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    The Bahraini authorities should halt immediately their heightened crackdown on peaceful critics and opponents, Amnesty International said today. The call comes after scores of protesters and at least 60 Shi’a clerics were summoned and arrested in relation to a sit-in in the village of Duraz, north-west of Bahrain that began in June. Four clerics have been sentenced to between one and two years in prison in relation to the sit-in and nine others remain in detention and are facing trial. Several human rights defenders have also been prevented from travelling outside of Bahrain to take part in human rights advocacy work.

     

    Read full report here.

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    Head of the Religious Freedoms Department at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, Sheikh Maitham Al-Salman, said in a tweet on his personal account: "Any speech that encourages not committing to Bahrain's international human rights obligations, or calls for disregarding the Human Rights Council recommendations doesn't bring any good to our country."

    "A number of stated at the Human Rights Council made 175 recommendations for Bahrain in 2012. Bahrain expressed reservation regarding 18 recommendations and vowed to implement 144 fully and 13 partially," he noted.

    Read full article here.

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    IFEX member Nedal Al-Salman was prevented from leaving the country on 29 August, and informed that the public prosecution issued a travel ban against her in yet another case of the Bahraini government silencing human rights defenders and disrupting the work of civil society through the use of travel bans.

    As the global network of organisations defending and promoting the right to freedom of expression, IFEX unequivocally condemns Bahrain's recent travel ban against Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for IFEX member, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

    Read the full statement here.

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    2 September 2016

    HM Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
    Office of HM the King
    P.O. Box 555, Rifa’a Palace
    Kingdom of Bahrain
     
    Cc. The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    Foreign & Commonwealth Office
    King Charles Street, London SW1A2AH
     
    Cc. The Honorable John F. Kerry
    Secretary of State
    United States Department of State
    2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520
     
    Cc. Federica Mogherini
    High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
     
    Cc. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
    United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

     

    Your Excellency,

    In light of recent alarming events in Bahrain, the undersigned NGOs express our deepest concerns about the ongoing detention of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab based on his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. We urge the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab.

    On 13 June 2016, the authorities arrested Rajab, who serves as President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the regional Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH, and a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division. Rajab’s arrest is one in a series of repressive actions to severely restrict the work of human rights defenders and civil society members in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

    In the wake of an unprecedented crackdown, we believe the detention of Rajab to be an act of reprisal for his work to promote fundamental human rights in Bahrain, as well as a means to restrict Rajab’s freedom of expression and speech. He is charged for tweets and re-tweets about allegations of torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison, which were investigated by many local and international NGOs, and about the widely reported and criticised human rights violations during the war in Yemen. In total, Rajab could serve up to 15 years in prison for his statements via Twitter.

    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; a further two years imprisonment 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 and 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 addition to these charges, he may also face a trial on charges of “spreading false news” for similar statements made during televised interviews last year. That case has not yet been referred to court, but is believed to have served, among others, for his arrest on 13 June.

    Due to the poor detention conditions, Rajab’s health has been severely deteriorating since the time of his arrest. He continues to be held at West Riffa police station and family visits are being monitored very closely, according to his lawyers. His cell does not meet the requirements for long-term detention and the sanitary facilities are unhygienic. He has lost eight kilos since his arrest. Rajab has chronic inflammation in his lower back requiring urgent surgery, which has been delayed by the authorities until early September. In addition, he is also suffering from an irregular heartbeat, which has decreased below the normal range during his detention, and has also suffered from chest pains recently, having required a visit to the clinic. Despite the fact that he requires urgent medical treatment, prison authorities do not appear to provide sufficient medical assistance for most of these ailments. In the meantime, Rajab is dependent on his family to provide him with painkillers and bandages for his bleeding due to his ulcer.

    Following his arrest, Rajab’s case has received widespread international attention by government officials and UN dignitaries, inter alia, by the spokesperson of the US State Department, the spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as by members of the European Parliament, who adopted an urgent resolution condemning the Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on civil society and on the political opposition.

    As a signatory to international human rights conventions, the Government of Bahrain is bound to guarantee the right to freedom of expression for all in Bahrain, including Nabeel Rajab. Depriving Rajab of his liberty for peaceful social media posts goes against Bahrain’s commitment to uphold these international conventions and raises the question of its ability to respect its legal obligations within the wider international community.

    To date, the government in Bahrain has repeatedly demonstrated unwillingness to comply with international legal standards, despite promises made at the United Nations during its Universal Periodic Review, and during its own national inquiry, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

    We therefore urge you to abide by the principles of democracy and human rights and to safeguard freedom of expression in Bahrain, as enshrined in international human rights legislation, by dropping all charges against the human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.

    Sincerely,

     

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    Bahrain Press Association (BPA)

    Brian Dooley, Human Rights First

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

    CIVICUS

    Committee for the Respect of Liberties in Tunisia

    English PEN

    European-Bahraini Organisation for human rights (EBOHR)

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

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

    Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    Human Rights Sentinel

    IFEX

    Index on Censorship

    International Press Institute (IPI)

    Jesper Højberg, Executive Director, International Media Support

    Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture

    Lawyers Rights Watch Canada

    Libya Al-Mostakbal Centre for Media & Culture

    MADA Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms

    Maharat Foundation

    Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH)

    No Peace Without Justice

    Pakistan Press Foundation

    Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

    Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

    Salam for Democracy and Human Rights

    Tunis Centre for Press Freedom

    Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)

    Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights

    Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

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

     
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    On 1 September, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), together with the cultural center VerdensKulturCentret, held an awareness and solidarity event on the occasion of its detained president Nabeel Rajab in Copenhagen, Denmark.

    The two-hour long event under the name “Opinions Are Not Crimes” was held in order to raise awareness about restricted freedom of expression and the most recent and ongoing governmental crackdown in Bahrain which started in June this year, targeting oppositional politicians, human rights defenders, civil society defenders and the Shia community in an unprecedented way.

    Trine Christensen, Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark, opened the event with a keynote speech (Watch Christensen's speech on Youtube) on the recent events in Bahrain and BCHR president Nabeel Rajab’s case. Subsequently, the VICE documentary “An inconvenient Uprising” was shown to the audience, providing an half-hour long overview of the 2011 uprisings and ongoing, but vastly forgotten struggle for democracy. During the second half of the evening, NGO guest speakers presented diverse insights into the case of Bahrain and the MENA region. Sara Brandt, policy and research officer from CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, spoke about forms of civic action and ways to strengthen civil society in the MENA region. BCHR’s vice president Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah casted light on digital activism in Bahrain and how the government attempts to control and persecute internet users and social media activists such as Nabeel Rajab. Al-Muhafdah used his speech (Watch Al-Muhafdah's speech on Youtube) to introduce BCHR’s newly released report on internet censorship and surveillance in Bahrain entitled “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”. The closing speech was given by human rights defender and co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, who put the focus on the role of the Western societies and their partly indifferent and biased politics regarding human rights violations in the Middle East in general and in Bahrain in particular.

    At the end of the event, the audience was encouraged to show their support for Nabeel Rajab by sharing his fate and case via social media and by taking solidarity photos or writing birthday postcards for him, which will be sent to the West Riffa Police Station in Bahrain, where he is currently kept detained.

    The entire event was live-streamed via twitter and reached more than a thousand people. Video footage of the event will soon be made available on BCHR’s website and social media channels.

    We are very grateful for everyone who joined the event both on site or via the live-stream.

    Special thanks goes to VerdensKulturCentret (Global Copenhagen) in Denmark, for their hosting and assistance during the event. Last but not least, we thank all the hard-working people for their tremendous support which made this event possible. And we thank once again all guest speakers for their appearance and very insightful inputs.

    Live tweets from the event can be re-read on https://twitter.com/BahrainRights. The live streamed movie will be available on Twitter until 6pm CEST.

     

    https://youtu.be/2mQzd5tGMXM

     

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    Prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who has been held behind bars in Bahrain for 81 days, should be freed immediately and unconditionally, a coalition of 34 rights groups, including the International Press Institute (IPI), said today in a letter to Bahrain’s king.

    The groups made the call one day after the 52nd birthday of Rajab, who faces more than a dozen years in prison if convicted on charges that many see as reprisal for his work promoting fundamental human rights in the Persian Gulf island nation.

    Today’s call came on the heels of the release of a report on Wednesday by the BCHR titled “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”, which examines and discusses measures taken by 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 article here

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    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

    Description of the situation:

    The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about a series of travel bans issued against Ms. Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Mr. Mohammed Al Tajer, prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebtisam Al Sayegh, a member of Salam Organization for Democracy and Human Rights, Mr. Essa Al Ghayeb, Director of the Lualua Center for Human Rights, Mr. Ahmed Al-Saffar, a member of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), Ms. Enas Oun, Head of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Section, Mr. Hussain Radhi, member of the team of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Section, and Ms. Jalila Al-Salman, President of Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), as well as of the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, writer, blogger and President of the Women’s Petition Committee (WPC) and Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR and FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

    Read full article here

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    2 September 2016—In the past two weeks, the Bahraini government has prevented a number of human rights defenders from travelling abroad, among them were three members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Nearly 30 activists have been banned from travel since June. We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the Government of Bahrain’s use of arbitrary travel bans against human rights defenders and activists.

    Bahrain has imposed travel bans against activists ahead of the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) this month. While preparing to join a delegation to Geneva, BCHR’s Enas Oun was barred from travelling on 22 August. The next day, Husain Radhi, another BCHR member, was blocked from exiting Bahrain, continuing his travel restriction since he attempted to travel to the HRC in June. BCHR’s Nedal al-Salman was barred from travel on 29 August when attempting to travel to Geneva for advocacy ahead of the 33rd HRC session, which begins in September.

    In June, Bahraini officials barred 13 activists from travelling outside the country, at least eight of whom had been travelling Geneva to participate in 32nd Session of the HRC. Some of these activists had attended UN workshops held in Bahrain on engaging with UN mechanisms. These arbitrary measures to restrict human rights defenders’ and activists’ freedom of movement therefore represent an act of reprisal against them for their attempted engagement with the Council and for cooperating with UN mechanisms.

    While travel bans have been used before to limit the movement of high-profile activists, including Nabeel Rajab and religious freedoms defender Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, the Government of Bahrain recently began to employ them systematically. We have documented four other incidents in late August. These include human rights lawyer Mohammad al-Tajer on 23 August, and activists Ebtisam al-Sayegh and Ahmed al-Saffar, both on 27 August. Al-Sayegh and al-Tajer had previously been banned from travel June and July 2016 respectively. Other activists banned from travel included trade unionist Jalila al-Salmanactivist Taha Al-Durazi and journalist Nazeeha Saeed. Al-Durazi is currently being prosecuted for “illegal gathering” alongside religious freedoms campaigner Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, who has been on travel ban since 2015.

    “What we are witnessing is an organized effort to silence civil society by the Bahraini authorities,” stated Husain Abdulla, Executive Director for Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “Bahrain’s actions are a rejection of both the United Nations and its international human rights commitments. The international community should not tolerate such harassment and reprisals.”

    In addition to preventing Bahrainis from engaging with international human rights mechanisms, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister has made a number of disturbing comments in regards to the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights himself. In August, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa stated: “the Kingdom of Bahrain does not care about any voice that seeks to blackmail it from abroad, and particularly the Human Rights Council.” And, following criticism about the kingdom’s rising repression from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, the Foreign Ministerresponded on Twitter: “We will not allow the undermining of our security and stability and will not waste our time listening to the words of a high commissioner who is powerless.”

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “The Foreign Minister’s insults to the UN human rights mechanisms illustrate Bahrain’s disregard of international human rights norms and reflects the escalating crisis in the country. It is proof that Bahrain intends to continue its repression. The UN must take action to show that harassing human rights defenders is unacceptable.”

    Therefore, we, the undersigned NGOs, call on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • immediately and unconditionally lift the travel bans imposed on civil society activists and allow them to freely engage with the UN; and
    • Stop all reprisal actions against human rights defenders who work with the UN mechanisms and allow them to work freely.
    • Respect the freedom of movement of all Bahrainis.

    We call on United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to:

    • Suspend all technical programs with Bahrain until the full rights and safety of all human rights defenders and activists, including participants of these programs, are effectively guaranteed.

     

    Signatories:

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

    European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)

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    A prominent human rights activist in a U.S.-allied country faces up to 15 years in prison because of his tweets.

    Since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the Gulf monarchy Bahrain, which was violently crushed by 2,000 Saudi and Emirati troops, Rajab has been arrested numerous times for his human rights work and peaceful activism.

    On June 13, 2016, Rajab was again arrested, in what rights groups describe in the new letter as an attack on “his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

    Dozens of non-governmental organizations sent a letter to Bahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa on Friday, calling for the release of activist Nabeel Rajab

    Read full article here

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    On 1 September, English PEN joined fellow organisations and friends of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to mark his 52nd birthday with a protest at the Embassy of Bahrain in London. Representatives of Amnesty International, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy,  FIDH, Index on Censorship, and Redress were among those in attendance, all jointly calling on the Bahraini government to release Rajab immediately and unconditionally.

    Following his most recent arrest in June 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing up to 15 years in prison, accused of spreading ‘false or malicious news’, ‘offending a foreign country’ and ‘offending a statutory body’ through his condemnation of the conditions in Bahrain’s infamous Jau Prison. His trial hearing is due to take place on 5 September.

    Read full article here

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  • 09/05/16--01:55: Letter From a Bahraini Jail
  • Riffa, Bahrain I write this from a Bahraini jail cell where I have been detained, largely in isolation, since the beginning of summer. This is not new to me: I have been here before, from 2012 to 2014, in 2015, and now again, all because of my work as a human rights defender.

    Nor am I alone: There are some 4,000 political prisoners in Bahrain, which has the highest prison population per capita in the Middle East. This is a country that has subjected its people to imprisonment, torture and even death for daring to desire democracy. My close colleague Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was tortured and sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for his human rights work.

     

    Read full article here.

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    Bahrain should immediately stop the prosecution of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years in prison solely for charges that violate his right to free expression. Rajab’s trial resumes on September 5, 2016, on charges that include criticism of Bahrain’s participation in Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen. Authorities have rejected repeated requests to release him on bail.

    Bahraini authorities have also prevented three of Rajab’s colleagues at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) from leaving, one of whom was planning to attend the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council meetings that begin in Geneva on September 13. Nedal al-Salman, BCHR’s head of international relations, told Human Rights Watch that on August 29, officials at Bahrain International Airport told her that a public prosecutor had imposed a travel ban on her after earlier banning two of her colleagues from leaving.

    Continue reading here.

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    Lawyer and rights activist Mohammed al-Tajer said that the Bahraini authorities do not only treat pro-opposition Bahrainis arbitrarily, but they rather treat the entire nation with a sense of superiority and arrogance, taking with measures, and making laws and decisions that are not good for the conduct and progress of a state living in the 21st century.

     

    Read article here.

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    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

     

    Your excellencies,

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) writes you to urge your delegation to address the lack of accountability for ongoing violations in Bahrain and to contribute to prevent further human rights violations in the country, in the framework of the Council’s mandate, during the upcoming 33th session of the UN Human Rights Council. In light of the ongoing crackdown on free voices and dissents in Bahrain, on a level unprecedented since the 14 February 2011 pro-democracy movement in Bahrain, it is crucial for the Human Rights Council to step up its ability to monitor the serious human rights violations that are committed in Bahrain and prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation.

    In September 2015, 33 States signed a joint declaration in which they emphasized the need for the Government to substantively address human rights violations. More recently, both, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Bin Ra’ad, and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng have expressed serious concerns over the human rights situation in Bahrain. They called on the Bahraini authorities to de-escalate the situation to prevent the further increase of tensions. On 16 August, a group of five Special Procedures has urged the Government to stop systematic harassment, arbitrary arrests, and summons of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and Shia clerics and “to enter into dialogue with all relevant parties in order to prevent unnecessary conflict and violence”.

    Meaningful Human Rights Council action on the crisis in Bahrain is long overdue. In the face of the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation, the Human Rights Council should speak out strongly against the current crackdown and adopt a resolution during its upcoming 33th session to:

    • fulfil its preventive mandate and express its deep concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain
    • request the High Commissioner to update the Council at its 34th session on the human rights situation in Bahrain
    • call on the Government to fully implement accepted UPR recommendations and other human rights commitments taken by the Bahraini authorities and reporting to the Council on their implementation
    • recognize the role of Bahraini civil society andhuman rights defenders to promote human rights and dialogue in the country
    • call on the unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and urge the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee his physical and psychological integrity and security.                                                                                                                     

    Daily reports received by BCHR clearly indicate that the situation is deteriorating for all Bahraini citizens and that the Shia population continue to experience systematic persecutions: Freedom of expression and association are compromised, human rights defenders, opposition, journalists and activists are increasingly imprisoned on baseless charges. Human rights defenders and activists, including those seeking to cooperate with the Human Rights Council, have been the subject of escalating harassments, travel bans and reprisals. Women’s rights have been also restricted in the last months with increased targeting of women right’s defenders and new regulations adopted that contains provisions that would restrict women from leaving the country without their guardian's’ permission.

    As the High Commissioner noted “Repression will not eliminate people’s grievances; it will increase them”. It is the Council’s responsibility to bring attention to human rights violations occurring in Bahrain. We urge your delegation to echo the call of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to ensure that a monitoring mechanism will be established to respond to the current crisis in Bahrain.

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    On 5 September the Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor today charged prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, after the New York Times published his letter from prison. Mr. Rajab has been held in detention on charges related to his online freedom of expression since 13 June and is already facing 15 years’ imprisonment. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Index on Censorship condemn all the charges against Mr. Rajab and call for his immediate release.

    On 4 September, the New York Times published a letter Mr. Rajab’s, written during his time in detention. In the letter, he claims that he was threatened into silence after being released from detention in July 2015. He also exposed how a meeting with the US Secretary of State John Kerry led to him being interrogated by Bahrain’s cyber crimes unit.

    Mr. Rajab was called into interrogation by the Criminal Investigations Directorate on 4 September and questioned by officials regarding the article. He was further interrogated today by the Public Prosecutor. He was denied access to a lawyer on both occasions.

    statement published by the Public Prosecution Office today announced that Mr. Rajab has been charged with “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state”. The charge could lead to an additional one-year prison sentence.

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said, “Anyone can read the words of Nabeel Rajab on the New York Times to see how pathetic this charge--which is completely contrary to the principle of free expression--is. During a time where authorities are punishing anyone with a contrary opinion, its attacks on the most basic universal freedoms have only caused further instability”.

    The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy spoke to Mr. Rajab’s lawyers who stated that the Public Prosecution refused to allow them to attend the interrogation. Despite inquiring about the interrogation at the Public Prosecution office, while Mr. Rajab was there being interrogated, officials denied that he was being questioned. The lawyer was not informed of Mr. Rajab’s interrogation by the Criminal Investigation Directorate.

    Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO of Index on Censorship said, "Index on Censorship is appalled at this latest move by Bahrain to suppress Nabeel Rajab's free speech. Bahrain's allies - especially the United Kingdom - need to speak out now, publicly condemn this charge and call for Nabeel's immediate release."

    Since 2011, Mr. Rajab has faced multiple prosecutions and prison sentences for his vocal activism. He was placed on a travel ban in 2014 and has been unable to leave the country. He faces other charges of “insulting a statutory body”, “insulting a neighbouring country”, and “disseminating false rumours in time of war”. These are in relation to remarks he tweeted and retweeted on Twitter in 2015 about torture at Bahrain's Jau prison and the humanitarian crisis caused by the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He may face up to 16 years in prison if convicted.  His trial was postponed again today to 6 October 2016 for ruling and the judge refused renewed requests to release him. At the court Rajab informed the sitting judge that he considered the charges against him "malicious" and that his arrest came as consequences of his meeting with John Kerry.

    Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain said, “The entire case against Nabeel Rajab has been a sham from the start, and this new charge further shows it to be nothing but an attack against free peaceful expression. Its time for Washington to send a strong message to its ally that it will not tolerate such blatant repression by suspending all arms sales with the Al Khalifa regime”.

    As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bahrain has an obligation to uphold individuals’ rights to freedom of expression. This includes free expression online. Everyone accused of crimes must also be afforded the right to a fair trial including access to a lawyer. Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law and all persons should be entitled to access a lawyer of their choice at all stages of judicial proceedings.

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    Bahrain prosecutors on Monday filed new charges against a man believed by rights activists to be the Gulf state's most prominent jailed democracy campaigner, Nabeel Rajab, after the New York Times published an op-ed under his byline.

    The prosecutor of the Gulf state's northern region, Mohammed Salah, said a man had been questioned over a complaint from the cybercrime unit accusing him of "publishing a column in a foreign newspaper in which he deliberately broadcast news, statements and false rumors that undermine the kingdom's prestige and stature".

    Salah did not identify the man or name the newspaper, but a rights group and a lawyer said the statement clearly referred to Rajab, who had been in jail since June on charges related to anti-government tweets published last year, including one accusing the security forces of torturing detainees.

    Read full article here.

     

     

     

     

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    On Monday, 5 September a Bahraini court delayed the trial of Index award-winning human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab for a third time. The new trial date is now 6 October 2016.

    “Once again, Bahrain’s repression of freedom of expression is on display for all the world to see. Nabeel has committed no crimes. He is held for expressing opinions that people around the world take for granted. We ask Bahrain to end its judicial harassment of Nabeel and renew our call for UK Prime Minister Theresa May to urge Nabeel’s release,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship said.

    Continue reading here

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Interfaith condemn the government of Bahrain’s disregard for the growing abuse against female domestic workers in the Kingdom. We call on the governments of Bahrain and of labor-sending countries to ensure religious freedom rights are protected.

    This report traces abuse and exploitation to which female domestic workers in Bahrain are subjected by employers, with regards to their rights of worship. The report outlines the rights and international legal standards that apply to workers.

    Approximately 460,000 migrant workers, mostly from Asia, make up 77 percent of the country’s private workforce. Due to shortcomings in Bahrain’s legal and regulatory framework and the failure to implement and enforce existing laws, migrant workers, especially female domestic workers, endure serious abuses such as unpaid wages, passport confiscation, unsafe and unhealthy accommodation, excessive work hours, and physical and psychological abuse. They are also being subjected to deprivation of their rights to worship and the absence of religious freedoms. 

    Many human rights organizations have expressed concerns over the treatment of female domestic workers in Bahrain, confirming that housekeepers and domestic workers are systematically exposed to discriminatory, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. In a recent report on labor in the Gulf Countries, the number of female domestic workers in Bahrain was estimated to exceed 80,000. The increasing rate of their abuse has raised serious concerns over the absence of strict and well-established legislation and administrative measures that regulate the relationship between these  women and their employers. 

    Reports stated that the majority of these maids are practically treated as private property, looking more like a modern day slavery system, wherein the maids are deprived of their basic human rights. Many of these workers are not able to nor allowed to communicate with friends, family and other people besides residents of the house they serve in. Although they are physically and legally not detained or arrested, some of them are forced to live in a state of incommunicado. Many of them do not leave the house and are not allowed to step anywhere near the door. 

    Additionally, there is no proper legal framework that preserves the female domestic workers’ religious freedom rights including the right of worship and practicing religious rituals in line with the Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    Female domestic workers are reportedly deprived not only of the freedom to worship their religion but also of portraying their religion or its symbols in any manner or way. Most maids are not allowed, and in reported cases severely punished, to even wear or put up religious symbols like a cross, even though there are no laws prohibiting employees from wearing or carrying religious symbols. BCHR and Bahrain Interfaith documented cases of female domestic workers being subjected to deprivation of their right to freedom of religion.

    Despite fear of reprisals, domestic workers told stories of being prevented from practicing their religion. (Their full names are withheld in order to protect them from further abuse.)

    Ruwaina (Philippines) told us: “We are three maids at the same house, and two of us are not allowed to wear the cross, because it is haram. We understand that, but the boss doesn’t allow us to go to church also.  One time he saw me pray and punished me……but [another maid] is Muslim, she is also not allowed to go to Mosque.”

    Additionally, there are reports that female domestic workers and housekeepers, particularly Hindu, have been victimized and abused severely at a physical and mental level.

    Roopa (India) stated: “My boss will not let me go to the temple, because he said that I am a pagan and worship stone.  I cannot live like this anymore!”

    Moreover, female domestic workers are repeatedly deprived of taking holidays, even on special religious occasions like: Eid, Christmas, Diwaly, etc.

    Julie (Philippines) said: “I told him, deduct from my salary if you want, but please send me to church, at least just for Christmas. He said, “You are Kafir (infidel), I will not help you commit wrong.  Even if you go to the Labor Ministry, or to the embassy, no one can do anything for you.”

    Jojah (Indonesian) reported: “Not even once did my employer allow me to attend the prayers or sermons at the mosque, not even during Eid.  Even in the house, I am not given time to perform my daily prayers.  Only at night when the family goes to sleep, I perform my prayers too late.”

    "Depriving tens of thousands of maids and domestic workers in Bahrain from their right to attend churches, temples, mosques and religious centers should be loudly denounced by human rights organizations in Bahrain and abroad," Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, the head of Interfaith Organization stated. "The government of Bahrain has miserably failed to protect the religious freedom of domestic workers and maids from abuses committed by state and non-state actors."

    Bahrain has claimed that it is committed to improving migrant labor laws and practices; however, the implementation of laws are inconsistent with international labor law standards and the international human rights commitments of the government of Bahrain.

    Even though religious freedom rights are not directly denied by the government, it is the government's full responsibility to enforce legislative and administrative measures to protect religious freedom rights of domestic workers.

    "These Asian migrants, due to not being able to find appropriate work in their country of residence, take up these jobs in Bahrain to ensure that they sustain their livelihood and that of their families. They left their countries, but they did not leave their religion and beliefs and Bahrain must ensure their protection and rights to worship," a local labor rights activists said.

    Bahrain is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and is a state party to relevant international treaties that protect freedom of religion or belief. It is also a signatory since 2006 to the ICCPR,which states in Article 18 that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [or her] choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [or her] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his [or her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [or her] choice.” The ICCPR establishes an individual’s right to freedom of movement, and Article 7 of the ICESCR recognizes “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work.”

     

    Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Interfaith call on the government of Bahrain to:

    • Protect the religious freedom and worship rights of all people in Bahrain;
    • Enforce the signing of employment contracts between all domestic workers and their employers, clearly stating in the contracts the number of working hours and their right to a weekend and yearly paid holiday; and
    • Immediately adopt corrective measures to ensure low paid domestic workers are not deprived from enjoying their basic human rights.
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    The US State Department has urged Bahrain to immediately release the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. A spokesman said the US was "very concerned" about Mr Rajab's detention and charges filed against him. Mr Rajab is reported to be facing fresh charges for writing a letter to the New York Times. He has served several prison sentences since setting up the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002. In his letter publishes in The New York Times on Sunday, Mr Rajab said he had been detained, mostly in isolation, in Bahrain since the beginning of the summer.

    Read full article here.

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    The United States voiced concern on Tuesday about the detention of leading Bahraini democracy campaigner Nabeel Rajab and called on the Manama government to release him immediately. The call by the U.S. State Department came just two days after The New York Times published a letter by Rajab that said he was facing prosecution for his work exposing human rights abuses in Bahrain and criticizing the war in Yemen.

    Read full article here.

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