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    I have known Mansoor al-Jamri, the editor-in-chief of Bahrain’s Al Wasat newspaper for many years. He is a brave, determined and diligent journalist and his newspaper is the only independent voice in a deeply divided country.


    On 16 January at 7pm local time, Bahrain’s Ministry of Information delivered a letter to Al Wasat's offices, ordering the paper to shut down its online site. At the same time, the government-run Bahrain News Agency issued a terse press release. That was followed up by a televised report just five minutes after the letter had landed on Mansoor al-Jamri’s desk. As a Bahraini acquaintance of mine laconically noted “they planned it".

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    The United States and the UN have criticized Bahrain over the executions of three Shi’ite Muslim men who had been convicted of a deadly bomb attack on police.

    The UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office issued the harshest rebuke, saying on January 17 that it was "appalled" by the executions, carried out by firing squad on January 15 after a court rejected an appeal by the men. It said it had "serious doubts whether the accused were provided with the right to fair trial."

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    New York, January 17, 2017--The government of Bahrain should rescind an order suspending the online edition of Al-Wasat, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Information Affairs Ministry ordered the independent outlet yesterday to suspend its online operation indefinitely for inciting division, jeopardizing national unity, and disrupting public peace, according to the official Bahrain News Agency.

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    At least 50 Pakistanis have been detained at the Bahrain’s deport centre for more than a year for raising the issue of salaries in Bahrain’s court.

    According to details, the Pakistani workers had filed a petition in Bahrain’s court seeking payment of salaries. The court gave a verdict in favour of the workers but the concerned authorities acted against the verdict and got them detained.

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    Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Al-Samie's family has always been subjected to endless accusations that did not end with the Daih bomb blast charges, and now has welcomed another martyr to their family. On Sunday (January 15, 2017), Abbas Al-Samie joined his uncle Taher Al-Samie who was martyred during the 1990s uprising in Bahrain.

    Abbas Al-Samie was among the four dissidents, whose arrests were announced by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior on March 5, 2014, over charges of being "involved" in the incident that left three non-Bahraini security service men, including an Emirati national, killed in what was known as the Daih bombing case.

    Only four days after their arrest, the Public Prosecution said that the suspects confessed to committing the crime. Al-Samie and the other suspects; however, stated in their first court hearing on April 30, 2014 that they were subjected to torture and sexual harassment, and forced to make incriminating confessions.

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    In a move marking a significant step back on the path to democratic reforms, on 5 January 2017 Bahraini authorities issued Royal Decree 1/2017 granting the National Security Agency (NSA) judicial powers to arrest and detain civilians “involved in terror crimes.” The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned about the decision to restore law enforcement ability to Bahrain’s domestic intelligence agency.

    Created in 2002, the NSA first gained arrest powers in 2008 through another royal decree. The 2011 wave of pro-democracy protests throughout the country and the brutal suppression that followed witnessed NSA officials arresting protesters and subjecting them to interrogations and torture. As a result, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued recommendation 1718, requiring the Bahraini government to strip the NSA of law enforcement powers and limit its role to information gathering only. The main responsibility of the NSA, according to BICI’s recommendation, should have been to provide intelligence to the Ministry of Interior, the sole national agency with the jurisdiction to take legal action over arrests and detentions.

    Despite the fact that the vast majority of the BICI recommendations have been either only partially implemented or not implemented at all, recommendation 1718 was one of the very few to be fully implemented, at least on paper, thus marking a key gain in terms of the safeguard of fundamental human rights.

    Based on Decree 1/2017, the  judicial  power to arrest and detain will be restricted to so-called “terror crimes” only. Nevertheless, Bahraini authorities have largely used the highly expansive and vague anti-terror legislation against human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and protesters, and will likely take advantage of this new law to further strengthen the crackdown on dissent.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the alarming expansion of police powers, allowing even more space for the abuse of human rights in the country, and asks the government of Bahrain to:

    • immediately reverse the decision backing Decree 1/2017;
    • end the persecution and harassment of human rights defenders, civil society and the opposition; and
    • fully implement all BICI recommendations.
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    Bahraini authorities must immediately commute the death sentences of two men at imminent risk of execution, Amnesty International said today, and warned that the harsh response to protests against three executions carried out by firing squad on 15 January risks plunging the country into a human rights crisis.

    Amnesty International is urging Bahrain’s authorities to immediately commute the death sentences of Mohamad Ramadhan and Husain Ali’ Moosa, who were sentenced to death in December 2014 following a bombing in the village of al-Deir that killed a police officer in February of that year. Neither of the men had access to a lawyer during their interrogations. Mohamed Ramadhan said he had been detained incommunicado, beaten and given electric shocks by interrogators at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in a failed attempt to force a confession from him. Hussain ‘Ali Moosa said his “confession” implicating Mohamed Ramadhan was extracted after he was suspended by his limbs from the ceiling and beaten repeatedly for several days. The Bahraini Public Prosecutor dismissed the torture allegations without ordering an investigation and Hussain Ali Moosa’s “confession” was used to convict the two men.

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    We are appalled at the execution by firing squad of three men in Bahrain on Sunday.  The men had been convicted of a bombing in Manama in 2014 that killed three police officers. They were found guilty after being allegedly tortured into making false confessions and their lawyers were not given access to all the evidence against them nor allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses during court hearings.

    The way the trials were conducted raises serious doubts whether the accused were provided with the right to fair trial, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – the ICCPR - in particular by Articles 9 and 14.

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    QUESTION: (...) Do you have any reaction to the execution of three prisoners that happened, I believe, either yesterday or the day before?

    MR KIRBY: Yeah, we – we’ve seen the Bahraini Government’s announcement that it executed three people. Violent attacks against the police, such as the one that took the lives of the three officers in this case originally are reprehensible, of course, and deserve condemnation. We’ve also seen allegations that the individuals facing execution were victims of torture, and that the evidence used against them in court was extracted, in part, through coerced confessions.

    So we’re concerned that these executions occurred at a time of elevated tensions in Bahrain. We continue to call on all parties to show restraint and to contribute to a climate that is conducive for dialogue and reconciliation. And again, we call on the Government of Bahrain to return urgently to the path of reconciliation, and to work collectively to address the aspirations of all Bahrainis. This, we believe, is the best way to marginalize those who support violence and bring greater security and stability to the region.

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    Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): During the events of the 1990s and during one of the stages of the uprising in Bahrain, the Bahraini citizens shockingly witnessed military tanks, perhaps for the first time, as they were being deployed in various areas across the country. At the time, there was a rumor circulating that the then Bahraini Crown Prince Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (the current King of Bahrain) was the person behind the decision to confront the protestors with tanks in order to put an instant end to the movement.

    Between that undocumented information and the truth that only those who reside in the royal palace actually know, no one managed to figure out what had happened. A few days passed and the tanks were withdrawn from the streets, and so the crackdown on protestors was limited to the Interior Ministry forces, including the notorious state security corpse.

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    On 19 January 2017, the public prosecution transferred the case of detained leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), to court to start trial hearings with the first session on 23 January 2017. BCHR strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Rajab over baseless charges related to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him and drop all charges against him. 

    Rajab appeared in front of the public prosecution today to face charges of "spreading false news" and "insulting a statutory body" due to some media interviews given the previous years. These charges are different from those related to his alleged twitter activity, for which he faces up to15 years in prison. On 23 January, he will be attending two trials.

    Rajab has been in detention for over 220 days since 13 June 2016, when he was arrested for “spreading false news and rumours about the internal situation in a bid to discredit Bahrain.” Since then, he received additional charges over the “The New York Times”  Op-ed, and then again he was interrogated in December 2016 over an article in the French newspaper “Le Monde”. He was accused of using the latter article to “spread false information and tendentious rumors” that allegedly insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and harm their relations. In sum, Rajab is facing over 15 years in prison if convicted.  Since his arrest, Rajab’s health has suffered due to poor detention conditions and he was transferred to the prison hospital multiple times for chest pain and irregular heart beats. A court has previosuly ordered his release on 28 December 2016 on another case related to tweets and re-tweets, however he was kept in detention over other charges.

    BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and to end the judicial harassment against him and other human rights defender in the country.

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the arbitrary practices pursued by the Bahraini authorities in response to the popular protests triggered by the execution of three citizens, in spite of allegations of torture and unfair trial.

    After a few hours after the General Prosecutor's Office announced on 15 January 2017 the execution of three torture victims (Sami Mushaima, Abbas Samea, and Ali Singace), marches and demonstrations have been observed in many Bahraini villages, met with attacks and arbitrary arrests exercised by security forces in a violent response to the peaceful protests.

    According to BCHR monitoring, since 15 January 2017, the authorities have arbitrarily arrested 20 people, including three children, releasing three of them at a later date. Among those arrested was Mounir Mushaima, the brother of the executed victim Sami Mushaima, who was arrested by four policemen dressed in civilian clothes and driving a civilian car just outside the cemetery, after the burial ceremony. He was transferred to Nabih Saleh police station and interrogated on the background of a video clip in which Mounir appears crying on his executed brother and speaking unconsciously.

    فيديو لاعتقال تعسفي واعتداء على أحد الأفراد - 16 يناير 2017

    As investigated by BCHR’s documentation team on the ground, 150 peaceful demonstrations took place in 38 different regions of Bahrain from 15 to 17 January 2017. Out of these, 53 were attacked by the security forces using shotgun pellets and excessive amounts of tear gas, which was used not only to respond to the demonstrations but also to flood the residential areas. The tear gas used by Bahraini security forces against the protesters appeared to be manufactured in Brazil and France, as reported by Bahrain Watch.

    The attacks on the peaceful protests resulted in many injuries caused by shrapnels of shotguns, in the upper part of the body, on the head and on the back. Protesters suffering from such injuries avoid treating them by professionals in hospitals for fear of arrests.

     

    The use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators are in violation to Bahrain's commitments to the principles of human rights, particularly those related to freedom of peaceful assembly. In addition, these violent attacks unnecessarily threaten the lives of participants in the protests.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the European Union and all close allies and international institutions to call on the government in Bahrain to:     

    • Immediately end the use of excessive and life-threatening force in dealing with peaceful demonstrations,    
    • Ensure that all human rights, particularly those related to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are respected and protected,
    • Release all those detained arbitrarily for merely exercising their rights to freedom of assembly,
    • Hold the Security personnel accountable for the use of excessive force causing severe injuries to citizens and
    • End the weapon supply to Bahrain, which is used in the violent attacks against protesters.
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    Bahrain could be poised to execute two prisoners who claim their confessions were extracted through torture.

    Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa were sentenced to death in 2014 for their alleged involvement in a bomb attack that killed a police officer, but supporters say they were falsely accused and confessed under duress.

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    Bahraini authorities have lifted a ban preventing independent newspaper Al-Wasat from publishing online.

    The official Bahrain News Agency said Thursday that the newspaper would be allowed to post material following a decision by the Ministry of Information.

    It gave no details for the move, but warned that all media outlets must avoid "posting anything that incites divisions or discord within the community, undermines national unity or disturbs peace."

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    In the middle of the night, on January 15 2017, three citizens of Bahrain were executed by firing squad. Abbas al-Samea, 27, Ali al-Singace, 21, and Sami Mushaima 42, had all been found guilty of planting a bomb which killed three policemen – but their convictions were widely seen as unsafe.

    Rumours of their 3am deaths had been circulating on the social media of those with links to the government. Once the state news agency confirmed the news, many Bahrainis took to the streets in protest, confronting riot police, who used tear gas and birdshot in response. Human rights organisations condemned the killings, not simply because they oppose the death penalty, but because these executions were viewed as being political and extrajudicial.

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    Bahrain is intensifying its crackdown on media freedom ahead of the 14 February uprising anniversary, when anti-government protesters, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets and called for political reform and equality for the country's majority Shia population.

    On 16 January, the government banned the online edition of the country’s only independent newspaper al-Wasat, from “using electronic media tools“. This implies that the paper is not only banned from publishing on its website but also from having any online presence through its different social media channels. The paper has 229K followers on Twitter and more than 354K on Facebook. The newspaper also has a YouTube channel, and an Instagram account

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    A SAGGING rope, haphazard barricades—and fear. That is all it has taken to keep Diraz, Bahrain’s largest Shia village, under siege for the past seven months. Two checkpoints bar access to all but residents. Friends and family members are kept out. Grocers offload their wares at the perimeter wall. And the protesters who once thronged to hear the island’s leading Shia cleric, Isa Qassim, deliver his Friday sermon now stay at home. “Forget the thousands who used to join rallies,” says a cleric in a neighbouring village, recalling the protests which erupted after tanks crushed the mass demonstrations for democracy in 2011. “Today we can’t even find ten. Who wants to risk five years of prison and torture for ten minutes of glory?”

    Though small, running out of oil and dependent on larger Gulf neighbours, Bahrain typifies how Arab autocrats have crushed the Arab Awakening’s demands for greater representation. After six years of suppression, the Shia opposition is disheartened. Maligned as the cat’s paw of Iran and a threat to Sunni rule in Bahrain, their movement is battered and broken. More than 2,600 political prisoners are in jail, a large number in a kingdom of just 650,000 people. Many of the detainees are children, says a former member of parliament from Wefaq, the Shia party the government banned last year. Hundreds have been exiled, scores barred from travel, and over 300 stripped of their nationality, including Sheikh Qassim. Even the execution on January 15th of three Bahrainis—the first for two decades—roused only sporadic unrest by the island’s opposition.

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    Two Bahrainis appear to be at imminent risk of execution despite the authorities’ failure to properly investigate their allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said today. Both Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa have disavowed confessions that they allege were the result of torture and that were used as evidence in a trial that violated international due process standards.

    The January 15, 2017 executions of three other Bahrainis in a similar case have raised concerns that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will approve the executions of Ramadan and Moosa, who face the death penalty for a February 2014 bombing that resulted in the death of a policeman. Human Rights Watch analysis of their trial and appeal judgments found that their convictions were based almost exclusively on their confessions, which both men retracted.

     

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    It’s up to Bahrain’s king now, if and when prisoners Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa will be executed. All legal procedures have been exhausted, and the king has to decide whether to commute their sentences, pardon them, or order the executions. A life and death decision. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and all that.

    Their families are waiting, obviously fearfully, for an indication of what will happen. Last weekend the relatives of three other prisoners were hastily summoned for what turned out to be a final visit. The king had ratified their sentences the week before and the day after the visit the three men were each shot four times in the chest, Bahrain’s first executions since 2010.

     

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    The Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was due to be sentenced on 23 January but this was postponed for a seventh time. Rajab’s eighth trial date on charges of “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a statutory body” and “insulting a neighbouring country” (Saudi Arabia) – all of which are related to comments on Twitter – will be 21 February.

    tweet by Index, which Rajab shared, is being used as evidence against him. He is the winner of a 2012 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for his efforts in speaking out against human rights infringements by Bahraini government in 2011 and was a judge of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards in 2016.

     

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