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    Describing a country as a “land of paradox” is a horrid cliché of foreign policy writing, but it’s unfortunately how we must begin our examination of Bahrain. The tiny Middle Eastern nation is majority-Shia yet ruled by Sunnis, wealthy yet with a very high unemployment rate, an island that often seems enveloped Lesotho-like by Saudi Arabia. Bahrain tends to get lost in our discussions about the Middle East, blurred in with that agglomeration known as the “Gulf States,” though during the Arab Spring, at least for a couple weeks, it came front and center.

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    The Oct. 27 editorial “ ‘Is this the kind of ally America wants?’ ” highlighted the Obama administration’s myopic policy on Bahrain. The smallest country in the Middle East has manipulated its relationship with Washington for years, continuing to receive political support and military assistance from the United States while rejecting meaningful reform. The State Department has too often appeared paralyzed in the face of the regime’s attacks on moderate opposition and human rights activists, unwilling or unable to effectively respond. This inaction has only encouraged further violations, with all political dissent now effectively strangled.

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    The wife and child of a Bahraini activist flew out of the island nation Tuesday, days after being blocked from leaving the country following a protest incident in London during the king's last visit.

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    On 22 September 2016, CIVICUS, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) made a joint submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ahead of Bahrain’s review in 2017. The submission examines the Bahraini government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, as the extent to which the recommendations of the previous UPR in 2012 have been fulfilled remains debatable. Several different sectors are addressed by the UPR such as, Freedom of Assembly, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Civil Society Representatives, Freedom of Expression and the Right to Peaceful Assembly. These are all core to the objectives of the three organisation in their pursuit of a just human rights environment in Bahrain.

    Read the full report here.

    Firstly, the UPR addressed Freedom of Association and put forward ten recommendations, which were all accepted by the authorities in Bahrain. Among others, the government committed to “abandon any restriction or obstacle to the work of persons and institutions engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights.” However, according to the three organisations, nine out of ten of the recommendations were not implemented in practice. This highlights the government’s disinterest in providing a secure human rights environment in Bahrain, as human rights, opposition, religious and other civil society groups have been harshly punished.

    Secondly, five recommendations concerning harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and civil society representatives were presented. Once again, the Bahraini government accepted the majority, by accepting four and noting one. The authorities committed to ensuring “that HRDs must be protected and allowed to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation and harassment.” However, this does not seem to have been the case in the aftermath of the agreement, as HRDs, journalists and civil society representatives are continuously punished for their work. In addition, the joint submission concluded that none of the five recommendations were implemented.

    Thirdly, freedom of expression was another key component of the submission. Twenty-three recommendations were put forward and the Bahraini authorities agreed to 22 of them, leaving one noted. As many as all 22 of them could be described as not having been implemented, implying that the government has not taken any significant measures to ensure the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain. Moreover, the organisations suggested that the Penal Code of Bahrain is the main tool used by the government to curb freedom of expression.

    Lastly, the previous UPR addressed 17 areas of improvement related to the right to peaceful assembly. They were all accepted by the government, however as a now recurring theme, they were not implemented. Furthermore, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees freedom of assembly. This in turn, contradicts the actual situation in Bahrain concerning peaceful assembly, as demonstrations and peaceful marches are routinely violently dispersed.

    As outlined, several recommendations have not been fulfilled nor even pursued by the Bahraini government. This raises concern for civil society, as it illustrates a lack of commitment and lack of will to improve the human rights climate in Bahrain.

    As a result, we call upon the Bahraini government to:
     
    • Prioritise human rights on the political agenda;
    • End its interference with the work of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives; and
    • Abide by the UPR recommendations to which it has already agreed.
     
    Read the full report here.
     

     

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    A call for the Stormont executive to suspend the work of a Belfast based company training security forces in Bahrain has been rejected.

    NI-CO, owned by Invest NI, has worked with the police and prison services in the Gulf state. 

    In a report published in September, human rights group Reprieve said those organisations were guilty of torture.I

    It called on Stormont economy minister Simon Hamilton to suspend the contract.

    But in a letter to the group, the minister said the executive was not in a position to suspend the company's work in Bahrain as it didn't award the contract.

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    Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab remains jailed for his alleged tweets and his human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression after a judge postponed his trial on 31 October 2016 but did not free him on bail despite his illness.

    During the hearing, where a verdict had been expected, Judge Ebrahim Al-Zayed of the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the trial until 15 December in order to obtain a technical expert from the Cyber-Crime Unit to determine who runs Rajab’s twitter account.

    Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications. The trial was attended by diplomatic representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

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    Bahraini human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Nabeel Rajab’s verdict has been postponed once again. The High Criminal Court has scheduled the next hearing for 15 December to allow further investigations into his Twitter account.

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    3 November 2016 - Journalist Faisal Hayyat appeared in court today on charges related to a "defamatory" tweet. His sentencing was postponed to 29 November 2016. We, the undersigned, consider this a violation of his freedom of expression and condemn his prosecution as well as the Bahraini government’s continued criminalisation of free speech.

    Authorities arrested Faisal Hayyat on 9 October 2016 for a tweet alleged by the prosecution to defame the Sunni sect in Bahrain; ‘insulting religion’ is a charge that carries a one-year prison sentence. Hayyat’s prosecution formally relates to tweets he posted on 7 October 2016 during the religious month of Muharram.

    Before his arrest, on 1 October, Hayyat had also written an open letter to Bahrain's Minister of Interior, in which he wrote "as a citizen" urging for an end to restrictions on civil and political freedoms and a solution to the country's crisis. We are concerned that Hayyat’s prosecution for his tweets may be a reprisal against this public criticism.

    Hayyat’s 7 October tweets refer to the historical figure, Caliph Yazid, a controversial figure in Islam due to his role in the killing of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The government’s decision to prosecute him may therefore infringe on Hayyat’s religious freedom as well as his expression. Regardless of the contents of the tweets, defamation should not be a criminal offence.

    Hayyat is a former sports journalist and a social media activist who directs and presents short video programs online which provide critical perspectives on local politics. He is also a torture survivor. In 2011, he attended protests criticising state control of the media and calling for the resignation of the head of the Information Affairs Authority, the state's media regulator, Sheikh Fawaz Al Khalifa. Sheikh Fawaz is today Bahrain's ambassador to London.

    Hayyat was arrested on 7 April 2011 and held until 29 June 2011, during which he was subjected to torture and humiliation. During interrogation, officers physically beat Hayyat on his back, head, and shoulders. They hit him with their guns and subjected him to sexual abuse. A court case was filed against him, but eventually dropped in December 2011. We, the undersigned, condemn Faisal Hayyat’s continued prosecution.

    We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Bahrain to cease his prosecution on expression-related charges and respect the rights to expression and religion as protected under articles 19 and 18 respectively of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the latter of which Bahrain acceded to in 2006.

    Signed,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

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    Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab remains jailed for his alleged tweets and his human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression after a judge postponed his trial on 31 October 2016 but did not free him on bail despite his illness.

    Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications. The trial was attended by diplomatic representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

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    Saudi Arabia has appointed a Bahraini national accused of overseeing torture and unfairly sentencing Arab Spring protesters to lengthy jail terms to investigate human rights violations caused by coalition bombing in Yemen

    The colonel gained notoriety in dealing with protesters in the wake of the Arab Spring in Bahrain in 2011, running a tribunal which prosecuted hundreds of non-violent pro-democracy protesters, academics, writers and journalists, often handing down life imprisonment sentences

    Dozens of those he sentenced allege torture and sexual assault while they were detained, which they say Colonel Al-Mansour ignored.

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    A journalist investigates corruption at the highest levels of her Government and soon finds herself fighting fictional charges from the cell of a prison. A critic of a Government is assassinated while buying groceries. Another Government bans its main political opposition party as “extremist”, sending its leaders to jail. A cartoonist faces prosecution under his country’s laws against sedition. A Government shuts down the Internet in advance of public protests, while another uses surveillance to target political opposition. Bloggers are brutally murdered because their work angers religious dogmatists. Governments criminalize the praising of terrorism even absent incitement to violence. A photojournalist is held without charge. An activist is arrested for a tweet, another for a post, yet another for an e-mail.

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    Prince Charles is under pressure to raise the issue of torture and human rights abuses in Bahrain when he arrives in the troubled Gulf state this week as part of celebrations to mark 200 years of diplomatic relations with Britain. The heir to the throne is due to arrive in the kingdom on Wednesday for a three-day tour during which he is due to open part of Britain’s first military base in the Middle East for more than 40 years when he visits a new £30m facility on the Persian Gulf to be used by the Royal Navy.

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    On 17 October the Cassation Court rejected the Appeal Court’s decision to extend the opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman’s prison sentence from four to nine years and ordered his retrial before the Appeal Court. His retrial is set to start on 6 November.

     

    Read the full statement here

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    Ahead of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit next week to Bahrain, Amnesty International issued the following summary of its human rights concerns on the country.
     
    Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: 
     
    “We’re not expecting Prince Charles to reinvent himself as a human rights campaigner on this trip, but we hope he’ll use some of his time to speak about universal values like free speech and open debate.

     

     
     
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    As of 6 November 2016, Sayed Alawi Hussain Alawi has been forcibly disappeared for two weeks following his arrest at the hands of Bahraini security forces. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the ongoing practice of enforced disappearance of detainees in Bahrain.  

    Sayed Alawi Hussain Alawi, 43 years old, a resident of Duraz, disappeared on 24 October 2016, around 4pm. His family told BCHR that they received the last call from him at around 3pm when he told them he was going to be late due to his workload. However, they were not able to reach him on the phone later as his phone had been switched off. He didn’t return home, and his family searched for him at hospitals without luck, then filed a missing person report at the Budaiya police station. Later that day, the police station called the family to inform them that Alawi was being detained at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), and asked the family to cancel the missing report.

    On 25 October, Alawi’s family filed a complaint with the Ombudsman for arbitrary and illegal arrest, as no arrest warrant was ever seen.

    Since then, the family has asked about Alawi at the CID several times without receiving any information about him from CID officers, who refused to confirm or deny having Alawi in detention. On 1 November, a CID officer only agreed to receive some clothes for Alawi. On 3 November, Alawi’s wife was called to come to CID and retrieve the clothes of her husband and to take them to Dry Dock Detention Center. When she went to receive the clothing, the officers refused to give it to her initially. To add to the family troubles, when they went to the Dry Dock Detention Center with the clothes, the officer of the prison informed them that Alawi was not there either.

    Since his disappearance, Alawi has not called his family once. He has no access to a lawyer or to any family members. His lawyer has continued to ask about him at the public prosecution which being provided any information.

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

    BCHR continues to document such cases of enforced disappearance on a regular basis. Bahrain continuously appears in the annual reports of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) since 2011 and has been criticized in WGEID’s 108th session document for providing merely “insufficient” information regarding the clarification of the urgent cases of two men allegedly arrested by state agents in September and November 2015.

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

    • Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Sayed Alawi Hussain Alawi and release him;
    • End the practice of enforced disappearance, including depriving arrested individuals of their right to a lawyer, or to contact their families.

     

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    The German News Agency reported that British Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, will arrive in Bahrain as part of his Gulf tour, and is scheduled to visit the British Military base stationed East of Manama.

    Read the full article here.

     

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    Amnesty International has urged UK royal Prince Charles to highlight the cause of jailed Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, during a meeting with the island's ruler King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa this week.

    The human rights groups said that the Prince of Wales should use the opportunity of his visit the Bahraini leadership on Tuesday to bring up Rajab's case following the recent postponement of his verdict

    Read the full article here.

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    A Bahrainihuman rights activist and torture survivor claims Prince Charles's visit to the Arab kingdom is being used to "whitewash" its record on civil liberties.

    The Prince of Wales is touring the Gulf state until Friday as part of a trip that includes "greenlighting" a £30m British navy base.

    Refugee Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy (BIRD), spoke exclusively to The Independent after recently being reunited with the family he thought he would never see again.

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    The prominent human rights activist Abdulnabi Al-Ekri said that he received on Wednesday (November 9, 2016) a notice asking him to present for interrogation tomorrow morning.

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    MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla began wrapping up their trip to Bahrain on Friday, as a leader in the island's secular opposition warned their visit could "whitewash" an ongoing crackdown on dissent

    Ebrahim Sharif of the Waad Party, who himself has been detained by the island's Sunni rulers, said he hoped the Prince of Wales brought up human rights issues behind closed doors with leaders here.

    Bahrain, a small island off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, put down Arab Spring protests in 2011 with the help of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

    Since then, authorities suspended the country's largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, and doubled a prison sentence for its secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman. Famed activist Nabeel Rajab was imprisoned and now awaits sentencing on a charge of spreading "false news." Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of well-known activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who himself is serving a life sentence over his role in the 2011 protests, was forced into exile.

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