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    This year, while Putin’s regime committed war crimes in Syria, the king of Bahrain visited Russia twice. 

    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.

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  • 04/05/17--02:46: Tough Love for Bahrain
  • What happens if you make legal protest impossible? In some countries—e.g., Russia and China—you wind up with one-party rule. Those countries have secret police forces efficient enough to squelch most dissent and rulers canny enough to manufacture their own popularity. Dissidents, by contrast, have little if any outside backing.

    That’s not what is happening in Bahrain, a tiny American ally (population 1.4 million) on the Persian Gulf (or as Arabs like to call it, the Arabian Gulf) where a Sunni ruling family is attempting to keep control of a restive, mostly Shiite populace.

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    UNITED NATIONS — The United States and Russia clashed Monday over a U.S. attempt to have the Security Council debate human rights violations as a major cause of conflict for the first time during this month's American presidency of the U.N.'s most powerful body.

    The council approved April's agenda without including that debate. But it can still be added if at least nine of the 15 council members vote for it and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters later that the United States "fully expects" to hold the debate on April 18.

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    WASHINGTON — As the world recoiled at the televised images of lifeless children in the latest atrocity in Syria's savage civil war on Tuesday, the White House issued a statement expressing outrage just as any White House presumably would.

    But where other presidents might have used the moment to call for the departure of Syria’s authoritarian leader, Bashar al-Assad, President Trump’s spokesman dismissed the notion as impractical because it would not happen. “We would look like, to some degree, rather silly not acknowledging the political realities that exist in Syria,” said the spokesman, Sean Spicer.

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), together with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Reprieve, have co-written a letter to the Committee Against Torture (CAT) prior to its review with the Kingdom of Bahrain next week. See the letter below or click here to download it. 

     

                                          BAHRAIN : 
                         time to address systematic torture 
                           OPEN LETTER to the CAT

       Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
             Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
               Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
        International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
                                         Reprieve 


    ATTENTION: Members of the Committee against Torture 

    April 5, 2017 

    Our organisations write to urge you to reiterate Bahrain’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture («the Convention») and give immediate attention to: 
    the systematic use of torture against political detainees ; 
    the use of torture to obtain false confessions ; 
    reliance upon evidence obtained through torture to achieve convictions, including death sentences ; 
    the refusal to investigate allegations of torture in detention facilities; 
    the deteriorating conditions of detention for activists and Human Rights Defenders; 
    the government’s continued refusal to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture («OPCAT») and allow the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country.

    Next week, Bahraini authorities will appear before your Committee in Geneva, as part of the Committee’s regular review of the Bahraini government’s record under the Convention. Over the years, Bahrain’s government has failed to implement most of the CAT’s recommendations, especially those related to its systematic failure to hold torturers accountable, particularly members of the security forces. By specifically pushing the Bahraini delegation to acknowledge the systematic use of torture, you would be making a valuable contribution toward genuine accountability for torture victims in Bahrain.

    As documented by our organisations, torture is a constant presence in Bahrain’s judicial system, used systematically to coerce confessions during pre-trial interrogations and threaten and punish detainees whilst they are imprisoned in detention facilities. The Bahraini government has launched an intensified crackdown on civil society in the past year, and in January it broke a seven-year executions moratorium by executing three torture victims, all of whom were convicted based on confessions they claimed were extracted through torture. 

    Moreover, the Bahraini human rights institutions purportedly tasked with carrying out independent and Istanbul Protocol-compliant investigations of torture complaints have instead done the opposite, acting to cover up torture allegations and refusing to investigate them. This continues to exacerbate the near-total impunity afforded to members of Bahraini security forces accused of torture. Compounding this culture of impunity is the refusal of Bahrain’s European allies, some of whom have invested millions in the training of these human rights institutions, to acknowledge that such technical assistance and international support should be made conditional upon demonstrable improvements in torture accountability—such as ratifying OPCAT and allowing a visit by the Special Rapporteur on torture.

    These developments demonstrate how important it is for the Committee to urge Bahrain to acknowledge and address the country’s abysmal record on torture. Specifically, we ask that you urge the Bahraini government to:

    Take immediate action to halt the inhumane treatment and harassment of detained human rights defenders and activists like Abdulhadi Al -Khawaja (1) and Nabeel Rajab (2);
    Provide information about the treatment of Mr Al-Khawaja and Mr Rajab;
    Immediately stay all death sentences in cases where the accused alleges he was tortured into providing a false confession, pending full investigation by an independent body;
    Establish new, demonstrably independent accountability mechanisms empowered to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners, with the recognition that future international support will be linked to Bahrain’s ratification of OPCAT and agreement to a visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on torture

     

    1) see Urgent: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in need of urgent access to medical care to prevent lasting vision loss ; http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/8615

    2) Bahrain: Further Information: Growing Health Concerns for Prominent Activist: Nabeel Rajab http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/8636

     
     
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    The family of an imprisoned activist in Bahrain says he has undergone surgery for bleeding ulcers.

    Loved ones of Nabeel Rajab said Wednesday that he was taken to a military hospital for the surgery and that they were denied access to see him. They say Rajab has been held in solitary confinement for 10 months.

    Bahrain's government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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    Five billion dollars, 19 fighter jets and some armaments, representing less than a thousandth of the US GDP and around 12 hours of the government’s operating budget.

    For the Trump administration, that’s the cost of human rights in Bahrain.

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    BAHRAIN : time to address systematic torture

                 OPEN LETTER to the CAT

        Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

            Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

    Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT)

                                 Reprieve

     

    ATTENTION: Members of the Committee against Torture

    April 5, 2017

    Our organisations write to urge you to reiterate Bahrain’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture («the Convention») and give immediate attention to:

    • the systematic use of torture against political detainees ;
    • the use of torture to obtain false confessions ;
    • reliance upon evidence obtained through torture to achieve convictions, including death sentences ;
    • the refusal to investigate allegations of torture in detention facilities;
    • the deteriorating conditions of detention for activists and Human Rights Defenders;
    • the government’s continued refusal to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture («OPCAT») and allow the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country.

    Next week, Bahraini authorities will appear before your Committee in Geneva, as part of the Committee’s regular review of the Bahraini government’s record under the Convention. Over the years, Bahrain’s government has failed to implement most of the CAT’s recommendations, especially those related to its systematic failure to hold torturers accountable, particularly members of the security forces. By specifically pushing the Bahraini delegation to acknowledge the systematic use of torture, you would be making a valuable contribution toward genuine accountability for torture victims in Bahrain.

    As documented by our organisations, torture is a constant presence in Bahrain’s judicial system, used systematically to coerce confessions during pre-trial interrogations and threaten and punish detainees whilst they are imprisoned in detention facilities. The Bahraini government has launched an intensified crackdown on civil society in the past year, and in January it broke a seven-year executions moratorium by executing three torture victims, all of whom were convicted based on confessions they claimed were extracted through torture.

    Moreover, the Bahraini human rights institutions purportedly tasked with carrying out independent and Istanbul Protocol-compliant investigations of torture complaints have instead done the opposite, acting to cover up torture allegations and refusing to investigate them. This continues to exacerbate the near-total impunity afforded to members of Bahraini security forces accused of torture. Compounding this culture of impunity is the refusal of Bahrain’s European allies, some of whom have invested millions in the training of these human rights institutions, to acknowledge that such technical assistance and international support should be made conditional upon demonstrable improvements in torture accountability—such as ratifying OPCAT and allowing a visit by the Special Rapporteur on torture.

    These developments demonstrate how important it is for the Committee to urge Bahrain to acknowledge and address the country’s abysmal record on torture. Specifically, we ask that you urge the Bahraini government to:

    • Take immediate action to halt the inhumane treatment and harassment of detained human rights defenders and activists like Abdulhadi Al -Khawaja[1] and Nabeel Rajab[2];
    • Provide information about the treatment of Mr Al-Khawaja and Mr Rajab;
    • Immediately stay all death sentences in cases where the accused alleges he was tortured into providing a false confession, pending full investigation by an independent body;

    Establish new, demonstrably independent accountability mechanisms empowered to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners, with the recognition that future international support will be linked to Bahrain’s ratification of OPCAT and and agreement to a visit from the UN Special Rapporteur on torture.

    Download the letter here.

    [1] see Urgent: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in need of urgent access to medical care to prevent lasting vision loss ; http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/8615

    [2]Bahrain: Further Information: Growing Health Concerns for Prominent Activist: Nabeel Rajab http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/8636

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    On 6 April 2017, Bahrain Center for Human Rights took part in the pre-session event organized by UPR Info, ahead of the 27th UPR session organized at Palais des Nations in Geneva. BCHR's Vice President Said Yousif al-Muhafhda attended the event delivering a speech on reprisals and repression against human rights defenders (HRDs) in Bahrain. Read his speech below.

    Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain Under Attack  

    Mr President 

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to discuss concerns about the ongoing harassment, intimidation and attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain.  

    Article 12 of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders mandates states to take necessary measures to ensure their protection.  

    During the 2012 UPR review cycle, Spain, Norway and Denmark made recommendations that directly concern human rights defenders. A total of five recommendations concerning harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives were presented. The Bahraini government accepted four and noted one. The joint submission made by BCHR, Civicus and the Gulf Center for Human Rights in September 2016 concluded that none of the five recommendations were implemented. 

    Among others, the Bahraini government committed to ensuring “that human rights defenders must be protected and allowed to conduct their work without intimidation and harassment.” However, this commitment has not materialised into action. Human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives are continuously punished for their work.  

    In spite of its international commitments, Bahrain has employed systematic modes of harassment and reprisals against human rights defenders and members of civil society. The most common methods include unlawful arrests, forced exile, citizenship revocations and travel bans imposed on human rights defenders cooperating with UN mechanisms

    BCHR’s president Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016, the opening day of the 32nd UNHRC session. He has been kept in pre-trial detention for over 290 days on multiple charges for which, if convicted, he could be sentenced to 18 years in prison.  
     
    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former president and co-founder of the BCHR was sentenced to life imprisonment for his pro-democracy activism during the 2011 Bahraini uprisings. He is currently suffering from a severe deterioration in his health, including his vision, and needs urgent access to medical care. 

    Human rights defenders are being sentenced in absentia, with the expectation that they will be arrested if they return to Bahrain, thus actively forcing them into exile. Such is the case of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was sentenced to one year in prison in absentia for allegedly assaulting airport security officers, forcing her to remain in exile.  

    Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, is on trial for charges including ‘insulting the king’ while living in exile.  

    Social media activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, as well as myself, have been forced into exile due to our human rights work. 

    Another common form of reprisals against human rights defenders is the use of citizenship revocation. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a human rights defender exiled in London, had his citizenship revoked. The government also arrested two of his family members, which is symptomatic of new methods being used. 

    I, myself, received messages through a social network platform, where a Bahraini police officer threatened to target my family members in Bahrain if I continue to speak out about the ongoing human rights abuses in kingdom.  

    Reprisals are also being levied against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN.  

    In June 2016, during the UNHRC’s 32nd session, Bahraini human rights defenders including BCHR staff, and family members of victims of extrajudicial killings were banned from traveling to Geneva. BCHR’s Nedal Al-Salman was banned from travelling to Geneva to participate in a UN roundtable in August 2016. 
     
    Ebtesam Alsaeg was arrested last month upon her return to Bahrain from the UNHRC in Geneva and interrogated for six hours about her activities at the UN. 

    Pro-government newspapers continue to defame human rights defenders as ‘agents’, and work to incite the arrest of those who participate at the UN. 

    We urge UN member states to call on Bahrain to implement, and enforce the five recommendations related to human rights defenders. We ask member states to request the government of Bahrain to release all jailed human rights defenders. And, finally, we urge member states to call on Bahrain to allow human rights defenders to work freely without fear of retaliation and reprisals, and to implement measures to prevent the judicial system from punishing human rights defenders. 

     

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    In light of Bahrain’s upcoming review by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has produced a shadow report demonstrating Bahrain’s continued use of torture. BCHR has documented and reported allegations of torture in the past year, and strongly condemns the alleged use of torture by the Bahraini government.

    Read the report in full here.

    The report highlights the cases of individuals including Hasan Jassim Hasan Al-Hayky, who died in custody on 31 July 2016, from, according to his family, injuries sustained during torture at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where he was held following his arrest on charges related to his alleged involvement in a bombing on 30 June 2016.

    The BCHR has documented cases of impunity in the case of Hasan Majeed Al-Shaikh, who was charged on drug related offences, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Al-Shaikh died whilst in custody amid allegations of torture. Prisoners have also been denied access to adequate and timely medical treatment, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Ali Al-Moaaily, and Jaffar Ali Oun, have all been denied access to medical care, and are being detained in unsanitary conditions. Al-Khawaja, is currently suffering from vision loss during daylight time, and at risk of potentially severe neural complications. In August 2016 Oun’s family reported that he had been suffering from a significant and growing swelling on his head. The swelling had been present for some time when it was reported, he was eventually taken for surgery after repeated requests.

    Ali Mohamed Ali Al-Arab, was arrested on 2 February 2017, his family were unaware of his arrest until 9 February 2017. In March 2017 BCHR received information that witnesses reported seeing Ali arrive in Jau prison in a terrible physical condition, and that all of his toenails had been removed. The report also highlights the alleged use of coerced confessions during the trial process. Ali Al-Singace (21), Sami Mushaima (42), and Abbas Al-Samea (27), were executed on 15 January 2017, following allegations of torture and unfair trials. BCHR documented allegations of torture made by Al-Samea and Mushaima throughout the trial process.

    The national laws of Bahrain, including both its constitution and penal code, expressly prohibit torture, in accordance with the international treaties to which it has acceded.

    Article 19(d) of Bahrain’s Constitution states: “No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”

    The Bahrain Penal Code (1976), amended in 2013, sets out sanctions for the use of torture. Article 208 states: “[a] prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with public service who causes severe pain or sufferings, physically or morally, either personally or through a third party, to a prisoner, or a detainee to get from him information or confessions or to penalize him for something he has committed or he is accused of having committed. The same sanction is applied for the intimidation or coercion. A prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with a public service who threatens, either personally or through a third party with his full consent, a prisoner or a detainee for any of the causes cited in the first paragraph. The penalty shall be life imprisonment should the use of torture or force lead to death.”

    Furthermore, Article 232 of the Penal Code engages these same sanctions, and applies it to any other persons.

    Bahrain has acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). All three of these treaties make provisions that expressly forbid the use of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. 

    Article 1 of the UN-CAT defines torture as: “…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

    Following the ratification of the Arab Charter on Human Rights in 2006, Bahrain brought its provisions into effect in 2008. The charter expressly prohibits torture under Article 8, whilst Article 8(2) creates an obligation for states to ensure that torture is prohibited in national law, and guarantees compensation, and rehabilitation, for victims.

    In spite of these protections against torture, the development of national mechanisms for the prevention of torture, and for the prosecution of individuals alleged to be utilizing torture, BCHR has documented cases of alleged torture that demonstrate Bahrain systematically utilizes torture during interrogation, and detention. Reports received by BCHR suggest that children, disabled persons, women, and human rights defenders are allegedly being subjected to acts of torture. It has also been reported internationally that three men executed on 15 January 2017 were allegedly subjected to torture, and subsequently unfair trials. Whilst the escalating crackdown on civil society in the past year, and the end of a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2017, demonstrates that Bahrain needs to be pressed to implement effective reforms, and work to end the culture of impunity within its security forces.

    Read the report in full here.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends that the Committee Against Torture:

    • Urges Bahrain to guarantee that all physicians and medical staff dealing with imprisoned persons duly document all signs and allegations of torture or ill-treatment and transfer responsibility for all types of healthcare of persons deprived of liberty to the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that medical staff can operate fully independently from the security services;
    • Urges Bahrain to take prompt and effective measures to ensure that all detainees are all legal safeguards against torture and inhumane treatment;
    • Request the Bahraini authorities to ensure that all detainees are held in places officially intended for that purpose and that their next of kin and lawyers receive accurate information, without delay, about their arrest and the place where they are being held;
    • Recommend that Bahrain calls upon judges to declare as inadmissible any statements obtained under torture or other ill-treatment and to refuse to accept them as evidence in any judicial proceedings;
    • Requests that Bahrain observes its international obligations, in particular regarding arrest, detention or imprisonment of children that shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time;
    • Urges Bahrain to establish effective and independent mechanism for receiving and handling complaints of prison violence, including gender-based violence and sexual harassments; and that they should ensure the use of same-sex guards in contexts where the detainee is vulnerable to attack or harassments.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also makes the following general recommendations:

    • Bahrain must sign the Optional Protocol against Torture;
    • Bahrain must schedule an urgent visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment;
    • Bahrain should be pushed to take all effective legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to prevent acts of torture, and should establish new, and demonstrably independent accountability mechanisms empowered to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners;
    • Bahrain should be pushed to explain the reasons behind the clemency shown to security officers involved in ill-treatment, torture, and death, and to take measures to end the culture of impunity;
    • Bahrain should be encouraged to explain in detail the current judicial procedure taken when allegations of torture are made in court before the Public Prosecutor’s Office prior to a court session.
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    Human rights campaigners have urged Formula One management to cancel next week's Bahrain Grand Prix, accusing the country's rulers of using the race to "whitewash" abuses and improve their image abroad.

    Bahrain's biggest sporting event is watched by a worldwide audience of millions and has been held since 2004, with the exception of 2011 when violent civil unrest forced its cancellation.

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    Bahrain’s king has approved a law passed by parliament that allows for military courts to try civilians amid a major crackdown on all dissent in the island kingdom.

    The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa approved the constitutional amendment on Monday.

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    Farida Ghulam, the wife of Ebrahim Sharif, the former secretary-general of Bahraini opposition group National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), has written an open letter to political and human rights institutions worldwide calling for solidarity against the dissolution of Wa’ad.

    Written on behalf of the secular political party, Ghulam’s letter asks for national figures, Arab organisations and international institutions to help “protect the little remaining freedoms enjoyed by Bahrainis that have been undermined over the past few years”.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the health and well-being of Nabeel Rajab. Rajab is at the time of writing in hospital following complications after a surgery. He has been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and has not been given appropriate medical care for his condition. BCHR strongly condemns Bahrain’s treatment of Nabeel Rajab and other political prisoners, and call on the government to release them.

    According to updates from Nabeel Rajab’s family, Rajab underwent surgery for a bleeding ulcer on 5 April. After the surgery Rajab was reportedly forced to wear dirty clothes soaked with blood and did not get access to hygiene products for two days. He was denied a family visit and was brought back to solitary confinement two days after the surgery with high risk of infection and in need of immediate, specialized care.

    On 8 April, Nabeel was allowed a brief family visit, but was shortly afterwards rushed to hospital again. At the time of writing, Rajab remains in hospital to get treatment for the infected wound.

    Nabeel Rajab is facing charges related to tweets and retweets about torture allegations at Jau Prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He is also facing charges in another case concerning tv interviews given during 2015. The hearings for both cases have continuously been postponed and Rajab has remained in pretrial detention for over 310 days.

    The degrading and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners - a situation that has intensified following a crackdown on prisoners’ rights at Jau Prison in 2015 - violates human rights standards and the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). Nabeel Rajab is voluntarily maintained in a situation of extreme vulnerability and the Bahraini authorities should be called to take immediate steps to protect Nabeel from further degrading and other inhumane treatment, to ensure that he is treated humanely in accordance with international law and standards and allow an international monitor to visit him.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on Bahrain as well as the international community to press for Nabeel Rajab’s basic human rights to be respected, for his immediate and unconditional release, and for an end to the government of Bahrain’s reprisals against human rights defenders.

     
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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is seriously concerned about Bahrain’s imposition of travel bans against human rights defenders attempting to take part in Bahrain’s Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Travel bans have been imposed on Radhi Qatari, Sayed Sharaf Mosawi and Hussein Radhi. 12 other activists have been summoned for interrogation. BCHR condemns any attempts at preventing civil society from engaging with the UN UPR and call on Bahrain to lift all cases of travel bans and other restrictive and intimidating measures like interrogations.

    On 20 April, Bahraini authorities imposed travel bans on human rights activists Radhi Qatari, Sayed Sharaf Mosawi and Hussein Radhi. These bans are not consistent with international standards on restrictions on freedom of movement and are taken ahead of Bahrain’s Third Cycle UPR, which takes place on 1 May in Geneva, consequently preventing activists to participate in the event. More human rights activists are likely to be travel banned in the next days.

    Today, on 21 April, the Public Prosecution also summoned 12 activists to interrogation, including two from BCHR. Farida Guloom (Wa’ad) Ebrahim Sharif (Wa’ad), Sharaf Mosawi (Transparency), Radhi Mosawi  (Wa’ad), Fatima Motawa (Lawyer), Mohamed Tajer (Lawyer), Enas Oun (BCHR), Ahmed al Saffar (BCHR), Fatima al Halwachi (EBHR), Zainab Khamis (BHRS), Masooma al Sayed (Activist) and Al Qatari (BHRO) received subpoenas not mentioning any specific reason for interrogation.

    Preventing civil society from engaging with the UN is a tool being used by the Bahraini government to intimidate and silence freedom of expression. There is a pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders to prevent them from reporting on severe ongoing rights abuses in the country.

    As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Bahrain has committed to uphold international standards of freedom of movement and freedom of expression. Both rights must only be restricted in limited circumstances.

    BCHR calls on Bahrain to:

    • immediately and unconditionally lift the bans imposed on civil society activists and allow them to freely travel and engage with the UN.
    • end all measures of harassment and intimidation of HRDs, including interrogations and travel bans.

    BCHR also calls on the international community to:

    • hold the government of Bahrain of its commitments and obligations to foster a safe environment for human rights defenders.
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    Transparency International today called on the government of Bahrain to lift its travel ban on Sayed Sharaf Almosawi, the chair of its partner organisation in Bahrain, the Bahrain Transparency Society.

    This is the second time the authorities have barred Sharaf from travelling to Beirut to attend a meeting on the United Nations development goals for 2030, without giving an explanation.

    This also comes ahead of Sharaf’s planned travel to Geneva to attend discussions on Bahrain’s report for the 27th Session of the United National Universal Periodic Review Working Group on 1 May at the UN Human Rights Council.

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    His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa,
    King of Bahrain
    Fax: +973 176 64 587

    CC. His Excellency Lieutenant General Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa 
    Minister of Interior
    Email: info@interior.gov.bh

    His Excellency Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Fax: 00973 17 21 05 75; ofd@mofa.gov.bh

    And Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva
    Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50; Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

    Re: Joint appeal signed by 62 organisations around the world to release human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who both require adequate medical care

    25 April 2017

    Your Majesty,

    We, the undersigned NGOs, express grave concern over the deteriorating health of Bahraini human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, both arbitrarily detained in poor conditions and denied access to proper medical care.

    Nabeel Rajab, 53, who suffers from poor health conditions which have worsened because of his detention, underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers on April 5, 2017 at Manama’s military hospital. Only two days after the surgery, Mr. Rajab was sent back to West Riffa police station where he is being detained in solitary confinement most of the time. In addition, Mr. Rajab’s family was denied the right to visit him while in the hospital. Finally, on April 8, 2017, Mr. Rajab was rushed to the police hospital in an ambulance because of an infected wound that followed an operation. His family reported that he “was forced to stay with dirty clothes with blood all over it and denied any hygienic products for two days” despite “a deep and open wound which causes severe pain and needs constant care”.

    Mr. Rajab, is the co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch.

    Arbitrarily detained since June 13, 2016, Nabeel Rajab is facing a series of politically motivated charges which could incur up to 18 years in prison for promoting human rights in the media, including social media. When considering a similar case in 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) found that Mr. Rajab’s detention was arbitrary, adding that the “domestic laws of Bahrain (…) seem to deny persons the basic right to freedom of opinion, expression” [1]. The next hearings are scheduled on May 16 and 17, 2017.

    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, 56, began a hunger strike, drinking only water, on April 12, 2017, to protest the worsening conditions faced by detainees as well as the ongoing arbitrary arrests and detentions of human rights defenders in the country. It is feared that another hunger strike puts Mr. Al-Khawaja’s life at risk as he is already in poor health conditions because of previous long-lasting hunger strikes, as well as from the effects of torture. On April 20, 2017, Mr. Al-Khawaja began to take necessary liquids to avoid losing consciousness and being transferred to hospital, where he feared he would be force-fed, as in past hunger strikes. He suffers from exhaustion, general weakness, and dizziness. He thus requires urgent medical intervention.

    Mr. Al-Khawaja, co-founder of the GCHR and the BCHR, was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for politically motivated charges. On September 4, 2012, the High Court of Appeals upheld the sentence against him. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded that Mr. Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment during his arrest and detention. He was severely beaten, resulting in a broken jaw, and later spent two months in solitary confinement where he was subjected to severe acts of torture. He continues to be denied adequate medical attention and suffers from severe complications because of his ill-treatment in detention.

    The two human rights defenders are widely recognized for their human rights work at international, regional and national levels. They have already spent a significant amount of time in prison as retaliation for their human rights work and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

    Therefore we, the undersigned organisations, call on the Bahraini authorities to:
    · Ensure Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s physical and psychological integrity under all circumstances;
    · Immediately and unconditionally releaseNabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja as their detention is arbitrary and only aims at sanctioning their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities; and
    · Put an end to all forms of inhumane and degrading treatmentand harassment, including at the judicial level, against Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.

    Signatories:

    1. ADC Memorial (Russia)
    2. Accion Ecologica (Ecuador)
    3. Al-Marsad The Arab Centre for Human Rights in Golan Heights
    4. Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHR)
    5. Armanshahr / OPEN ASIA (Afghanistan)
    6. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH - Peru)
    7. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE)
    8. Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos Bolivia
    9. Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (ATFD)
    10. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
    11. Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan
    12. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    13. Center for Civil Liberties (CCL - Ukraine)
    14. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR – United States)
    15. Center for Human Rights Protection Kylym Shamy (Kyrgyzstan)
    16. Centre Libanais des droits humains (CLDH)
    17. Centro de Capacitación Social (CCS - Panama)
    18. Centro de Derechos y Desarrollo (CEDAL - Peru)
    19. Centro Ecuménico de derechos humanos (CEDH - Haiti)
    20. Centro de Investigacion y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH – Honduras)
    21. Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
    22. Centro Para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH - Guatemala)
    23. Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos (EQUIDAD - Peru)
    24. Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR - Colombia)
    25. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador (CDHES)
    26. Comision Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU – Ecuador)
    27. Comité de Accion Juridica (CAJ - Argentina)
    28. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)
    29. Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (CPDH - Colombia)
    30. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI - India)
    31. Czech League of Human Rights (Liga Lidských Práv)
    32. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    33. Finnish League for Human Rights
    34. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI - Uganda)
    35. Fundacion Regional de Asesoria en Derechos Humanos (INREDH - Ecuador)
    36. Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
    37. Hellenic League for Human Rights
    38. Human Rights Centre "Viasna" (Belarus)
    39. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
    40. International Legal Initiative (ILI - Kazakhstan)
    41. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw - Thailand)
    42. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
    43. Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)
    44. Latvian Human Rights Committee
    45. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)
    46. Lega Italiana dei Diritti dell’Uomo
    47. Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH - France)
    48. Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH - Belgique)
    49. Ligue des Droits et Libertés (Canada)
    50. Ligue des Electeurs (DRC)
    51. Ligue Ivoirienne des Droits de l’Homme (LIDHO)
    52. Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits Humains (LSDH)
    53. Observatorio Ciudadano de Chile
    54. Odhikar (Bangladesh)
    55. Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH)
    56. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
    57. Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO)
    58. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH – Haïti)
    59. Sister’s Arab Forum for human rights (SAF - Yemen)
    60. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
    61. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
    62. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Footnotes

    [1] Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Opinion A/HRC/WGAD/2013/12 No. 12/2013, July 25, 2013, available at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/159/40/PDF/G1315940.pdf?OpenElement .

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    A leading Bahraini human rights campaigner has warned that civilians could lose hope for "peaceful reconciliation" if the government refuses to halt its crackdown on dissent, as the last major opposition party in the kingdom faces closure.

    "In countries where freedom of expression is restricted, where there is political, social and economic exclusion for the majority of the population, where there is no space for civil society, obviously the frustration levels grow," said Maytham al-Salman, speaking to Middle East Eye in London.

    Read the full article here.

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    (Beirut) – A prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, is suffering from health problems that have developed or deteriorated during more than 10 months of arbitrary detention, Human Rights Watch said today. The charges against him violate his right to free expression, and there is evidence he has been punished arbitrarily.

    Bahraini authorities arrested Rajab in June 2016, following his social media comments critical of Saud Arabian airstrikes in Yemen and alleged torture in a Bahrain prison.

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned about the recent move by the Bahraini authorities to block the engagement of civil society in the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Between 20 and 26 April, 19 Bahraini activists and human rights defenders have received summons (1 calling them for interrogation and all of them have been charged for illegal gathering and travel banned following their interrogations, including 4 BCHR members (2.

    Bahrain should allow the free participation of civil society in the UPR Process without fear of reprisal or intimidation” said Said Yousif Almuhafdah, Vice president “BCHR is particularly concerned about the judicial harassment of our colleagues inside Bahrain, like our Head of Advocacy Nedal Al-Salman who has just been  interrogated today by the Public Prosecution”.

    In a continued judicial crackdown, the Bahraini government has issued over 37 summons calling activists, opposition members, journalists, and human rights defenders to interrogation. Amongst them, 17 activists and 2 human rights lawyers, including 4 of BCHR’s staff members. They have been all accused of illegal gathering in Duraz, although Duraz is under siege, meaning that no one is allowed to enter without passing through security and ID check.

    The interrogations take place ahead of Bahrain’s UPR which starts on the 1st of May. The UPR is an unique opportunity for UN member States to show what steps they have taken to promote human rights. The UPR occurs every four years, and Bahrain last participated in 2012 when it committed to implementing most of the UN’s recommendations, including on protecting civil society space.

    BCHR therefore calls on the Human Rights Council and its Member States to highlight the severe restrictions on human rights defenders in Bahrain, including the reprisals for engaging with UN mechanisms, in their UPR remarks and recommendations.

    This new wave of travel bans and interrogations are symptomatic of a broader strategy to intimidate and harass human right defenders in Bahrain and should be urgently addressed by the Human Rights Council.

    1. Amongst them, prominent activists and BCHR members such as Mohamed Tajer (Lawyer), Ebtisam AlSaegh (Salam for Democracy and Human Rights) Nedal AlSalman (BCHR), Enas Oun (BCHR)

    2. Nedal AlSalman, Hussain Radhi, Enas Oun, Ahmed AlSaffar (BCHR staff)

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