest target by the government,” said BCHR’s Vice-President Said Yousef Al-Muhafdah. “The government wants to shut down the last window for people’s voices and place a complete blackout on Bahrain, so the Internet becomes a tool for sharing photos of your dinner, not more.”

    In “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”, BCHR outlines how Bahrain’s regulations and consequent actions are in direct violation of international covenants, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression over any platform. 

    The report starts with an analysis of the existing and newly introduced legislation and regulatory bodies, then shows how these instruments are used to increase the government's influence over Internet users, how filtering mechanisms work, how information is manipulated and how dissenting individuals and organisations are targeted. Furthermore, “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain” gives extensive insight into the personal story and fate of many Internet users and social media activists, who fell victim to the state authority's surveillance apparatus. The report concludes with various recommendations for the Bahraini government as well as the international community on how to achieve change and ensure freedom of expression in Bahrain.

    The report is sponsored by IFEX, the global network for freedom of expression, of which BCHR is a member. Read full article here

    The report will be launched during the “Opinions are not crimes” event, organized by BCHR together with Global Copenhagen (VerdensKulturCentret) at Nørre Alle 7, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark, starting at 18.00 and ending at 20.00. The event is sponsored by the European Endowment for Democracy. We would be pleased if you attend the event!

     

    For more information please contact:

    Elena Mocanu

    International Office Manager

    elena.mocanu@bahrainrights.org

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    Courts in Bahrain have issued a string of guilty verdicts against Shiite activists and clerics, including a blogger who was sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the king and inciting hatred against the government.

    Continue reading here.

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    Playwright David Hare, author Monica Ali, comedian Shazia Mirza, MP Keir Starmer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka are among those who have written to Prime Minister Theresa May asking the UK government to call on Bahrain to release a campaigner imprisoned for just tweeting his opinions.

    Nabeel Rajab has been in pre-trial detention in Bahrain since July. He has been held largely in solitary confinement, and for the first two weeks after his arrest was held in a filthy police cell that aggravated heart and other health issues.

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    The Rio Olympics are the perfect example of the dwindling power of traditional media and the growing demand for digital journalism. While NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke’s “nightmare” of a 20 percent television ratings drop came true, digital viewership increased by 263 percent compared to 2012. Live streaming is becoming more and more popular not only to watch major sports games but also major news events. 

    Last month some of the top news stories were streamed in real time through social media, including the attempted coup in Turkey. However, the Bahraini authorities are trying to fend off the global trend by imposing laws prohibiting local newspapers from using live streaming and restricting any video content from news outlets from exceeding two minutes.

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    The British College of Policing (CoP) which sets standards for UK Police Officers and also commercially offers worldwide training courses is currently under intense criticism after refusing to reveal the full details of its training deals with forces in Bahrain.
    Reports of controversial deals with regimes who have appalling human rights records — such as in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — have been uncovered, going back as far as 2013 onwards. Now, human rights groups are demanding clarity.
     
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    The High Criminal Court in Bahrain has sentenced two Bahraini nationals to 15 years in jail over allegations of damaging a police vehicle.

    The court on Wednesday issued the sentence allegedly in connection with a bomb explosion in 2013 that damaged the vehicle, according to Bahrain Mirror website.

    The new development comes as human rights organizations have cast doubt on the independence of the Bahraini courts and challenge the sentences issued against the political detainees as the members of the judiciary are appointed by royal decrees and because the courts issue sentences based on confessions made under torture.

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    A Bahraini court sentenced on Wednesday (August 31, 2016) Shiite cleric Sayed Majeed Al-Mashaal, the head of the highest Shia religious institution in the country, to two years in prison over charges of leading the Diraz open sit-in protest.

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