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    On 23 September, Maryam al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 5, together with Alsalam Foundation, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights (BIRD) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

    Continue reading for the full intervention or click here to read the PDF. A video of the oral intervention is available here.

     

    Mr. President,

    Alsalam Foundation together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and the Gulf Center for Human Rights, would like to raise our collective concern regarding acts of reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society activists attempting to engage with the Council.

    For the second consecutive session, the Government of Bahrain has used arbitrary travel bans to restrict Bahraini civil society from traveling to Geneva to participate in the Human Rights Council.

    In June, just before the start of the 32nd session of the HRC, Bahrain issued travel bans against our entire delegation of eight human rights defenders, labor leaders, and family members of victims. Bahrain also issued travel bans against members of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory and  members of the largest opposition political society, al-Wefaq. Following the conclusion of HRC 32, almost all of the travel bans were lifted.

    Given the restrictions faced by Bahraini civil society in June, a number of activists attempted to leave Bahrain in late August in anticipation of another round of travel bans related to this Council session. However, almost all of those facing travel bans in June found their these arbitrary restrictions refreshed in advance of the 33rd Session of the HRC. Again, delegations of human rights defenders from across Bahraini civil society have been banned from traveling, as well as members of the now-banned al-Wefaq political society.

    Meanwhile, this session, Bahrain has brought one of its largest ever government delegations, including the Deputy Foreign Minister, members of the Ministry of Interior, the National Institute for Human Rights – run largely by government officials – and royally decreed human rights organizations also staffed by government officials.

    Mr. President, we in the independent human rights community call on you and the members of this Council to publically and forcefully denounce these and other acts of reprisals against this Council. We must make clear to Bahrain and all states, that reprisals are wholly unacceptable and must never be tolerated.

    Thank you.

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    On 23 September, Erin Sigmon from Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrian (ADHRB), delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 6, together with Alsalam Foundation, the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights (BIRD) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). In the intervention Sigmon pointed out that the Bahraini government did not follow up on the vast majority of the proposed recommendations from the previous cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    Continue reading for the full intervention or click here for a PDF version. A video of the intervention is available here.

     

    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 call the Council’s attention to the upcoming third cycle of the Universal Period Review of Bahrain. ADHRB has completed a preliminary assessment of the government’s progress in implementing the previous 176 recommendations provided to Bahrain in its 2012 second-cycle review, and found that Bahrain has effectively rejected the vast majority of the proposed reforms.

    Although the government accepted 158 of the Human Rights Council’s 176 recommendations, the government has only made considerable progress in implementing three of these. 122 recommendations have not been implemented to any significant extent and 33 have been merely technically implemented through cosmetic efforts with little to no substantive impact.

    Four years on, the Government of Bahrain has refused to implement recommendations to reform its criminal justice system, curb the use of torture, or institute real protections for basic human rights like free expression, assembly, association, and belief. Rather, Bahraini authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, disappear, torture, and imprison individuals for exercising these rights. Since its last review, Bahrain has significantly expanded its criminal code and counter-terror laws to broadly restrict free expression and assembly—effectively criminalizing all forms of dissent. The government has additionally taken steps to imprison, harass and constrain most of Bahrain’s civil, political and religious societies.

    Some issue, such as women’s rights, had seen modest steps toward improvement during the beginning of Bahrain’s second UPR cycle. Yet today, the government has begun backsliding in these areas too, having recently issued problematic new policies instituting new male guardianship regulations for female religious pilgrims and targeting women’s rights activists with imprisonment or exile.

    We therefore call on the members of this Council to follow up on the recommendations given to Bahrain during its previous UPR cycle, while underscoring a need for accountability and transparency for implementation in the coming third cycle review.

    Thank you

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    More member states at the UN Human Rights Council condemned on Monday (September 19, 2016), the measures adopted by the Bahraini authorities against the Bahraini opposition and civil society institutions.

    On his level, the Swiss representative expressed his country's concern in relation to dissolving the Al-Wefaq Islamic National Society, and increasing the imprisonment sentence against its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman to 9 years. He also condemned the travel ban imposed on the Bahraini rights activists.

    Read full article here

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    Adam Rajab, son of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, said that the detention authorities at the West Riffa Police Station notified his father of the decision to transfer him to the East Riffa Police Station, where he was held during the first 3 weeks of his detention.

     

    Continue reading here

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    27 September 2016 – Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa delivered a statement yesterday on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. The undersigned NGOs condemn the Foreign Minister’s misleading and unconstructive remarks as the Bahraini government continues its campaign to conceal its human rights violations from the international community.

    Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa, who has publicly undermined the authority of both the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the High Commissioner of Human Rights himself, used his platform to outline the government’s perceived commitment to human rights. He highlighted the country’s achievements in regards to women’s rights and the kingdom’s role in establishing security and stability in the region. However, he failed to address the widespread human rights violations carried out by Bahraini authorities, which have led to an extremely tense political situation that promotes the exact opposite of “stability.”

    The Foreign Minister was quick to point to the achievements of Bahraini women at the international level, such as their appointment to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Executive Board of UN Women. While the success of Bahraini women should not be discounted, the Foreign Minister failed to provide a full picture of Bahrain’s record on women’s rights, specifically how it has targeted women human rights defenders and instituted new restrictions on women’s participation in the hajj. Most recently, Bahraini authorities arrested and imprisoned activist and founder of the Women’s Petition Committee, Ghada Jamsheer, as she returned to Bahrain. The pending charges against her are all related to Jamsheer’s activism, such as her online criticism of the government and her work on corruption.

    Additionally, it was only in March of this year that Bahraini authorities arrested and imprisoned human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja with her infant son. After two months of heavy international pressure, the authorities released al-Khawaja. However, due to threats and pressure from the Bahraini government, she Zainab left Bahrain and now lives in exile in Denmark. Her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, is another prominent human rights defender who also lives in exile in Denmark. Maryam Al-Khawaja  is at risk of imprisonment, should she return to Bahrain.

    “Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wants to discuss Bahrain’s ‘stability’ and the achievements of Bahraini women on the international stage but fails to address the government’s constant targeting of female human rights defenders,” stated Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “He should also be addressing the destabilizing effects of discrimination and punitive travel bans, many of which target women human rights defenders and prevent them from engaging with international bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.”

    The Foreign Minister went on to state that the “wellbeing, happiness and stability of our citizens are the main pillars of development in all fields.” Yet it remains completely unclear how the recently intensified campaignagainst civil society contributes to the happiness and stability of Bahraini citizens. Repression has reached such heights that five UN Special Procedures issued a joint statement calling on the Bahraini authorities to halt their “persecution” of the country’s marginalized Shia majority. A recent US Department of State reporton Bahrain as well as the opening remarks of the High Commissioner for Human Rights countered his baseless claim of guaranteed constitutional rights to all citizens. Foreign governments, international bodies, and independent NGOs have all called attention to widespread use of arbitrary detentions, arrests, torture, and due process violations in the country.

    The Foreign Minister discussed Bahrain’s national path to prosperity and advancement, but declined to mention how the government has actively suppressed the development of a free, independent civil society. Bahrain’s courts recently upheld a ruling to dissolve the largest political opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, continues to enforce legislation that criminalizes dissent, and routinely imprisons human rights defenders like Bahrain Center for Human Rights president Nabeel Rajab. Nabeel Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison on 6 October on charges related to his freedom of expression. Authorities brought new charges against him after he wrote a letter to the New York Times. For activists, independent political leaders, and critics of the government, there is no national path to progress.

    “This is just more empty rhetoric from the Bahraini government,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD).  Bahrain’s authoritarian actions more accurately illustrate where they stand on human rights. For those who disagree with the government, the only ‘national path’ that exists is to prison.”

    The speech also alluded to the importance of stability and security of society at large. Again, the Foreign Minister omitted the fact that Bahraini authorities themselves use hate speech to discredit political opposition and stoke societal division. Authorities not only tolerate hate speech against the Shia population, but they use it as a political tool to quell cross-sectarian participation in pro-democracy movements. These tactics defy the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendation to prevent sectarianism and integrate the country’s security forces. Indeed, despite its declarations, the government has failed to implement the vast majority of the BICI’s 26 recommendations. A November 2015 study by ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR found Bahrain had only fully implemented just two recommendations, with eight key recommendations completely unimplemented.

    We find the Foreign Minister’s attempt to whitewash these crimes against Bahrain’s citizens deplorable. We call on the international community to hold the Government of Bahrain accountable for its systemic human rights violations:

    • Call for the release of Nabeel Rajab and the dropping of all charges against him, and for the release of all prisoners of conscience and persons detained for their free expression.
    • Call and act for the reversal of Al Wefaq’s dissolution.
    • Suspend sales of arms and investment into Bahrain until the Governments meets and implements all BICI recommendations.

     

    Signed,

    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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    On Sunday 25 September Nabeel Rajab was transferred from the West Riffa Police Station to solitary confinement in the East Riffa Police Station ahead of his sentencing next week.

    “It’s been over a hundred days since Nabeel was arrested and charged and am very worried about his well-being. He has been treated harshly and sent back to a place where he suffered complete isolation in facilities not fit for purpose,” Sumaya Rajab, Nabeel’s wife, said.

    The last time the 2012 Index on Censorship award-winning Rajab was held in East Riffa, he required urgent medical care after two weeks of isolation in deplorable conditions. The president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights faces up to 15 years in prison on 6 October on three charges related to his posts on social media.

     

    Continue reading here.

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    The Bahraini Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, denied the existence of any measures practiced against Shiites or any discrimination against them. He further claimed that the Shiite majority residing in the country is involved in "the government and all aspects of life."

    In a prolonged interview with the Saudi Al-Hayat newspaper, he said that the office of the UN Secretary General had written an untrue statement, "in structure and content". The Bahraini Foreign Minister also noted that he did not discuss the matters of "human and economic rights" during his meeting with Ban Ki-moon.

    Continue reading here.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights confirmed that the East Riffa prison authorities have placed the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab in solitary confinement, indicating that he was maltreated.

    The center said that Rajab's family received a call from him informing them that he is held in solitary confinement, insulted, and lashed at by one of the officers in the East Riffa center.

    Continue reading here.

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    On 26 September, Asma Darwish, Advocacy Officer at Bahrain Center for Human RIghts, delivered an oral intervention together with the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under the Working Group on the people of African descent.

    See full remarks below. Watch the intervention here.

     

    Mr. President,

    Americans  for  Democracy  &  Human  Rights  in  Bahrain, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights,  would  like  to thank the Working Group  for  their  valuable  remarks  on the widespread racism faced by people of African descent. We would like to draw the council’s attention to the institutional racism and discrimination experienced by Bahrainis of African descent.

    Afro-Bahrainis face institutional racism in all sectors. When it comes to employment, Afro–Bahrainis are almost non-existent in high-ranking positions, particularly in governmental Ministries and main governmental agencies and bodies. A study examining high-level positions across 22 governmental bodies covering 415 positions in Bahrain, found that less than 1% of these position employed someone of African descent. There are no Afro-Bahraini representatives in either the Executive Authority or the appointed Legislative Authority.

    Afro-Bahrainis remain largely absent from Bahraini media. When mentioned, they are often unfairly represented and portrayed as inferior within the broader community. This only reinforces society’s racist views of Afro-Bahrainis who are often described using derogatory terms utilized during the period of slavery.

    Afro-Bahrainis face structural racism in education and are often less educated in comparison to the larger community. Despite the historical importance of the slavery era and its abolishment, it is not discussed in schools. The Government of Bahrain’s actions is a direct violation of international human rights conventions that guarantee equal rights to all without prejudices based on race, color, or other.

    We call on all states to combat institutional and structural racism against people of African descent. Esteemed working group, what is your assessment of the state of Afro-Bahrainis and people of African descent living not only in Western States, but also in Arab States like those of the Gulf Cooperation Council?

    Thank you.

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    On 27 September, Asma Darwish, Advocacy Officer at Bahrain Center for Human RIghts, delivered an oral intervention on behalf of ADHRB at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under item 9, together with the Alsalam Foundation, the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

    See full remarks below. Watch the intervention here.

     

    Mr. President,

    The DDPA recognizes “with deep concern religious intolerance against religious communities and their members.” It also “urges States to ensure… that persons belonging to … religious … minorities can exercise fully… all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

    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 is concerned with the serious and growing threat of sectarian discrimination to stability in Bahrain. In both rhetoric and practice, hate speech places Shia communities in increasing danger of violence and discrimination.

    Since 2011, the government and its supporters have used ethnoreligious hate speech to discredit political opposition and stoke societal division. Though sectarian incitement is criminalized, the government exclusively uses this legislation to target peaceful Shia dissenters. However, authorities have tolerated and even encouraged sectarian hate speech against the Shia, even citing this entire religious community as “terrorists” and “Iranian agents” in official media. There are also reports of them being described as “cockroaches…that must be put down.” A recent study revealed that the government and its supporters have created thousands of automated Twitter accounts to disseminate sectarian hate speech.

    Government policies also reflect discrimination. It is estimated that Shia citizens account for less than 5% of all Bahraini security service personnel, despite representing as much as 70% of the citizen population.

    We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to stop the endorsement of sectarian hate speech against the Shia and to ensure the right of Shia and other religious and ethnic minorities to non-discrimination.

    Thank you.

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    The Prosecution of Duraz Protesters Continues: 11 Verdicts so far.

    Bahrain’s courts continue to convict protesters over their peaceful participation in the ongoing Duraz sit-in. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply worried about the abyssal neglect of basic human rights in Bahrain and condemns the recent court rulings with their disproportionately lengthy prison terms, which solely serve to silence political dissent and to further deter protesters from expressing their opinions freely.

    The most recent case concerns Habib Al-Dirazi, a 19-year-old Islamic preacher, who has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for participating in the Duraz protests. Last week, on 21 September 2016, a Bahraini court confirmed and upheld the sentence issued against him. Al-Dirazi joined the sit-in in Duraz for two days (25 and 26 June). In the aftermath, a case was raised against him for each day that he participated in the protest under charges of “illegal gathering.” The court sentenced him to one year in prison for each of these days.

    Since late June 2016, thousands of Bahrainis gathered in Duraz to stage an open-ended sit-in in order to show their support for Shia leader Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose citizenship was revoked by the government. Despite the authorities’ attempts to limit participation by restricting access to Duraz and to deter protesters by increasingly arresting protesters, the sit-in has continued for about 100 days. BCHR has previously condemned the excessive violations of freedom of assembly and expression, but Bahraini courts continue to prosecute Duraz protesters for what is termed “illegal gatherings.” Since 19 August 2016, when the first sentence was issued against Shiite cleric Sheikh Ali Humeidan, eleven defendants in eight cases have been sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison over their participation in the Duraz protests. The verdict against Al-Dirazi is thus another one in a series of disproportionately lengthy prison terms for peaceful protest against the government’s politics.

    The government’s 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.” Disregarding such international obligations, the Bahraini government has moved forward to restrict the right to freedom of assembly and expression since the 2011 pro-democracy movement. In 2013 for example, all demonstrations, particularly in the capital Manama, were banned unless permitted by the Ministry of Interior.

    The legal restrictions on the right to free assembly and speech as well as recent court rulings on Duraz protesters manifest the Bahraini government’s neglect to follow up on the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This disregard for its own commitment to follow up on the recommendations  has also recently been stressed by NGOs in a joint statement during the 33rd session of the UNHRC.

    We call upon the government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately release all those detained for peacefully practicing the freedom of assembly and expression, and to withdrew all charges against them; and
    • Annul and withdraw any restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and expression 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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    A group of 64 researchers and academics from 20 different countries sent a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, expressing their concern regarding the recent repressive measures taken against the spiritual leader of the Shiite majority in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim.

    Read the full article here

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    Head of the monitoring and documentation unit at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Inas Aoun, said that 22 citizens were arrested in the past week (October 19-25, 2016), among which was a child not exceeding 18 years of age.

    Aoun confirmed that half the detainees were arbitrarily arrested "through breaking into their houses at dawn without any arrest warrants, which is considered a violation of international conventions on political rights.

     

    Continue reading here.

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    On 29 September Asma Darwish, Advocacy Officer at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 10 on technical assistance and capacity-building carried out by OHCHR, together with the AlSalam Foundation, the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights (BIRD) and the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB).

    Read the full remarks below or access the document in PDF format here. Watch the presentation here.

     

    Mr. President,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, together with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), are concerned with Bahrain’s total lack of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Over past months, Bahrain has created an extremely hostile environment for OHCHR’s cooperation programs, imprisoning human rights defenders, deporting religious leaders and dissolving the main political opposition. This session, we were shocked by Bahrain’s decision to issue blanket travel bans preventing civil society from engaging with the Council.

    Moreover, Bahrain has made a conscious effort to both internationally and locally undermine the High Commissioner and his office, calling into question its independence, impartiality and calling the High Commissioner “baseless and powerless”.

    Therefore, we were surprised to hear the Government express its readiness to cooperate with OHCHR earlier this session, when its behavior and practices suggest otherwise. Only a few days ago, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said that Bahrain would not “waste its time on the Human Rights Council”.

    We strongly believe that Bahrain’s cooperation with OHCHR is of utmost importance, especially given the alarming deterioration in the human rights situation. We particularly think that the High Commissioner’s office could assist in justice system and in security sector reform, where the gravest violations are occurring.

    We urge the Council to remain prized of the situation in Bahrain. We call on Bahrain to end all reprisals against civil society and to look to its upcoming UPR as an opportunity to pave a genuine and tangible path for reform and cooperation with OHCHR.

    Thank you.

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    An international human rights group has called on a company owned by Invest NI to immediately suspend a contract to train security forces in Bahrain. Reprieve says police and prison officers in the state systematically torture and abuse government opponents.

    NI-CO was awarded a £900,000 foreign office contract last year to help reform Bahrain's security forces. It says the assistance it provides is in line with recommendations from the UN and a Bahrain Commission of Inquiry. Belfast-based NI-CO (Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Invest NI.

    Project teams working for the company have been working in Bahrain's security and justice sectors for the past three years.They have worked with the police and prison services, as well as the office of the Ombudsman, whose job is to investigate allegations of torture. A Reprieve report says all of those organisations are guilty of systematic abuse.

    "The global community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations, other governments, are clear that the human rights situation in Bahrain is dire," said Reprieve's deputy director Harriet McCulloch. "Bahrain's police are widely reported to be involved in abuse, Bahrain's prisons are widely reported to be the sites of incredibly brutal torture."

    Read full article here.

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    Anti-death penalty charity report also highlights links with other repressive regimes, including EU-funded project in Egypt

    The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded training for hundreds of prison guards working at Bahrain's death row jail, according to a new report by Reprieve, an anti-death penalty charity. The group also said that at least one innocent man faces imminent execution after being tortured into making a false confession.

    A news release by Reprieve said: “Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. "In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

    Continue reading here.

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    The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.

    Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

    Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.

    Continue reading here.

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    On the occasion of the International Day of Non-Violence, on 2 October 2016, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern for the continued targeting of human rights defenders and civil society activists by the Bahraini authorities. Fighting violence should start by embracing peaceful and nonviolent advocates, however, Bahrain has gone in the opposite direction by targeting human rights defenders with  imprisonment, exile and travel bans.

    By relying on travel bans, citizenship revocations, arbitrary arrests, torture, show trials, forced confessions and an extensive surveillance apparatus, the government of Bahrain uses a mixed approach of structural and direct violence to curb dissent, and has thereby established systematic and institutionalized obstacles for political activists and human rights defenders, which not only limit them in their work, but also put them in extreme danger while following their advocacy work or peaceful protest.

    In connection with the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), several human rights defenders and delegates from across Bahraini civil society have been subjected to travel bans, rendering them unable to attend the UNHRC in Geneva. The systematic targeting of human rights defenders participating in the UNHRC has thereby emphasized the deliberate interference of the Bahraini authorities to curtail the work of human rights defenders. Additionally, it illustrates how human rights defenders in Bahrain are being deprived of - among other rights - their right to freedom of movement.

    BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajabhas been subject to punishment in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and movement. In addition to a travel ban, he has been kept in detention since 13 June for being “offensive to the government” via the social media platform Twitter. His trial has been postponed three times by the High Criminal Court in Bahrain and is now scheduled for 6 October 2016. This violates article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which clearly states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression”.

    Other activists and rights defenders have been subject to heavy reprisals, such as exile and torture. Zainab Al-Khawaja has been imprisoned eleven times since the pro-democracy protests in 2011. The jail sentences contravened her right to freedom of expression and assembly. In June 2016, she was faced with an ultimatum of an indefinite prison sentence or exile. Since then she has been exiled in Denmark, as a punishment for expressing herself freely in Bahrain. Similarly, her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), was forced into exile after being sentenced to one year for allegedly assaulting airport security officers. Their father Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President and founding member of BCHR, is serving a life sentence and was subjected to torture and an unfair trial for his leading role in the 2011 pro-democracy movement.

    In addition, BCHR has documented reports of several cases of torture at the infamous Jau prison. According to an inmate, human rights defender Naji Fateel, who is serving a 15-year prison term, was treated “like an animal.” Also, blogger and academic Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace was subjected to torture, ill-treatment and solitary confinement in Jau prison, where he is serving a life sentence for his peaceful protest during the 2011 popular movement. These severe cases of reprisals conflict with the Bahraini constitution and with the ICCPR.

    Various other activists have been punished with imprisonment, citizenship revocation, ill-treatment, and enforced exile in order to silence them. Hussain Jawad, chairman of the European Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, who was sentenced to two years in prison and subjected to ill-treatment, was eventually forced into exile. Sayed Alwadei, Advocacy Officer of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, was subject to verbal abuse, ill-treatment by the police, deprived of his citizenship and is now exiled to the United Kingdom. BCHR’s Vice-President Said Yousef Al-Muhafdha, has been a target of arbitrary arrests before he was forced into exile in Germany. Scholar and Bahrain Interfaith leader Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman was banned from travelling, arrested and charged over “illegal gatherings” for his participation in the Duraz sit-in in June 2016.

    A frequently-used tool by the Bahraini authorities to interfere with the work of human rights defenders and activists is the imposition of travel bans, thus confining them in their own country in an attempt to prevent them from international advocacy work. Among the most recent victims of travel bans are BCHR’s Head of International RelationsNedal Al-Salman, teacher and unionistJalila Al-Salman, activistEbtisam Al-Saegh, and women's rights defenderGhada Jamsheer, who has also been repeatedly arrested and detained for her activism. Other BCHR members who fell victim to travel bans this year were Enas Oun and Hussain Radhi. Thus, all Bahrain-based BCHR members were prevented from travelling to Geneva to take part in the UNHRC session.

    Travel bans on human rights defenders are considered a direct violation of freedom of movement, according to Article 12(1) of the ICCPR. As Bahrain is a signatory hereof, the government is violating the Covenant and depriving its citizens of their right to free movement and travel. This is however not the only article of the ICCPR which has been repeatedly violated by the Bahraini authorities. More specifically, freedom of expression, manifested in Article 19 of the ICCPR, has become extremely constrained by the authorities.

    In light of the interference and punishment of human rights defenders, BCHR calls upon the Bahraini government to:

    • end interference with the work of human rights defenders;
    • ensure accountability for those who violate human rights in Bahrain;
    • guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of speech in Bahrain; and
    • end the criminal cases against human rights defenders which aim to punish their work
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    Bahrain Mirror: The president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights Nabeel Rajab will undergo a surgery on Monday (September 3, 2016) after his health deteriorated due to being held in poor conditions in prison.

    Rajab's twitter account said that the prominent human rights defender will undergo a surgery to remove his gallbladder.

    Read full article here

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    The Obama administration has told Congress it won’t complete approval for Bahrain to buy as many as 19 F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp. and upgrades for older ones for almost $4 billion until the Gulf ally demonstrates progress on human rights, according to people familiar with the issue.

    The declaration of concern, which doesn’t specify what steps Bahrain would have to take, was included in a draft notification of the pending sale that the administration sent to Congress on Wednesday, according to the people who asked not to be identified discussing details of the message that wasn’t released publicly.

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