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    Rights groups yesterday wrote to the governments of 50 states urging them to publicly call for the release of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment for comments he made on Twitter.

    Read the full article here.

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    35 UN Human Rights Council member states condemned the recent measures taken by the Bahraini authorities against the political opposition, calling for inclusive reforms to stabilize the country. The European Union issued a statement at the UNHRC, backed by eight countries, including Britain, expressing concern about the revocation of political dissidents' nationalities.
     
    Read the full article here.
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    The US Representative to the Human Rights Council, Keith Harper, expressed his country's concerns over the Bahraini government's recent measures, which included an imposed travel ban on human rights defenders who wanted to take part in the Human Rights Council's 33rd session. In a statement delivered by Harper at the council, the US demanded that these measures be put to an end, and stressed that the steps taken by the Bahraini government trigger concerns over the respect of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the Gulf kingdom.

    Read the full article here.

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    On 16 September, Sayed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy delivered the intervention under Item 3 on special procedures at the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, together with the AlSalam Foundation, the Americans for Rights and Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

    See full remarks below. 

     

    Mr. President, 

    Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to raise our concern over increasing trends of arbitrary detention. 

    For example, in the special procedures’ joint communications report released this week, the mandates raised concerns about the detention of the human rights activist Zeinab al-Khawaja and her infant son in Bahrain. While Zeinab has now been released and forced into exile under threat of renewed indefinite detention, many others in Bahrain face different circumstances. 

    Following the arbitrary denaturalization of Bahrain’s Shia religious leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, hundreds, if not thousands, of people took to the streets of the village of Diraz to stage a peaceful sit in around his home to prevent his deportation. Since then, the Bahraini government has begun systematically targeting other Shia clerics with interrogations, harassment, arrest and arbitrary detentions in relation to their gathering in Diraz in support of Sheikh Isa. 

    Prominent human rights defenders have also recently been targeted with arbitrary arrest. At the start of the last HRC, Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR was arrested in relation to tweets, and may serve up to 15 years social media comments in relation to his work. Likewise, Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, an interfaith leader and human rights defender has also been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated by Bahraini authorities. 

    We therefore call on all states, including Bahrain, to end the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention, and for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners. 

    Thank you. 

     

    Read the intervention in pdf format here

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    On 15 September 2016, the Bahraini authorities summoned opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, General Secretary of the largest opposition Society Al-Wefaq (now dissolved), from Jau prison for interrogation over an oral intervention that was delivered on his behalf at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the ongoing practice of the Bahraini government in criminalizing freedom of speech.

    Sheikh Ali Salman was arrested on 28 December 2014 on grounds of allegedly “publicly inciting hatred, inciting civil disobedience of the law, and insulting public institutions,” just two days after he delivered a speech calling for reforms in the country’s political system. He was initially sentenced on 16 June 2015 to a four-year prison term by the Criminal Court, following a trial where his legal rights were violated. His sentence was increased to nine years on 30 May 2016 by the Court of Appeal, which convicted him on an additional charge of allegedly “attempting to overthrow the regime,” the same charge for which he was previously acquitted.

    In an oral intervention delivered on behalf of Sheikh Ali Salman by Bahraini activist Baqer Darwish at UNHRC 33, a call was made to the international community to support Bahraini citizens in their fights for equality and social-justice, in which he voiced that "Bahrain is currently witnessing a dangerous escalation of sectarian persecution against Shiite citizens, especially after the nationality of Shiite leader Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim was revoked. His prosecution was vexatious, representing the trial of the primary and pure constituent of the Bahraini people." Further concerns were voiced over the non-fruitful calls to hold a dialogue with the opposition in an effort to end the violations in Bahrain. The statement urged members of the UNHRC to “demand the release of all political prisoners, end impunity, end sectarian persecution against Shiite citizens, allow the establishment of a permanent high commissioner office with full power, [urge Bahrain to] join the International Criminal Court Treaty of Rome, and allow international rapporteurs and organizations to regularly visit Bahrain.”

    Following this address at the UNHRC, the Bahraini authorities referred Sheikh Ali Salman - while still imprisoned - to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) for interrogation on 15 September 2016. His lawyer stated that Sheikh Ali Salman was interrogated in relation to charges under article 134 of the Bahraini Penal Code, which provides a punishment of imprisonment for anyone who “deliberately releases abroad false or malicious news, statements or rumors about domestic conditions in the State, so as to undermine financial confidence in the State or adversely affect its prestige or position...” On 16 September 2016, Sheikh Ali Salman was summoned again for questioning at the public prosecution, however no official charges were pressed against him.

    By considering a speech delivered at the UNHRC a crime that should be investigated, the Bahraini authorities are violating the freedom of expression granted under the article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    The same practice was enforced a few days ago when detained leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was interrogated on 5 September 2016 and charged over an op-ed that was published in the “New York Times” under his name with allegedly “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 Yousif Al-lMuhafdha, BCHR’s Vice President said, “Such acts of harassment and intimidation against detained activists follows the Bahraini government’s direction to completely silence dissident voices and stop others from advocating the cases of imprisoned individuals; the punishment for such activism will be directed towards those already in the hands of the Bahraini criminal justice system.”

    BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately cease all forms of harassment and intimidation directed against activists and human rights defenders and immediately release all activists who are merely detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

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    The Bahraini Interior Ministry announced that the New York Police Department (NYPD) in the United States said it is willing to contribute to exchanging expertise with Bahrain, in the field of police work and force.

    In a statement issued Saturday (September 17, 2016), the Interior Ministry quoted the second senior official at the office of the State's Public Security Chief, James O'Neill, saying, "the entire NYPD is willing to contribute to exchanging expertise and knowledge in a way that achieves the aspirations of both sides."

    Read full article here.

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    The UK expressed concern over the recent developments in Bahrain, citing fears of an aftermath to dissolving the major opposition party in the country, Al-Wefaq Society, and the revocation of the Shiite majority spiritual leader, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim's citizenship.

    In response to a parliamentary question, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Tobias Ellwood said, "We are concerned about the recent developments in Bahrain, and we have clearly responded in our public and private meetings."

    Read article in "Bahrain Mirror" about the statement here.

    Or find the full statement here.

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    A torture victim has vowed to continue to fight for justice after failing to get the Attorney General of Bahrain to face his claims in an Irish court.

    Jaafar Al-Hasabi, who lives in London, claimed he suffered electric shocks, prolonged sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of his feet and other attacks while imprisoned in the Gulf state in 2010.

    The 43-year-old sought summonses for the country's chief prosecutor, Ali Bin Fadhul Al Buainain, to appear in the District Court in Dublin over three allegations.

    Read the full article here

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    Since the beginning of June, the Government of Bahrain has forcibly exiled activist Zainab al-Khawaja; denaturalized the country’s most prominent Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim; dissolved the largest opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society; rearrested celebrated human rights defender Nabeel Rajab; brought criminal charges against internationally-renowned interfaith leader Sheikh Maytham al-Salman; and judicially harassed more than 60 Shia religious figures on allegations linked solely to sermons and peaceful demonstrations.

    Khalifa Alfadhel, a law professor at the University of Bahrain and a royally-appointed member of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD) run by the Minister of Information Affairs, seems to think it’s obvious. In two similar articles recently submitted to RealClearPolitics and openDemocracy – “Bahrain's Little Known Democratic Move” and “The suspension of Wefaq: a triumph for democracy in Bahrain” – Alfadhel characterizes 2016 as a watershed year for the country, asserting that the government has finally defeated the forces of “neomedievalism” in the name of “pluralism, tolerance and political liberalism” by closing Al-Wefaq and prohibiting religious leaders from political participation

     

    Read the full article here

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    In a Bahrain court yesterday Judge Ebrahim Al Zayed presided over a brief, few-minute hearing in the case of political dissident Khalil AlHalwachi, arrested two years ago on fabricated charges of various terrorism offenses, including the possession of a rifle. He's on trial with 16 others. The case was adjourned yesterday with a verdict now set for October 20.

    It’s a familiar story in Bahrain, where a single family runs a totalitarian regime and the judiciary plays an important role in intimidating and silencing opposition figures and human rights activists.

    Read the full article here.

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    Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will visit Bahrain later this year despite growing concerns about a crackdown on human rights in the small Gulf kingdom.

    Clarence House said on Tuesday that Charles would visit in November on behalf of the British government and was aimed at strengthening the UK’s “warm bilateral relations with key partners in the region”.

    The UK has long had close ties with Bahrain, which hosts a British military base and buys millions of dollars of British arms every year.

    The two royal families are also said to have close personal ties, with King Hamad notably sitting next to the queen during her 90th birthday celebrations earlier this year.

    But the close ties have come under growing criticism since 2011 when Arab Spring-inspired protests in the kingdom were brutally crushed and many activists and political opponents imprisoned.

    Read the entire article here.

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    Prince Charles is to make an official visit to Bahrain in November despite the escalating human rights crackdown in the country. This endorsement comes after Queen Elizabeth sat next to the king of Bahrain at her 90th birthday celebrations this summer.

    Last week, the UN Human Rights Council commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed grave concerns about the country: “The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.”

    Today, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told The Times: “The timing of Prince Charles’s visit suggests that the major human rights violations in 2016 are not in the British monarchy’s mind.”

    Read the full article here

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    Researchers have identified a Canadian company at the center of a small Arab nation's online censorship system — a finding that sits awkwardly with Ottawa officials' public support for digital freedoms.

    Specialists from internet watchdog Citizen Lab said in a report published Wednesday that web filtering firm Netsweeper Inc. is helping block news and opposition websites in Bahrain, a Gulf Arab monarchy which has been wracked by unrest since pro-democracy protests were stifled there in 2011.

    Read the full article here.

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    A religious figure has been sentenced to two years in prison for attending an illegal protest. The High Criminal Court pronounced the sentence for Mullah Habib Abbas, who was accused of participating in the illegal protest that broke out in favour of infamous religious figure Isa Qassim. 

    Read the full article here.

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    On 19 September, during the general debate of the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, Denmark reiterated its call for the release of all arbitrarily detained persons in Bahrain, including human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who serves a life sentence and is subjected to torture and requires treatment.

    See the Danish statement on Bahrain here or read the entire Danish statement here.

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    22 September 2016 – Bahrain’s second High Civil Court of Appeals today upheld an earlier court decision to dissolve Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest political opposition group in Bahrain. The undersigned NGOs strongly condemn the court’s decision, which is representative of the Government of Bahrain’s broader efforts to silence civil society.

    On 14 June 2016, Bahraini authorities suspended Al-Wefaq. The Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs requested the civil courts approve its dissolution, and they subsequently released an expedited decision to close the society. Bahraini authorities immediately seized and shut down Al-Wefaq’s headquarters. They also froze the society’s assets and halted all of its activities. Additionally, Bahraini officials blocked Al-Wefaq’s website in the kingdom. Originally, the court had set 6 October 2016 as the commencement of the case to dissolve Al-Wefaq. However, in response to a request by the Ministry of Justice, the court moved the trial forward twice. Al-Wefaq’s legal counsel had previously pulled out of all legal proceedings as security forcesprevented them from entering Al-Wefaq’s headquarters “to get the necessary documents to prepare our defense and support it with documents.” On 17 July 2016, the High Civil Court affirmed the order and formally dissolved Al-Wefaq in the absence of any defense counsel.

    “Bahrain’s rulers believe in crushing opponents and silencing voices of criticism as the solution for Bahrain,”stated Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD).“Dissolving Al-Wefaq today is the last nail in the coffin of King Hamad’s claims of reforms.”

    Bahrain’s ongoing repression has not gone unnoticed by the international community. Most recently, at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad used his opening statement to raise concern over Bahrain’s suppression of peaceful dissent. He cautioned Bahrain: “The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.”

    Today’s decision to uphold the dissolution of Al Wefaq coincides with the escalation in government repression. Last year, Bahraini authorities sentenced Al-Wefaq’s Secretary-General Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison on charges relating to his right to his free speech and peaceful political activity. In a case of double jeopardy, in May 2016 an appeals court upheld his sentence but convicted him on another previously dropped charge. Sheikh Ali Salman, who is a Shia cleric, is now serving a nine-year sentence related to a peaceful speech he gave in 2015. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers him arbitrarily detained. Additionally, in May of 2016 the Bahraini government made an amendment to the political society law preventing religious figures from entering politics.

    “Despite the Bahraini government’s repeated rhetoric of reform, there should now be no doubt left in the international community that the Bahraini authorities are strictly committed to suppressing civil society and peaceful opposition,” stated Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “It is time for Bahrain’s allies in Washington and London to send a strong message to the Bahraini authorities that they will not stand idly by and allow these human rights violations to continue. The U.S and U.K. must take action, including the suspension of all arms sales to Bahrain.”

    Repression against civil society greatly escalated this past summer as authorities targeted human rights defenders, issued travel bans against activists, and revoked the citizenship of the highest Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim. The level of repression against the Shia population has reached such levels that five UN experts issued a statement calling on Bahrain to stop its “persecution” of the Shia community.

    Nevertheless, the authorities have only intensified their ongoing campaign against Shia religious leaders. Since June 2016, Bahraini authorities have interrogated and/or detained over 60 Shia clerics on charges related to free expression and assembly. Just yesterday, a court sentenced three Shia clerics to a year in prison each on charges of “illegal gathering” related to their participation in a peaceful sit-in. This brings the total number of Shia clerics recently sentenced solely for exercising their rights to free expression or assembly to seven.

    We, the undersigned, condemn these actions which limit civil society space, exclude sections of society from politics, and which curtail and criminalise the rights to free expression, assembly, association and religion, as protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    We call upon the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to denounce the recent actions by the Government of Bahrain, to immediately suspend all arms sales to the kingdom, to urge the government to reverse its decision to dissolve Al-Wefaq Society, and to pressure the government to commit to respecting human rights.

    We also call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately reverse this decision, to commute the sentences of Sheikh Ali Salman and all prisoners of conscience, and to end reprisals against civil, political, and religious society in Bahrain.

     

    Signatories,

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

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    In response to a Bahraini court’s decision today to uphold the dissolution of the country’s main opposition political group, Al-Wefaq, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director Philip Luther said: 

    “The decision to uphold the dissolution of Al-Wefaq is a flagrant attack on freedom of expression and association and a brazen attempt to suppress criticism of the government in Bahrain.

    Read the full article here

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    Hundreds of Bahrainis took to the streets on Thursday (September 22, 2016) in commemoration of death of human rights activist Nasser Al-Ras (one of the torture victims in Bahrain) who died in one of Toronto's hospitals.

    Read the full article here.

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    Barriers and barbed wires are spread everywhere in Diraz. Dozens of soldiers and checkpoints stop all pedestrians. No one is allowed to pass without permission from the security forces. Queues of cars wait at the checkpoints; they have to wait for long periods of time before being allowed to pass.

    Read the full article here

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    A Bahraini appeals court on Thursday upheld an order dissolving the country's main opposition group despite international criticism of the Gulf kingdom's intensified crackdown on dissent.

    A lower court had ordered the dissolution of the al-Wefaq association in July over accusations including "harbouring terrorism" and ordered its funds to be seized by the government.

    Read the full article here.

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