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    To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

                                                                                                                                                                                   10 February, 2017

    Your Excellency,

    In view of the marked deterioration in the already poor human rights situation in Bahrain, and as the minimum collective action required, we urge your delegation to support a joint statement expressing concern over and calling for improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.

    The Human Rights Council (HRC) has largely remained silent on the situation in Bahrain since 35 states delivered a 5th joint statement on Bahrain at the 30th session of the HRC in September 2015. In the intervening period, and particularly since mid-2016, the situation has worsened significantly.  We believe it is extremely important for HRC member and observer states to put their strong concerns about this situation on record.

    Unlawful Executions and Death Row Cases

    On January 17, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was “appalled” by the January 15 execution of Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace, and Abbas al-Sameea, charged with the murder of three police officers, citing their alleged torture in custody and the fact that “their lawyers were not given access to all the hearings against them nor allowed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses during court hearings.” The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions declared the executions “extrajudicial killings.” 

    These executions have raised concerns that King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will approve the executions of two Bahrainis, Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, whose convictions were based almost exclusively on confessions that Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa allege were coerced through torture; both men later retracted their confessions. Moreover, we are deeply concerned by the fact that purportedly independent torture investigators in Bahrain, namely the Special Investigation Unit and the Interior Ministry Ombudsman, failed to investigate torture allegations in several of these cases, allowing the trials of all five men to proceed in relying on confessions allegedly extracted through torture.

    Marked Deterioration in Human Rights Situation since June 2016

    These cases are among the most concerning developments of the last 12 months during which time an orchestrated crackdown on the rights to free expression, assembly and association have badly undermined prospects for a political solution to Bahrain’s domestic unrest. In June 2016, Bahraini authorities dissolved the main political opposition group, al-Wifaq; jailed the country’s leading human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab; charged a prominent human rights lawyer, Mohamed al-Tajer, with offences that violate his right to free expression; further undermined media freedom by charging a prominent Bahraini journalist with working without a license; and harassed and prosecuted Shia clerics who peacefully protested the arbitrary revocation of the citizenship of al-Wifaq’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Isa Qasim. Bahrain’s courts continue to play a key role in the repressive order and have granted the authorities broad discretion to revoke Bahrainis’ citizenship. Authorities have continued to arbitrarily strip citizenship from Bahrainis who have been critical of the government, in some cases leaving them stateless.

    Torture and Accountability

    In the statement in September 2015, HRC members and observers urged Bahrain to “appropriately address all reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees and ensure full investigation and prosecution of these cases.” Unfortunately, credible reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees continue to emerge from Bahrain and the authorities have made little progress in holding police and security forces accountable. In January 2017, Bahrain restored arrest and investigatory powers to Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA), which conducted “terrorizing” house raids and systematically tortured detainees in 2011, per the report of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The decision to grant the NSA the power to arrest and detain people reverses one of the few recommendations the government implemented in accordance with the BICI report’s 2011 recommendations.

    Travel Ban

    Bahraini authorities have routinely obstructed Bahraini activists from briefing representatives of member and observer states of the HRC. In June and September 2016, arbitrary travel bans prevented numerous human rights activists from attending the 32nd and 33rd session of the HRC. Those prevented from traveling included rights activists Nedal al-Salman and Abdulnabi al-Ekry; Mohamed al-Tajer, a human rights lawyer; Jalila al-Salman, the former vice-president of the dissolved Bahrain Teacher’s Society; Rula al-Saffar, a nurse and human rights activist; and Mohamed Sharaf, the president of the Bahraini chapter of Transparency International, Ebrahim al-Demistani, the formerly imprisoned medic and labour rights activist. The government refuses to allow Human Rights Watch and other independent international rights monitors to visit the country.

    Conclusion and Recommendations 

    The UN General Assembly resolution that set up the HRC as an organ for the promotion and protection of human rights outlined the importance of non-governmental organisations in the realisation of that goal. Not only is Bahrain in clear violation of fundamental human rights, it is obstructing the HRC’s efforts to promote and protect those rights.

    We urge your delegation to resume efforts to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the upcoming 34th session of the Council and to promote and support a resolution that, at a minimum, calls on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • •    Release protesters, activists and human rights defenders detained or convicted solely for having exercised their rights to peaceful assembly, association or expression;
    • •    Ensure independent, thorough, and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment;
    • •    Demonstrate the effectiveness, impartiality and independence of human rights institutions, including the National Human Rights Institution, the Ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission;
    • •    Commute the death sentences of Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa;
    • •    Revise or repeal laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
    • •    Engage in comprehensive reform of the legal system to ensure effective independence of the judiciary;
    • •    Ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations that took place during and after the 2011 protests, including but not limited to those documented in the BICI report;
    • •    Cooperate with Special Procedures of the HRC, including by swiftly providing access to Special Rapporteurs who have outstanding requests for visits to Bahrain, most notably the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    We urge your delegation to press the Government of Bahrain to take immediate steps to reverse the alarming deterioration in human rights situation in the country. We urge you to support a joint statement as a first step towards the realization of that goal.

    We look forward to continued collaboration on these issues and we remain available to provide further information as required.

    With assurances of our highest consideration,

    Sincerely,

    • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    • ARTICLE 19
    • Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    • CIVICUS
    • European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
    • FIDH
    • Freedom House
    • Front Line Defenders
    • Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
    • Human Rights First (HRF)
    • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    • International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)
    • PEN International
    • REDRESS
    • Reprieve

    See the letter in pdf format here.

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    An explosion wounded two civilian passers-by in Bahrain, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, as demonstrators marked the sixth anniversary of an anti-government uprising that was bloodily suppressed.

    The ministry did not say what caused Tuesday evening's blast in a village outside the capital Manama, but demonstrators sometimes throw petrol bombs during the sporadic protests that still grip the Sunni-ruled but Shia-majority kingdom.

    "Terrorist blast in Sitra causes minor injuries to a married couple passing the site. Police at the scene," the ministry said on its Twitter account without elaborating.

    Read more here.

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    *******Warning -graphic material

    Bahraini security forces have continued to respond to ongoing and increasing protests with excessive force, leading to serious injuries. Such attacks and injuries have been observed prior to, and on the sixth anniversary of the 2011 Bahraini popular uprising on 14 February, as Bahraini people took the street demanding freedom and democracy. Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern that the ongoing practices exhibited by the Bahraini authorities in exerting excessive force threatens the life of protestors and distant Bahrain from resolving its serious human rights issues.

    Excessive Force

    On 14 February 2017, BCHR was able to record 94 protests in 55 villages, out of which 48 were attacked using tear gas and shotgun pellets. Tear gas was deployed in excessive amounts, in areas that were crowded with civilians and over residential spaces. From the photos analysed by BCHR, it appears that many of the injuries caused by shotgun pellets were on the top parts of the body, including the face. 

    Shotgun pellet injuries have caused the death of many protesters in previous years, including the first victim of extrajudicial killing, Ali Mushaima, who was shot in the back with pellets on 14 February 2011. The killer of Mushaima is reportedly free, while Muhaima’s mother is sentenced to 1 year in prison for allegedly “insulting the king.”

    BCHR has observed that an increasing number of injuries to protestors have been caused by shotgun pellets since the beginning of the year. The increased frequency of protests following the execution of three torture victims in mid January has meant that the number of injured protesters is only increasing. Further protests erupted following the MOI announcement on 9 February 2017 of the killing of another three men while trying to flee Bahrain. The authorities did not release the men’s bodies until four days after announcing their death, only two members of each family have been allowed to attend the burial of the men, and the families were forced to reduce usual funeral rites. People responded to these actions by the Bahraini authorities by protesting, and have since been subjected to excessive force.

    In the past week shotgun injuries were reported in different areas, including Bani Jamra, the home of the men who were killed. Injuries were varied but included shots in the back, and the head (Photo). Property, such as cars and houses have been damaged.

    Damaged car during protests' attacks 13 February 2017  Damaged car 12 February 2017 (click to view source)                                                      

       Injured protesters 11 February 2017 (click to view source)

     

    Even a religious procession was attacked with tear gas in Duraz on 11 Feb 2017:

    Arbitrary Arrests

    Alongside attacks on protesters, Bahraini authorities have escalated their arrest campaign. The past week has witnessed the largest number of arrests since the beginning of the year: 48 individuals were arrested between 6 February and 12 February 2017, including 3 children and 5 women. Only 1 of the individuals was later released. 21 more individuals were arrested between 12-14 February 2017, including 1 woman and 2 children. In some cases, multiple family members were  arrested together, Sheikh Mohamed Saleh AlQashami, was arrested from his house on 9 February 2017 along with his son and daughter.

    Based on the above, BCHR calls on the government in Bahrain

    • to respect citizens rights to rights to free expression, opinion and assembly, as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain acceded to in 2006 and
    • to stop jeopardizing protesters’ right to life by subjecting them to tear gas and shotgun pellets.
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    16 February 2017 - The European Parliament has voted through a Resolution on Executions in Kuwait and Bahrain condemning the recent executions in these countries. We, the undersigned, welcome the resolution and call on Bahrain to listen to the European Parliament’s calls and halt imminent executions and respect the rights and freedoms of the Bahraini people.

    Read the draft resolution here. (The final version will be published later).

    The European Parliament also voted through amendments: amendment 1, calls for a national dialogue in Bahrain, amendment 2 calls on Bahrain's police to refrain violence and human rights violations, noting the sixth anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Amendment 7 calls for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja abd Khalil Al-Halwachi, and the final amendment passed, amendment 8, highlighted the vulnerability of domestic workers in Kuwait.

    Amendments 1 and 2 are available here.

    Amendments 7 and 8 are available here.

    The resolution condemns the use of the death penalty, echoing the condemnation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings. It calls on Bahrain to halt the execution of Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa, two torture victims at risk of imminent execution in Bahrain. The resolution urges Bahrain and Kuwait to issue immediate invitations for the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who has been denied entry to Bahrain multiple times since 2011. It further calls for the release of Nabeel Rajab, and an end to excessive use of force and the arbitrary stripping of citizenships. The resolution calls for the EU to adopt stronger human rights initiatives with regards to Bahrain and Kuwait.

    Throughout the debate prior to the vote, MEPs also expressed criticisms of the arbitrary deprivation of nationality, continued arbitrary arrest and torture, and the imprisonment of human rights defenders.

    Julie Ward MEP said: "Mohammad Raman and Husain Moosa must not be executed and must be abolished." She turned her attention to the case of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab: "Instead of putting Nabeel Rajab through yet another hearing on 21 February, release him." She called on all countries, in particular the UK, to hold human rights in their foreign policy over arms. Rajab, a leading human rights defender in the Gulf, currently facing up to 17 years in prison for exercising his freedom of expression. His next trial date is 21 February.

    This is not the first EUP resolution on Bahrain. In 2016, the European Parliament passed resolutions on the case of Mohammad Ramadan and on Bahrain generally. In 2015, the EUP adopted a resolution on the case of Nabeel Rajab.

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: "This is a landmark which must be noted. Bahrain must listen to the voices of the international community and halt the executions of Mohammad Ramadan and Husain Moosa, who were tortured and unfairly tried in court."

    Husain Abdulla, Executive Director, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain: "The brutality of the death penalty has been condemned now by the UN, the EU and the European Parliament. Human rights violations do not go unnoticed. All executions in Bahrain must be immediately halted. Rather than persecuting innocents and victims, Bahrain should hold its police force accountable for abuse and torture."

    Pavle Licina, Advocacy Associate, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights:"By strongly condemning the recent executions in Bahrain and Kuwait, the European Parliament once again stood up for the respect of human rights and dignity and sent a clear message to both EU member states and governments in the Gulf that capital punishment, but above all torture and unfair trials leading up to it, must not be tolerated."

    In January 2017, Bahrain executed three torture victims, Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima. Convicted on capital offences following unfair trials, they were unlawfully killed by firing squad. Al-Singace, Al-Samea and Mushaima were all arbitrarily arrested, tortured to confess, and deprived of access to legal council. The courts dismissed the defence's arguments out of hand, and the torture allegations of the three were not properly investigated. They were sentenced to death in 2015; in January 2017, the highest court of appeal upheld their sentence, and they were executed less than a week later. Neither the condemned nor their families were informed of their impending executions. Kuwait has also recently carried out the executions of seven individuals. The executions were the first in several years in both countries, ending their respective moratoriums. In Bahrain, it was the first execution since 2010.
     

    Signed,

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

     

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    Executions in Kuwait and Bahrain

    The European Parliament strongly condemns the executions of seven people by the Kuwaiti authorities on 25 January 2017 and the executions of three people in Bahrain on 15 January 2017. It deplores the decision of these countries’ authorities to revive capital punishment when more than 160 other UN states have outlawed or ceased to use it, and calls upon Kuwait and Bahrain to impose a moratorium on the death penalty as a step towards its abolition.  

    Further, MEPs are extremely worried by reports from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that defendants in both countries did not receive a fair trial, and that one of those convicted in Bahrain was under the age of 18 at the time of his alleged crime. They reiterate the EU’s opposition to capital punishment and call for a retrial of those currently awaiting execution according to international standards.

    Read the entire press release here.

    Find the resolution on the executions in Bahrain and Kuwait here.

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    The trial of the prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab is scheduled to resume on February 21, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. He faces a total of 18 years in prison based on two sets of speech-related charges that clearly violate his right to free expression. His eight months in pretrial custody appeared to amount to arbitrary detention.

    Rajab’s initial charges stem from comments critical of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen and of alleged torture in Bahraini prisons. Authorities also charged him with making “false or malicious” statements based on television interviews in which he criticized the Bahraini authorities’ refusal to allow journalists and rights groups into the country.

    “What worries Bahrain authorities is the truth,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The reason Nabeel Rajab is in jail and facing a long sentence is that he has insisted on shedding light on Bahrain’s human rights abuses.”

    Read more here.

     

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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson professed in his Senate confirmation testimony that “our values are our interests when it comes to human rights.” Yet one of his State Department’s first acts may be to abandon that stance with the tiny but strategic Persian Gulf state of Bahrain.

    Concerns in Congress and the human rights community are high that the Trump team is planning to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter planes to Bahrain without any conditions, reversing an Obama administration decision to demand the government take small reform steps in exchange for the jets.

    “I’m hoping the Bahrain deal is going to roll out without the restrictions,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last month. “I think it could happen soon.”

    Read more here.

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    Geneva-Paris - Nabeel Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and denouncing human rights violations perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities. His arbitrary detention and judicial harassment must end now, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) says today.

    On February 21, 2017, Mr. Nabeel Rajab will face a series of charges, including “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State”, “disseminating false rumours in time of war”, “insulting a statutory body” and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” before Manama’s Fourth High Criminal Court following the court’s decision on January 23, 2017 to postpone the hearing for the ninth time. Conviction would expose Nabeel Rajab to up to fifteen years in prison.

    Read more here

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    A 16-year-old boy, Abbas Oun, has been subjected to enforced disappearance since his arrest six days ago. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the government of Bahrain to end the practice of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearance in Bahrain, and to respect the rights of the child.

    On 14 February 2017, at around 8pm, Abbas Ali Abbas OunOun (16 years old) was arrested a few meters away from his home. Oun is a handball player on the team of the Samaheej sports Club. His family told BCHR that he was beaten on the head at the time of arrest, and when his mother tried to talk to the officer, a security man pushed her then beat her with a gun on her shoulder. As well, Oun’s sister was slapped in the face, beaten with a gun on her shoulder and sprayed in the face with pepper spray. Marks of the attack on the shoulder were still visible on the next day.

    On 16 February 2017, Oun had an interrogation session at the public prosecution where he was charged with “illegal gathering, possession of a molotov cocktail, damage of a police vehicle” -  all charges which he has denied. Oun told the prosecutor that he was subject to beating immediately after his arrest by police officer Nawaf Al-Buaineen, who beat Oun on his eye. He was interrogated at Samaheej police station where he was threatened with torture to force his confessions. He was not allowed to talk to his lawyer prior to the interrogation. The prosecutor has ordered Oun to be kept in detention for another 15 days pending investigation, which puts him at risk of being subject to further ill treatment at the police station.

    Since then, Oun’s family were not able to have any direct contact with him. They have expressed fear for his safety given that he is a sickle cell patient.

    Abbas, the youngest brother in the family, is the latest victim of the practice of arbitrary arrests, torture, and excessive force. Another three brothers are already in detention over similar circumstances.

    Jaffar Ali Oun (29 years old) 

    Jaffar Ali OunJaffar Ali Oun has been subject to repeated arrests since 2012, but his last arrest was on 11 October 2013. He was beaten from the time of arrest in the street, then subjected to 8 days of enforced disappearance. He was sentenced in 2014 to 3 years on charges of allegedly attacking the police and rioting. He was moved to detention at Jau prison since June 2014. He has reportedly been subject to torture on different occasions since his arrest including during the disturbances in the prison in March 2015. He was allegedly beaten on his head, ears, and back with plastic hoses, iron rods and wires until he was bleeding. His family reported in August 2016 that he has been suffering from a growing swelling in the head for which he didn’t receive treatment for several months. He was eventually taken for surgery to remove the swelling, however he was not provided his reports or taken to any follow up appointments.

    In November 2016, he finished his 3 year sentence, and his family paid a fine to suspend the sentences pending appeal on another 2 cases, however he was taken back to the Criminal Investigation Directorate, held incommunicado for several days, then sent back to Jau prison to serve a 5-year sentence on a case he was never interrogated for, nor tried for, although he was sentenced in absentia over charges of illegal gathering and rioting.

    Ahmed Ali Oun (21 years old)

    Ahmed Ali OunAhmed was injured in 2012 with a metal pellet lodged in his eye which was fired from a police shotgun during an attack on a pro-democracy demonstration. He sought treatment in a private hospital where he received the primary surgery on his cornea. A second surgery was needed to remove the bird shot from his eye, but he was arrested from the hospital by plain-clothed police officers on 13 May 2012 before this could be completed. He was reportedly beaten and subjected to sexual harassment in detention. He informed his family that he suffers from bleeding in his eye and severe pain and that he fainted multiple times during detention. Due to deprivation of medical care, Ahmed has lost the vision of his right eye.

    He was arrested again multiple times. On 21 March 2014, he was shot by police while he was jogging in one of the streets of Samaheej village, close to Bahrain International Airport. According to the family’s statement, Ahmed’s injury was described as critical as the splinters settled in the face, neck and right shoulder in addition to the chest and hands, which required transferring him to Intensive Care while he was unconscious. He was then officially arrested and kept in police custody.

    On 19 October 2014, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for rioting, illegal gathering, and attacking police. It was later reduced to 3 years on February 2015. Additionally, he received another 6-month sentence in June 2014 for illegal gathering in a different case.
     

    Hasan Ali Oun (23 years old) Hasan Ali Oun

    Hassan Ali Oun was arrested multiple times since 2011, the last time on March 2015. During his multiple arrests he was reportedly subjected to torture, including being repeatedly raped by insertion of a hose in his anus. Following an arrest in 2012, the results of torture were visible on Hassan’s body as his lawyer at that time reported. He told her that he had been beaten severely, he was forced to stand for more than 11 hours, was beaten with a hose on his feet, was stripped naked and threatened with rape.

    Hassan was sentenced to 5 years in prison on November 2015 for rioting, and he is still going through other trials.

    Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “States Parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

    BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to do the following:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release Abbas Oun, and guarantee his safety from further ill-treatment in detention;
    • Allow Abbas Oun to have direct and immediate contact with his family and lawyer;
    • Put a stop to the practice of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and torture; and
    • As a signatory to the International Convention for the Rights of the Child, respect, uphold and implement the conditions of the international treaty.
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    Lawmakers in Bahrain have backed changing the constitution in a way that would allow civilians to be tried by military courts amid a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent.

    The 40-seat Council of Representatives, the elected lower house of the tiny Gulf nation's National Assembly, voted Tuesday to back the proposal. It now heads to the 40-member Consultative Council, a body appointed by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

    Read more here

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    Bahraini lawmakers voted Tuesday to change the constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts, further empowering its security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at level unseen since its 2011 Arab Spring protests.

    The decision by the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the elected lower house of the tiny Gulf nation’s National Assembly, comes after a royal decree a month ago restored the power of its domestic spy service to make some arrests. Limiting the power of the National Security Agency was a key reform recommended after authorities put down the 2011 demonstrations.

    Read more here

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    21 February 2017 - This morning, the Government of Bahrain again postponed the two trials of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. Bahrain courts have brought two cases against Rajab for exercising his internationally-sanctioned rights to free expression. He has been subjected to imprisonment and ill-treatment since June 2016. We, the undersigned NGOs, strongly urge the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Nabeel Rajab from prison and drop all charges against him.

    During his first trial this morning, judges in the High Criminal Court again postponed the case against Rajab. This case is in relation to tweets and retweets criticizing the war in Yemen and documenting torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison. At this morning's hearing for the twitter charges, a Criminal Investigations Department officer testified that Rajab is the owner of his twitter account and brought video footage of Rajab "admitting" he had authored his own tweets. The court will reconvene tomorrow, 22 February 2017, for its tenth session to watch the video footage. Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison for this case.

    During the trial this afternoon for the second case against Rajab, Bahrain’s lower criminal court postponed the trial to 7 March 2017. The charges brought against Rajab in this trial are in relation to television interviews he gave in 2015 and early 2016. For this case, Rajab could face up to three years in prison. For both cases combined, Rajab could face a total of 18 years in prison.

    In September 2016, Rajab wrote a letter from prison that the New York Times published. Following the publication, the Public Prosecution’s Office interrogated Rajab for the letter. The case for the New York Times has not yet been formally brought against Rajab. Also in December 2016, Rajab wrote a second letter published by France’s Le Monde, which Rajab was questioned about.

    Bahrain has come under considerable international scrutiny for the prosecution of Rajab. News broke yesterday about recent F-16 sales to Bahrain from the United States. The Washington Post revealed that the Obama administration secretly held Nabeel Rajab's release as a condition for the sale of F-16 jets to the Government of Bahrain. The Trump administration is expected to do away with the previous government's policies and approve arms sales to Bahrain with no strings attached. Senator Ron Wyden’s office on 17 February 2017 sent a letter to the US Administration asking them to reconsider any decisions to sale the Bahraini government weapons. Sen. Wyden has requested the US Administration to continue investigating the human rights situation in Bahrain.

    Last week, the European Parliament passed a resolution in which they urged the EU and its member states "to intervene with the Bahraini Government in order to appeal for the release of Nabeel Rajab and of all those held solely on the basis of their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and assembly." The resolution also condemned recent execution of torture victims in Bahrain and Kuwait.

    This morning’s news of Rajab’s trial postponement is the latest example of the increased, targeted judicial harassment against him. The Government of Bahrain has subjected Rajab to ongoing detention, some of it in solitary confinement, for more than eight months since his arrest. During this time, courts have postponed one case nine times. In December 2016, Bahraini authorities announced Rajab’s release on bail. Then, authorities subsequently announced the second case against Rajab for the tv interviews and immediately rearrested him.

    The undersigned NGOs view the ongoing detention and postponement of trials against Rajab as judicial harassment. Police officials have subjected Rajab to ill-treatment and solitary confinement while in prison. We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab from prison and drop all charges against him.

    Signed,

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
    European Centre for Rights and Democracy (ECDHR)

     

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    The lower house of Bahrain’s parliament has approved a constitutional amendment removing restrictions the ability of military courts to try civilians. The amendment, which is reported to have been initially proposed by the office of the king, was passed in a 31-1 vote by the forty-member Council of Representatives. With the approval of the lower house, the amendment has now been fast-tracked to the royally-appointed Shura Council for urgent consideration and confirmation. We, the undersigned, condemn any expansion of military court jurisdiction to include civilians, and we call on Bahrain’s legislature rescind this amendment.

    If passed by both houses of the National Assembly, the bill will revise Article 105(b) of the 2002 constitution, which currently prevents military courts from trying civilians unless the king has a declared a state of martial law. Under the new amendment, military courts will be free from this limitation, leading a Bahraini legal expert to describe the development as "a new martial law,”  expressing fears that civilians will be prosecuted there and denied fair trials and access to lawyers.

    The bill has been expedited through the government, with a special session of the legislature held on 5 February, days after the amendment was circulated in a memo. Now, just 16 days later, the Council of Representatives has voted it through.

    "This will have a catastrophic impact on the people on the ground,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy,” The Bahraini king is effectively creating a police state with this de facto martial law. The unconditional support provided by Bahrain's allies in London and Washington has made its mark and bolstered these dictatorial efforts, and it's the Bahraini people who will pay for those policies."

    Bahrain's Ministry of Defence (MOD) told local press today that the law was "essentially for the protection of the armed forces." The Ministry of Interior (MOI) additionally denied that the amendment would allow ordinary civilians to be tried by military court, stating that the amendment would instead allow them to more effectively prosecute civilian whistleblowers within the MOI.

    “The government’s denials are not only unconvincing, but inherently problematic,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), “If the Bahraini government isn't going to try civilians with military courts, then why have they amended the constitution to remove all protections in place for civilians? Moreover, expanded powers to target and punish so-called ‘whistleblowers’ is itself deeply alarming, given the existing framework of severe restrictions on free expression and freedom of information in Bahrain. With key allies like the US dismissing human rights from its foreign policy on Bahrain and preparing to sell arms without reform conditions, it will be a particularly dangerous sign of things to come if there is no strong international censure of this move."

    King Hamad previously granted military courts wide powers to try civilians when he declared a State of National safety in March 2011, facilitating the authorities suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The National Safety Courts (NSC), as they were named, prosecuted at least 300 protesters according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI, para 1289). Among those tried in the NSC were doctors, nurses, and the Bahrain 13, a group of political leaders and human rights defenders sentenced to between five years and life imprisonment. The BICI found that “fundamental principles of a fair trial, including prompt and full access to legal counsel and inadmissibility of coerced testimony, were not respected” in these courts (para. 1720).

    Furthermore, both the military and civilian court systems have failed to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable for their actions. In fact, Mansour Al-Mansour, the military judge who presided over the NSC, is today a senior member of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, a Saudi Coalition body charged with investigating international humanitarian law violations in Yemen. Mansour Al-Mansour’s team has already been accused of whitewashing the coalition’s alleged war crimes.

    Civilian criminal courts have also continued to violate due process rights and issue severe sentences on charges related to free expression, assembly, and association. Since the government closed the NSC, civilian courts have persistently failed to provide basic fair trial guarantees or to adequately address allegations of torture and coerced confessions. The government executed three torture victims in January 2017 after civilian criminal courts convicted them under the broad anti-terror law and sentenced them to death. Judges dismissed credible torture allegations and denied the defendants access to legal counsel. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings determined that the executions were in fact extrajudicial.

    The amendment is only the latest troubling legislation passed since the beginning of the new year. In January, the king reinstated the National Security Agency (NSA)’s powers of arrest. The NSA, Bahrain’s intelligence service, was involved in systematic arbitrary detention and torture in 2011, resulting in the death of at least one detainee in their custody, cofounder of al-Wasat newspaper Karim Al-Fakhrawi. The re-empowerment of the NSA directly reverses the government’s implementation of the relevant BICI recommendation, one of only two that had been fully implemented. Local media has reported that the NSA began exercising its renewed powers as early as 1 February 2017, with the arrest of medical professional for providing treatment to a protester .

    For more information on the original amendment proposal and implications for Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law, see here.

    We, the undersigned, condemn the Council of Representative’s vote to approve the amendment to Article 105(B) of the 2002 Constitution, and urge the Government of Bahrain to to reject any attempt to subject civilians to military courts. We further call on the government to ensure that all courts in the country adhere to international judicial standards and respect the right to a fair trial as enshrined under article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

    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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    Six years have passed since Bahrain witnessed an “uprising” that engulfed the small Gulf nation, inspired by calls for regime change across the Arab world. The Sunni monarchy quashed the protesting masses which were spearheaded by the Shia opposition Al-Wefaq party. However, protests still continue and the state maintains its heavy-handed policy in tackling dissent.

    A few days ago, two civilians were reportedly wounded in Manama when an explosion went off during an anti-government demonstration. Earlier in July and August last year, other bombings in Sitra and Karannah killed three police officers.

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    Bahraini lawmakers voted to change the constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts on Tuesday, further empowering its security forces amid a crackdown on dissent at unseen levels since its 2011 Arab Spring protests.

    The decision by the 40-seat Council of Representatives, the elected lower house of the tiny Gulf nation's National Assembly, comes after a royal decree a month ago restored the power of its domestic spy service to make some arrests. 

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    Civilians in Bahrain may soon be tried in military courts, in a move condemned by rights groups as bringing in "undeclared martial law".

    The lower house of parliament on Tuesday voted to amend the constitution, dropping a clause that restricts military trials to offences committed by members of the army, police or other security branches. 

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    Bahraini police have arrested 20 people in a crackdown on Shiite villages, as legislators approved a constitutional amendment that could see civilians tried in military courts in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

    The lower house of parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of a constitutional amendment which drops a clause restricting military trials to offences committed by members of the army, police or other security branches.

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    Bahrain’s Council of Representatives on February 21, 2017, approved an amendment to Bahrain’s Constitution that would enable military courts to try civilians, in violation of international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said today. The amendment goes next to the upper house of parliament and then to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for his final approval.

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    Bahraini activist Nader Abdulemam was arrested on 18 February and taken to Jaw prison to serve the remaining four and a half months of a prison sentence handed down to him for participating in and calling on people to join an illegal march in Manama in 2013. He is a prisoner of conscience.

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    We’ve seen this before, and it doesn’t end well. Bahrain is about to amend its constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts. Hundreds of civilians were tried by the military during six months of 2011, when tortured prisoners were convicted without real evidence and sentenced to long terms in jail.

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