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    Bahraini authorities have initiated a new campaign of reprisals against political activists, human rights defenders, and other civil society actors ahead of the kingdom’s third cycle of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) beginning on 1 May 2017.

    We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the judicial harassment of these individuals and call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately lift all restrictions on civil society actors attempting to attend international human rights mechanisms such as the UPR.

    Over the last week, the Bahraini government has targeted at least 32 activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and other members of civil society for reprisal, including criminal summons, interrogations, and travel bans.

    Nedal Al-Salman of the BCHR was today summoned before the public prosecution and charged with illegally gathering in Duraz village on 27 and 28 January 2017.

    On 21 April, the authorities summoned two leaders of the Wa’ad political society, Ebrahim Sharif and Farida Ghulam, to appear for interrogation several days later. They were accused of participating in an “illegal gathering” in the village of Diraz and subjected to a travel ban. Both Sharif and Ghulam have not visited the village in years. Diraz has been the site of an ongoing peaceful sit-in since June 2016, when the government stripped the country’s most prominent Shia religious leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship and began prosecuting him for his role in a traditional Shia practice, known as khums.

    The Government of Bahrain used travel bans in 2016 to prevent dozens of civil society actors to travel – specifically in advance of UN Human Rights Council sessions. BIRD documented 28 individual cases in 2016, while some activists estimate as many as a 100 have had their freedom of movement restricted by the government over the years.

    Interfaith leader Sheikh Maytham al-Salman notes that as many as 47 independent civil society actors attended Bahrain’s second UPR cycle in 2012, whereas as few as one or two may be able to participate in the upcoming review.

    The bans have come in the weeks ahead of Bahrain’s UPR, which begins on 1 May in Geneva, Switzerland, at the UN. The Government of Bahrain has refused to formally engage with independent civil organizations in the UPR consultation process. Authorities have outright banned domestic human rights groups like BCHR and declined to cooperate with international organizations like ADHRB and BIRD.

    ADHRB directly contacted the government requesting to participate in the national consultation process, and was rejected; an ADHRB officer even submitted a 12-page visa application and formal request to travel to Bahrain to take part in the consultation, including a full itinerary, and never received a response. Meanwhile, the authorities claim to have consulted with several “associations concerned with human rights,” but they have not disclosed these organizations or if they included government-organized NGOs (GONGOs), which are funded and/or sponsored by the state and that do not face the same restrictions as independent groups. In contrast, BCHR, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, the Bahrain Nursing Society, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Bahrain Teacher’s Union, the Bahrain Medical Society, the Bahrain Lawyer’s Society, the Authors and Writers Family Society, and even the Bahrain Photographic Society, among others, have all been subjected to some form of judicial harassment since their establishment, including the imprisonment of members.

    “This new wave of summons and travel bans exhibits the Bahraini government’s  contempt towards civil society and the international community,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “The authorities have invested huge resources in establishing hollow accountability mechanisms, creating fake ‘non-governmental’ organizations, and destroying what remains of the country’s legitimate civil and political space.”

    The government’s increased attacks on independent civil society reflect a broader trend of disengagement from the UPR reform process. ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD assess that the Government of Bahrain has actually backtracked on instituting many of these reforms since the UPR midterm in 2014, with 133 of its 176 second-cycle recommendations wholly unimplemented. In many cases, the authorities have actively contravened key recommendations, such as to formally prohibit military trials for civilians or end the use of torture.

    “The Bahraini government has almost entirely failed to fulfill its commitments under the UPR, including its obligation to consult with civil society organizations and facilitate their participation in the process,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Now the authorities are – yet again – actively preventing activists from leaving the country in order to maintain the illusion that there’s been progress on Bahrain’s human rights situation. This wave of reprisals itself demonstrates that there hasn’t.”

    “Bahrain should allow the free participation of civil society in the UPR Process without fear of reprisal or intimidation,” said Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha, BCHR's Vice-president.

    We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to lift all travel bans and end any other form of interference in the work of independent civil society actors. We specifically urge the authorities to facilitate the attendance of these actors at the upcoming UPR in May and to genuinely commit to the UPR reform process.

    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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    The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows an increase in the number of countries where the media freedom situation is very grave and highlights the scale and variety of the obstacles to media freedom throughout the world.

    The global indicator calculated by RSF has never been so high, which means that media freedom is under threat now more than ever. Bahrain drops two in ranking from 2016, and places itself at 164.

    Dissidents or independent commentators such as Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, pay a high price for daring to criticize the authorities in tweets or interviews. The regime intensified its repressive methods in 2011, when it feared it might be overthrown. Any content or media suspected of posing a threat to the country’s unity is simply suppressed, and detained journalists face the possibility of long jail terms or even life imprisonment.

    Read the full text here

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    The UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) concluded its review of Bahrain on 24 April. UN panel says allegations of torture submitted by NGOs are credible and that torture remains widespread in Bahraini jails.

    The government failed to adequately respond to torture allegations prompting criticisms from UN experts that Bahrain will face a hard time addressing its human rights record in its UPR review next week.

    In an open letter to the Committee, a group of NGOs, together with BCHR, urged the experts to give immediate attention to the use of torture to obtain false confessions, the systematic use of torture against political detainees and activists, and the impunity which still prevail amongst members of Bahraini security forces that have been allegedly accused of torture.

    “Torture remains widespread in Bahrain as highlighted by the Committee against Torture, and the UPR is a critical moment for the Kingdom to answer more questions about torture in detention facilities” said S. Yousif Almuhafdah, BCHR Vice-President, “We urge UN Member States during the UPR to press Bahrain over abuses of many detained and imprisoned human rights defenders, like Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who have been subjected to or are at risk of further torture and inhumane treatment. Our colleagues’ and all the torture victims suffering should not be forgotten”

    The Geneva-based UN committee against torture interrogated Bahrain on its policies regarding torture of detainees, in particular political detainees and Human Rights Defenders.

    The Committee also raised the issue of the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bahrain.

    BCHR is also concerned about reprisals against activists from Bahrain who have tried to participate in the next UPR review, particularly in the light of the recent travel bans and judicial harassments against its members, Nedal AlSalman, Hussein Radhi, Enas Oun and Ahmed AlSaffar who have been all travel banned.

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    A prominent Bahraini activist jailed for life for his role in anti-regime protests has been on hunger strike for two weeks to protest the treatment of prisoners, campaigners said Thursday.

    Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who also holds Danish citizenship, is an outspoken critic of Bahrain's Al-Khalifa monarchy, which has ruled the tiny Gulf archipelago for more than two centuries.

    Continue reading here

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    USCIRF: Bahrain

    The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released the 2017 annual report, which represents the culmination of a year’s work by Commissioners and professional staff to document religious freedom violations and progress and to make independent policy recommendations to the U.S. government. 

    Due to deteriorating religious freedom conditions, Bahrain is included on Tier 2 in 2017 for the first time, which is defined by USCIRF as nations in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterised by at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” CPC standard.

    Continue reading the report here

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, BCHR’s former President, serving a life sentence in Jau prison since 2011 for his human rights activities. The co-founder of both BCHR and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has been on a hunger strike since 12 April. His decision to go on a hunger strike was motivated by the inhumane treatment of detainees in Bahraini prisons and the continued harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain. Al-Khawaja’s life is at risk, due to previous health issues and poor prison conditions.

    On 26 April, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja said that he is willing to call off the hunger strike if there are strong statements delivered at Bahrain’s Third Cycle of the UN Universal Periodic Review, which takes place Monday 1 May.

    According to his family's testimony, Al-Khawaja initiated his hunger strike on 12 April. On his third day of the hunger strike, 14 April, Al-Khawaja was transferred to hospital due to low blood sugar levels. He has suffered from stomach ache and intense pain in his lower back. Additionally, Al-Khawaja has also experienced muscle spasms and has had trouble urinating.

    The latest updates from Al-Khawaja suggest that he is still in a critical condition. On 18 April, he was informed that he would again be forced to wear shackles when going to the prison clinic. He hadn’t been shackled since the beginning of the hunger strike, but previously it had been a requirement for all medical visits. Al-Khawaja has refused to see a doctor if he must be shackled. His weight and condition are unknown currently, but he weighed 56 kg and had low blood pressure as of 17 April. Al-Khawaja feared he would lose consciousness and will be taken to the military hospital to be force fed. He has therefore started to drink few liquids, and his health has improved slightly.

    In March, it was reported by his family that Al-Khawaja suffered from temporary vision loss. He also experienced headache behind his right eye. Based on the description of his symptoms, an ophthalmologist diagnosed it as Amaurosis fugax - a condition that could lead to permanent vision loss as well as cerebral strokes if he is not provided adequate treatment. At that time, Al-Khawaja was only allowed to see a doctor if he agreed to being shackled and a full strip search, which he refused to do.

    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). According to rule 1 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, “no prisoner shall be subjected to [...] cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for which no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification.”


    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the government of Bahrain to:

    • immediately and unconditionally release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja;
    • ensure that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is treated humanely and with dignity according to article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain has ratified, as well as the Nelson Mandela Rules; and
    • end all reprisals against human rights defenders.
       
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    Bahraini authorities’ treatment of wrongfully imprisoned detainees violates international standards on prisoner treatment and in some cases may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, a coalition of ten rights groups said today. The authorities should ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to the adequate medical care they require and contact with their relatives.

    Family members of 12 opposition activists or human rights defenders held in Building 7 of Jaw Prison have told rights groups that under new regulations the authorities shackle the men, many of them elderly and in poor health, whenever they leave their cells, including for medical visits. The men are serving long prison terms in connection with their prominent and peaceful roles in the pro-democracy uprising in February 2011.

    “These new regulations degrade and humiliate prisoners who clearly pose no escape risk,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security.”

    The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the groups said.

    On April 12, 2017, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender held in Building 7, began a hunger strike to protest the new regulations at Jaw Prison, which the prisoners believe are a disproportionate response to the escape of 10 prisoners from another part of Jaw Prison on January 1.

    In addition to the shackling, which has led the detainees to refuse to attend medical appointments in protest at what they perceive as degrading treatment, the authorities have cut visiting hours and the time for phone calls with their relatives.

    Since the escape, which resulted in the death of a police officer, family members of the opposition and human rights activists and several other prisoners have told the rights groups that the authorities’ treatment of their relatives has worsened significantly.

    Since March 1, authorities have shackled prisoners in Building 7 whenever they leave their cells. This practice is contrary to Rule 47 of the Mandela Rules, which states that restraint instruments should only be used as a precaution against escape or to prevent prisoners from injuring themselves or others. Family members of prisoners in other buildings have also told rights groups that their relatives are shackled whenever they leave their cells and that since the escape, their cells are locked most of the day, meaning that those without toilet in their cell have only limited access to toilets.

    International human rights mechanisms have said that the use of restraints on elderly or infirm prisoners who do not pose an escape risk can constitute ill-treatment. The prison authorities appear willing to abide by some of the Nelson Mandela Rules by transferring patients requiring specialized treatment to specialized institutions or civil hospitals. But the disproportionate use of physical restraints is degrading and is preventing detainees from getting the health care they require.

    Family members of Al-Khawaja, 56, told rights groups that he had an appointment with an eye specialist at the Bahrain Defense Forces military hospital on March 12 because of headaches and vision problems. But the prison administration insisted that he had to wear the prison uniform, have his legs and ankles shackled, and submit to full body strip search.

    The family said he refused because of the humiliation involved. Al-Khawaja wrote to the prison authorities in March requesting a new medical appointment and to be allowed to go without a strip search and shackles, but has received no response. On April 12, he began a hunger strike. His family expressed concern about the impact of his hunger strike on his already deteriorating health and said that on April 15 he refused medical attention to address a low blood sugar level in protest at the regulations.

    On April 20, 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 has lost weight and his blood sugar remains low.

    A family member of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, 55, who requires crutches or a wheelchair as the result of polio and sickle-cell anemia, told rights groups that he refused to attend medical appointments, including a March 12 appointment with a hematologist and an appointment in early March to deal with a shoulder infection, because of the prison authorities’ insistence on shackling him with chains during the transfer.

    Family members say that Mohamed Hassan Jawad, 69, and Hasan Mshaima, 69, have also refused essential medical appointments in protest over the authorities’ insistence that they be shackled and wear the prison uniform. Mshaima has heart problems and is a former cancer patient who requires regular checks-ups. His family said that he needs Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans every six months and that the last one was over eight months ago.

    “These leading Bahraini political and human rights activists have suffered deteriorating health during their prolonged arbitrary detention since 2011,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “Shackling these prisoners of conscience is not a legitimate prison security measure but is intended to degrade and humiliate them. The international community must not forget these long-term prisoners of conscience and should work to end their unjust and punitive detention.”

    Since March 1, the prison administration has reduced all prosioners’ family visits from one hour to 30 minutes, once every two or three weeks, and that prisoners are now separated from their families by a glass barrier during visits. Since June 2016, phone calls to their families, which they are allowed to make up to three times per week, have been cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes combined for all calls. On March 20, prison authorities stopped providing the detainees with toilet paper or tissues.

    On March 1, the detainees in Building 7 and others in Jaw Prison began boycotting family visits in protest.

    “These opposition activists are prisoners of conscience who should not have spent even a single day in prison,” said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Regional Office in Beirut. “The authorities must immediately put an end to the collective and arbitrary punishment of the entire Jaw prison population as a result of the escape of a group of prisoners; they must release all prisoners of conscience without delay and ensure all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the adequate medical treatment they require.”

    Rule 36 of the Nelson Mandela Rules states that discipline and order shall be maintained with no more restriction than is necessary to ensure safe custody, the secure operation of the prison, and a well-ordered community life. Thus, while authorities can take steps to minimize the risk of further escapes, the measures they introduce must be proportionate, should not impinge on prisoners’ dignity, and should not unnecessarily aggravate the suffering inherent in the deprivation of liberty.

    Any deliberate infliction of inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners should be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

    Eleven of the 12 detainees in Building 7 were sentenced in trials that did not meet international standards on fair trials and convicted of crimes that included alleged involvement with a group whose purpose was to replace Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government. The evidence produced against them at their trial consisted only of public statements advocating reforms to curtail the power of the ruling Al Khalifa family and “confessions” that were coerced while they were in incommunicado detention. The twelfth detainee, Sheikh Ali Salman, whose nine-year prison sentence was reduced to four years on April 3, was convicted in relation to peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, following a grossly unfair trial.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report of November 2011 said that authorities subjected the group to a “discernible pattern of mistreatment,” including torture, after their arrests in some cases. Authorities have not provided physical or psychological rehabilitation for detainees who were tortured.

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    Bahraini prosecutors and security officials should cease harassing journalists and should lift travel bans imposed on two reporters in the past week, said the Committee to Protect Journalists. Prosecutors summoned three journalists for questioning in the week before the U.N. Human Rights Commission conducted its Universal Periodic Review of the kingdom's human rights record on May 1.

    Continue reading here

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    The outright militarization of the security apparatus has infected more and more sectors of Bahraini society. In fact, it’s now been written into the country’s constitution itself.

    Six years ago, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof described his experience of being detained during the aftermath of Bahrain’s Arab Spring protests as a glimpse “through a haze of tear gas, [at] hints of a police state.”

    Continue reading here

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    On Monday May 1 Bahrain will endure its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. Every country’s human right record gets scrutinized under the process every five years. 

    At Bahrain’s last UPR session in 2012 it was urged by other countries to do all sorts of things it still hasn’t done, including to independently investigate allegations of torture and bring the perpetrators to justice, to allow peaceful expression and demonstrations, and to let into Bahrain the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.

    Continue reading here

     

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    Bahrain took a rare public reprimand this morning at its United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review. Countries are assessed on human rights progress every five years, and the Bahraini government’s delegation had to sit and listen as country after country listed concerns about the country’s failure to introduce real reform despite promises made at its last UPR in 2012.

    Continue reading here

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) currently seeks creative, passionate and hard-working applicants to occupy 2 internship postions on Communication, Research and Campaigning at our International office in Copenhagen. 

    The BCHR has been working to protect and promote human rights in Bahrain for more than eleven years – we are one of the oldest and most prominent human rights organization in the country. The bulk of our work is conducted by our documentation team in Bahrain, and the Copenhagen office is primarily focused on communicating human rights violations and supporting the senior advocacy staff. Over the last three years, the BCHR has won six prestigious awards for our work in human rights, and we are active around the globe in our pursuit of accountability for human rights violators in Bahrain. 

    Internship period: 3 months, full-time (preferred) or part-time. Office hours will be held from 09:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. This is an unpaid position. 

    Main duties 
    Interns will:

    • Assist with advocacy campaigns by conducting research and preparing background memos and other written materials;
    • Assist in managing database of contacts and improving our communications with our targeted audience of policy makers;
    • Support lengthy analytical reports on human rights abuses in Bahrain in cooperation with our documentation team, through research and writing;
    • Track Bahrain news, legislation, and statements by global policymakers, the European Parliament, and United Nations officials on a daily basis;
    • Assist in social media campaigns and the drafting of external communications;
    • Write and publish content on our website and on social media platforms;
    • Prepare updates for the website and other media-related materials;
    • Assist with administrative duties as required.

    Requirements 
    The ideal candidate should:

    • Be a graduate/undergraduate student - a relevant degree in human rights law is a plus
    • Have an interest in and being knowledgeable of human rights issues, particularly with respect to freedom of speech, expression, and association, due process rights and prisoners’ rights;
    • Have excellent verbal and written communication skills in English;
    • Good ability to attract and build new contacts with the media and other partners;
    • Be able to work independently, take initiative, and exercise sound judgment;
    • Maintain strict confidentiality and
    • Be committed to BCHR’s mission.

    Highly desirable additional skills:

    • Arabic and French/German language skills;
    • Knowledgeable and innovative about using social media in a professional capacity (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.);
    • Photoshop, video editing and/or other graphic design experience;
    • Familiarity with the Adobe suite, HTML formatting and HTML design;
    • Demonstrated research experience (especially related to the Middle East, human rights, democratization, governance, and political rights) and
    • Innovative and passionate about building and executing grassroots outreach/advocacy campaigns, as well as using novel technology tools for advocacy.

    To apply, send cover letter and CV to Elena Mocanu at: elena.mocanu@bahrainrights.org 

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    Shackling Detainees Among New Punitive Regulations

    Bahraini authorities’ treatment of wrongfully imprisoned detainees violates international standards on prisoner treatment and in some cases may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, a coalition of ten rights groups said today. The authorities should ensure that all detainees are treated with humanity and in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, including access to the adequate medical care they require and contact with their relatives.

    Family members of 12 opposition activists or human rights defenders held in Building 7 of Jaw Prison have told rights groups that under new regulations the authorities shackle the men, many of them elderly and in poor health, whenever they leave their cells, including for medical visits. The men are serving long prison terms in connection with their prominent and peaceful roles in the prodemocracy uprising in February 2011.

    “These new regulations degrade and humiliate prisoners who clearly pose no escape risk,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities can take reasonable measures to prevent escapes, but shackling infirm patients, many of them torture victims, clearly goes beyond any need for security.”

    The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the groups said.

    On April 12, 2017, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender held in Building 7, began a hunger strike to protest the new regulations at Jaw Prison, which the prisoners believe are a disproportionate response to the escape of 10 prisoners from another part of Jaw Prison on January 1.

    In addition to the shackling, which has led the detainees to refuse to attend medical appointments in protest at what they perceive as degrading treatment, the authorities have cut visiting hours and the time for phone calls with their relatives.

    Since the escape, which resulted in the death of a police officer, family members of the opposition and human rights activists and several other prisoners have told the rights groups that the authorities’ treatment of their relatives has worsened significantly.

    Since March 1, authorities have shackled prisoners in Building 7 whenever they leave their cells. This practice is contrary to Rule 47 of the Mandela Rules, which states that restraint instruments should only be used as a precaution against escape or to prevent prisoners from injuring themselves or others. Family members of prisoners in other buildings have also told rights groups that their relatives are shackled whenever they leave their cells and that since the escape, their cells are locked most of the day, meaning that those without toilet in their cell have only limited access to toilets.

    International human rights mechanisms have said that the use of restraints on elderly or infirm prisoners who do not pose an escape risk can constitute ill-treatment. The prison authorities appear willing to abide by some of the Nelson Mandela Rules by transferring patients requiring specialized treatment to specialized institutions or civil hospitals. But the disproportionate use of physical restraints is degrading and is preventing detainees from getting the health care they require.

    Family members of Al-Khawaja, 56, told rights groups that he had an appointment with an eye specialist at the Bahrain Defense Forces military hospital on March 12 because of headaches and vision problems. But the prison administration insisted that he had to wear the prison uniform, have his legs and ankles shackled, and submit to full body strip search.

    The family said he refused because of the humiliation involved. Al-Khawaja wrote to the prison authorities in March requesting a new medical appointment and to be allowed to go without a strip search and shackles, but has received no response. On April 12, he began a hunger strike. His family expressed concern about the impact of his hunger strike on his already deteriorating health and said that on April 15 he refused medical attention to address a low blood sugar level in protest at the regulations.

    On April 20, 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 has lost weight and his blood sugar remains low.

    A family member of Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, 55, who requires crutches or a wheelchair as the result of polio and sickle-cell anemia, told rights groups that he refused to attend medical appointments, including a March 12 appointment with a hematologist and an appointment in early March to deal with a shoulder infection, because of the prison authorities’ insistence on shackling him with chains during the transfer.

    Family members say that Mohamed Hassan Jawad, 69, and Hasan Mshaima, 69, have also refused essential medical appointments in protest over the authorities’ insistence that they be shackled and wear the prison uniform. Mshaima has heart problems and is a former cancer patient who requires regular checks-ups. His family said that he needs Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans every six months and that the last one was over eight months ago.

    “These leading Bahraini political and human rights activists have suffered deteriorating health during their prolonged arbitrary detention since 2011,” said Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. “Shackling these prisoners of conscience is not a legitimate prison security measure but is intended to degrade and humiliate them. The international community must not forget these long-term prisoners of conscience and should work to end their unjust and punitive detention.”

    Since March 1, the prison administration has reduced all prosioners’ family visits from one hour to 30 minutes, once every two or three weeks, and that prisoners are now separated from their families by a glass barrier during visits. Since June 2016, phone calls to their families, which they are allowed to make up to three times per week, have been cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes combined for all calls. On March 20, prison authorities stopped providing the detainees with toilet paper or tissues.

    On March 1, the detainees in Building 7 and others in Jaw Prison began boycotting family visits in protest.

    “These opposition activists are prisoners of conscience who should not have spent even a single day in prison,” said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty International’s Regional Office in Beirut. “The authorities must immediately put an end to the collective and arbitrary punishment of the entire Jaw prison population as a result of the escape of a group of prisoners; they must release all prisoners of conscience without delay and ensure all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the adequate medical treatment they require.”

    Rule 36 of the Nelson Mandela Rules states that discipline and order shall be maintained with no more restriction than is necessary to ensure safe custody, the secure operation of the prison, and a well-ordered community life. Thus, while authorities can take steps to minimize the risk of further escapes, the measures they introduce must be proportionate, should not impinge on prisoners’ dignity, and should not unnecessarily aggravate the suffering inherent in the deprivation of liberty.

    Any deliberate infliction of inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners should be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

    Eleven of the 12 detainees in Building 7 were sentenced in trials that did not meet international standards on fair trials and convicted of crimes that included alleged involvement with a group whose purpose was to replace Bahrain’s monarchy with a republican form of government. The evidence produced against them at their trial consisted only of public statements advocating reforms to curtail the power of the ruling Al Khalifa family and “confessions” that were coerced while they were in incommunicado detention. The twelfth detainee, Sheikh Ali Salman, whose nine-year prison sentence was reduced to four years on April 3, was convicted in relation to peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, following a grossly unfair trial.

    The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report of November 2011 said that authorities subjected the group to a “discernible pattern of mistreatment,” including torture, after their arrests in some cases. Authorities have not provided physical or psychological rehabilitation for detainees who were tortured.

    See the statement in pdf format here.

    Signatories:

    • Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

    • Amnesty International

    • Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

    • Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    • English PEN

    • European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

    • Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

    • Human Rights First

    • Human Rights Watch

     

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    While the journalists in Bahrain are joining the world celebrating the “World Press Freedom Day” 2017, systematic and unjust Government policies continue to restrict what is left from the margin of press and media freedom in the country. An indication to that, at least, rising of violations to around 359 violations of basic rights such as; freedom of media, freedom of opinion, and expression.

    Continue reading here

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    Once a promising model for political reform and democratic transition, Bahrain has become one of the Middle East’s most repressive states. Since violently crushing a popular prodemocracy protest movement in 2011, the Sunni-led monarchy has systematically eliminated a broad range of political rights and civil liberties, dismantled the political opposition, and cracked down harshly on persistent dissent in the Shiite population.

    Continue readinghere

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    Right Honourable Boris Johnson,

    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,

    Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

    King Charles Street,

    London,

    SW1A 2AH

    4 May 2017

    Dear Boris Johnson,

    We, the undersigned, write to you in advance of the 7 May 2017 trial of Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli in Bahrain. We urgently request that you publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop the politically-motivated charges against these three men, and to call for Royal Decree 55/2016, which stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship and rendered him stateless to be dropped ahead of his trial in absentia.

    Five UN Special Rapporteurs last year expressed concern over the systematic persecution[1] and repression of Bahrain’s Shia. Sheikh Qassim’s prosecution deepens that persecution. The stripping of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship and his prosecution appear to be reprisals against his expression as a prominent Bahraini figure. Sheikh Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain, holds the rank of Ayatollah. He preaches in Duraz at the Imam Sadiq mosque, the largest Shia mosque in the country, and is seen by the majority of the Shia population as their spiritual leader. Sheikh Qassim was one of twenty-two elected members of the Constitutional Assembly, which in 1972 met, debated and wrote Bahrain’s first constitution. He was a Member of Parliament in the 1973 National Assembly, and following its dissolution in 1975 he directed his energies to his duties as a religious cleric.

    The revocation of his citizenship in June 2016 and his continued prosecution in absentia, alongside Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, constitute violations of their rights to nationality and a fair trial. Moreover, the charges and method of prosecution appear to represent infringements of their right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

    Sheikh Qassim was rendered stateless by order of the Minister of Interior on 20 June. This was formalised soon after by Royal Decree 55/2016. Since that date, Sheikh Qassim’s hometown of Duraz has been under constant police blockade, and a sit-in outside his house has continued from that date to the present.

    Sheikh Qassim was charged with money laundering, in reference to his role in the collection and redistribution of khums, an obligatory religious donation for Shia Muslims which is spent for religious and charitable purposes. Sheikh Qassim never received a summons, and his office was searched without warrant. The Public Prosecution states that, “He directed them [his followers] to break the law and to turn against their country and its fortunes,” and describes him as, “one who allowed himself to follow the law of the jungle.” The Prosecution belittle Shia who look to Sheikh Qassim for guidance, stating, “They never asked whether he was an honest man or just an imposter. Their tongues were knotted so they didn’t ask, their eyes were hypnotized so they didn’t see, and they lacked wisdom so they didn’t think.” Such language from the state’s prosecution encourages religious intolerance.

    His prosecution is alarming not just as a violation of his rights to a fair trial and citizenship, but also for its impact on Bahraini religious freedoms. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms’ (USCIRF) latest annual report categorises Bahrain as a Tier 2 country, which is defined as one “in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [Countries of Particular Concern] standard.” USCIRF found a deterioration in the religious freedoms of Bahrain’s Shia, and highlights Sheikh Qassim’s nationality revocation and prosecution as a key, negative development.[2]

    The violation of Sheikh Qassim’s rights has led to further grave violations: On 26 January 2017, masked, plainclothes officers shot live ammunition against the peaceful sit-in outside his home in Duraz, fatally wounding 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan, who died in March. No government entity has acknowledged responsibility for this attack nor have any independent and impartial investigations occurred to date.[3]

    Additionally, authorities have barred any Friday prayers from being held at the Imam Sadiq mosque, where Sheikh Qassim normally preaches, since June 2016. Over 80 Shia clerics have been subject to harassment in the past year. At least nine clerics have been sentenced to prison for “illegal gathering” and expression-related offences.

    The rendering stateless of Sheikh Isa Qassim violates his right to nationality, as enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). His trial in absentia constitutes a violation of his right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 11 of the UDHR and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, his prosecution appears to threaten the right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 18 of the UDHR and ICCPR, of both Sheikh Qassim and his followers, as it disrupts their normal religious life without cause, as well as the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR.

    We urgently request ahead of the 7 May trial that you to call on Bahrain to drop the charges against Sheikh Isa Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, and to reverse Royal Decree 55/2016 which rendered Sheikh Isa Qassim stateless.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Bahrain Interfaith

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    ARTICLE 19

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    [2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2017 Annual Report, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2017.USCIRFAnnualReport.pdf.

    [3] Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan Dies After Security Forces Shooting, 24 March 2017, http://birdbh.org/2017/03/18-year-old-mustafa-hamdan-dies-after-security-forces-shooting/.

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    H.E. Zeid bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein,

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,

    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
    Palais des Nations,
    CH-1211 Geneva 10,

    Switzerland

    Cc: Ahmed Shaheed,

    UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,

    Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
    8-14 avenue de la Paix,
    CH-1211 Geneva 10,
    Switzerland

    4 May 2017

    Your Excellency,

    We, the undersigned, write to you in advance of the 7 May 2017 trial of Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli in Bahrain. We urgently request that you publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop the politically-motivated charges against these three men, and to call for Royal Decree 55/2016, which stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship and rendered him stateless to be dropped ahead of his trial in absentia.

    Five UN Special Rapporteurs last year expressed concern over the systematic persecution[1] and repression of Bahrain’s Shia. Sheikh Qassim’s prosecution deepens that persecution. The stripping of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship and his prosecution appear to be reprisals against his expression as a prominent Bahraini figure. Sheikh Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain, holds the rank of Ayatollah. He preaches in Duraz at the Imam Sadiq mosque, the largest Shia mosque in the country, and is seen by the majority of the Shia population as their spiritual leader. Sheikh Qassim was one of twenty-two elected members of the Constitutional Assembly, which in 1972 met, debated and wrote Bahrain’s first constitution. He was a Member of Parliament in the 1973 National Assembly, and following its dissolution in 1975 he directed his energies to his duties as a religious cleric.

    The revocation of his citizenship in June 2016 and his continued prosecution in absentia, alongside Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, constitute violations of their rights to nationality and a fair trial. Moreover, the charges and method of prosecution appear to represent infringements of their right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

    Sheikh Qassim was rendered stateless by order of the Minister of Interior on 20 June. This was formalised soon after by Royal Decree 55/2016. Since that date, Sheikh Qassim’s hometown of Duraz has been under constant police blockade, and a sit-in outside his house has continued from that date to the present.

    Sheikh Qassim was charged with money laundering, in reference to his role in the collection and redistribution of khums, an obligatory religious donation for Shia Muslims which is spent for religious and charitable purposes. Sheikh Qassim never received a summons, and his office was searched without warrant. The Public Prosecution states that, “He directed them [his followers] to break the law and to turn against their country and its fortunes,” and describes him as, “one who allowed himself to follow the law of the jungle.” The Prosecution belittle Shia who look to Sheikh Qassim for guidance, stating, “They never asked whether he was an honest man or just an imposter. Their tongues were knotted so they didn’t ask, their eyes were hypnotized so they didn’t see, and they lacked wisdom so they didn’t think.” Such language from the state’s prosecution encourages religious intolerance.

    His prosecution is alarming not just as a violation of his rights to a fair trial and citizenship, but also for its impact on Bahraini religious freedoms. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms’ (USCIRF) latest annual report categorises Bahrain as a Tier 2 country, which is defined as one “in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [Countries of Particular Concern] standard.” USCIRF found a deterioration in the religious freedoms of Bahrain’s Shia, and highlights Sheikh Qassim’s nationality revocation and prosecution as a key, negative development.[2]

    The violation of Sheikh Qassim’s rights has led to further grave violations: On 26 January 2017, masked, plainclothes officers shot live ammunition against the peaceful sit-in outside his home in Duraz, fatally wounding 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan, who died in March. No government entity has acknowledged responsibility for this attack nor have any independent and impartial investigations occurred to date.[3]

    Additionally, authorities have barred any Friday prayers from being held at the Imam Sadiq mosque, where Sheikh Qassim normally preaches, since June 2016. Over 80 Shia clerics have been subject to harassment in the past year. At least nine clerics have been sentenced to prison for “illegal gathering” and expression-related offences.

    The rendering stateless of Sheikh Isa Qassim violates his right to nationality, as enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). His trial in absentia constitutes a violation of his right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 11 of the UDHR and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, his prosecution appears to threaten the right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 18 of the UDHR and ICCPR, of both Sheikh Qassim and his followers, as it disrupts their normal religious life without cause, as well as the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR.

    We urgently request ahead of the 7 May trial that you to call on Bahrain to drop the charges against Sheikh Isa Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, and to reverse Royal Decree 55/2016 which rendered Sheikh Isa Qassim stateless.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Bahrain Interfaith

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    ARTICLE 19

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    [2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2017 Annual Report, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2017.USCIRFAnnualReport.pdf.

    [3] Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan Dies After Security Forces Shooting, 24 March 2017, http://birdbh.org/2017/03/18-year-old-mustafa-hamdan-dies-after-security-forces-shooting/.

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    High Representative Ms. Federica Mogherini, European External Action Service,

    Stavros Lambrinidis, Special Representative for Human Rights,

    Jan Figel, Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union,

    European External Action Service,

    9A Rond Point Schuman,

    1046 Brussels,

    Belgium

    4 May 2017

    Your Excellencies,

    We, the undersigned, write to you in advance of the 7 May 2017 trial of Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli in Bahrain. We urgently request that you publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop the politically-motivated charges against these three men, and to call for Royal Decree 55/2016, which stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship and rendered him stateless to be dropped ahead of his trial in absentia.

    Five UN Special Rapporteurs last year expressed concern over the systematic persecution[1] and repression of Bahrain’s Shia. Sheikh Qassim’s prosecution deepens that persecution. The stripping of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship and his prosecution appear to be reprisals against his expression as a prominent Bahraini figure. Sheikh Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain, holds the rank of Ayatollah. He preaches in Duraz at the Imam Sadiq mosque, the largest Shia mosque in the country, and is seen by the majority of the Shia population as their spiritual leader. Sheikh Qassim was one of twenty-two elected members of the Constitutional Assembly, which in 1972 met, debated and wrote Bahrain’s first constitution. He was a Member of Parliament in the 1973 National Assembly, and following its dissolution in 1975 he directed his energies to his duties as a religious cleric.

    The revocation of his citizenship in June 2016 and his continued prosecution in absentia, alongside Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, constitute violations of their rights to nationality and a fair trial. Moreover, the charges and method of prosecution appear to represent infringements of their right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

    Sheikh Qassim was rendered stateless by order of the Minister of Interior on 20 June. This was formalised soon after by Royal Decree 55/2016. Since that date, Sheikh Qassim’s hometown of Duraz has been under constant police blockade, and a sit-in outside his house has continued from that date to the present.

    Sheikh Qassim was charged with money laundering, in reference to his role in the collection and redistribution of khums, an obligatory religious donation for Shia Muslims which is spent for religious and charitable purposes. Sheikh Qassim never received a summons, and his office was searched without warrant. The Public Prosecution states that, “He directed them [his followers] to break the law and to turn against their country and its fortunes,” and describes him as, “one who allowed himself to follow the law of the jungle.” The Prosecution belittle Shia who look to Sheikh Qassim for guidance, stating, “They never asked whether he was an honest man or just an imposter. Their tongues were knotted so they didn’t ask, their eyes were hypnotized so they didn’t see, and they lacked wisdom so they didn’t think.” Such language from the state’s prosecution encourages religious intolerance.

    His prosecution is alarming not just as a violation of his rights to a fair trial and citizenship, but also for its impact on Bahraini religious freedoms. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms’ (USCIRF) latest annual report categorises Bahrain as a Tier 2 country, which is defined as one “in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [Countries of Particular Concern] standard.” USCIRF found a deterioration in the religious freedoms of Bahrain’s Shia, and highlights Sheikh Qassim’s nationality revocation and prosecution as a key, negative development.[2]

    The violation of Sheikh Qassim’s rights has led to further grave violations: On 26 January 2017, masked, plainclothes officers shot live ammunition against the peaceful sit-in outside his home in Duraz, fatally wounding 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan, who died in March. No government entity has acknowledged responsibility for this attack nor have any independent and impartial investigations occurred to date.[3]

    Additionally, authorities have barred any Friday prayers from being held at the Imam Sadiq mosque, where Sheikh Qassim normally preaches, since June 2016. Over 80 Shia clerics have been subject to harassment in the past year. At least nine clerics have been sentenced to prison for “illegal gathering” and expression-related offences.

    The rendering stateless of Sheikh Isa Qassim violates his right to nationality, as enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). His trial in absentia constitutes a violation of his right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 11 of the UDHR and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, his prosecution appears to threaten the right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 18 of the UDHR and ICCPR, of both Sheikh Qassim and his followers, as it disrupts their normal religious life without cause, as well as the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR.

    We urgently request ahead of the 7 May trial that you to call on Bahrain to drop the charges against Sheikh Isa Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, and to reverse Royal Decree 55/2016 which rendered Sheikh Isa Qassim stateless.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Bahrain Interfaith

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    ARTICLE 19

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

     

    [2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2017 Annual Report, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2017.USCIRFAnnualReport.pdf.

    [3] Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan Dies After Security Forces Shooting, 24 March 2017, http://birdbh.org/2017/03/18-year-old-mustafa-hamdan-dies-after-security-forces-shooting/.

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    Mr. Rex Tillerson
    Secretary of State
    United States
    Department of State
    2201 C Street NW
    Washington, DC 20520
     
    4 May 2017
     
    Secretary Tillerson,
     

    We, the undersigned, write to you in advance of the 7 May 2017 trial of Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli in Bahrain. We urgently request that you publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to drop the politically-motivated charges against these three men, and to call for Royal Decree 55/2016, which stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship and rendered him stateless to be dropped ahead of his trial in absentia.

    Five UN Special Rapporteurs last year expressed concern over the systematic persecution[1] and repression of Bahrain’s Shia. Sheikh Qassim’s prosecution deepens that persecution. The stripping of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship and his prosecution appear to be reprisals against his expression as a prominent Bahraini figure. Sheikh Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain, holds the rank of Ayatollah. He preaches in Duraz at the Imam Sadiq mosque, the largest Shia mosque in the country, and is seen by the majority of the Shia population as their spiritual leader. Sheikh Qassim was one of twenty-two elected members of the Constitutional Assembly, which in 1972 met, debated and wrote Bahrain’s first constitution. He was a Member of Parliament in the 1973 National Assembly, and following its dissolution in 1975 he directed his energies to his duties as a religious cleric.

    The revocation of his citizenship in June 2016 and his continued prosecution in absentia, alongside Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, constitute violations of their rights to nationality and a fair trial. Moreover, the charges and method of prosecution appear to represent infringements of their right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

    Sheikh Qassim was rendered stateless by order of the Minister of Interior on 20 June. This was formalised soon after by Royal Decree 55/2016. Since that date, Sheikh Qassim’s hometown of Duraz has been under constant police blockade, and a sit-in outside his house has continued from that date to the present.

    Sheikh Qassim was charged with money laundering, in reference to his role in the collection and redistribution of khums, an obligatory religious donation for Shia Muslims which is spent for religious and charitable purposes. Sheikh Qassim never received a summons, and his office was searched without warrant. The Public Prosecution states that, “He directed them [his followers] to break the law and to turn against their country and its fortunes,” and describes him as, “one who allowed himself to follow the law of the jungle.” The Prosecution belittle Shia who look to Sheikh Qassim for guidance, stating, “They never asked whether he was an honest man or just an imposter. Their tongues were knotted so they didn’t ask, their eyes were hypnotized so they didn’t see, and they lacked wisdom so they didn’t think.” Such language from the state’s prosecution encourages religious intolerance.

    His prosecution is alarming not just as a violation of his rights to a fair trial and citizenship, but also for its impact on Bahraini religious freedoms. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms’ (USCIRF) latest annual report categorises Bahrain as a Tier 2 country, which is defined as one “in which the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’ CPC [Countries of Particular Concern] standard.” USCIRF found a deterioration in the religious freedoms of Bahrain’s Shia, and highlights Sheikh Qassim’s nationality revocation and prosecution as a key, negative development.[2]

    The violation of Sheikh Qassim’s rights has led to further grave violations: On 26 January 2017, masked, plainclothes officers shot live ammunition against the peaceful sit-in outside his home in Duraz, fatally wounding 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan, who died in March. No government entity has acknowledged responsibility for this attack nor have any independent and impartial investigations occurred to date.[3]

    Additionally, authorities have barred any Friday prayers from being held at the Imam Sadiq mosque, where Sheikh Qassim normally preaches, since June 2016. Over 80 Shia clerics have been subject to harassment in the past year. At least nine clerics have been sentenced to prison for “illegal gathering” and expression-related offences.

    The rendering stateless of Sheikh Isa Qassim violates his right to nationality, as enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). His trial in absentia constitutes a violation of his right to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 11 of the UDHR and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, his prosecution appears to threaten the right to freedom of religion, enshrined in Article 18 of the UDHR and ICCPR, of both Sheikh Qassim and his followers, as it disrupts their normal religious life without cause, as well as the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the UDHR and ICCPR.

    We urgently request ahead of the 7 May trial that you to call on Bahrain to drop the charges against Sheikh Isa Qassim, Sheikh Hussain Al-Mahroos and Mirza Al-Obaidli, and to reverse Royal Decree 55/2016 which rendered Sheikh Isa Qassim stateless.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Bahrain Interfaith

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    ARTICLE 19

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

     

    [2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2017 Annual Report, http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2017.USCIRFAnnualReport.pdf.

    [3] Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan Dies After Security Forces Shooting, 24 March 2017, http://birdbh.org/2017/03/18-year-old-mustafa-hamdan-dies-after-security-forces-shooting/.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the ongoing pretrial detention of its President Nabeel Rajab, who has been detained for 326 days on multiple charges. His next court appearances are on 16 and 17 May. BCHR is also concerned about the deterioration of Rajab’s health; he remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April following complications after surgery, and suffers from a number of health issues.

    On 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent surgery, and according to updates from family members, was forced to wear dirty clothing soaked with blood and not provided with access to hygiene products, despite having a deep surgical wound at risk of infection.  Two days after the surgery Rajab was returned to solitary confinement, and was therefore put in a position of increased risk of medical complications due to unsanitary prison conditions.

    Three days after he underwent surgery, on 8 April,  Rajab became increasingly unwell and shortly after his family visit  was rushed to Qalaa police hospital for emergency treatment. Rajab is receiving treatment related to complications following his surgery, after the wound became infected.

    At the time of writing, Rajab remains in Qaala clinic. The medical center is not a public hospital but a division of the Ministry of Interior. According to information received by BCHR, his weakened immune system is slowing down the recovery process. Rajab remains under the supervision of Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers at all times. Family members are allowed to visit the facility and speak to him on a regular basis.

    Prior to his most recent surgery, and in his current period of detention, Rajab was treated for gallbladder disease; he underwent a surgical cholecystectomy due to biliary colic and recurrent abdominal pain. Rajab also has a history of other medical conditions, including hypertension, gastritis, and degenerative disc disease. All of these conditions require timely, adequate and consistent medical care.

    Rajab is President of BCHR, as well as Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human RIghts (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. He has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression.

    On 2 April 2015, Rajab was interrogated and subsequently charged for allegedly “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country,” and “insulting a statutory body.” These charges related to tweets and retweets concerning the war on Yemen, and allegations of torture in Bahrain’s Jau prison. The first hearing for these charges was held on 12 July 2016. The trial was adjourned for the twelfth time on 22 March 2017, and rescheduled for 17 May 2017. Rajab is facing 15 years in prison if convicted of these charges. The court ordered the release of Rajab during his 8th hearing in December 2016 prior to its adjournment; however, he was immediately rearrested on new charges in relation to televised interviews he gave to members of the media in 2015.

    Charges in the second case against Rajab include allegedly spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the prestige of the state. The first hearing for this case was held on 23 January 2017. The trial has subsequently been postponed more than five times, and is now scheduled for 16 May 2017. If convicted of these charges Rajab is facing a prison sentence of three years.

    If convicted on all of the above charges Rajab faces a total of up to 18 years in prison.

    Rajab has also been charged for offences relating to articles he published in the French newspaper Le Monde, and the New York Times whilst imprisoned. Rajab is currently awaiting trial on these charges, and no trial dates have been set. Charges include allegedly “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state,” and “spread[ing] false information and tendentious rumours” that insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council states and harm their relations. Both of these cases remain with the Office of the Public Prosecution.

    The multiple charges against Rajab violate the universally recognised right to freedom of expression, and are indicative of the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society in Bahrain. The use of extensive pretrial detention contravenes international legal standards requiring detainees to be tried in a timely manner.

    BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Nabeel Rajab, and the inhumane and degrading treatment to which he has been subjected. BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to release Nabeel Rajab, and to ensure that he, and other political prisoners are provided with adequate medical care. 

    BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press for the release of Nabeel Rajab and other political prisoners, to call on Bahrain to respect and uphold basic human rights, and to provide adequate and timely medical care to detainees.

    You can follow updates on Nabeel Rajab’s case here.

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