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    Tuesday 13 June marks the one-year anniversary of Nabeel Rajab’s incarceration on remand. The Bahraini human rights activist was arrested at his home in the village of Bani Jamra in the early hours of the morning in June of last year and bundled off to a police cell. His trial has been postponed eight times on the most spurious of grounds.

    Read the article here.

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    One year ago, on 13 June 2016, Nabeel Rajab was arrested from his home, one day before he was due to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council. One year on, Nabeel Rajab remains in jail; his health has gravely deteriorated, and he has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement.

    Nabeel Rajab is a leading human rights defender in the Arab world, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee.

    For 365 days Rajab has been held in detention, sometimes in squalid conditions, while awaiting trial, on charges relating to tweets and retweets made on social media related to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and torture in Jau prison, as well as interviews he gave to foreign media outlets. Freedom of expression is a right protected by international law yet Rajab is now facing up to 18 years in prison for using his voice to alert the world about human rights abuses in the Arab region.

    Since 2005, Rajab has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression, assembly and opinion. Rajab has been imprisoned multiple times since he came to the forefront of human rights activism in Bahrain. In 2011, he was briefly detained for his role in the pro-democracy protests, after being arrested in his home by dozens of masked men. He was allegedly blindfolded, handcuffed, and put in the back of a car before being verbally abused, beaten, and threatened with rape. In the following year, 2012, Rajab was jailed for two years for “calling for an illegal gathering.” In 2015, Rajab served a six-month prison sentence for “publicly insulting official institutions” on social media.

    Rajab was most recently arrested on 13 June 2016 and charged with “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 interviews with the media. These charges carry a maximum sentence of three years. In another case, charges relating to tweets and retweets include “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country” and “insulting a statutory body.” If convicted of these charges Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison. There are also pending charges for articles Rajab published in the New York Times and Le Monde while detained. The publication of these articles resulted in Rajab being taken for interrogation and new charges being brought against him. Both articles called on the international community to address the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain, including describing poor conditions in detention.

    During this past year of detention Rajab has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement, and has suffered from deteriorating health, exacerbated by poor conditions in jail.

    Rajab has a history of medical conditions, including hypertension, gastritis, and degenerative disk disease. During his current period of detention, Rajab has been treated for gallbladder disease; he underwent a surgical cholecystectomy due to biliary colic and recurrent abdominal pain. Most recently, on 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers. According to family members, Rajab was forced to wear dirty clothes soaked with blood and was denied 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, where the unsanitary conditions increased the risk of post-surgical infection and other medical complications.

    The day after he was returned to jail, Rajab became increasingly unwell, and shortly after a visit with his family, he was rushed to Qaala police clinic 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 police clinic. The clinic is not a public hospital but a division of the Ministry of Interior. Information received by BCHR indicates that Rajab’s weakened immune system is slowing the recovery process. Rajab remains under the supervision of Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) officers at all times.

    The detention of Rajab is not only in violation of international regulations concerning freedom of expression and association, but also in violation of international protocols governing the rights of prisoners and detained persons. Rajab has been held in solitary confinement for extensive periods of time, and has been denied access to adequate and timely medical care on numerous occasions.

    In the past year, members of the international community, including UN bodies and government delegations, have expressed concerns over the continued pre-trial detention of Rajab, the extensive use of solitary confinement, and his limited access to medical care. Most recently, the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern over the amount of time that Rajab had been remanded in solitary confinement, stating that if used extensively solitary confinement can constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as defined by the Convention Against Torture.

    In May 2017, during Bahrain’s annual UN Universal Periodic Review, UN member states expressed concern at the detention and mistreatment of human rights defenders, including Rajab. On 14 March 2017, at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the Swiss delegation called for the release of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Rajab.  In December 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the ongoing prosecution of Rajab, and called for his immediate and unconditional release. Prior to this, in October 2016, the United States State Department rejected the charges against Rajab and called for his release; this was later confirmed by then US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, who also called for his immediate release. It has also recently become known that one of the conditions attached to the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain by President Barack Obama was the release of Rajab.

    In spite of the expression of concern, and the call for his release, issued by numerous international organisations, and governmental bodies, the Bahraini authorities continue to retain Rajab in pretrial custody, and often in solitary confinement.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights appeals for its President Nabeel Rajab to be released immediately, and for the charges against him to be dropped. BCHR also urges the government of Bahrain to ensure that Rajab and other political prisoners receive adequate and timely medical care in line with international protocols and regulations pertaining to prisoners and detained individuals.

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    We, the undersigned, express our deep concern over the continued detention of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, on the first anniversary of his arrest. We urge you to call for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

    Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016. He remains detained despite a court order to release him on 28 December 2016. He faces three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 23 times. In all cases, Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars.

    Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division advisory committee. Rajab has repeatedly spoken out about human rights violations in Bahrain, resulting in him being in and out of prison since 2012. In one of the three cases against him, in which he faces up to 15 years in prison, Rajab was charged in relation to his social media posts with: “insulting a statutory body”; “spreading rumours in war time”; and “insulting a neighbouring country.” In another of the three cases, Rajab faces up to three years in prison on charges of “spreading false news”, in relation to interviews given to the media. In September 2016, he was charged again with “spreading false news” after the New York Times published a letter in his name.

    Rajab has spent nine and a half of the past twelve months in solitary confinement. In May 2017, the UN Committee Against Torture identified Rajab’s case of concern, and called for his release, as well as all human rights defenders and journalists detained and imprisoned for their work in Bahrain.

    We are particularly concerned about Rajab’s health, which continues to deteriorate due to poor conditions and mistreatment. On Wednesday, 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent major surgery at a military hospital. Against medical advice, he was returned to his cell at East Riffa Police Station two days later. The following day he was rushed to the police clinic for emergency treatment. On 7 June, he underwent minor surgery. Rajab’s health prevents him from attending his court hearings. The presiding judge has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him on bail, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health.

    Urgent international pressure for Nabeel Rajab’s release is needed. We urge your delegations to call on Bahrain to end the unlawful detainment of Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately and unconditionally. As Adam Rajab, Nabeel Rajab’s son notes: “without international pressure we will not see him walk out of prison anytime soon.”

    Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration,

    Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
    Amnesty International
    ARTICLE 19
    Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
    CIVICUS
    English PEN
    European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
    FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights
    IFEX
    Index on Censorship
    PEN International
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights

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    Address made to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye.

    Mr. President, Mr. Special Rapporteur,

    I am making this statement on behalf of FIDH, OMCT Reporters Without Borders, IFEX,the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Gulf Center for Human Rights.

    One year ago, on that day, Nabeel Rajab was arrested from his home, one day before he was due to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. One year on, Nabeel Rajab remains in jail; his health is gravely deteriorating, he has been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, denied appropriate health care and he has spent extensive periods of time in solitary confinement. And still, this Council remains silent.

    Nabeel Rajab is a leading human rights defender in the Arab world, who is President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee.

    He has been held illegally pending trial for one year, only for expressing his opinions on social media, for tweets and retweets he made regarding the war in Yemen and allegations of torture in Bahraini prisons, in addition to media interviews. He faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

    Last year, human rights experts, including yourself, Mr. Special Rapporteur, called on the Bahraini government for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release, and for all charges against him relating to freedom of expression, to be dropped. A year ago there was some hope that the international community would support your call and pressure the Bahraini authorities to set him free. We are still waiting for this Council to act.

    This sad anniversary comes in the context of unprecedented harassment and violent pressure directed at all critical and independent voices in the media, political parties, and trade unions, which are fighting now simply to be allowed the right of peaceful expression. The numbers of individuals arrested over charges related to free expression on the Internet and social media websites have significantly increased. Journalists, human rights defenders, bloggers, and active members of civil society have been targeted by the government, including being interrogated, sexually assaulted and tortured and forced to stop their human rights activities. Foreign members of the media are being denied entry to the country, whilst Bahraini journalists are being denied licenses to work for foreign media outlets, like Nazeeha Saeed, an award-winning Bahrain correspondent for France 24 who was recently found guilty of reporting without a license. The crackdown directed at the human rights movement and the persecution of independent, critical voices in Bahrain is not only a challenge faced by activists like Nabeel Rajab and others. It is a decisive moment as well for the cohesion and stability of Bahrain. The targets of the government are currently all those critical and independent voices standing against social violence, violent extremism, terrorism, and sectarianism.

    Thank you

     
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    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

    The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about several acts of harassment targeting various human rights defenders throughout May 2017, including excessive use of force, ill-treatment and torture in custody and other acts of intimidation by Bahraini security forces.

    Read the article here.

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    On the anniversary of Nabeel Rajab’s arrest, 36 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from different political groups sent an open letter to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, urging her to call for his immediate release.

    Read the letter here.

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    IFEX member Nabeel Rajab has endured 1 year in pre-trial detention, with a further possibility of up to 18 years imprisonment, for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
    On the 1-year anniversary of his arrest, the IFEX network calls on Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab.

    Read the article here.

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) remains deeply concerned about the ongoing pre-trial detention of its President, Nabeel Rajab, which contravenes international standards in regard to the length of time individuals should be detained prior to legal proceedings. Nabeel Rajab, who is still hospitalized, should be released on bail on medical grounds.

    Rajab’s most recent trials were on 12 and 13 June for charges relating to televised interviews given to members of the international media and comments made on social media. The trial scheduled for 12 June was postponed to the following day. On 13 June, Rajab therefore faced two trials in absentia; one in the morning for comments on social media, and in the afternoon for interviews to international media. In both cases the Court postponed Rajab’s case, he now faces trial on 2 July for interviews given to the media, and on 7 August for charges relating to comments made on social media. Rajab’s arbitrary detention is therefore set to continue. In total Rajab faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.

    Rajab’s lawyers and diplomatic observers from the United Kingdom and Australia walked out of the courtroom during proceedings.

    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.

    Rajab has been detained since his arrest on 13 June 2016. He has spent much of his time in solitary confinement in Rifa’a police station. Conditions in the jail were at times deplorable, and are thought to have contributed to the deterioration of Rajab’s health. At the time of writing Rajab remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April for complications relating to a surgical procedure.  

    In May the United Nations Committee Against Torture noted with “deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Rajab. Fourteen human rights groups, including BCHR, BIRD and Index on Censorship wrote to UN member states urging them to call for Rajab’s release. On 13 June, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, called for the release of Rajab. On the same day 37 MEPs called on High Representative Federica Mogherini to call for the release of Rajab. In the United States, Congressman Jim McGovern addressed congress also calling for Rajab’s release.

    BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Rajab and calls on the government of Bahrain to release the human rights defender. BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press the Bahraini government for the release of Nabeel Rajab and all other human rights defenders that are targeted and imprisoned in Bahrain.

     
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    Representatives from Index on Censorship, English Pen, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, were present to show support for the 2012 Freedom of Expression Campaigning Award-winning Rajab in the face of his continued detainment.

    Read the article here.

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    Lawyers for a leading Bahraini human rights activist walked out of court after their demand to postpone the trial was rejected by the judge, a rights group reported on Wednesday.

    The lawyers asked the court to postpone the trial until Nabeel Rajab, hospitalised since April, could attend and defend himself, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.

    Read the article here.

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    GENEVA (16 June 2017) - A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged the Government of Bahrain to halt its orchestrated crackdown on civil society.

    “Over the past year, there has been a sharp deterioration of the human rights situation in the country,” the experts* said. “This has included unacceptable restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, aimed at muzzling any discordant voice and suppressing dissent.”

    Read the statement here.

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    (Beirut) – Bahraini authorities on June 4, 2017, ordered the immediate indefinite suspension of Al Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper, Human Rights Watch said today. The Bahrain authorities should immediately revoke the order. Al Wasat is one of the very few independent news sites in the entire Gulf region.
    Read the article here
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    GENEVA — A crackdown on human rights in Bahrain, including a resumption of executions and suppression of dissent, is likely to spark increased unrest, U.N. rights investigators said on Friday.

    U.S.-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, crushed mass protests by the Shi'ite Muslim majority in 2011 and the Sunni-led monarchy has kept a lid on unrest since then by closing Shi'ite-led opposition groups and prosecuting activists.

    Read the article here

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    On 20 June 2016, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) revoked the citizenship of a top Shia Muslim Leader, Sheikh Isa Qasim. Sheikh Qasim is the religious leader of the Shia Muslim community, and has been a leading figure in the introduction of democratic reform in Bahrain since the 1970s. Sheikh Qasim was sentenced on 21 May 2017 to one year in prison, suspended for three years, and ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 BHD on charges of alleged money laundering.  

    The MOI cited Article 10(c) of the Bahraini Nationality Law to justify its decision to revoke his citizenship. The law states that citizenship can be revoked if individuals “cause damage to the interest of the state or take action contrary to duty or loyalty to it.” The MOI further accused Sheikh Qasim of having “exploited the religious pulpit for political purposes.” The decision of the MOI to arbitrarily revoke the citizenship of the leading Shia cleric resulted in thousands of supporters spontaneously gathering in front of his house in Duraz in solidarity and in protest of the decision. The gathering turned into a sit-in towards the end of June 2016 and after people vowed not to leave the area, has continued for a whole year.

    Since the outset of the protests, Bahraini security forces have responded harshly. Arrests were made from the start, and countless individuals have been charged with illegally gathering in Duraz, in violation of their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. The authorities have made numerous attempts to limit participation in the protests in Duraz, have limited access to the town, and have employed deterrent methods such as issuing summons, and arresting individuals who take part in protests - or even who visit the area.

    In July 2016,  police established blockades closing most roads into and out of Duraz, all major and minor entrances have therefore been sealed off. Other entrances and exits were blocked with concrete slabs, sandbags, police cars, and barbed wire. Only two entrances were left open, and people were queueing to enter and exit the town. Checkpoints were controlled by various security personnel. Restrictions on free movement were intensified during Eid Al Fitr in July 2016; the celebration at the end of Ramadan, families were unable to visit relatives, and many were unable to participate in celebrations. Usually busy sites during Eid, such as Abu Subh beach, were virtually empty. The blockades have also had a social impact; clerics are not allowed to enter the area, affecting Friday prayers, and family members are not allowed to enter. Schools have also been affected, the school bus is not allowed to enter Duraz without authorisation by the MOI. This has resulted in children having to walk long distances to school.

    Since 23 June 2016, all major Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including the three largest, Batelco, Zain, and Viva, have enforced a daily Internet shutdown, most probably as a result of a device restriction order from the authorities. By limiting access to the Internet, e-commerce traders, IT professionals, and office workers are prevented from working effectively. Card payment machines have also been rendered useless during the shutdown, economically impacting businesses in the Duraz area. On 1 July 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a new resolution for the protection of freedoms on the Internet which “condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and call on states to refrain from and cease such measures.”

    Despite these increasingly harsh tactics protesters have continued to show their support to Sheikh Qasim.  

    Further developments in 2017

    On 26 January 2017, Bahraini security forces fired live ammunition at protesters in Duraz. It is unclear what branch the security officials involved in this attack operate. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) reported that the type of ammunition recovered from the area was consistent with the types of ammunition used by Bahrain’s riot police. During the attack several people were reported injured. Mustafa Ahmed Hamdan, aged 18, was shot in the head, and was taken to Salmaniya Medical Complex to receive emergency medical treatment. Hamdan died on 24 March, two months after the incident. He had been comatose since the shooting and suffered from numerous injuries including a skull fracture, concussion and internal bleeding. The Bahraini government failed to release any publicly available information on Hamdan’s shooting. The security forces were not made to accept responsibility, and no public investigation has taken place. Bahrain’s National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) issued a statement on 30 January acknowledging Hamdan had suffered a head injury, but blamed the incident on “two groups of masked men exchanging rockets and fires shooting.”

    Ahead of Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the United Nations in May 2017, 32 people were summoned for questioning by the Public Prosecution. As many as 24 of these individuals were charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz.” The majority of those charged are not residents of Duraz, and non-residents have been prevented from entering the town since 20 June 2016. The charges appear to have been used to stop them, and act as a deterrent to others, from criticising Bahrain during its UPR. Eight of those charged were told that they had been placed under a travel ban, and were therefore unable to leave the country. 19 of those summoned were human rights activists, others were journalists, members of the political opposition, and bloggers.  The protest in Duraz is being utilised by the Bahraini authorities as a ‘go-to’ charge for individuals who engage in civil society and human rights mechanisms, and prevented human rights activists from participating in the UPR.

    One year on from the revocation of Sheikh Qasim’s citizenship protesters continue to gather in Duraz in support of the cleric, and the Bahraini government still maintains a heavy security presence.

    Violent attacks in May 2017

    In May 2017, two days after United States President Donald Trump said international relations between Bahrain and the US were set to improve, and following the sentencing of Sheikh Isa Qasim, the government of Bahrain escalated its campaign in the besieged village of Duraz.

    On 23 May 2017, national security forces, including members of the special forces, entered Duraz and opened fire on the peaceful sit-in supporting Sheikh Qasim. The Bahraini Ministry of Interior has confirmed that five individuals were killed; reports also indicate that dozens of people were injured with bird shot pellets. Internet access was shut down during the raid on Duraz by security forces, effectively preventing individuals from easily disseminating information using social media platforms. On 25 May, it was reported that security forces remained in Duraz, and that house raids were still ongoing; the house of Sheikh Isa Qasim remains surrounded by police officers. According to information received from Qasim’s family members, residents of the house were prevented from accessing water. Individuals were being denied access to the town. There are also reports that many individuals have disappeared, and that family members are unaware of their whereabouts. In one case, a woman called her husband, and was told by the woman that answered that she had found mobile phones thrown on the streets.

    The families of those who were killed were taken to Budaiya police station, one member of each family was called in, had their mobile phone removed, and was asked to identify the victims. The five men were subsequently denied funeral rites, and buried in secret on 28 May, without the presence or consent of family members. The deceased have been named as Mohammed Al-Ekri, Mohammed Hamdan, Mohammed Alsari, Mohammed Zain Eldin and Ahmed Al-Asfoor.

    It is is believed that one of the victims, Ahmed Jameel Alasfoor, died from injuries sustained after his arrest. Mohamed Hasan Hamdan is the brother of Mustafa Hamdan, also killed in Duraz earlier this year. 

    The effect of this incident has been wide ranging; prisoners detained in Jau prison have been allegedly subjected to reprisals. Detainees have been stripped of their clothes, and subjected to beatings. All calls from inmates to their families have been stopped. Additionally, woman human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Sayegh was summoned to the National Security Agency  (NSA) and interrogated for seven hours without her lawyer being present. During the interrogation, Al-Sayegh reported being verbally abused and sexually assaulted. Following her release, Al-Sayegh was admitted to hospital, suffering from a nervous breakdown.  Other human rights activists who wish to remain anonymous have also reported being summoned to the NSA and interrogated in recent days. Those summoned were documenting and monitoring violations on the ground in Duraz  

    On 2 June, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on the Government of Bahrain to launch an independent and effective investigation into the deaths of five protesters during the operation in Duraz. Zeid urged “the government to investigate the events of 23 May, in particular the loss of lives, to ensure that the findings are made public and that those responsible are held accountable.” He also called on the authorities to release any individuals being detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

     

     
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    The Bahraini authorities should immediately ensure that the President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab, whose health is deteriorating has immediate access to his family and lawyers. His family reported that they have not been able to communicate with him since last week. BCHR is highly concerned over its President’s mental and physical health  as Rajab has been held in pre-trial detention for over a year now, which has taken a grave toll on his health. BCHR reiterates its call on the Bahraini authorities to release him on humanitarian grounds.

    Rajab’s health condition has steadily worsened during his lengthy detention; on 5 April he underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers. In that instance, he was allowed a minimum time in the medical facility before he was sent back to his prison cell. Due to the unhygienic detention conditions, Rajab developed a post-surgery infection and was rushed back to the Ministry of Interior hospital three days later. He has been slowly recovering ever since. Recently, however, his family reported that Rajab was facing harassment in the hospital and new orders to be transferred back to prison so he can be sentenced.

    It is unclear exactly what his health condition is at the moment as no calls or news of his condition have been released for the past week. As no information is known, the concern of BCHR is that Nabeel Rajab is unfit to be released from hospital and his health may suffer again if he is send back too soon.

    16 June 2017 marked one year in pre-trial detention based on charges related to tweets and re-tweets related to allegations of torture among political inmates in Bahrain’s Jau prison, and on charges based on his interviews with the foreign press. The trial related to the press interviews was postponed from 12 to 13, and yet again to 14 June, the same date he was scheduled for his trial on tweets and re-tweets. On 14 June, his lawyers walked out of the trial in protest of Rajab’s absence in the Court. The trials have been postponed to 2 July and to 7 August.

    Members of the European Parliament, human rights groups and media have expressed public outcries at his incarceration, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, David Kaye, called for his release from prison at the 35th UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

     

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    On 22 June 2017 human rights defender and BCHR’s former President Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has spent 6 years in Jau prison as part of his life sentence. On that same date 6 years ago, a Bahraini military court sentenced him to life in prison for his human rights activities. Al-Khawaja was sentenced along with many others, who became known as the “Bahrain 13”. Their case was based on freedom of expression issues. Al-Khawaja received his life sentence after an unfair trial marred by serious and credible allegations of torture.

    Al-Khawaja’s health has gravely deteriorated during the 6 years in prison. He has, among others, developed problems in his right eye with complete vision loss during daylight hours and headaches on the right side of his head and behind his right eye. He has recently been on a 24 days hunger strike. During the hunger strike he suffered from low blood sugar levels, stomach ache and intense pain in his lower back. He also experienced muscle spasms and had trouble urinating.

    Al-Khawaja’s decision to go on a hunger strike was motivated by the inhumane treatment of detainees in Jau Prison and the continued harassment of human rights defenders in Bahrain. Thus, prisoners at Jau are subjected to severe deprivation of medical care and restrictions on their contact with other inmates and the outside world, including their families. Al-Khawaja’s life was at risk during his hunger strike, due to previous health issues and poor prison conditions.

    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.”

    Al-Khawaja suspended his hunger strike on 5 May 2017, however, is still in a very poor state of health necessitating frequent medical attention.

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

    • 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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    Marking the UN Intl. Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, together with Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, the European-Bahraini Organizations for Human Rights (EBOHR), Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights published a report that reviews the patterns and types of human rigths violations, the allegations and methods of torture used against detainees on political grounds.

    Read the report in full here.

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    Marking the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns Bahrain’s systematic use of  torture.

    Thus, BCHR has documented numerous cases during 2015-2017 of alleged torture that demonstrate that Bahrain systematically utilises torture during interrogation and detention. Reports received by BCHR suggest that human rights defenders, amongst those women, and even children and disabled persons are allegedly being subjected to acts of torture. BCHR’s latest report on torture in Bahrain highlights 39 cases of torture in 2015-2016. Of these, 2 involved the torture of women, 5 the torture of children and 3 the torture of disabled persons.

    Various methods of physical and mental torture have reportedly been applied, including: use of solitary confinement, sexual harassments and abuses, threats to loved ones, bodily beatings including with instruments, electrocution, explicit and repeated hitting of sensitive areas, pulling off toe nails, torture by water, subjection to extreme temperatures, listening to others being tortured, confined spaces, hanging, stripping, sensory deprivation, withholding of food and water, restricted access to bathrooms and other basic needs, restricted access to medical facilities, loved ones and lawyers. Read the report in full here.

    Torture is a crime under international law. According to all relevant instruments, it is absolutely prohibited and cannot be justified under any circumstances. This prohibition forms part of customary international law, which means that it is binding on every member of the international community, regardless of whether a State has ratified international treaties in which torture is expressly prohibited. The systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity.

    Bahrain has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the ”UNCAT”) and a number of other international treaties (ICCPR and UDHR) and regional treaties (the Arab Charter on Human Rights) all expressly prohibiting torture. Moreover, the national laws of Bahrain, including both its Constitution and Penal Code, expressly prohibit torture. However, Bahrain does not seem to abide by its own rules. Thus, 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, and perpetrators of torture are usually left untouched which leads to a climate of impunity. The National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman should both be investigating the numerous torture allegations, however, are blatantly failing to do so.

    Bahrain’s record on torture has been strongly criticised by the international community, most recently by the UN Committee against Torture in its concluding observations on Bahrain. The Committee against Torture is an international body of experts that monitors state compliance with the UNCAT.

    Read the full document of the concluding observations on Bahrain here.

    In the concluding observations the Committee noted ”with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, in particular human rights defender and BCHR President Nabeel Rajab and human rights defender and former BCHR President Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. The Committee urged Bahrain to release human rights defenders who are deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their human rights work. The Committee clearly rejected the argument made by the Bahraini government that counter-terrorism would be a valid excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture human rights activists and political prisoners.

    The Committee also expressed strong concern at ”the climate of impunity which prevails in Bahrain”.

    Nabeel Rajab has been in solitary confinement for most parts of his detention which has at the time of writing gone on for 378 days and his family is reporting that they have not been able to communicate with him since last week. According to the Committee against Torture, “[e]xcessive use of solitary confinement constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or, depending on the circumstances, torture (arts. 2, 11-13 and 16)”. Moreover, Rajab has developed multiple health issues following his pre-trial detention. In April, he underwent surgery for a bleeding ulcer, and was returned to prison one day after the surgery. Three days after his surgery, Rajab was rushed to the hospital due to  a serious infection he developed post-surgery in detention. He has since then been hospitalised, too weak to participate in court hearings resulting in a further postponement of the two trials against him. Recently his family reported that Rajab has been facing harassment in the hospital and new orders to be transferred back to prison so he can be sentenced. An overview of the proceedings can be found here.

    Ebtisam AlSayegh, a woman human rights defender, was interrogated for seven hours without her lawyer present, in retaliation to her human rights work and participation at the UN Human Rights Council sessions this year. She was reportedly sexually assaulted during her interrogation and subjected to verbal abuse, with interrogators threatening to rape her if she did not put an end to her human rights activities. She was admitted to hospital after the interrogation.

    Additionally, political prisoners and jailed activists and human rights defenders have reportedly been subjected to harsh conditions whilst in prison. Most recently, following the attack by the Bahraini police on the town of Duraz prisoners were held at Jau prison where they reportedly faced baseless reprisals, were stripped of their clothes and subjected to beatings.

    Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights defender serving a life sentence in Jau since 2011 due to his human rights activities, has suffered repeated repercussions in prison, taking a serious toll on his health. In March this year he was denied access to adequate medical attention; he suffers from severe complications because of his ill-treatment and alleged torture in detention. With him also other prisoners at the Jau prison are being denied medical care. In 2011 the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) had concluded that Al-Khawaja was subjected to torture and inhuman treatment during his arrest and detention. He was severely beaten, resulting in a broken jaw, and later spent two months in solitary confinement where he was reportedly subjected to severe acts of torture. He continues to be denied adequate medical attention.

    Beginning of this year three men were executed convicted for killing three police officers in 2014. Their confessions were reportedly obtained under torture. The three men allegedly used improvised explosive devices which led to the death of the three officers. One of the men, a teacher, was at school at the time of the bombing incident. Reports allege the three men were subjected to severe torture, including beatings, electrocution, sexual assault, a broken nose and the knocking out of teeth.

    Mohammed Ramadan and Hussain Ali Moosa were sentenced to death in December 2014 for their alleged involvement in an explosion in al-Dair on 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. They took the judgement to the Appeals Court, on the grounds that they were falsely accused, tortured and coerced to confess to a crime they hadn’t committed. On 16 November 2015 Bahraini Court of Cassation rejected their final appeal and upheld their death sentence. The two men are at imminent risk of execution pending the King of Bahrain’s approval.

     

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

    • Unambiguously proclaim at the highest level that torture will not be tolerated;
    • Announce and ensure that investigations and prosecutions will be carried out promptly against perpetrators of torture and those with command responsibility in all cases;
    • Ensure that evidence obtained through any form of coercion or torture is inadmissible in all judicial proceedings;
    • Conduct prompt and impartial investigations into such cases and take appropriate remedial measures;
    • Ensure that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is provided with adequate medical assistance; and
    • Put an end to the solitary confinement of Nabeel Rajab and ensure that he is provided with adequate medical assistance and redress.
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    A prominent independent newspaper in Bahrain earlier shut down by the government as part of a crackdown on dissent has laid off its staff.

    The daily Al-Wasat sent a statement Saturday to employees saying it had to let them go after the tiny island nation’s rulers ordered it closed on June 4 .

    Read full article here.

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    Yesterday’s letter from the Board of Directors to the staff of Bahrain’s only independent newspaper Al Wasat was a heavy blow for the country, and for journalism in the Middle East. It confirmed that the board had “decided to terminate the employment contracts with the employees, due to the cessation of business activities of Al-Wasat newspaper, in accordance with the decision of the Ministry of Information Affairs issued on 4 June 2017, a decision that has caused losses to the Company.”

    The 4 June closure ordered by the government, which now attacks any public criticism, was the third time the newspaper had been ordered to stop publishing since widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in 2011, and was based on the pretext that the paper had published content “offensive to a sisterly Arab state,” after it covered protests in Morocco.

    Read full article here.

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