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    New information
    BHR 003 / 0613 / OBS 052.1
    Judicial harassment
    Bahrain
    October 31, 2013 

    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain. 

    New information: 

    The Observatory has been informed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) about intensified judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), and other members of BYSHR. 

    According to the information received, on October 22, 2013, Mr. Mohamed Al-Maskati was summoned to Al-Khamis Police Station where he was interrogated on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime”, based on a speech he made on September 8, 2013 in Jidhafs Town, where he spoke on the concept of non-violence and the importance of peacefully demanding the respect of rights as well as on the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). He was released only after signing a pledge to appear before the Public Prosecution upon request. The police investigation is therefore ongoing. 

    The Observatory recalls that two other BYSHR members are currently in detention. BYSHR co-founder and blogger Naji Fateel has been detained since May 2013 and was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act. His trial on appeal is due to start on November 18, 2013. Mr. HussainAbdulnabi has been in pre-trial detention since September 6, 2013 on charges of “illegal gathering” and “rioting”. The next hearing will take place on November 7, 2013. 

    The Observatory condemns these acts of harassment against Mr. Al-Maskati and the arbitrary detention of Messrs. Naji Fateel and Hussain Abdulnabi, which merely aim at curtailing their human rights activities. The Observatory also notes that several human rights defenders remain in arbitrary detention or are subject to judicial harassment in the country. 

    Background information: 

    On October 17, 2012, Mr. Al-Maskati appeared before Bahrain’s public prosecution on charges of “participation in illegal protests” in relation to a peaceful gathering held in Manama on October 12, 2012. He had been summoned the day before to Al Hoora police station, where he had been kept overnight before being referred to the prosecutor’s office. He was released on bail on the same October 17, 2012 but charges against him have remained pending since then. On June 19, 2013, Mr. Maskati appeared before the Lower Criminal Court under these same charges Mr. Maskati’s lawyers asked for the case file, and the judge decided to adjourn the case to July 9, 2013 and then to December 9, 2013. 

    Previously, on September 23, 2012, Mr. Al-Maskati and other Bahraini human rights defenders who had cooperated with the United Nations (UN) had received threats of reprisals while they were in Geneva to participate in the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Al-Maskati was notably threatened with death through more than a dozen anonymous phone calls. 

    Mr. Naji Fateel was arrested without warrant by security men in civilian clothes at his home in the village of Bani-Jamra at dawn of May 2, 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was severely tortured. He was allegedly subjected to severe torture at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. According to reports he was subjected to electrical shocks to his genitals, left foot and back in addition to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish his wife’s photographs (taken from a camera confiscated by the security forces when his house was raided), verbal abuse using uncivilized words, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats of rape, standing for hours, and sleep deprivation. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture. 

    Mr. Fateel had been arrested last year on February 14, 2012 while he was participating in a peaceful march toward the Pearl Roundabout area, the now restricted centre of the 2011 protests for rights and democracy. He was previously detained between December 2007 and April 2009, a period during which he was also reportedly tortured. 

    On May 22, 2013, Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months imprisonment on charges of attending illegal gatherings. He was charged in another case with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the Constitution under Article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act. 

    Actions requested: 

    Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to: 

    i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Mohammed Al-Maskati, Naji Fateel and Hussain Abdulnabi and all human rights defenders in Bahrain; 

    ii. Release Messrs. Naji Fateel and Hussain Abdulnabi immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities; 

    iii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Naji Fateel, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law; 

    iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Messrs. Mohammed Al-Maskati, Naji Fateel and Hussain Abdulnabi as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain; 

    v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”, Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; 

    vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain. 

    Addresses: 

    • Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
    • Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; fax: +973 172 12 6032
    • Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; fax: +973 175 31 284
    • Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: mailto:info@bahrain-mission.ch

    http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/bahrain/14189-bahrain-intensified-judicial-harassment-faced-by-mr-mohammed-al-maskati

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the continued targeting of freedom of expression and the use of torture to extract confessions in Bahrain. Sajad Al-Alawi, 23 years old, was arrested, allegedly tortured and charges were fabricated against him for peacefully protesting in the capital Manama.

    Sajad Al-Alawi was arrested on 22 September 2013 after he was surrounded by civilian cars belonging to the National Security Apparatus in Budaiya road. He first called his family from Budaiya police station to collect his car. Then he called twice from the Criminal Investigation Directorate (NSA), a location where there is reported systematic use of torture, where he stayed for three days. On the 26 September, Al-Alawi was transferred to the Dry Docks prison.

    His family was able to see him for the first time after his arrest was on 30 September 2013. His father said that Sajad was not walking normally. He added that during the first days of Sajad’s transfer to the Dry Docks prison, other prisoners had to support him as he had difficulties walking. Sajad was a healthy young man not suffering from any physical difficulties prior to his arrest.

    Lawyer Mohsen Al-Alawi stated that after more than a month and a half from Sajad’s arrest, he could finally meet his client on 7 November after obtaining an approval from the court which was rejected several times by the public prosecution office. Lawyer Al-Alawi added that his client told him in the visit that the officer who interrogated him reportedly told him "I know your case is participating in Manama's protests. However, it is a light sentence and you will be free quickly, so I will give you more than one charge." Al-Alawi also told his lawyer that he was subjected to torture. The lawyer added that he personally witnessed the [marks of] torture on Sajad’s back.

    According to his lawyer, Sajad's charge is the creation of a terrorism cell to make explosions in vital areas. His case was transferred to court and he was ordered to 60 days pending investigation, a period given for those charged under the terrorism law. It is important to note that Sajad was a law student at the University of Bahrain and was expelled due to absence for the fear of being arrested in the recent events.

    The BCHR believes that Al-Alawi was arrested because of exercising his right to peaceful assembly. He was arbitrary arrested, charges was fabricated against him and he was reportedly tortured to force him to sign confessions.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release Sajad Al-Alawi as well as all other political prisoners for merely exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
    • End the practice of systematic torture as a tool to extract confessions.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern in regards to the ongoing attacks on freedom of expression in Bahrain demonstrated in the recent destruction and banning of an art exhibition of the Bahrain Revolution.

    On 30 Oct 2013, police forces in Bahrain stormed one of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society’s buildings where an exhibition of the Bahrain revolution was on display. No warrant was shown. This came two days after the opening of the exhibition, which included scenes and life-size panels from the uprising, such as demolished mosques, torture inside prisons, police attacks with tear gas and riot police running over a young boy. The police destroyed the panels and confiscated the exhibition items including some personal items that belong to the families of victims of extrajudicial killings over almost two years and a half.

     

     

    The building was under lockdown by security forces for around nine hours and the AlWefaq lawyer was not allowed in to talk to any of the officials inside the building. The surveillance cameras inside the building were covered at the start of the raid and journalists were not allowed in the area.

    The Ministry of Interior attempted to justify the attack on the exhibition by stating that they “found material meant to incite hatred” and “ordered the confiscation of the material that included objects and images that insulted a statutory body.” It added that “possession of such items is punishable by law.” Some of these confiscated items are “clothes” that belonged to victims of extrajudicial killing.

    Subsequently, the General Secretary of AlWefaq society, Shaikh Ali Salman, was summoned for interrogation on 3 Nov 2013 for “humiliating the Interior Ministry in an event during which showcased models, miniatures and drawings of policemen’s systematic use of inhuman practices and human rights violations” as stated by the public prosecution. Salman was officially charged with “humiliating a government body” and was released pending further investigation.

    The BCHR believes that the attack on the exhibition is in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Furthermore, the allegations of the MOI of the illegality of possession of clothes of victims of extrajudicial killings, as well as miniatures and drawings of human rights abuses is a confirmation of the culture of impunity that goes as far as covering all traces of the committed violations.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemn the continued use of ambiguous charges by the Government of Bahraini, such as “inciting hatred” and “insulting the authority” that can be arbitrarily used to restrict freedom of expression.

    Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah, Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, stated: “All societies and groups have the right to freedom expression, whether they are supporters of the Government of Bahrain or in opposition. Freedom of expression is not to be used selectively, but rather guaranteed to all.”

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally return all confiscated items of the exhibition to the organizers of the event, and pay all required compensations for the destruction and damages.
    • Drop all charges against the General Secretary of AlWefaq Society and stop the use of ambiguous charges to restrict freedom of speech.
    • Put an end to the worsening culture of impunity and bring all perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.

    Photos:

    Personal belongings of families of victims of extrajudicial killings – confiscated

     

    Other Scenes from the exhibition:

     

    The destruction and damage made by the police

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern in regards to authorities in Bahrain use of excessive force against peaceful protesters. Abbas Abdulnabi Marhoon, 19 years old, is currently in a vegetative state due to being shot in the head with a tear gas canister[1] on Tuesday 15th October 2013 in Karzakkan.

    Marhoon’s family reported that they started looking for their son after his delay in coming back home, when they found him lying on a road in Karzakkan village bleeding from his head. Witnesses reported that Marhoon was shot with a tear gas canister directly in the head and was taken to the hospital unconscious. According to the Ministry of Interior's twitter feed[2], Northern Police Directorate received a report from Hamad Kanoo health center that an injured person was brought to the center from Karzakkan village.

    Due to the seriousness of his injuries, Marhoon was transferred to the operation room at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital.  He was shot in his right temple which caused him to suffer from brain edema which required that doctors perform a craniotomy to relieve the intracranial pressure. According to his family, Marhoon is now put under monitoring and a procedure was done for feeding him through the stomach. The family stated that his condition is not stable[3]. “Every day I pray for a divine miracle to bring my son back” said his mother commenting on his case.

    It is important to note that a document was leaked recently about a deal[4] between the government of Bahrain and South Korean companies to import 1.6 million tear gas canisters and 90,000 tear gas grenades. Bahrain Watch launched a campaign to stop this shipment and demanded to halt the selling of tear gas to Bahrain. Since the beginning of Bahrain's uprising, approximately 39 civilians[5] were killed by tear gas, several of them due to injuries caused from being shot with tear gas canisters from close range, among them children.

    The Bahrain Center for Human rights believes that importing a massive amount of tear gas canisters and grenades to be used against peaceful protests will lead to more deaths and severe injuries.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all of Bahrain’s closest allies as well as international institutions to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Launch an immediate independent and impartial investigation into Marhoon's incident and hold those responsible accountable
    • Stop the shipment of tear gas canisters for Korea and any future deals with any other countries
    • Immediately put an end to the use of excessive force against protesters

     


    [1] http://manamavoice.com/news-news_read-15750-0.html

    [2] https://twitter.com/moi_bahrain/status/390225620182913024

    [3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plBe4C4CKg4

    [4] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6454

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    On 30 October 2013, three medics sent a letter from Jaw prison outlining the conditions of their detention and their intention to set up an independent body of Medics for Human Rights. They were arrested during the 2011 uprising, and charged on fabricated charges. They assert that their only crime is the protection of ‘medical neutrality’.

    The letter, seen by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), was signed by Ibrahim Al-Demistani a nurse and secretary general of the Bahrain Nursing Society, Hasaan Matooq, an emergency department nurse at the Salmaniya Medical Complex and a volunteer with the Bahrain Nursing Society, and Dr Ali Al-Ekri a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. All three have been subjected to torture and ill treatment and in the letter they described the poor hygiene and health standards in Jaw prison and the overcrowding conditions in which they are being kept. They end by urging all medics over the world, especially those working in conflict zones, to abide by and maintain ‘the noble ethics and principles of medical neutrality and disclose and fight all the violations that endanger public, patients and health workers rights’. 

    Ibrahim Al-Demistani, whose son was killed during the 2011 protests, was arrested on 17 March 2011. He is serving a three year sentence for allegedly ‘hiding and harbouring a fugitive’. This charge related to his treatment of a protestor who was severely injured during a demonstration in the village of Kazakan on 14 March 2011. He has been subjected to torture and forced to witness the torture of his colleagues, Dr Ali Al-Ekri and Rula Al-Saffar, and to sign false statements. 

    Hassan Matooq has been subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation and on-going torture since his arrest on 24 March 2011. He was arrested at the emergency department in the Salmaniya Medical Complex by a group of 20 masked soldiers and is serving a three year sentence for allegedly taking unapproved photographs and “fabricating reality”. He was denied any contact with his family, including his wife and six year old son for weeks following his arrest. 

    During the uprising in March 2011 Dr Ali Al-Ekri, who was trained in Ireland and worked at Salmaniya Medical Complex for the last 20 years, carried out his regular duties as an orthopaedic surgeon and treated injured protestors. On 17 March 2011, he was abducted by security forces and was subjected to torture and placed in solitary confinement for six months. A military court handed down a 15 year sentence to him, which was subsequently reduced to five years on retrial by a civilian court.

    The GCHR expresses serious concern at the treatment and on-going inhumane conditions to which Ibrahim Al-Demistani, Hasaan Matooq and Dr Ali Al-Ekri are being subjected in Jaw prison. The GCHR believes that the charges against them are unfounded and are directly related to the legitimate and peaceful exercise of their work as health professionals and their adherence to the principle of medical neutrality.

    The GCHR urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

    1. Immediately and unconditionally release Ibrahim Al-Demistani, Hasaan Matooq and Dr Ali Al-Ekri;
    2. Guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of Ibrahim Al-Demistani, Hasaan Matooq and Dr Ali Al-Ekri  and all human rights defenders in detention in Bahrain;
    3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

    The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 11 “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession. Everyone who, as a result of his or her profession, can affect the human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of others should respect those rights and freedoms and comply with relevant national and international standards of occupational and professional conduct or ethics” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jureadverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.” 

    http://gc4hr.org/news/view/529

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over the medical status of detainee Mohamed Mirza Rabie and the authorities’ continuous exploitation of judicial tools to keep him in detention on fabricated charges.

    Mohammed Mirza Rabie (22 years-old) from Al-Dair village has been in detention since 27 June 2012. His family stated that his ability to hear and see is steadily deteriorating as a result of the beating he received on his head following his arrest; the authorities also reportedly sprayed his eyes with incendiary material, and blindfolded him for 5 days. His family also stated that he is suffering from severe back pain as a result of erosion of vertebrae in his spine, which resulted from a shotgun injury he received a few days before the arrest. The police reportedly beat Rabie directly on the injuries on his back in order to extract a false confession.

    After many appeals from the family to provide medical care to Rabie, he was finally examined two months ago by a specialist doctor at Salmaniya medical complex. The doctor prescribed a medical belt for Rabie to wear twenty-four hours a day, and requested a CT scan. However, Rabie has still not received the prescribed belt, nor he was taken for the CT Scan or attended any of the physical therapy sessions that he requires.

    Mohamed Mirza Rabie has been in hiding since the government’s crackdown on peaceful protesters in February 2011. In November 2011, he was sentenced to one year imprisonment in absentia for “illegal gathering and vandalizing a police car with stones.” He was again sentenced in absentia on 24 January 2012 to an additional year imprisonment on similar charges. Finally, in May 2012, he received a third prison sentence of six months for illegal gathering.

    On 27 Jun 2012 he was arrested by armed civilians after several house raids and his place of detention kept unknown to his family for over 5 days. He was beaten in all parts of his body in order to force him to confess the premade charges. His family was allowed to see him 21 days after arrest and a family member says his body was “disfigured” due to the beating, electric shocks and torture he received and he was not able to see from his eye.  He told his family that those who had beaten him had deliberately targeted the entry wounds caused by the birdshot pellets still embedded in his back.

    Mirza spent nearly a year in the Dry Dock detention center while the officers at Samaheej police station fabricate new charges against him. Each time one of his cases was sent to an appeal court, the judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of creditable evidence. Every time his lawyer moved to have him released from detention, another charge was brought against him. In total, over eleven cases were brought up against Rabia. Three months ago, he was moved to Jaw prison to complete his sentences.

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also notes other cases of detained prisoners who are in urgent need for medical care, but are currently being denied the required medical treatment, including:

    Last month, one detainee Yousif AlNashim (31 years old) lost his life due to being deprived the required medical attention in prison.

    Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other allies and relevant institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release of Mohamed Mirza and all other political prisoners in Bahrain.
    • Provide Mohamed Mirza and all other prisoners with adequate medical and psychological treatment.
    • Put an end to the use of torture as a tool to extract false confessions, and allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Bahrain.
    • Put an end to the exploitation of the judicial system as a tool to punish those who practice the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly to demand rights and democracy, and hold accountable those who fabricate charges against detainees.
    • End the culture of impunity practiced at the highest levels of government, and initiate accountability for those who have committed, ordered, or allowed human rights violations to occur, particularly those in high positions.

     

     

     

     

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights express grave concern in regards to the targeted attacks on Shia Muslims in Bahrain by security forces during the religious period of Ashoura.

    Since the beginning of the Islamic month of Muharram, security forces have led provocative attacks on several Shia Muslim neighborhoods in Bahrain. Pictures and videos show them taking down religious flags and banners that were placed earlier on homes and religious centers and in the neighbourhoods as part of the annual season for Shia Muslims commemorating the “martyrdom of Imam Hussain”, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

    On 4 Nov 2013, riot police attacked a group of people participating in a religious procession in Maameer, which have taken place in Bahrain for decades. The riot police used excessive tear gas against dozens of people that included elderly citizens and children. People of all ages participate in these processions given that they do not expect to be attacked as they are not political protests.

     Tear Gas attack on a procession in Maameer

    On 7 Nov 2013, riot police stormed a religious center “Matam” in Aali without presenting any warrant. On the same day, security forces took down flags and destroyed religious banners in Tubli and Sanad.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On 8 Nov 2013, riot police fired tear gas in Nuwaidrat on people who tried to stop the security forces from taking down the religious banners in their neighborhood.

    The artistic ship before and after destruction

    At dawn on 13 November 2013, the security forces, working together with a civilian team using heavy machinery, destroyed an artistic representation of a ship entitle “Imam Hussain, the survival ship”, which was made of wood. The piece was placed in the neighborhood of Juffair before the start of the religious days of Muharram, as part of annual art projects in the neighborhood. These traditional art instillations were never attacked prior to 2011 when a mass attack on religious places and religious representations was conducted by the authorities. The municipality’s representative of the area, Hussain Qarqoor, confirmed that the municipality (which is the relavent authority for removing or installing such displays) was not aware of the action taken by the security forces.

     

     

    The destruction of the art display escalated to the point of confrontation between some of the citizens and the police and tear gas was fired until 9:00 in the morning leading to the suffocation of several people in the area, including those at their own residences.

    On 14 November 2013, which is the 10th day of Muharram, a religious procession carrying photos of imprisoned political leaders was attacked at noon in Nuwaidrat village with extensive amounts of tear gas, sonic bombs and shotguns which caused several injuries among those present.

     

     

    Attack on a procession in Nuwaidrat

    Furthermore, several citizens received police summons without a name specified on the summon, stating only “for the house’s owner”, due to placing Ashoura flags or banners on their own homes.

    Additionally, the Government of Bahrain blocked a website which does live broadcasts of the religious events of Ashoura from over 30 areas in Bahrain http://matam.tv

    The BCHR and BYSHR regard the above mentioned targeting and attacks as violations of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and a practice of discrimination against Shia’s with the intent to further cause a sectarian split in the society and push towards to sectarian violence.

    These practices are not new and the BCHR had documented similar attacks in the past (Nov 2012 report http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5502), however due to the culture of impunity, and the policy of discrimination, the harassment against Shia Muslims continues through judicial means.

    The BCHR and BYSHR respectfully reminds the Government of Bahrain of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

    Maryam Al-Khawaja, the Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said: “All sects and religions must be respected in Bahrain; that includes religious events. The Government of Bahrain is trying to purposely instigate a violent response from Shia Muslims by targeting them during an important religious period; and we have previously warned of the consequences of pushing people towards sectarian animosity. Allies of the Government of Bahrain must apply pressure for the immediate halting of sectarian based targeting; and promote respect for all religions and sects equally.”

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and other allies and international institutions to pressure the Bahraini authorities to:

    1. Immediately end the systematic attacks on religious liberties.

    2. Immediately stop all forms of sectarian attacks and/or promotion of sectarian tensions/violence.

    3. Immediately investigate and hold accountable those who gave orders, overlooked and/or carried out attacks on religious liberties.

    4. Guarantee freedom of religion to all religions and sects in Bahrain.

     

     

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    November 15, 2013. While the appeals trial of human right defender Naji Fateel is due to start on November 18, 2013, a group of human rights NGOs regrets the lack of cooperation by Bahraini authorities to allow access to the country for a trial observation. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture - OMCT), with support from IFEX, had mandated a lawyer to observe the trial of the human right defender, but their request to facilitate entry to the country remains unanswered several days before the hearing.

    Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and a blogger, was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act. 

    On October 8, 2013, a few days after the date of the hearing was made public, IFEX wrote on behalf of the group to the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development to facilitate entry to Bahrain for a lawyer appointed as trial observer by the group of international organisations. Twelve days later, the Director in charge of Human Rights replied that “the Ministry is currently updating its entrance procedures and at this time we will not be able to facilitate the entry of your representative”. One day later, IFEX requested clarifications in order to be able to plan future trial observations. Such request remains unanswered to date. 

    Our organisations recall that Naji Fateel was arrested without warrant by security men in civilian clothes at his home in the village of Bani-Jamra at dawn of May 2, 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was severely tortured at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture. 

    Previously, Naji Fateel had been arrested on February 14, 2012 while he was participating in a peaceful march toward the Pearl Roundabout area, the now restricted centre of the 2011 protests for rights and democracy. He was also detained between December 2007 and April 2009, a period during which he was reportedly tortured. On May 22, 2013, Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on charges of “attending illegal gatherings”. 

    The co-signed organisations denounce this obstacle to observing the trial, which manifestly aims to hinder their human rights activities and impedes Naji Fateel’s right to a fair trial. They further call upon the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of movement to both local and international human rights defenders in Bahrain as enshrined by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. 

    We collectively and strongly call on the Government of Bahrain to meet its international obligations and grant immediate and unconditional access to Bahrain for international human rights observers and journalists. 

    Our organisations also call upon the Government of Bahrain to put an end to the judicial harassment against Naji Fateel, and to release him immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.

     
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    Washington, D.C.  – In a new report detailing steps the United States should take to support Bahrain’s transition to democracy and the rule of law, Human Rights First is urging the Obama Administration to overhaul its diplomatic approach in the Kingdom. From withholding arms transfers to Bahrain military and police forces to stronger engagement with human rights defenders, the organization’s recommendations come as simmering tensions in Bahrain raise fundamental questions about how best to protect U.S. military interests in the region.

    Two years ago this month, Bahrain’s rulers pledged to implement reforms rooted in the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. The U.S. government has supported this goal, as well as efforts to bolster the Crown Prince and the “reformist” wing of the monarchy in the hope that it can deliver meaningful change. Today’s report, Plan B for Bahrain, What the United States Government Should Do Next, outlines how this strategy has largely failed  and how increasingly violent protests, a rise in sectarianism and a relentless government crackdown on dissent further threaten a peaceful solution to the crisis.

    “While the Government of Bahrain insists it is carrying out the implementation of the BICI recommendations, there is little evidence of sustained follow through,” noted Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, author of today’s report. “No senior government figure has been held accountable for the arrests or deaths in custody, and key political leaders remain in jail. Bahrain is a strategic regional ally of the United States and is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The United States should rethink its strategy as human rights abuses persist on the fleet’s doorstep.”

    Bahrain’s abuses have persisted in the years since the BICI report was released. In the past 12 months alone, about a dozen people have been targeted for offenses related to criticizing the king on Twitter. In September 2013, dozens were sentenced to long prison terms of up to 15 years after an unfair trail for their perceived part in the protests, including human rights defender, Naji Fateel. Other leading oppositions and civil society figures have remained in jail since March or April of 2011. The situation has proven so dire that in a July 2013 letter Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) asked Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to explore a contingency plan for moving the Fifth Fleet.

    Though many had high hopes for reforms to take shape after the Crown Prince’s new appointment in March 2013, he has failed to deliver change. Since his appointment, the regime has adopted new measures to limit freedom of expression, ban public gatherings in the country’s capital Manama, and proposals to revoke the citizenship of Bahrainis who have been convicted of terrorist offenses.

    “In recent months the cabinet, which includes the Crown Prince, has approved measures to criminalize anyone who disrupts public morale online, and it has endorsed an amendment to Article 214 of the Penal Code that increases the penalty to up to five years in prison for offending Kind Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the country’s flag and other national symbols,” noted Dooley.

    This year the Bahrain government has also introduced new rules requiring Bahraini political opposition representatives to tell the government in advance of meeting with foreign embassies so a Bahraini government representative can be present. It has also imposed a de facto ban on allowing international human rights NGOs and many media outlet to enter the country. A planned visit to Bahrain by Human Rights First in March 2013 was cancelled at short notice by the authorities, and Human Rights First has been unable to obtain permission to visit since.

    To address these concerns, Human Rights First is calling on the U.S. government to overhaul its strategy toward diplomatic action in Bahrain. Today’s report calls on the U.S. government to:

    • Withhold arms sales and transfers to the police and military, contingent upon human rights progress, starting with a request for the publication of current representation levels of Shias in recruitment and promotion targets for under-represented groups
    • Urge the release of the peaceful opposition figures and other political prisoners
    • Publicly announce it will continue to meet Bahraini opposition figures without the presence of a Bahraini government representative
    • Defend U.S. officials under attack by the Government of Bahrain and its representatives for their advocacy of human rights and reform
    • Ensure that U.S. arms transfers are not facilitating repression and gross human rights violations in Bahrain.
    • Vigorously implement the Leahy Law governing U.S. military and other security assistance to Bahrain
    • Promote the State Department March 2013 Principles of Human Rights Defenders to Bahraini civil society, including in Arabic
    • Engage more closely and regularly with a broad range of human rights defenders in Bahrain
    • Publicly call for international media and international human rights organizations to be afforded meaningful access to Bahrain

    For more information about today’s report or to speak with Dooley, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.

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    Lawyers and Activists: Impossible That A Bomb Caused Explosion Of A Car, But Did Not Harm A Nearby Tree

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern over the Bahraini judiciary’s continuous retribution against political detainees by convicting them in malicious cases. Individuals are coerced into making confessions under torture and degrading treatment and then placed on show trials that lack the minimum standards of fair trials. On Sunday 10 November 2013, the Fourth Criminal Court[1], headed by Judge Ali Khalifa Al-Dhahrani, sentenced in absentia two defendants to life imprisonment: Zuhair Jasim Ashoor (32 years-old) and Ali Mohammed Habib (34 years-old). Two others were sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment: Hasan Mohammed Habib and Hussain Hasan Abbas Al-Madhoon (25 years-old) in the case of an alleged car explosion in Riffa.

    The Ministry of Interior announced on Wednesday 17 July 2013 on its official account on the social network website twitter[2] that there was an alleged car explosion in the parking lot of one of Riffa's mosques, and said that security forces were following-up with the required security procedures. At noon the following day - 18 July 2013 – the security forces raided several homes in Karzakan village, and arrested Ali Mohammed Habib. There were also reports from individuals in Karzakan village that Hussain Hasan Al-Madhoon was arrested from his workplace and Shaikh Zuhair Jasim Ashoor[3] was arrested from a checkpoint near one of the shopping malls. The detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance for more than before being allowed to contact their families. During the first court session, the defendants were not brought to court for ‘security reasons’, and their lawyer made a statement about[4] about the torture that they were subjected to in the Criminal Investigation Department building in order to coerce them into confessing their responsibility for the alleged bombing.

     

     
     

     

     

    (Photo of security force in front of detainee Ali Mohammed Habib in Karzakan during his arrest)

    Tariq Al-Hasan[5], Head of Public Security, held a press conference[6] on 22 July 2013 where he displayed photos of the three defendants. Their families reported being surprised by the news as they did not know anything about the case before the conference. The Prime Minister, Khalifa Salman Al-Khalifa, called[7] for taking legal measures and actions against the detained individuals, calling them terrorists. It is also worth noting that the defendants boycotted two consecutive court hearings due to lack of confidence in the judges[8]. The defendants also requested that the defense team to withdraw from representing them before court. In regard to the verdict and the details of the incident, lawyer Ali Al-Jufairi stated on his twitter account: “life and fifteen years imprisonment for 3 [defendants]. As per their defense there aren't witnesses or evidence on the prosecution accusation. The strange matter is a bombing that don't burn tree leaves”[9]. He added that: “it is the only bombing in the world that doesn't leave waste or effect is Riffa bombing. Notice how the pavement is yellow with no fire remnant!!” [10]

     

    (Photo of the exploded car as been published by the Ministry of Interior, showing the undamaged pavement and tree branch while the car is completely burnt)

    Abdulla Zainaldeen, the lawyer of one of the detainees in the case stated that “the authorities claimed when they disclosed the circumstances of Riffa explosion case in the press conference that it had physical evidence convicting the three youths from Karzakan[11]. The evidence was photographs as well as the defendants’ fingerprints. The strange thing in the matter is that during the conference no reports regarding the results of the fingerprints or any other reports were issued yet[12], as most of the reports were issued two days or more following the conference. This lead us to one conclusion[13] that the charges were fabricated against these innocent individuals, not to mention the severe torture all detained [in the case] were subjected to[14].

    The acting Vice President of the BCHR, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha, commented on the verdicts against those detainees stating that: “There isn't any evidence incriminating the Karzakan defendants in the "Riffa Explosion". Their confessions were forcibly taken under torture and those were arrested in the case are activists.” Al-Muhafdha added that the appointed judiciary by the ruler of Bahrain, Hamad Isa Al-Khalifa, is a used as a tool to oppress the political opposition[15].

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

    • Stop oppressing the rights of the people and the using the judiciary as a tool against activists and the opposition.
    • Put pressure on the authorities in Bahrain to preserve and maintain human rights and put an end to the violations
    • Unconditionally release all political prisoners
    • Investigate torture allegations by detainees and prosecute those implicated in fair trials
    • Reform the judiciary system and depoliticize it
     
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    The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Front Line Defenders, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) call on the Bahraini government to abide by its own laws and release imprisoned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab on conditional release. According to Bahraini law, he is eligible for release by 29 November 2013.

    Rajab, a leading human rights defender who is President of BCHR and Secretary-General of GCHR, has been unfairly imprisoned since 9 July 2012 for practicing his legitimate rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly – which the government of Bahrain criminalizes and labels as “illegal gatherings.” He had served almost three months in prison for tweeting about Bahrain's prime minister before that conviction was overturned on 23 August 2013. However, he was kept in detention and sentenced to another three years in prison for “participation in illegal gatherings and calling for a march without prior notification.” The sentence was reduced on 11 December 2012 to two years by an appellate court that, in affirming most of Rajab’s underlying convictions, ignored several violations to the defendant's rights, accepted altered videos that were provided by the public prosecution as evidence and ignored requests to allow defense witnesses to enter Bahrain so they could testify in court.

    Rajab has been subject to discrimination and ill-treatment in prison, including being placed in solitary confinement with a dead animal, being isolated from other political detainees for his entire detention period and being prevented from contacting his family after he reported violations that he had witnessed in prison.

    The five groups reaffirm their belief that Nabeel Rajab has been a victim of judicial harassment by the government of Bahrain, as punishment for his leading role in defending human rights in Bahrain and exposing systematic violations. He should not have been imprisoned at all for merely exercising his rights of freedom of speech and assembly in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    As of 29 November 2013, Rajab will have completed three quarters of his two-year prison sentence, including the period he spent in temporary detention following his earlier arrest on 6 May 2012. As such, Rajab will be eligible for release on that date according to article 349 of the Bahraini Criminal Procedure Code no. 46 of the year 2002, which states:  “Any prisoner sentenced to a penalty depriving him of liberty may be conditionally released if he has spent in prison three-quarters of his sentence and has shown trustworthy behavior while in prison, unless his release would cause a threat to public security.”  Rajab’s lawyer has already submitted an application for conditional release.

    In addition to being the President of BCHR and the Secretary-General of GCHR, Rajab is on the MENA Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch and is a Board member and former Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). In 2011, he was honoured with the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award for working “tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of democratic freedoms and the civil rights of Bahraini citizens."

    BCHR, GCHR, Front Line Defenders, ANHRI and CIHRS strongly call on Bahraini authorities to grant a conditional release to Nabeel Rajab for all the reasons addressed above.

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    A Report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights

     

    Index:

     

    1. Introduction

    2. Extrajudicial Killings: Child Victims of the Authorities’ Use of Excessive Force

    3. Injuries: Use of Indiscriminate Excessive Force by Security Forces

    4. Arbitrary Arrests, Unfair Trials and Torture

    5. Impunity in the Cases of Child Victims of Extrajudicial Killings since February 14, 2011

    6. Other Violations

    7. Recommendations

     

    1 Introduction

    On the Universal Children’s Day the Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the continued violations of the rights of the child in Bahrain. Children are continuously subjected to arrests, torture and excessive force that has resulted in multiple deaths at the hands of police. Authorities in Bahrain continue to choose security solutions as a response to the ongoing protests for rights and democracy.

    The Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, stated:

    “It is especially horrific to see severe violations like extrajudicial killings and torture take place against children in Bahrain. This is mainly due to the local culture of impunity fostered by the highest authorities in the Government of Bahrain; but also due to the international impunity enjoyed by the Government of Bahrain despite the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. Children are beaten, arrested during house raids, denied their right to education and a safe environment, tortured and sometimes even killed. Urgent international action and accountability are instrumental in putting an end to these violations, and forcing the Government of Bahrain to stop human rights violations against children and adults alike, but especially children who are the most vulnerable. Failure to do so means enabling these violations to continue.”

     

    NOTE: It is important to note that the cases presented in this report do not cover all cases of violations against children in Bahrain, but are samples of the kinds of violations that continue to take place in the country. In addition, only cases and violations and cases that took place in the past year are highlighted in this report.

     

    2 Extrajudicial Killings: Child Victims of the Authorities’ Use of Excessive Force

    Children of Bahrain have been victims of the authorities’ use of excessive force to suppress peaceful protests. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights documented at least 16 cases of children under the age of 18 who have been killed as a result of the use of excessive force since Feb 14, 2011, with three deaths in the last 12 months.

    On 9 November 2012, Ali Radhi, 16 years old, was walking with friends to Duraz village in an attempt to reach Duraz mosque for prayers. Security forces were preventing people from reaching the mosque. During their attempt to reach the mosque, Ali and his friends were chased by riot police. Ali was trying to get away from the police out of fear, when he reportedly ran into the highway and was hit by a civilian car which led to his death[1].

    Qassim Habib, 8 years old, died on 26 January 2013 due to complications resulting from reported teargas inhalation which caused his death in less than two weeks[2]. Habib was suffering an underlying respiratory disease which made him vulnerable to teargas. Tear gas is excessively and deliberately used by authorities in Bahrain to suppress protests, a  method of collective punishment and as a weapon shot directly at peaceful protesters.

    Hussain Ali Al-Jazeeri, 16 years old, died on 14 February 2013 as a result of getting shot with shotgun pellets at a close range in the abdominal area (copy of the death certificate). He was shot in Daih while peacefully protesting. He died in the ambulance before reaching the hospital. Al-Jazeeri’s family and witnesses informed the BCHR that Hussain was only carrying a flag when he was shot and killed by security forces[3].

     

    3 Injuries: Use of Indiscriminate Excessive Force by Security Forces

    Due to the indiscriminate use of excessive force children are victims of the use of excessive force by security forces when suppressing pro-democracy protests and collectively punishing residential areas. 

    Ahmed Al-Naham

    Ahmed Al-Naham, 5 years old, was injured on 14 June 2012 while he was with his father selling fish on the street in Dair village. Security forces indiscriminately shot at everyone in the street while chasing protesters, and both Ahmed and his father were reportedly shot twice with shotgun pellets, despite the fathers screams that he is accompanied by a child. Mansoor Al-Naham, Ahmed’s father, tried to shield his son with his body, but they both sustained multiple pellet injuries. Ahmed sustained a pellet injury in his left eye. Ahmed was initially taken to  Salmaniya Medical Complex then to Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Singapore. On 12 April 2013, the 5-year-old-boy underwent surgery to remove his left eye as the last medical option suggested by doctors[4].

    On 16 August 2013, security forces attacked a home in Al-Kuwara after suppressing a peaceful sit-in in the village. Masked security forces ordered the family of Mansoor Al-Khawaja to go inside their home within ten seconds and when they failed to do so, they attacked those inside the house. They threatened the children inside the house that they will kill them. Moreover, they reportedly beat them including Noor Al-Khawaja, 8 years old, who was injured with a rubber bullet in her leg. On their way out, they shot a round of pellets in the courtyard which injured Fatima Al-Khawaja, 16 years old. Fatima had several injuries in the abdomen; three pierced her stomach, while another two settled under her skin. Mansoor Al-Khawaja’s home was then put under lock down by the security forces who would not allow anyone in, including BCHR vice president Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah who went there in an attempt to document what took place. It was not until midnight that Fatima was allowed to be taken to the hospital, after the whole family was made to go to a nearby police station where the father insisted on filing a complaint. By the time Fatima was transferred to the hospital, her health had deteriorated and she was vomiting blood. She was kept in the ICU for more than five hours. Her health further deteriorated after she was discharged. On the following day, 17 August 2013, she was summoned to the public prosecution on charges of illegal gathering and insulting the king[5]. The family told the BCHR that they were threatened that if the father did not withdraw the complaint his teenage daughter would be charged.

     

    4 Arbitrary Arrests, Unfair Trials and Torture

    Local and International Human Rights organizations have time and time again reported on arrests and torture cases of minors in Bahrain.

    Tear gas attack inside Jabreya Secondary school

    On[1]  10 October 2013, students in Jabreya Secondary School for Boys protested against the midterm exams timing which led to clashes between security forces and students after the first entered the school. It was reported that security forces used an armored vehicle and excessive force against protesting students. Witnesses stated that police searched student buses and at least one student was arrested. The Ministry of Education decided to suspend 37 students from the school for their involvement in the incident depriving them from their right to education. At least one student was tried and sentenced to six month’s imprisonment for illegal assembly[6].

     

    Photo: Marks from beatings on one of the abducted children.

    Three minors under the age of 14 told the BCHR that they were abducted on the 28 March 2013 around 11pm. They said that there was a protest in the village when security forces started collectively punishing the whole village by shooting excessive tear gas. The children sought shelter in a nearby house during the reported attack. They were seen by security forces, abducted and reportedly severely beaten inside police vehicle with batons and gun butts while verbally assaulted by use of derogatory terms about their religious sect. The beating marks apparent on their bodies at the time of giving their testimonies corroborated their story; with one of the minors showing cigarette burn marks on his arm reportedly inflicted during the abduction.[7].

    On 21 March 2013, a Bahraini court sentenced 16 citizens to 15 years’ imprisonment and BHD 10,508 fine after charging them with the arson of a vehicle owned by the Ministry of Interior in June 2012. Some of those convicted in the case are children under the age of 18, including Ahmed Yousif, 16 years old, who was arrested during a house raid on 15 July 2012 and was reportedly beaten and tortured during arrest and interrogation. Also, Hussain Mohammed, 17 years old, was abducted by a civilian car on 10 July 2012 from his neighbourhood and he was subjected to enforced disappearance for several hours. The family stated that he was tortured in the police station and was threatened not to talk about his torture during family visits. Mohammed Jaffer, 17 years old, was arrested during a house raid by masked civilians and charged in a different case. He was reportedly severely beaten in front of his mother. The public prosecution ordered his release, however, when he was taken to the police station, he was charged in this case and taken back to custody[8].

    On Monday 15 April 2013, Hassan Humaidan, 17 year old student from Al-Jabreya Secondary School for Boys, was called to the administration office where police officers arrested him and took him away in front of his fellow students. On the following day, students at Al-Jabreya school staged a protest demanding the release of Hassan. Security forces stormed and excessively tear gassed the school after being allowed by the school administration to enter. This resulted in suffocation and injuries amongst students and teachers[9].

    Jehad Sadeq (right) and Ebrahim Al-Meqdad (left)

    Jehad Sadeq and Ebrahim Al-Meqdad, both 16 years old, were the first children to be tried under the internationally criticised terrorism law. They were arrested on 23 July 2012, and subjected to enforced disappearance for at least 48 hours during which they were interrogated without the presence of their family or a lawyer. They were reportedly beaten and verbally abused during the arrest. On 4 April 2013, they received a harsh sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment based on confessions taken under duress. The court refused to investigate the claims that the confessions were taken in the absence of a lawyer, that the children were subjected to torture and that the defendants do not know each other. Both children are detained in adult detention centers with prisoners convicted in criminal cases[10].

    Hussain Fardan, 17 years old, was arrested on 31 March 2013 reportedly after an ambush by civilian police in a civilian car. Hussain was with friends in a car when they were stopped. One of his friends who was released later said that a man approached them, pointed a gun at Hussain and threatened to empty the bullets in his head if they resisted. They were then taken to the Criminal Investigation Department and reportedly beaten on the way in the police vehicle. At the CID, Hussain was reportedly severely beaten with plastic hoses, kicked in the abdomen and face, was reportedly sexually assaulted and threatened with rape until he collapsed. He was forced to sign papers and was reportedly again tortured and beaten in the police station. His lawyer, Zahra Masood, said that he looked scared and confused when she met him. Despite the marks of beatings on his body, the prosecutor refused to take any steps to protect Hussein from further abuse and the General Attorney refused to open an investigation into the allegations made by the minor Hussein Fardan about being subjected to abuse and torture[11]. Hussain has been senteced to 18 years in prison on multiple charges under terrorism law including “detonating a bomb for terrorist purposes” and he is still facing further trials.

    Nabeel Rajab, detained president of the BCHR, witnessed several children and youth being tortured by prison guards. Jehad Sadeq and Mustafa Al-Meqdad, both 16 years old, were two of the eight children tortured. They were then placed in solitary confinement for more than a week, during which their families did not hear from them[12].

    Ali Faisal Al-Shofa, a 17 year old high school student, was sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for insulting the self-acclaimed Hamad Isa Al-Khalifa on Twitter. Ali was arrested at dawn on 12 March 2013 during a house raid. He was detained for two months pending investigation and finally released on BD100 bail on 8 May 2013. Ali denied his relation to the twitter account he was accused of posting the insulting tweet on[13].

    Salman Mahdi, 13 years old, was arrested on 11 Aug 2013 near a shopping mall in Budaiya. Eyewitnesses said that there were no protests at the time, but security forces surrounded Salman while he was walking alone and arrested him. He was released on 12 August 2013. The family was contacted by the police station to bring him in for interrogation and when they did not, Salman’s uncle was contacted and threatened with a house raid to arrest Salman so they complied. He was kept in detention for 27 days and released on 10 Sep 2013. His family reported that Salman told them that he was slapped during interrogation[14]. He also added that he was repeatedly and severely beaten on his head and that he confessed to whatever they wanted him to say to avoid further torture.[15]

    Hussain Al-Hawaj, 15 years old, was arrested on 7 December 2012 by civilian clothed security officers. He was taken to the public prosecution office at 3am without the presence of his lawyer or being allowed to contact his family. He was then transferred to the Dry Docks prison where his family visited him 10 days after his arrest. He was reportedly tortured, threatened and forced to sign papers. On 9 June 2013, Hussain was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment based on confessions extracted under duress[16]. On 18 November 2013 his sentence was reduced to 1 year in the appeal trial and he is due for release next month.

    Ali Muslim Ebrahim, 15 years old, is another minor who was reportedly forced to confess under duress to false charges. He was arrested from his house on 8 September 2013; the officers who arrested him stated that his name was on a wanted list put out by the public prosecution. He was taken to Al-Hidd police station where he was reportedly beaten and forced to confess. He was taken to the public prosecution on 10 September 2013 and a decision was made to detain himfor 45 days pending investigation[17]. Ali suffers from diabetes for which he needs insulin injections and a special diet. He was kept in detention until 22 Oct 2013 when a court ordered his release.

    Ali Hatem, 14 years old, was at a coffee shop with friends when he was arrested with five others on 26 August 2013. He was blindfolded and taken to the police station where he was reportedly beaten and electrocuted to force him to confess. He was accused with rioting and was the public prosecution decided to detain him for seven days pending investigation although he denied all accusations. On 3 September 2013, his detention was extended for another seven days. His family was allowed to visit him on 5 September 2013 for the first time. He is currently facing charges of illegal gathering and rioting[18]. He was kept in detention until 10 Sep when he was finally released.

    Sayed Hassan Sayed Mohammed Shubber, 14 years old, was arrested on 17 September by security forces during a Shiaa religious celebration in Sehla. He was taken to Al-Khamis police station where he was questioned for nearly three hours about rioting and tire burning in Sehla village that took place on the same day. One of the police officers told him to be an informant and gave him a telephone number to call. He was finally released after reportedly being told that they would bring him back again the following day. On 18 September 2013, Sayed Hasan was taken to the public prosecution for interrogation without the presence of a lawyer. He was charged with burning tires and the prosecution ordered that he be detained for seven days pending investigation. On 25 September he was brought again before the Public Prosecution, who extended his detention for another seven days pending investigation[19]. After 2 weeks in detention, he was finally released on 2 Oct 2013.

     

    5 Impunity in the Cases of Child Victims of Extrajudicial Killings since February 14, 2011

    No official of any rank has been held accountable for any of the 16 deaths of children reported since Feb 14, 2011.[20] On the contrary, the fathers of these children have faced retaliation for continuously calling for justice for their murdered sons. On 26 Oct 2012, Jawad Al-Shaikh was arrested from a peaceful protest in Manama and was kept in detention for approximately a month before he was released. He was summoned and arrested several times after that. He is the father of 14 year old Ali Al-Shaikh who was killed with a tear gas shot to his neck from behind on 31 Aug 2011, the morning of Eid Al-Fiter. Jawad Al-Shaikh says that the authorities tried to force him to sign documents stating that Ali was not killed by regime forces. A few months later he was summoned by police for interrogation. Security forces have continuously raided the family's home and ripped pictures of Ali that hung on the wall. According to the Al-Shaikh family, security forces have constantly desecrated their son’s grave. Ahmed Al-Shaikh, the cousin of Ali Al-Shaikh, who was a witness of his killing, was arrested on January 5 2012. Ahmed has been charged with illegal gathering. Until this day, no official of any rank has been held accountable for the death of Ali.

     

    6 Other Violations ..

    Many children were deprived of their right to education when they were suspended for politically motivated reasons. Hesham Hasan, 8 years old, was suspended on 8 January 2013 from school and reportedly beaten by the members of the school administration for allegedly chanting political slogans. The suspension was enforced in accordance with the elementary school’s code of conduct set by the Ministry of Education in Bahrain, which violates both the Convention on Child Rights as well as the right to free expression. The school launched an investigation committee and interrogated the child without the presence of his parents. In addition to the interrogation, Hesham was beaten in front of his peers, causing him psychological harm[21].

     

    7 Recommendations:

    1. Immediately release all children detained, and provide them with rehabilitation and adequate medical treatment.

    2. Put an immediate end to the culture of impunity which fosters an environment for the continuation of all types of daily violations, including violations against children.

    3. Initiate steps of accountability for all those who have perpetrated violations, overseen, ordered and/or are administratively responsible for human rights violations in Bahrain.

    4. Immediately stop all arm sales to Bahrain; especially crowd control weapons like tear gas and pellets which have been used to kill or injure protesters, including children.

    5. Hold the Government of Bahrain accountable internationally for repeatedly violating the Convention on Child Rights which they are signatory to.

    6. Provide compensation for children who have been victims of the violations of the Government of Bahrain.

    7. Ensure a safe environment for all children to attend school and access to their right to education, without fear of arrest, beatings and/or humiliation.

    8. Initiate amendments to the laws in Bahrain to ensure the protection of children from all harm and violations.

    9. Change the legal age of minors to 18 rather than the current law which regards anyone above 16 as an adult.

     
     

     

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    Re: Call for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained human rights defender Mr. Nabeel Rajab according to the provisions of the Bahraini Code of Criminal Procedure
     
    Attn. Cheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa,
    King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587 

    Cheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa,
    Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284 

    Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, 
    Minister of Interior, Fax:+973 17390000. 

    HE Dr. Salah bin Ali Abdulrahman,
    Minister of Human Rights Affairs, Fax: +973 171 01 888 

    Cc: HE Mr. Nasser Al Belooshi,
    Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to France, Fax: +33 1 47 20 55 75 

    HE Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri,
    Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Fax: +41 22 758 96 50 

    Paris-Geneva, November 19, 2013 

    Excellencies, 

    The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, call upon the highest authorities of Bahrain to guarantee the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, who will have served 3/4 of his sentence on December 1st, 2013 and is therefore eligible an early release. Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s term as Deputy Secretary General of FIDH has been renewed by the newly elected International Board of FIDH at the occasion of its first meeting held in Paris on November 9, 2013. 

    Mr. Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), is serving a two years’ imprisonment sentence for advocating and exercising the right to peaceful assembly. He has been detained since July 9, 2012. 

    Between September and December 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders conducted four judicial observation missions to monitor the hearings in the trial of Mr. Nabeel Rajab. A report presenting the findings of those observations concluded that the trial in appeal against Mr. Rajab failed to comply with international standards of fair trial. The entire procedure was fraught with serious human rights violations from the time of arrest, through detention, trial and conviction [1]. We consider that Mr. Rajab’s conviction blatantly violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Bahrain [2], but also a number of basic internationally recognised human rights such as the right to fair trial. 

    Though the authorities of Bahrain have committed on several occasions to implement the recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), including the release of all prisoners of opinion, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is still detained. 

    Accordingly, the Observatory urges the relevant authorities to comply with both international and domestic laws and release Mr Rajab without any further delay. The Observatory calls in particular for the implementation of articles 349, 350, 353 of the Bahraini Code of Criminal Procedure. According to these provisions, detainees imprisoned for misdemeanours are eligible for an early release after serving 3/4 of their sentence given that their conduct and behaviour in prison are satisfactory. 

    We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account. 

    Yours sincerely, 

    Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH
    Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of OMCT

     

    Footnotes

    [1] See Observatory Judicial Observation Mission Report: «Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Advocating and Exercising the Right to Peaceful Assembly», released on 14 February, 2013.

    [2] Participation in peaceful activities to protest against violations of human rights, including through peaceful assemblies, is protected under international law.

     

    http://www.fidh.org/en/north-africa-middle-east/bahrain/14277-call-for-the-immediate-release-of-human-rights-defender-nabeel-rajab

     

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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern over ongoing attacks on the freedom of expression as several preachers and religious singers have been summoned for interrogation over speeches they made during the annual religious festival Ashura.

    On 21 November 2013, religious singer Sayed Murtadha Sayed Hasan was summoned for interrogation at the Wusta police station, where he was arrested on charges related to reciting poems at a religious procession on the 9th day of Muharram, which is 13 November 2013. He is due to appear before the public prosecution on Saturday 23 November 2013.

    On 20 November 2013, two preachers, Elyas AlMarzooq and Muneer AlMatooq, were summoned for interrogation at the Wusta police station regarding their speeches during the annual Ashura religious festival. According to information received by the BCHR, Elyas AlMarzooq was interrogated in regards to statements he made during a sermon. One such statement from AlMarzooq was quoted as being that “the women have a role in the triumph of the revolution”. It was reported that the police officer who led the interrogation is Turki AlMajed who has been reported several times for involvement in human rights violations and has been listed in a recent campaign from the BCHR, ‘wanted for justice’.

    On 14 November 2013, religious singer AbdulAmir AlBilady was summoned for interrogation at the Noaim police station. He was interrogated for mentioning the name of an imprisoned religious singer Mahdi Sahwan, while reciting a poem during a religious procession the previous evening, on 13 November 2013. He was released after the interrogation.

    These attacks on the freedom of expression during popular religious gatherings are not a new occurrence. The BCHR has documented similar attacks in the past where clerics and religious singers were summoned and arrested for their speeches. (See the November 2012 report http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5521).

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and other allies and international institutions to pressure the Bahraini authorities to:

    1. Immediately release all persons who are detained for practicing their right to freedom of speech and expression in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drop all charges against them.
    2. Repeal the laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise to the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

     

    Also Read:

    Updates: Bahrain: Authorities Promoting Sectarian Tensions by Targeting Shia Muslims During Ashoura http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/6565

     

     

     

     

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    Published 1 Nov 2013 on HuffPost Live-

    Calling for an end to impunity, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights launched a campaign on Friday to expose government officials and state employees who they claim are responsible for ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain. Maryam Al-Khawaja, President of BCHR, joined HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin to discuss the reasons for launching such a campaign.

    “We’re looking at a situation where a police officer [who] shot and killed a citizen because he received orders to do so, or because he did it himself, is able to get away with it and not even be held accountable or questioned,” Al-Khawaja said.

    To raise awareness both within Bahrain and internationally, BCHR is releasing pictures of those individuals on signs with the slogan: "Wanted For Justice In Bahrain."

    The report names the head of the ruling family, Hamad Isa Al-Khalifa, as responsible for the culture of impunity which allows violations to continue.

    The center says that while they expect retaliation from the government, they are launching this campaign because it is clear that "justice cannot be attained within the judicial system in Bahrain."

    As Al-Khawaja reiterates, “People are already paying the price. If doing this campaign means more risks for the current situation, maybe something better [will come] in the long term, [and] then it’s a risk worth taking,” she added.

    To hear more from Maryam Al-Khawaja, watch the clip below.

     

     

    Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/bahrain-center-for-human-rights-end-impunity_n_4193997.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

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    Nicholas McGeehan (HRW)

    November 22, 2013

    It has now been two years since the publication of a landmark report examining events during antigovernment protests in Bahrain in February and March 2011, including the violent response of the security forces that left scores dead. The 593 pages of the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry contain numerous references to torture in detention, “excessive and unnecessary lethal force,” and “terror-inspiring behavior” on the part of the security forces.

    Why, one might ask, would the government of Bahrain expose itself to such unrelenting and embarrassing criticism from a committee comprised of eminent international jurists? To his credit, on the day of the report’s publication, King Hamad explained: “Any government which has a sincere desire for reform and progress understands the benefit of objective and constructive criticism.”

    But two years later, the government of Bahrain has not implemented the report’s key recommendations. It has not determined “the accountability of those in government who… committed unlawful or negligent acts resulting in the deaths, torture, and mistreatment of civilians.” And not only has the government failed to “commute [the] sentences of all persons charged with offences involving political expression,” as the report recommends, but it has persisted with a policy of arresting and prosecuting opposition leaders and others who exercise that right.

    If the report is to be anything more than a historical record of blood-spattered facts – if it is to have the redemptive and transformative impact that was ostensibly its purpose – then the government of Bahrain needs to implement its recommendations. And other countries that claim at every passing opportunity to support the reform process in Bahrain should use this anniversary to call publicly on the Bahraini authorities to implement the reforms – or face accusations that what they really support is the status quo.

    http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/22/dispatches-need-address-bloody-facts-bahrain

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    House of Commons- Foreign Affairs Committee

    Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remain key partners for the UK but relations are complicated by the differences between our societies and the pressing need for reform in the Gulf. In reality, the UK is getting the balance of its interests and values broadly right in the region, but it is failing to explain its approach to the public, according to a report published today by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

    Given the growing role of other important partners for the Gulf, the UK’s influence in the region should not be over-estimated or taken for granted. The UK will need to work harder in the future to maintain its influence and secure its interests.

    The report says the Government has rightly emphasised the historic warm relations between the UK government and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. But there is worrying evidence that this warmth is not shared by the public in Saudi Arabia and the UK, and that the UK’s reputation in Bahrain has also suffered since 2011. The Government must make its public profile and reputation a more central part of its work in the Gulf and ensure that constructive relationships are built with a wide cross section of society if it is to remain a principal partner in the future.                                                    

    The Government must consider how it can best support much-needed economic and political reforms, and how it can explain its policies and point to specific achievements when speaking to the public at home and in the Gulf. In Saudi Arabia, the Government must convert its promising steps so far in providing assistance on legal and judicial reform into solid and reportable programmes. In Bahrain, it must work to secure access for NGOs and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and press more strongly for swifter implementation of reforms.

    The report recognises that Saudi Arabia’s role as a key buyer for the UK defence industry is controversial. But it finds that, with other competitors in the market, there is little to suggest that ending defence sales from the UK would have any positive effect, and might actually reduce the UK’s leverage and its ability to provide training programmes.

    The aggressive way in which the Bahraini security forces handled events in 2011 has deeply damaged Bahrain’s reputation. The recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) were sensible and the Bahraini government’s failure fully to implement them is inexplicable. The Government must press Bahrain to move forward urgently with reform, and if no greater progress is seen, it should designate Bahrain a Country of Concern in its next human rights report.

    Committee Chairman Rt Hon Richard Ottaway MP said:

    The UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain require a sensitive and nuanced approach, taking into account our long history of relations and shared interests, as well as the differences between our societies. The Government is correct to focus on what is constructive and achievable by working with the leadership in both states, but it cannot simply ignore the charges of hypocrisy and criticism levelled against the UK. The FCO must find new ways to explain the UK’s approach, to highlight its successes, and to present a more coherent strategy of engagement with these important allies.”

    “The Committee heard powerful accounts of very differing experiences in Bahrain, from across the political and social spectrum. We are deeply saddened by the impression of a society that is becoming increasingly polarised.  It is not our place to adjudicate on the events of 2011 or how they should be resolved: it is a matter for the Bahrainis. However, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommendations were accepted by all sides and the UK Government must continue to press for urgent progress on the implementation of these reforms, as well as encourage dialogue and reconciliation.”

    “Although there are undeniably many serious human rights concerns in these states, there is also some cause to be optimistic about reform. King Abdullah has made significant progress on reforms in Saudi Arabia, particularly on women’s rights. Although this starts from a very low base, progress should be recognised and encouraged. In Bahrain, the Crown Prince is doing valuable work in promoting reform and reconciliation, and the UK is right to support his efforts. Nonetheless, the Government must be vigilant in monitoring progress in both states and be prepared to respond robustly where reforms stall or are reversed.”

    FURTHER INFORMATION:

    Committee Membership is as follows:

    Rt Hon Richard Ottaway (Chair) (Croydon South), Conservative; Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), Conservative; Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife), Liberal Democrat; Rt Hon Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley), Labour; Mike Gapes (Ilford South), Labour; Mark Hendrick (Preston), Labour; Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock), Labour; Andrew Rosindell (Romford), Conservative; Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw), Labour; Rt Hon Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling), Conservative; Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border), Conservative

    Specific Committee Information:  Tel: 020 7219 6105; email: FAC@parliament.uk

    Media Information:  Alex Paterson: patersona@parliament.uk; 020 7219 1589 or 07917 488488

    Committee Website:  www.parliament.uk/facom 

    Watch committees and parliamentary debates online:  www.parliamentlive.tv 

     

    Excerpts from the Report:

    UK support for action by NGOs and International Organisations

    212.  In addition to bilateral dialogue and pressure, the UK has also supported international action in the United Nations, for example. In its written submission, Human Rights Watch emphasised the importance of these mechanisms and recommended that the UK:

    Should take a strong and consistent position on rights abuses in these countries in dedicated forums like the UN Human Rights Council. It should press all of these countries to allow regular and unfettered access to UN special mechanisms (rapporteurs, for example) and international human rights organisations.[403

    The UK participated in Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and made recommendations for further reforms by Bahrain. However, in April 2013 Bahrain postponed a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. The visit, which had been postponed once before, was seen as an important part of the reforms and improvements Bahrain had committed to make as part of its UPR. The Special Rapporteur, Juan Mendez, criticised the decision by the Bahraini authorities, stating:

    This is the second time that my visit has been postponed, at very short notice. It is effectively a cancellation as no alternative dates were proposed nor is there a future road map to discuss.[404

    A spokesperson in the FCO told the BBC that the decision was "disappointing", and said then FCO minister Alistair Burt, had raised the issue with the Bahraini government "stressing the importance we and the international community place on the visit".[405]

    213.  We recommend that the Government make securing an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture a priority in its next Joint Working Group with the Bahraini authorities.

    214.  The UK is right to be understanding of Bahrain's dilemmas. For its region, prior to the protests it was liberal and reforming, and there is not an easy answer to its internal political issues. However, many of Bahrain's problems are of its Government's own making. The UK must press with greater urgency and force for Bahrain to implement the BICI reforms, engage seriously in dialogue and welcome UN mechanisms in order to re-establish good faith in its intentions. If there is no significant progress by the start of 2014, the Government should designate Bahrain as a 'country of concern' in its Human Rights Report.

     

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/news/saudi--bahrain-substantive/ 

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    Press Release:

    End Impunity in #Bahrain Campaign: What next?

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights released 59 “Wanted for Justice” cards over the past 23 days of individuals implicated in human rights violations in Bahrain. Today, on the International Day to End Impunity, the last four cards were released. It should be noted here that this list is not comprehensive, and these reported human rights violators are not all new; some of the individuals have a history of allegations that stretches back to the 1990s, and who have been implicated by other NGOs reports, such as Human Rights Watch’s 2010 Torture Redux report. However, they continue to enjoy impunity to this day. 

    The BCHR made it clear in its initial press release the reasons for this campaign, stating, “It is about time we put a face to the violations. Continuously referring to the perpetrators of widespread human rights violations from the 1990’s until now as the ‘Government of Bahrain’ or the ‘regime’ allows the individuals involved to continue living and traveling freely. Let their faces be known, not only in Bahrain, but also internationally. All the names included in our list are people who should be given a fair trial according to international standards, and if found guilty, should be held accountable. We also hope that this campaign will help encourage international actors to stop doing business with these individuals, and start thinking about individual sanctions”.

    As expected, the campaign received much backlash from pro-government groups, including calls for trials and legal action against the BCHR, and death threats against BCHR staff, particularly the Vice President, Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdhah, who has since decided to stay abroad for safety reasons. From the launch of this campaign, we knew that bringing attention to the serious allegations of human rights abuses against such a repressive and violent regime would mean facing great risks, not only for the members of the BCHR personally, but also for our families inside Bahrain, and the imprisoned President of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab. However, we firmly believe that this campaign was necessary as the culture of impunity is the driving force behind the continuation of human rights abuses in Bahrain.

    Founder of BCHR, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, stated in a message from inside prison where he is serving a life sentence for his human rights work:

    “Any political deal that includes the staying of perpetrators of violations in their positions will strengthen the culture of impunity and lead to failure in achieving justice for the victims. It will foster an environment in which violations will be repeated in the future. The continuation of the culture of impunity will also increase the limitations people’s rights in demanding justice from the perpetrators and their removal from their posts. This is such for Syria, Yemen, Egypt and any country that is witnessing systematic human rights violations; like Bahrain.”

     

    Moving forward:

    End Impunity in #Bahrain – an ongoing campaign

     

    The BCHR is looking into different mechanisms internationally to call for individual sanctions and accountability for the people listed in this campaign. As long as the judicial system in Bahrain remains biased and used as a political tool against dissidents rather than for serving justice, the BCHR will continue to bring attention those who have been implicated in human rights violations in the country. In addition to legal action, the BCHR will continue to release additional “Wanted for Justice” cards as evidence is collected and verified through documentation.

     

     

    Link to the full report.
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    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concerns over new restrictions to freedom of expression over the internet through the systematic surveillance and censorship of online space. 

     

    On 18 November 2013, the Minister of State for Telecommunications Affairs, Fawaz Al Khalifa announced the inauguration of the Cyber Safety Directorate at the Ministry of State for Telecommunications Affairs “to assume its role in monitoring websites and social media networks to ensure they are not used to instigate violence or terrorism and disseminate lies and fallacies that pose a threat to the kingdom's security and stability.” He added the establishment of this directorate comes as part of implementing the 15 recommendations of the National assembly issued last July, which has been widely criticized by local and international NGOs as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and 47 countries, including the United States, for its apparent restrictions on freedom of expression.

    In addition, a hotline number and an e-mail address were published for the general population to report “any websites or accounts inciting violence and acts of terror, jeopardizing peoples’ life and public interests or targeting national unity and civic peace”. It was also announced that the ministry is working on preparing a new law on cybercrimes that incriminates whoever misuses websites, creates accounts for terrorists groups, or spreads their activities and extremist ideas online and disseminates false allegations.

    Last September, the Cabinet approved legislation to regulate websites and online content. This legislation provides a platform to criminalize anyone who establishes a website, publishes information online or uses any information technology tools to assist or aid communications with terror cells, as well as promoting the disruption of public order or morale.

    The government of Bahrain has a history of restricting internet freedoms, and while the government alleges that they are taking these measures to safeguard national security, in practice the BCHR has observed that the authorities use these powers to arbitrarily interpret and criminalize online speech as well as block websites tied to the political opposition and human rights websites. Between May and June 2013, six twitter users, including a 17 year-old student, have been sentenced to 1 year in prison each for allegedly “insulting the King over twitter”. In total, over 118 months of imprisonment have been delivered to 13 internet users since June 2012 for their online posts. A photographer (Hussain Hubail) and a blogger (Jassim AlNoaimi) both detained since 31 July 2013, are expected to stand trial on 28 Nov 2013 on charges of “misusing social media”.

    At the same time, it should be noted that internet users associated with the authorities have been actively sending online threats toward human rights activists and other online users without any action from the authorities, including the famous twitter account @7areghum. The individual running this account is a cyber-vigilante who was reported by the Bahraini Commission of Inquiry in its 2011 report for “defamation and incitement”. However, the account is still active and continues its illegal activity.[1]

     

    Over 1000 websites are blocked in Bahrain, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights website www.bahrainrights.org/. On 24 November 2013, it was reported that the alternative link to BCHR’s website has been also blocked http://bahrainrights.hopto.org following to the publication of a report which includes serious allegations against high ranked government officials, including members of the Bahraini ruling family. Additionally, a website which does live broadcasts of the religious events of Ashoura from over 30 areas in Bahrain has been recently blocked http://matam.tv as well as another website which broadcast events of political societies – this website was blocked on 23 November 2013, during a broadcast of a conference on the implementation of the recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s: bhrlive.hopto.org

    Last October, Freedom House ranked Bahrain as “Not Free” in its report on “Freedom on the net”.

     

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and other allies and international institutions to pressure the Bahraini authorities to:

    1. Immediately release all persons who are detained for practicing their right to freedom of speech and expression online in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and drop all charges against them.
    2. Repeal the laws that criminalize the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
    3. Stop surveillance of the internet, and stop chasing and punishing individuals for exercising their legitimate right to express their opinion through electronic pages.
    4. Stop censorship and remove the ban on all public forums and cultural, social, human rights, political and religious discussion websites.
    5. Cancel all measures that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.

     

     

     

     

     

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    The Gulf Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights express concern over the growing threats against human rights defenders and the continued exploitation of the judicial system and vague charges to arrest and detain them to hamper their work.

    On 23 Nov 2013 a local pro-government newspaper “Akhbar Alkhaleej” and three GONGO's, namely Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), Karama Human Rights Society and the Gulf European Center for Human Rights, published the photos and names of 18 renowned Bahraini human rights defenders and political activists and alleged their responsibility for human rights violations and terrorist attacks among other allegations, and called for punishments against them. it is important to note that Faisal Foulad, the head of BHRWS, was one of the people named on the "End Impunity" campaign for his implication in the Bandargate report and reportedly overseeing confessions that were taken under duress.

    Following this campaign, human rights defender Hussain Jawad, the Chairman of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), one of the defenders targeted in that campaign was arrested on 24 Nov 2013 after he went to the Wusta police station (Isa town) to file a complaint for defamation and incitement to kill against the above mentioned newspaper and GONGO organizations. He was transferred to Noaim police station and he was charged with “inciting hatred of the regime” on the background of a speech he gave in Manama earlier this month. He was kept in custody until he was presented to the public prosecution the next day 25 Nov 2013 where he was interrogated in presence of his lawyer. Public prosecutor then ordered his detention for 15 days pending investigation. He was transferred to the Dry Docks temporary detention center.

    Hussain Jawad

    Defender Hussain Jawad has been active in reporting on human rights issues in Bahrain, talking to the media, and participating in local human rights events as well as communicating with the UN OHCHR office. His arrest came one day after his picture was published in the local press as "wanted" as a response to BCHR's "End Impunity" campaign.

    On 25 Nov 2013, the court of cassation rejected an appeal from the imprisoned president of the Bahrain Teachers Society, Mahdi AbuDeeb, concluding a 2 years and a half retaliation show trials that have disregarded the results of an investigation of reported torture allegations and proceeded with upholding a 5 years prison sentence for AbuDeeb.

    Mahdi AbuDeeb has been in detention since 6 April 2011 after a violent arrest when security forces threw him from the second floor of the house he was in. He was held incommunicado for more than a month with no access to his family or lawyer, and kept in solitary confinement for the whole period until his first military court hearing on 7 June 2011 alongside the vice president Mrs Jalila Al-Salman. Both Abudeeb and Al-Salman have reported that they were subjected to severe torture and ill-treatment in detention to force confessions. On 23 September 2011 Mahdi and Jalila were sentenced by a military court to 10 and 3 years imprisonment respectively for calling for a teachers strike. On 21 October 2012 their sentences were reduced to 5 years and 6 months imprisonment. The charges against them were: halting the educational process, inciting hatred, and attempting to overthrow the regime by force. Jalila was released after she served the 6 months prison sentence, but fired from her work as a teacher in a government school due to her conviction.

    On 25 Nov 2013, lawyer of imprisoned human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja said that a new case has been brought against her and a new trial will commence on 22 Dec 2013 on charges of “insulting a police officer”. Al-Khawaja, who is serving a total of 12 months on multiple charges and due to remain in prison until Feb 2014, has written from prison about the circumstances of this new case, which was a result of Al-Khawaja standing to defend another prisoners against prison’s guard insults and humiliation.

    She was interrogated at the prison in absence of her lawyer. (Read the details here) The timing of the new case seems only a measure to keep the human rights activist in prison for a longer period. These new charges appear to come as an act of retaliation against the recent campaign of BCHR to end impunity, In which several government officials were named as human rights abusers, including the head of women prison who ordered and allowed ill-treatment towards prisoners including activist Al-Khawaja. The BCHR had warned that families of members of the BCHR are the most likely targets of retaliation to the campaign.

    The GCHR and BCHR believes that the human rights defenders Hussain Jawad, Mahdi AbuDeeb, Jalila Al-Salman and Zainab Al-Khawaja have been targeted with arrest, detention and unfair prison sentences solely due to the legitimate exercise of freedom of speech and peaceful activities in defence of human rights in Bahrain. In the cases of Hussain Jawad and Zainab AlKhawaja,  it also comes as a form of retaliation against the "End Impunity" campaign.

    Therefore, the GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration and other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and the leading human rights organizations to:

    1. Call for the immediate release of human rights activists Hussain Jawad, Mahdi AbuDeeb and Zainab Al-Khawaja as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.
    2. Stop intimidation, slander and harassment of the human rights defenders, and stop all media campaigns in the pro-government newspapers that defame human rights defenders and incite hatred against them.
    3. Increase the pressure on the Government of Bahrain to stop the on-going daily human rights violations and the escalating attacks against human rights defenders.
    4. To put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

     

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