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- 12/12/16--02:17: _Boris Johnson must ...
- 12/12/16--02:21: _Roundtable Session ...
- 12/12/16--03:25: _BAHRAIN: OPPOSITION...
- 12/12/16--08:16: _Attacks on Civil So...
- 12/13/16--01:24: _Bahrain court uphol...
- 12/13/16--01:32: _Rights groups blast...
- 12/13/16--01:39: _Bahrain – Oppositio...
- 12/13/16--06:55: _Maryam al-Khawaja: ...
- 12/14/16--01:28: _Bahrain is no U.S. ...
- 12/14/16--01:45: _Bahraini human righ...
- 12/14/16--02:00: _Court Upholds 9-Yea...
- 12/15/16--00:39: _Freedom of the Pres...
- 12/15/16--00:53: _Index - Bahrain: Pa...
- 12/15/16--01:01: _The Guardian - Cro...
- 12/15/16--01:09: _Washington’s Dilemm...
- 12/15/16--01:17: _Serious Concerns ov...
- 12/15/16--02:13: _GCHR - Human rights...
- 12/16/16--06:39: _Court postpones ver...
- 12/16/16--07:31: _Wikipedia and Guess...
- 12/15/16--02:37: _Bahrain Solidarity Day
- 12/12/16--02:17: Boris Johnson must urge Gulf to end child death sentences – Reprieve
- Comply with its human rights obligations;
- Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and;
- Guarantee fundamental rights of free expression, assembly, religion, and association without any reprisal.
- Take a leading position in condemning human rights violations;
- Speak out publicly, also on the release of Nabeel Rajab;
- Speak out against the death penalty and to push it onto the agenda;
- Speak in favour of human rights defenders, in private meetings as well as public statements.
- Impose a human rights discussion in the yearly meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and in individual sectoral meetings with the Gulf region;
- Implement human rights guidelines much more proactively;
- Establish a common position by all 28 member states on human rights defenders in the Gulf region;
- Control export of crowd control equipment and more general weapons and technologies that are used to violate human rights in Bahrain; and
- Collaborate with civil society by naming and shaming states that are exporting arms and more specifically crowd control equipment and spying equipment to repress society and human rights defenders.
- 12/13/16--01:24: Bahrain court upholds 9-year prison term for opposition chief
- 12/13/16--01:32: Rights groups blast sentence against Bahrain Shiite activist
- 12/14/16--01:28: Bahrain is no U.S. partner
- 12/14/16--01:45: Bahraini human rights activist to face trial
- 12/14/16--02:00: Court Upholds 9-Year Prison Sentence for Sheikh Ali Salman
- Cease blocking independent international journalists from entering Bahrain;
- Allow journalists to conduct their profession and respect their right to freedom of expression; and
- Drop the charges against journalists who exercise their work.
- 12/15/16--01:09: Washington’s Dilemma as Bahrain Snuggles Up to Putin
- Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab and all political prisoners detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression;
- Drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab at his trial on 15 December 2016, which are related to his right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech; and
- Abide by international legislation upholding the right to freedom of expression, without any restrictions or arbitrary legal procedures.
- 12/15/16--02:37: Bahrain Solidarity Day
The Foreign Secretary has been urged to use a visit to the Gulf today to call for the release of juveniles and political dissidents sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Boris Johnson will travel to Bahrain today for meetings at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit. The trip follows a visit to the Gulf this week by the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
International human rights organization Reprieve had written to Mrs May urging her to press Saudi Arabia to release three juveniles – Ali al Nimr, Dawood al Marhoon, and Abdullah al Zaher – who face execution in Saudi Arabia on charges relating to protests; and a father of three, Mohammed Ramadan, who faces execution on similar charges in Bahrain. Earlier this week, Mr Ramadan’s 7 year old son Ahmed called on the Prime Minister to intervene for his father.
Read the full article here.
Participants in a roundtable session in the German capital Berlin said that Bahrain has arrested 1153 people since the beginning of the year, including 186 children and 21 women, which reflects the extent of human rights deterioration in the country.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights hosted a seminar in Berlin entitled "The Attacks on Civil Society", where the center representatives, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch took part in.
Read the full article here.
A nine year prison sentence against the Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali SalmaAlin, was upheld today by a Bahraini Appeal Court, after a retrial, in another blow to freedom of expression in the country. In response to the verdict Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director of Campaigns said:
“Today’s shocking verdict is another example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience. He has been put behind bars merely for peacefully reaffirming his party’s determination to pursue power in Bahrain, to achieve the reform demands of the 2011 uprising and to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account. Instead of punishing him for peaceful criticism the Bahraini authorities must order his immediate and unconditional release.”
Read the full article here.
Marking the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day on 10 December, representatives of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Human Rights Watch Germany (HRW) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) convened in Berlin on 8 December during a discussion event entitled “Attacks on Civil Society” in Bahrain.
Among the panel speakers were Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah, Vice-President of BCHR, Wolfgang Büttner, press officer and associate advocate at Human Rights Watch Germany and Jean-Marie Rogue, EU liaison officer at FIDH.Al-Muhafdah welcomed the panel and opened the discussion listing facts and figures related to attacks on civil society in Bahrain. From January to November 2016, BCHR documented 1153 arrests, and 1065 prison sentences totalling 9726 years handed down in politicized cases. At least 300 individuals have seen their citizenship revoked and to this day, there are about 18 Internet users detained for charges related to online freedom of expression, including BCHR’s President, human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. In addition to discussing Rajab’s case, in which he faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment on charges related to tweets and retweets, Al-Muhafdha discussed additional cases of retaliations against BCHR’s staff based in Bahrain. He highlighted thetravel bans imposed on no less than five members of the BCHR team in the last six months, bans which were issued right before the 32nd and 33rd UN Human Rights Council sessions.
Al-Muhafdah made a call for civil society to stand up and join efforts to demand respect for human rights, and urged the German Foreign Ministry to call on the Bahraini government to:
Speaking on HRW’s behalf, Wolfgang Büttner emphasised the importance of International Human Rights Day on 10 December, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and commented on growing concerns related to countries breaking rather than upholding human rights. As Büttner remarked, “The tendency at the moment is that this gap in human rights standards - the legal standards and the practical implementations - is getting wider and wider. And Bahrain is one of those countries where the deterioration of human rights standards is evident.”
About the current situation in Bahrain, he stated that it might look calmer to international observers on the surface since there are fewer protests, yet this is not because the political situation has improved rather because the crackdown has gotten worse. The situation deteriorated beneath the surface instead. According to Büttner, the government perceives unrest mostly as a security problem and responds to it with repression, which in turn leads to violence and radicalization. Büttner narrowed down these developments to two possible outcomes, saying these harsh measures taken by the government to grasp control of freedom of speech and of expression could very well incite instability or it could spell a political graveyard in Bahrain where every political dissident and human rights defender is silenced.
To assist in measures to prevent this, Büttner called onto the German Government to:
FIDH’s representative Jean-Marie Rogue, working at the intersection of human rights and the EU, focused his presentation on the European Union’s approach towards human rights in Bahrain. His general view was that actions are being undertaken but they are too sporadic and vague. Instead more recommendations have to be sent to the EU by the parliament and the language used has to become more precise by actively taking a stance and condemning individual cases more insistently. To exemplify this argument, he discussed governmental reactions to Nabeel Rajab’s case where the EU never asked for his immediate and unconditional release, but rather, individual Members of the European Parliament made strong calls for his release. However joint action is needed as well as more direct, insistent, condemnatory phrasing. According to Rogue, the EU is acting a bit too cautiously in its communication with Bahrain, therefore not sufficiently using its leverage.
Rogue challenged the status quo of the EU in approaching human rights violations in Bahrain. The strategy of having a dialogue and “keeping doors open” has to be complemented by the following recommended actions at EU level:
A Bahraini court has upheld a nine-year prison term imposed on the country's most prominent opposition leader, Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, local media reported on Monday.
Salman, who leads the now closed al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was granted a retrial for inciting unrest "crimes of promoting change to the political system by force" in October for unspecified reasons.
He has been in custody since his conviction last June.
Read the full article here.
Human rights groups are sharply criticizing a Bahraini appeal court's ruling upholding a nine-year prison sentence against the country's leading Shiite opposition figure.
Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy were among the groups condemning Monday's verdict against Sheikh Ali Salman. He is secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shiite political group.
Amnesty's Mideast Deputy Director of Campaigns Samah Hadid says the ruling shows "Bahrain's flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression."
Read the full article here.
It is vital to create conditions that foster the resumption of an expanded political dialogue, which is essential to national reconciliation.
France reiterates its commitment to the freedom of opinion and expression throughout the world, and to the right to a just and fair trial.
Read the statement here.
LAST year exiled Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja told The National the UK had “become a problem” for freedoms in the Gulf region. Now the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has written an exclusive response to the UK Government’s new focus on the region for The National following visits by both Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Al-Khawaja, who left her country for Europe to avoid a jail sentence, writes as her father Abdulhadi remains in prison for his pro-democracy work. He was sentenced to life by a military court on terror charges for his role in Bahrain’s civil uprising.
IN his speech during the Manama Dialogue, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in Bahrain, Boris Johnson said: “And so tonight I want to acknowledge that this policy of disengagement East of Suez was a mistake and in so far as we are now capable, and we are capable of a lot, we want to reverse that policy at least in this sense: that we recognise the strong historical attachment between Britain and the Gulf, and more importantly, we underscore the growing relevance and importance of that relationship in today’s uncertain and volatile world.”
Read the full article here.
Maybe S. Rob Sobhani is right that no world leader “will come close to being a truer partner of Washington than King Hamad” — if being a true partner means heading a regime that respects neither human rights nor the rule of law (“Trump’s Bahrain Moment,” Web, Dec. 11).
Read the full opinion statement by Brian Dooley here.
Join a vigil at 10 Downing Street
When: Wednesday 14 December 12:30pm
Where: 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA
Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, an Index award winner, has been imprisoned for tweeting about the Bahraini government, and could face up to 15 years in jail. Rajab was taken from his home the morning of 13 June 2016 and has been awaiting trial ever since.
Read the full article here.
In Bahrain, an appeals court has upheld a nine-year prison sentence against Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman.
Read the full article here.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned about the ongoing and intensifying harassment of independent journalists by the Bahraini government.
The Bahraini government prevented international journalists from covering the two-day 37th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), hosted in Manama last week on 6 and 7 December. The annual summit gathers Arab and Gulf leaders to discuss regional and international issues. British Prime Minister Theresa May was also in attendance this year.
An employee from Al-Araby TV Channel (headquartered in London) was arrested on 6 December 2016 by the Bahraini authorities after the authorities stopped a live stream with the guest Abdulaziz Abul, a member of the Shura council, who was commenting on the GCC summit.
Al-Jazeera Media Network (AJMN) announced on 6 December 2016 that Bahraini authorities blocked their employees from covering the GCC summit from the ground as the staff was not allowed to enter the country. Jamal Elshayyal, a journalist from AJMN, who was refused entry at Bahrain International Airport on 6 December, states that for “no legitimate reason” his news agency was prevented from covering an international conference with global interest, even though all necessary procedures were followed and all requested documents submitted to the authorities on time.
The attacks and restrictions on media, including television channels, are frequent in Bahrain and it is difficult for independent media to operate freely. In February 2015, the Bahraini authorities suspended television channel Al Arab TV, one day after its launch, following an interview it broadcast with an aide to a Bahraini opposition leader.
Based on the facts and cases above, BCHR expresses its deep concern about the right to freedom of expression being undermined and calls on the authorities of Bahrain to:
Parliamentarians today joined in calling on the UK government to call for the release of jailed activist Nabeel Rajab.
Twenty-three Members of Parliament have penned a joint letter to the Foreign Secretary calling on the UK government to demand the “unconditional release” of Nabeel Rajab from prison, and for the charges against him to be dropped.
The letter signed by a cross-party group of MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, Scottish National Party, DUP, Liberal Democrats, Green and SDLP, urges the UK Government to follow the lead of the US State Department, the European Parliament, and the United Nations, in calling for Bahrain to release Mr Rajab.
The letter said: “We urge you, in advance of the trial tomorrow, to make it clear to Bahraini officials that the United Kingdom wishes to see his unconditional release from prison, and for the charges brought against him, which are related to his right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech, to be dropped.”
Continue reading here.
More than 20 MPs from seven parties in the UK parliament have urged the British foreign secretary to echo US government calls for the release of the Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, whose trial begins on Friday.
Rajab, who faces up to 15 years in jail for comments made on Twitter criticising the war in Yemen, has been held in pre-trial detention since June. He is also accused of “defaming the state” by publishing “false news .. and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of the kingdom” in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
He was arrested on separate charges of “spreading false information and rumours with the aim of discrediting the state”.
Continue reading here.
The first Trump cabinet discussion on Russia should be fun. Quite apart from the question of what role Russia played in the presidential election, nominees for top posts have said very different things about President Putin.
Trump has expressed admiration of the Russian president and several of his close circle have links to the Kremlin. Other cabinet nominees, including Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, are clearly not fans of the Russian president.
Some senior Republicans in Congress are also alarmed at a Trump Administration becoming too close to the former KGB officer, with serious consequences for Ukraine, Syria, the European Union, and elsewhere.
While the new administration figures out if it wants to be friends with Russia, Washington’s erratic military ally Bahrain has already decided to snuggle up to Putin.
Continue reading here.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is greatly concerned at the prolongued detention of its President and human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
On 15 December the Bahrain High Criminal Court has postponed, for the fifth time, the trial of Nabeel Rajab, leading human rights defender, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, to 28 December. BCHR is deeply concerned about the ongoing detention and prosecution of Rajab, as well as his deteriorating health condition since his arrest.
Rajab has been denied release and was not allowed to speak in court.
The High Criminal Court had already postponed the trial of Rajab four times in a row since the commencement of the trial on 11 July 2016. On 31 October the High Criminal Court postponed the trial to hire an expert from the Cyber Crime Unit to verify that the Twitter handle in question was managed by him. The reopening of his case throws a light on the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.
Rajab is being prosecuted in relation to tweets and retweets about torture in Jau Prison and the human rights violations in the war on Yemen. The prosecution of Rajab is based on Articles 133, 215, and 216 of Bahrain’s Penal Code over charges of “false or malicious news, statements, or rumours,” “offending a foreign country” (Saudi Arabia), and “offending a statutory body” – for which he may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. All these charges relate to Rajab’s exercise of his free expression.
In September, Bahrain’s prosecution brought new charges against him for “undermining the prestige of the state” after the New York Times published his opinion piece, Letter from a Bahraini Jail. This charge could carry an additional year. In his letter, Rajab criticized his country for being one “that punishes its people for thinking, that prevents its citizens from exercising their basic rights.”
Rajab has spent over 180 days in detention since his arrest on 13 June 2016. We are deeply concerned about Rajab still being detained considering his deteriorating health condition. Rajab’s family believes that the unhygienic condition in his cell is possibly the reason for worsening of his health condition. On 22 November, Rajab was transferred for the third time to a police hospital after suffering chest pain, according to his son Adam Rajab.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini government to:
Women’s rights defender, writer and blogger Ghada Jamsheer was freed on 12 December after four months in prison in Bahrain, after reaching an agreement to work for the rest of her sentence. Jamsheer has been imprisoned at Isa Town Women’s Prison since 15 August 2016, serving a combined ten-month sentence relating to her tweets exposing corruption within the management of King Hamad Hospital.
Continue reading here.
Paris-Geneva, December 15, 2016 – For the fifth time in a row, Court postpones verdict of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab as he remains jailed for his tweets and his human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, the health of Mr. Rajab has seriously deteriorated since his arrest in June 2016. “Mr. Rajab should be released immediately and unconditionally”, says the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
On December 15, 2016, after a fifteen minutes hearing during which Nabeel Rajab was not allowed to speak, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the verdict until December 28, 2016 and refused to release him, after he has spent more than six months in pre-trial detention.
“In a sad parody of justice, Bahraini authorities are punishing Nabeel Rajab for exercising his right to freedom of expression. We are calling for his immediate and unconditional release”, said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
Read the full press release here.
15 December 2016
Lawyer’s memorandum in the defense of Nabeel Rajab (Unofficial translation from Arabic):
The Ministry of the Interior (MOI)’s expert [from the Criminal Investigation Directorate] claimed that the registration of the mentioned Twitter account (@NabeelRajab) is linked to two email addresses, through which the account is accessed and managed. These two are email@example.com as well as na ********* *@bahrainrights.org, and through confidential sources it concluded that these addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, which belong to Nabeel Rajab. This opinion is incorrect and is not reliable as the expert had built his conclusion on the assumption that the missing e-mail letters referred to first letters of the name of Nabeel Rajab (“na”), and this claim is not true at all and is denied by the accused, where the technical expert should not build conclusions on his suspicions.
And if we accept the expert’s assumption that the beginning of the e-mail address “na” means that the account belong to the defendant because his first name starts with the same letters, the same also applies to at least five of the accused’s brothers whose names all begin with the same letters. Indeed, thousands of first names, whether Arab or foreign begin with the same letters.
This negates the conclusion reached by the expert, which confirms what we stated in regard to his non-neutrality, even more. As the expert claims that his source to identify the alleged e-mail address are confidential sources, this leads us to question whether the court has summoned the expert to provide technical opinion built on technical grounds, or to act as a secret informant and detective?
And if the conclusion of the expert with respect to the element of the e-mail address is a mere unfounded conjecture, we wonder why did the expert ignore the other element of the alleged data that he used as a basis to conclude that the defendant is the owner of the Twitter account in question. The other element is the phone number which was mentioned in the expert's report. Also he claimed that on Wikipedia, “the largest encyclopedia on the Internet,” it’s explicitly stated in the page for “Nabeel Rajab" that the Twitter account in question is his account and a link to that account was included. Additionally, the expert has deduced the relation between the defendant and the Twitter account through his own search over the Internet as he referred to the Wikipedia page of “Nabeel Rajab”.
The expert is trying to mislead the judiciary by claiming that Wikipedia is the “largest encyclopedia in the Internet” while it is merely a free site of information; to be more clear it is the site which everyone can browse it and its information is written by its visitors and surfers and that the information contained in it is not reliable as it reflects the opinion of the authors who post on the website.
The expert went as far as he could to connect the Twitter account to the defendant relying on unfounded reference. And he has ignored the tweets from the Ministry of the Interior (which were released after the arrest of the accused) which confirms that the account in question is not managed by the accused, as stated in the tweet by the Interior Ministry that was published in Arabic and English. The question here is: Why didn’t the expert refer to this tweet and its meaning? Because it leads to denying the charge, but the expert was sent on an errand for the purpose of proving the charge and not telling the truth.
Therefore, we are calling for the invalidity of the expert's report; due to lack of neutrality and impartiality of the commissioned expert in his performance of the task assigned to him, as the expert’s report is flawed with lack of neutrality and impartiality. And because the expert tried to force the connection of the charge haphazardly to the defendant, as was already touched upon previously in our defense, where the important fact cannot be overlooked that the expert is an employee (military personnel) in the Ministry of Interior, at the Criminal Iinvestigation Directorate (CID), which is the same directorate that filed the criminal communiqué against the accused. Therefore it is not surprising that the expert's report is weak in its basis and conclusion, as he attempts to fabricate the charge and tie it to the accused falsely.
end of the memo
The lawyers argued during the court session on 15 December 2016 that the conclusion of the expert's report contradicts the firm extracts obtained from all the devices linked to the accused as documented in the case file, and which have been examined by order of the public prosecutor, and proved clearly and with certainty that there is no connection between the defendant and the subject of the charge altogether, as was already presented in the memorandum of the case.
According to the lawyer, the expert has failed to mention even one piece of technical evidence to prove the relation of the accused to the alleged account. Instead, the entire set of documents have lacked any evidence or a sign of one, but on the contrary the case papers pronounce the innocence of the accused. The lack of relevance is clear since all the extracts in the hands of the court prove the lack of evidence relating to the subject of the indictment, where there is no connection, nor contained in all the seized devices and the indictment of the accused.
The lawyers said that the best example of the invalidity of the result of the report is its contradiction to the official statement of the Ministry of Interior, published on 5 August 2013 at its official account and in which it confirmed: “About tweets through accounts of inmates Nabeel Rajab & Abdulhadi Al Khawaja. Those 2accounts are run by individuals from outside the prison”. And it proves to the court and with testimony of the Interior Ministry that the accused is not related to the management of the account altogether.
The lawyers demanded: Primarily: Acquittal of the accused of the charge assigned to him, due to the lack of connection with the subject and absence of evidence on the case documents; and Secondarily: Approach the Twitter company and ask for a statement to show if the accused had personally verified a personal account for him on their site, and to assign an independent technical specialist expert from outside the Kingdom of Bahrain, to provide a technical report about the incident subject of the charge. Thirdly: Call the head of the General Security to listen to his statement and his testimony in regards to the Ministry of the Interior’s official statement published in the media about the account labeled “Nabeel Rajab”. Finally: Call the technical expert who was assigned by the court for cross-examination by the defense team about his report.
Judge Ebrahim AlZayed decided to call on the prosecution witness and the technical expert for testimony at the court on 28 December. He refused to allow Nabeel Rajab to talk during the session.
Original lawyers memo and session summary (Arabic) http://www.alwasatnews.com/news/1191002.html
15 December 2016 – This past year the Government of Bahrain drastically increased its suppression of Bahraini civil and political society. Today, Bahraini human rights organizations stand in solidarity with the people of Bahrain in the face of systematic human rights abuses in proclaiming the first Bahrain Solidarity Day.
In 2011, hundreds of thousands of people rose up in support of democracy and human rights in Bahrain. After enduring decades of structural inequalities, corruption, and repression, nearly half the country’s citizen population gathered to demand reform. The government responded swiftly, and severely. Riot police flooded the streets, employing excessive and indiscriminate force to disperse the demonstrations and suppress the movement. Assisted by a Saudi and Emirati forces, Bahraini authorities violently put down the peaceful uprising, leading to thousands of arrests, hundreds of injuries, and dozens of deaths.
Since 2011, the Bahraini authorities have taken steps to institutionalize this repression by passing broad, wide-ranging laws that have created a legal framework, which is now used to target human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society at large.
Following the repression of the 2011 pro-democracy movement, King Hamad established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in July to analyze Bahraini authorities’ violations during the pro-democracy movement. On November 2011, the BICI commission handed over their finalized report to King Hamad, outlining 26 recommendations for key reforms for the Government of Bahrain, all of which the government accepted, yet today, the vast majority of these recommendations remain unfulfilled.
This past summer, the government unleashed a new campaign of repression as it arrested prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who faces 15 years in prison for exercising his freedom of expression, and took steps to permanently dissolve Al-Wefaq, the country’s largest political opposition society. Nabeel remains in prison in poor conditions, after his trial was postponed multiple times. His next hearing is scheduled for 15 December 2016, where he could face up to fifteen years in prison for tweets. Al-Wefaq’s Secretary-General Sheikh Ali Salman recently had his 9-year sentence upheld in regards to a peaceful speech he gave. Since the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, in June 2016, the authorities have increased their harassment of almost all major political societies.
Fadhel Abbas, the Secretary-General of Al-Wahdawi, is currently serving a 3-year prison sentence for calling the Saudi war in Yemen, in which Bahrain is a belligerent, unconstitutional. The National Democratic Action Society – Wa’ad – has been under threat, with their leader banned from travel and repeatedly subject to police questioning in the past year. Ebrahim Sharif, the former Secretary General of Wa’ad, served 4 years in prison following his arrest, torture and prosecution by military court in 2011; he served another year in prison after he called for sustained peaceful opposition in July 2015, and was charged again in November 2016 after he criticised Prince Charles of the United Kingdom’s visit to Bahrain. These latest charges were later dropped, following international pressure.
The government has likewise subjected civil society to similar widespread harassment. Bahraini authorities have summoned more than 75 Shia religious leaders and clerics for interrogation. Many have been charged and imprisoned for taking part in the peaceful sit-in in Diraz, which began on 20 June 2016 following the arbitrary denaturalization of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric.
Harassment of human rights defenders and activists include interrogations and restricting their freedom of movement. Since June, the government has employed the practice of travel bans to restrict civil society from leaving the country and participating in international human rights conferences and meetings, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council. On 29 August 2016, the authorities stopped the Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy at BCHR, Nedal Al-Salman, at Bahrain International Airport. She was attempting to travel to Geneva via Doha to attend meetings at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). Nedal has since been summoned and charged with “illegal gathering.” The government prohibited Hussain Radhi, a member of the BCHR Documentation Section, from travelling across the King Fahd Causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, on 23 August 2016. Officials at the passport office informed Radhi that the Department of Cybercrime at the CID had issued the ban, and he has since been charged with crimes related to tweets. Additionally, the government has targeted human rights lawyers like Mohamed Al-Tajer, a well-respected human rights lawyer and outspoken advocate, with travel bans and criminal charges for his free expression.
Such restrictions on activists, human rights defenders, opposition figures, and religious leaders constitute clear violations of the right to freedom of speech, expression, assembly, and movement.
Stifling civil society, dissolving legitimate peaceful political opposition groups, imprisoning activists for peaceful speeches, sentencing individuals who call for human rights, and passing vague and broad laws to suppress free speech and expression does not signify progress for Bahrain.
We, in the Bahraini human rights community, remain deeply concerned with the human rights situation in Bahrain. We call on the Government of Bahrain to take active steps to overturn the repressive measure taken this summer. We call for the release of all activists and prisoners of conscience and demand the Bahraini government hold all human rights violators accountable.
Today we stand in solidarity with all those in Bahrain who continue to call for human rights and dignity for all in Bahrain.
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