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    Mr. Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, United States

    Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary, United Kingdom

    Prince Zeid, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion

    High Representative Ms. Federica Mogherini, European External Action Service
    Stavros Lambrinidis, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights

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

    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 the reversal of Royal Decree 55/2016, which stripped Sheikh Qassim of his citizenship and rendered him stateless.

    The stripping of Sheikh Qassim’s citizenship and his prosecution appear to be reprisals against his expression as a prominent Bahraini figure. Sheikh Qassim is the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain, holding 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 his rights to nationality and a fair trial. Moreover, the charges and method of prosecution appear to represent infringements of the freedom of religion.

    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.

    In their legal arguments, seen by NGOs, the Public Prosecution has resorted to name-calling against Sheikh Qassim and insulting his followers, stating, “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.” 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.

    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 investigations occurred to date.

    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 religious freedoms, 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.

    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 him stateless.

     

    Yours Sincerely,

    Bahrain Interfaith

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

    ARTICLE 19

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

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    A total of 175 recommendations have been made to Bahrain by the Human Rights Council during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 1 May 2017.

    The Bahraini delegation in Geneva rejected criticism from UN member states despite evidence of human rights violations collected by many NGOs, including BCHR. Ahead of this review, many members of the main Bahraini human rights organizations had been prevented from travelling and taking part to the UPR process by the authorities. BCHR members have been particularly targeted, with four of our members affected by travel bans as an act of reprisals. The continued restrictions on NGOs and the recent travel bans, have sent a clear message to independent human rights organizations that there is no space for criticism in the international arena like the UN.

    Freedom of association and protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Many countries therefore recommended to Bahrain to uphold freedom of association and respect the work of human rights defenders. Ireland, in particular, recommended that Bahrain takes urgent steps to facilitate the work of civil society and human rights defenders, and guarantee protection of all persons from intimidation or reprisals for seeking to cooperate with the UN. Denmark recommend that Bahrain release all arbitrarily detained persons in Bahrain including Danish-Bahraini citizen Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja a victim of torture, who just suspended his hunger strike, following strong UPR recommendations made to Bahrain on the release of political prisoners and activists.

    Torture and death penalty

    On the 15th January 2017 three individuals, all alleged victims of torture were executed by Bahrain, ending an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. A number of the recommendations made to Bahrain in this UPR addressed the use of the death penalty in the country. Many countries recommended that Bahrain move towards the abolition of the death penalty and impose an official moratorium on the death penalty.

    Following Bahrain’s review by the UN Committee Against Torture, member states made numerous recommendations during Bahrain’s review.  Among others Belgium, Norway, Czech Republic, and Italy issued recommendations relating to the use of torture in Bahrain. Member states urged the state party to investigate allegations of torture, investigate individuals found responsible, and implement measures that allowed for the prosecution of perpetrators.

    Military Courts and Anti-terrorism Law

    Another particular concern was the use of military courts in Bahrain. The Netherlands recommend that Bahrain rescind the amendment of law 105b that allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if accused of terrorism. Czech Republic recommended that Bahrain review the Anti-terrorism law and its implementation in order to ensure it could not be abused for harassment, detention and prosecution of dissenters.

    Bahrain has made little progress implementing the recommendations it accepted during its last UPR in 2012. There has been no progress on essential rights reforms, BCHR therefore urges the Government to comply fully with the UPR recommendations it has accepted and to pledge to take further steps to implement the new UPR recommendations which have been formulated at this review.

     
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    Bahrain’s authorities have referred a civilian to trial before a military court for the first time since 2011, after the King of Bahrain ratified a disastrous constitutional amendment in April 2017. Bahrain’s public prosecution referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court earlier today.

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    Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) together with Access Now, Amnesty, Digitale Gesellschaft, Elektronisk Forpost Norge (EFN), Foundation for Information Policy Research, International Federation for Human Rights, Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, Liberty, Privacy International, and Reporters Without Borders have released a shared statement calling on the European Commission to focus on human rights when updating its legislation on the export of dual-use items. See the statement below and in pdf format here.

    Introduction

    The NGOs below welcome the proposal of the European Commission to update controls on the export of dual-use items, which represents an important effort to make human rights central to European Union trade policy.

    By expanding the definition of dual-use goods, and specifically including cyber-surveillance technologies, the Commission proposal recognizes that digital surveillance gravely threatens human rights; especially the right to privacy and freedom of expression. It poses a threat to the ability of human rights groups, journalists and activists to fulfill their watchdog role.

    The proposal – by the explicit inclusion of human rights considerations – is also an important recognition of the pre-existing responsibilities of both states and businesses. Under international human rights law, states have a responsibility to protect people against human rights abuses by non-state actors, including by regulating such non-state actors under their controls to prevent them from causing or contributing to human rights abuses in other countries. Companies also have a pre-existing responsibility to respect human rights in their operations, including by carrying out human rights due diligence to “identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their human rights impacts.”

    We applaud these positive steps and express the hope that the proposal will lead to regulations that will provide a mechanism for the realization of these human rights responsibilities. During the implementation phase, member states should aim to ensure that all EU level unilateral changes are adopted within international export control control lists.

    In this spirit, we call attention to the following key areas which we hope can be further improved.

    1. Human Rights Protections Must be Strengthened

    Content of human rights considerations should be strengthened. Article 8, Article 4(1)(d) and Article 14 contain language regarding the consideration of human rights either in decisions on whether to subject non-listed dual-items to licensing, or whether to grant export licenses. However, these clauses either lack specificity (in the case of the latter) or contain limitations (in the case of the former).

    These clauses should be strengthened to guard against all risks to human rights and to recognize that serious human rights violations may occur outside situations of armed conflict or recognized situations of internal repression. In doing so, the proposal should require the consideration of relevant European human rights protections, such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as those developed by the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Court of Human Rights, such as the opinion in Zakharov v. Russia, which offers guidance on the specific safeguards needed to ensure that secret surveillance complies with human rights law. The EU should ensure that the same human rights standards apply abroad as do inside the EU.

    Exports that pose a substantial risk to human rights must be denied. Article 14(1)(b) requires only that the competent authorities in Member States – when considering export authorizations –“take into account… respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law,” while Article 14(1)(c) mandates consideration of the internal situation in that country, such as the existence of armed conflict. However, Article 14 does not mandate a denial of export licenses in cases where the consideration of the above criteria reveal human rights concerns.

    The proposal should make clear that states are required to deny export licenses where there is a substantial risk that those exports could be used to violate human rights.

    The proposal should also make clear that where there is no legal framework in place in a destination governing the use of a surveillance item, or where the legal framework for its use falls short of international human rights law or standards, the export must be denied.

    2. All Relevant Surveillance Technology Must be Covered

    A mechanism to update the EU control list should be agreed, which will decide on updates to the EU control list in a transparent and consultative manner, taking into account the expertise of all stakeholders, including civil society, and international human rights law.

    The extension of the catch-all clause in the proposal is a welcome step which holds the potential to help future-proof export controls by allowing for the inclusion of new and emerging dual-use technology on the basis of the potential for human rights harms.

    However, as drafted, the catch-all clauses do not adequately clarify the responsibilities of either states or businesses to assess the human rights risks posed by non-listed dual-use items. As such, this clause risks failing to achieve its human rights potential.

    These requirements must be strengthened if they are to have a meaningful application. The human rights responsibilities of companies to investigate, prevent and mitigate human rights risks, as well as the obligations of states to oversee and regulate this process, must be clarified in order to ensure that all relevant dual-use technology is subject to licensing.

    3. Greater Transparency is Needed

    Transparency regarding export licenses granted, and denied, including information regarding the type of equipment concerned, the product category, description, value, destination country and end use/end user is crucial in enabling parliaments, civil society, industry, and the broader public – both in the EU and in recipient countries – to meaningfully scrutinize the human rights impact of the trade in dual-use items.

    The Commission proposal contains provisions for the publication of an annual report by the Commission to the Parliament and Council, as well as requirements for publication when a non-listed dual-use item is subjected to authorization procedures by a member state. However, as it stands, neither of these provisions require a sufficient amount of detail.

    The proposal should be amended to require that member states publicly disclose – at a minimum – information regarding individual license approvals and denials, the type of equipment concerned, the product category, description, value, destination country and end use/end user as well as the reasons for the approval or denial of licenses.

    4. Protect Security Research and Security Tools

    The proposal states, in the preamble, that export controls should “not prevent the export of information and communication technology used for legitimate purposes, including law enforcement and internet security research.” To reinforce the above principle currently stated in the preamble, the new regulation should include clear and enforceable safeguards for the export of information and communication technology used for legitimate purposes and internet security research.

    First, the proposal should go still further to clarify that definitions of terms such as “intrusion software,” “technical assistance” and “intangible technology transfers” shall not be construed to cover uses such as private exploitation research, and legitimate security items such as anti-virus products, fuzzers, defensive pentesting, zero day exploits/vulnerabilities/proof of concepts, exploit generation software and jailbreak software. More and better defined exceptions for security research are required.

    Second, the control language should be amended to prevent these sorts of overbreadth, taking into account the chilling effect of any language and also focusing on the intent of the exporter, in order to ensure that no offensive tools are controlled if they are used for defensive purposes. This should be accomplished via an inclusive consultation that takes account of specialized expertise in this area. If an item does not meet these requirements, it should be removed from the control list.

    Third, cryptography items should be removed from the list, and no new items added where their inclusion undermines security research, such as forensics tools. Encryption is essential in supporting the safety and security of users, companies, and governments everywhere by strengthening the integrity of communications and systems.

    *  *  *

    We look forward to continuing to contribute to this process. Further information can be found at the individual websites of member organizations.

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    (Beirut) – Bahraini authorities denied an entry visa this morning to a Human Rights Watch researcher.

    In recent years, Bahrain has denied entry to scores of human rights advocates and critical journalists, as well as the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and jailed Bahraini rights defenders.

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    Bahraini immigration authorities should grant freelance journalist Robert Kempe a visa and ensure that journalists are able to cover international events in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Kempe told CPJ that Bahrain denied him a visa to cover FIFA's 2017 Congress, which is being held in the capital Manama today and tomorrow, for the German broadcaster ARD.

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    May 12, 2017: The United Nations Committee against Torture today issued a strong critique of the Bahrain record on torture. 

    The concluding observations noted “with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, in particular BCHR President Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja former BCHR President. The committee urged Bahrain to release human rights defenders who are deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their human rights work.

    “The Committee against Torture clearly rejected the argument made by the Bahraini Government that counter-terrorism would be a valid excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture activists and political prisoners”, BCHR said today. 

    The Committee also said that Bahrain has largely failed to prosecute torture cases despite hundreds of allegations of torture in its detention facilities in the past few years, including many documented by BCHR.

    As a matter of priority, the Committee also calls on the Bahraini Government to re-establish a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty and is “gravely concerned” over reports that the trials of the three men convicted for killing three police officers in 2014 were based on confessions obtained under torture. 

    Other problems the committee flagged include domestic violence and the practices of housing children in adult jails and prisons.

    The Committee against Torture is an international body of experts that monitors state compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

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    Bahrain detained three activists over protests targeting the tiny island nation's king during a royal horse show in the United Kingdom, a fellow campaigner said Saturday.

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said those detained include his sister, Sayed Ahmed.

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    The UN Committee Against Torture has urged Bahrain to end the use of torture, and to retry protesters who are facing the death penalty.

    The UN’s report – released today – comes as the King of Bahrain meets with the UK Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa is ‘hosting’ the Queen at the annual show, in a ‘Kingdom of Bahrain Lounge’.

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    The United Nations Committee against Torture on Friday called on Bahrain to release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

    Bahrain's mainly Shi'ite Muslim-led opposition has faced a government crackdown since last year in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom. The Western-allied government closed down the main opposition al-Wefaq group, arrested Rajab and revoked the citizenship of Shi'ite spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim.

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    In April 2017 the King of Bahrain ratified a constitutional amendment that allows civilians to be tried in military courts. On 9 May 2017 Bahraini authorities referred a civilian to trial before military courts for the first time since 2011. The Public Prosecution Office referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court.

    Radhi was subjected to enforced disappearance following his arrest on 29 September 2016 by officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He was arrested at his home in Hamad Town during an early morning house raid. Officers asked for Radhi upon entering the home and placed him immediately in handcuffs and under arrest. The security officials were dressed in civilian clothes and failed to show any arrest or search warrants. Despite the Public Prosecution Office granting Radhi permission for four visits the CID refused to facilitate these visits.

    Following his initial arrest his family were not told the grounds for his arrest or where he was being taken, they heard from Radhi two weeks after his arrest when he called and told them his whereabouts.

    During the seven months that he was held incommunicado Radhi was not allowed access to a lawyer and was only able to contact family members sporadically. Family members reported to BCHR that during a brief phone call that they received on 10 December 2016 Radhi’s voice sounded extremely weak, to the extent that his father was unable to recognise his voice. His family filed a case with the Ombudsman in an attempt to gain visitation, and also approached the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) for help.

    The family were told on 9 May 2017 by the Office of the Public Prosecution that Radhi’s case had been transferred to the military court. By transferring Radhi’s case to the military court there are raised  concerns that more cases will be referred to military courts in the near future.

    The international community has expressed concern about the trying of civilians in military court. Both the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both held that military courts should not be used to try civilians.

    During Bahrain’s most recent UN Universal Periodic Review (May 2017) numerous countries expressed concern over the use of military courts to try civilians in military courts, among others, the Netherlands recommended that Bahrain rescind the amendment of law 105(b) that allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if charged of terrorism offences. Czech Republic further recommended that Bahrain review the broad anti-terrorism law and its implementation to ensure that it could not be abused, and used for the harassment, detention and prosecution of dissenters.

    Furthermore, incommunicado detention is considered by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture as a facilitator of the perpetration of torture, and can, in itself, constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Removing detainees from contact with the outside world provides a period of time where individuals can be subjected to torture to force confessions.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the use of military courts to try civilians and asks the government of Bahrain to:

    • Reverse the amendment to the constitution allowing for individuals to be tried in military courts;

    • Allow prisoners access to legal representation and regular visitation with their families;

    • Stop the practice of incommunicado detention in line with international law and regulations;

    • Immediately released Radhi who has been denied access to correct legal procedure

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    On 5 May, Nizar al-Qari, a member of the opposition party al-Wefaq, was arrested and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where he alleges he was deprived of sleep and handcuffed behind his back for long periods of his detention. On 8 May, he was charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz” and taken back to the CID where he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

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    Paris-Geneva, May 15, 2017 -Ahead of two imminent trial hearings, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab, whose health is deteriorating owing to almost a year in arbitrary detention for denouncing Bahrain’s human rights violations.

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    In recent weeks, the Government of Bahrain has substantially escalated its campaign of reprisals against the country’s civil and political societies. So far in the month of May 2017, authorities have targeted family members of exiled human rights defenders and turned a blind eye to the violent intimidation of Bahraini activists and political figures. We in the Bahrain human rights community are deeply disturbed by these acts of reprisal by the government and its perpetuation of a culture of impunity for such abuses. We vehemently condemn these reprisals and call on the government to discontinue these acts immediately. Lastly, we call on the government to allow for international experts to investigate these cases.

    Civil and political society leaders have been subject to a pattern of intimidation, as unknown actors have vandalized and destroyed their property with apparent impunity. On 4 May, Salman al-Mahfoodh, former General Secretary of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, had his windshield smashed and another car burned by unknown agents outside his home. Similarly, on 7 May, the car of Khalil al-Marzooq, former Deputy Secretary General of the now-dissolved al-Wefaq political society, caught fire at dawn outside his home. The fire was attributed to an “electrical short circuit.” Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was also subject to intimidation. On 12 May, government-backed newspaper Al Ayam ran a front-page story accusing human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh of fabricating documentation of rights violations. Days later, at dawn on 15 May, al-Saegh’s car was incinerated in a fire. The Ministry of Interior released a statement on twitter indicating that the fire was, again, the result of a “short circuit.” The pattern of car fires points to targeted, planned acts of intimidation against members of Bahrain’s independent civil society. Moreover, the Ministry of Interior’s dismissal of possible arson cases exhibits a culture of impunity.

    Meanwhile, activists outside Bahrain have also come under increasing pressure. Over the weekend, Bahrain’s King Hamad traveled to the United Kingdom for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which Bahrain sponsors, and where activists also traveled to protest the king’s presence at the event.

    In response, the government targeted the Bahraini family members of activists. These activists, including Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, had immediate family members summoned to Muharraq police station. Once there, government security officers forced them to call the demonstrators in Britain to ask them to stop their protests. One activist whose family was targeted, Yousif al-Hoori, based in Berlin, did not even attend the protest, but merely voiced his support for the demonstration. The authorities summoned Yousif’s father and sister and reportedly forced them to tell Yousif that if he did not apologize to Bahrain’s king, they would not be released. The reprisals and threats facing activists and their families around the Royal Windsor Horse Show came just days after NGOs wrote to the organizers of the event, HPower Group and Buckingham Palace, calling on them to sever ties with the Kingdom of Bahrain due to the escalation of human rights abuses.

    “These latest acts of reprisal against activists inside and outside Bahrain are completely inexcusable. It is clear that the Government of Bahrain is willing to use both judicial and extrajudicial means to crack down on any and all dissent in the country,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director for Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “In recent months, the Bahraini government has increasingly militarized institutions in the kingdom, while also turning a blind eye toward violent reprisals. As a result, the government has lost all credibility to carry out independent and effective investigations into these crimes, and end the pervasive culture of impunity.”

    Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD): “Bahrain is resorting to thuggery to silence its critics. My family is being intimidated and my in-laws are currently detained and tortured, all as an attempt to silence my human rights work. This is how mafias operate, not governments. But the Bahraini government’s allies in Washington and London give them the green light to continue committing crimes against Bahraini people.”

    Sayed Alwadaei’s brother-in-law Nazar Sayed Namaa Alwadaei and mother-in-law Hajar Mansoor Hassan have been detained since March 2017 and subjected to torture and fabricated charges in an attempt to blackmail him. Nazar Alwadaei faces trial on 21 May and 22 May; Hajar Mansoor Hassan faces trial on 22 May.

    These acts of reprisal are not new in Bahrain. Over the past year, civil and political societies have faced rising pressure. Arbitrary travel bans restricted independent Bahraini activists from taking part in the 32nd and 33rd sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, and from attending Bahrain’s third cycle Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. In May, the government imposed travel bans on over thirty members of independent political and civil society, often accompanied by arbitrary charges of participating in “illegal gatherings.” During the 34th Session of the HRC in March 2017, family members of activists attending the HRC were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and mistreated to coerce false confessions on unfounded charges. These also included relatives of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei and Ebtisam al-Saegh.

    In a statement addressing these recent reprisals, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights stated, “The civil society in Bahrain has been severely attacked in the past few months, with members of BCHR and of other human rights groups repeatedly subjected to summons for interrogations, travel bans and threats directed at them and at their families. The rising impunity culture encouraged by the government of Bahrain and its relentless attacks against all human rights defenders,journalists, political figures and demonstrators have further instilled a culture of fear among the larger population, thus preventing the civil society from documenting human rights abuses by the government in Bahrain.”

    Impunity for acts of vandalism and intimidation targeting civil society actors is also not unprecedented in Bahrain. In a prominent case that occurred in 2012, looters were caught on camera destroying a shop owned by a Shia proprietor while security forces appeared to stand by without preventing damage to the shop or arresting the perpetrators.

    These recent acts of reprisals also appear to be the latest brazen challenge to the international community, and to Bahrain’s key allies in terms of human rights credibility. By targeting activists and their family members for peacefully protesting in the United Kingdom, a key Western ally for Bahrain, the kingdom is actively testing the limits of its international partnerships if they can withstand such flagrant abuses. The UK has thus far continued to support Bahrain with an unconditional package of technical assistance, at a cost of over £5m to British tax payers. NGOs have called for the suspension of the assistance due to a lack of substantive results. In the United States, Donald Trump is set to make his first international trip as President of the United States to the Arab Gulf region, as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a major arms package to Bahrain without the human rights conditions of the previous administration. If these allies turn a blind eye to such blatant human rights violations or, worse yet, reward the kingdom with an unconditional arms package, it could have devastating consequences for the future stability of the kingdom.

    We, therefore, call on the Government of Bahrain to cease all forms of reprisal against Bahraini civil and political societies and activists, and to release all prisoners held in relation to their peaceful expression of their universal human rights. We also call on the international community to press Bahrain to allow independent international human rights experts to carry out investigations into these and other cases of harassment or reprisal.

     

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

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    Today’s Court decision to postpone Nabeel Rajab’s case is a travesty of justice, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said today.  BCHR President has been held in detention since his arrest on 2 April 2016, far beyond the six months limit for pre-trial detention under Bahraini Law. Numerous requests for release on bail have been rejected which amount to arbitrary detention, according to international standards.

    “The Bahraini authorities should grant bail to Nabeel Rajab and investigate allegations of abuse and denial of medical care, as recommended by the UN a few days ago. Furthermore all charges related to freedom of expression should be dropped”, said Sheikh DR Maytham Al Salman, BCHR Senior Advisor.

    Nabeel Rajab remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April following complications related to a surgical procedure he underwent on 5 April. Complications occurred after he was denied adequate medical care and sent back to the police station, only 2 days after the surgery.

    Rajab’s most recent trials were on 16 and 17 May, for charges relating to televised interviews given to the international press and comments made on social media. Both trials have been postponed. Rajab’s next trials are scheduled for 30 May and 14 June.

    In its concluding observations the United Nations Committee against Torture  noted “with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab. The committee urged Bahrain to release human rights defenders who are deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their human rights work.

    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. Rajab 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 on social media concerning the ongoing war in Yemen, and allegations of torture in Jau Prison. Rajab’s trial for these charges has been adjourned and subsequently postponed a total of 13times. The next trial is scheduled for 14 June.If convicted of these charges Rajab faces a total sentence of 15 years in prison.  Rajab’s release was ordered during the eighth hearing held in December 2016, however he was immediately rearrested on new charges.

    The second case against Rajab relates to charges of allegedly spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the prestige of the state in relation to televised media interviews that he gave. The Bahraini courts have postponed this trial 6times. The next trial in this case is scheduled for 30 May. 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 with offences that relate to articles he published whilst detained in pretrial detention in international newspapers Le Monde and the New York Times. Rajab is currently awaiting trial on these charges, and as of yet no trial date has 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. Both of these cases remaing with the Office of the Public Prosecution.

    BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Rajab, and the inhuman and degrading treatment that he has been subjected too. BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press the Bahraini government for the release of Nabeel Rajab  and human rights defenders that are persecuted and imprisoned in Bahrain.

     

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    A leading Bahraini human rights activist was denied bail on Tuesday on charges of writing an editorial critical of the government, a pro-opposition rights group reported.

    The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy added that Nabeel Rajab's health is deteriorating after he underwent an operation last month for bleeding ulcers.

    There was no immediate government comment on the report.

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    In January 2017, Bahrain carried out the politically-motivated executions of three men – Abbas al-Samea, Sami Mushaima and Ali al-Singace. All were sentenced to death on the basis of forced ‘confessions’ given under torture. Two more prisoners – Mohamed Ramadhan and Husain Moosa – face imminent execution. Both were tortured into providing false confessions and then sentenced on the basis of torture confessions.

    Amid these abuses, there are worrying signs that Britain is helping to prop up Bahrain’s death penalty system.

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    On Tuesday 16 May, Amnesty International launched its new global campaign BRAVE to bring attention to the attacks on human rights defenders and activists worldwide. As part of the campaign, Amnesty published the report Human Rights Defenders Under Threat - A Shrinking Space for Civil Society.

    The report examines the measures that are used to silence dissent and attack human rights defenders. Amnesty International calls on states, companies and international and regional human rights bodies to take action to protect and promote the work of human rights defenders. 

    In the report, Bahrain is used as one of the examples in the sections on surveillance, restrictions on foreign funding and NGO registration, as examples of methods used to silence human rights defenders and activists. 

    Read Amnesty's report here

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    Nizar Al Qari, a member of the leading opposition party Al Wefaq, was arrested on 5 May and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). The Bahrain Center for Human Rights are concerned that Al Qari is at risk of torture and ill-treatment whilst detained at the CID.

    BCHR Senior Advisor, Sheikh Dr Maytham Al Salman, has said that “Nizar Al Qari is being punished for practicing his right in freedom of expression. The charge of illegal gathering in Duraz is factless and nothing more than an excuse to arrest Nizar

    Al Qari was arrested in the afternoon on 5 May by officers dressed in civilian clothing whilst he was at his father in law’s house in Rifa’a. Security officers presented  a summons that failed to provide a reason for the arrest. On the night of his arrest, at around 12:30am, family members report that they received a phone call from Al Qari during which  he said that he was being held at the CID but had yet to be questioned. Al Qari did not have access to a lawyer at this time.

    On 8 May Al Qari’s legal representation saw Al Qari’s name on a list at the Public Prosecution Office, but was not permitted to attend his interrogation, he saw Al Qari for five minutes after his interrogation had taken place. During this meeting Al Qari told his lawyer that during his detention he had allegedly been subjected to sleep deprivation, and that his hands had been handcuffed behind his back for an extensive period of time. He also told his lawyer that he had been charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz,” and that his detention had been extended to 30 days and that he was to be transferred to Dry Dock Prison. As reported by family members, Al Qari was not transferred to Dry Dock Prison but taken back to the CID.

    On 8 May, Al Qari called his family, and requested that his family bring clothes and medication to his place of detention. Al Qari suffers from numerous health conditions including asthma, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. His family delivered these items to the CID, however, they are unsure if he received them due to Al Qari’s repeated requests on 10 and 14 May. During a phone call on 10 May, Al Qari said that he couldn’t speak, his family also reported that he cried throughout the call. On 14 May Al Qari called again, the family report hearing a voice allegedly telling Al Qari what to say during the phone call. Family members also report that he repeatedly said that he was innocent, and that he said ‘bury me next to my sister.’ The phone call was ended abruptly when family members asked Al Qari why he was saying that, and asked if he was being tortured.

    Members of Al Qari’s family have submitted complaints to the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior. They have yet to be informed of status of these complaints, or of any investigation conducted. Amnesty International also report that the homes of Al Qari’s father in law, and wife were searched, and electronic devices such as laptops and memory drives were confiscated.

    Members of political opposition parties in Bahrain have been subjected to an intensified crackdown orchestrated by the government to silence dissent. In July 2014 Khalil al Marzooq, Assistant Secretary General of Al Wefaq, and its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman were questioned and charged with “meeting with foreign government officials without notifying the Bahraini government and without the presence of a Bahraini official.” These charges occurred after they attended meetings with the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

    This crackdown against political activists, and opposition parties was intensified following the forcible dissolution of Al Wefaq in July 2016. Al Wefaq was the largest political opposition group in Bahrain. The dissolution of Al Wefaq was confirmed in September 2016 by Bahrain’s High Court of Appeals.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges the government of Bahrain to disclose Al Qari’s legal status, allow Al Qari access to legal representation in line with international protocol, and to ensure that Al Qari receives timely and adequate medical care. BCHR further recommend that allegations of torture, or other ill-treatment, submitted to internal human rights mechanisms by Al Qari’s family are promptly and effectively investigated.

     
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    On Tuesday the detention of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was extended once again when Bahraini courts denied his request for bail and postponed the first of his two trials until 30 May.

    Rajab, whose second trial was scheduled for today, was unable to appear in court due to deteriorating health, resulting in him being taken to a hospital.

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