The Bahrain Center for Human Rights Acting Vice President and Head of Documentation, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah, spoke at a side event at the UN Human Rights Council hosted by Human Rights Watch yesterday. Al-Muhafdah addressed human rights issues in Bahrain, and focused on the lack of implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations, and specifically the right to freedom of expression and the right to assembly in Bahrain.
Nicholas McGeehan from Human Rights Watch also spoke at the event, and the BCHR's Acting President Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was present in the audience, wrote about his presentation:
The full text of Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah's speech, delivered in Geneva on 16 September 2013, is as follows:
Last year I delivered a speech here at the Human Rights Council in Geneva during a side event, and before going back to my country, our photos were already published in the newspapers and we were threatened. A few weeks after our arrival back in Bahrain, I got arrested… Let's see what happens this year…
My speech today is about the lack of implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations, specifically the right to freedom of expression and the right to assembly in Bahrain.
Recommendation number 98 from the United States of America was about dropping all charges related to freedom of expression. Recommendation number 91 from Slovakia and recommendation 100 from the Czech Republic was about the immediate release of detainees who have participated in peaceful protests. Recommendation 159 from Switzerland called for the release of those held on charges related to freedom of expression.
. The government claimed that it dropped all charges related to freedom of expression against political detainees, but in reality, continues to arrest people for participating in peaceful protests or for expressing their views. Others who were already in prison on charges related to freedom of expression and assembly, have not been released. An example is the case known as the Bahrain 13, which is the case of the political and human rights leaders Human Rights Watch released a detailed report about how the entire case was based on charges related to freedom of expression, and no evidence had been provided of any criminal charges other than confessions under torture.
Dr. Ali AlEkry and Male Nurse Ebrahim AlDimistany are still behind bars for treating injured protesters and participating in the medics protest at the Pearl Roundabout.
The President of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Mahdi Abu Deeb, is still behind bars because he called for a strike after attacks on students and schools.
The president of our organization, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab, is still behind bars on charges of calling for peaceful protests.
There are many other examples which I cannot mention due to the time limit.
The following are examples of people who were arrested after the UPR recommendations because of their opinions or for exercising their right to assembly:
Five citizens were sentenced between six months and a year for criticizing the king of the country on Twitter, noting that the king of Bahrain is a key player in the executive authority, and criticizing the performance of the executive authorities is a guaranteed right, especially that he is the one who appoints the government, the ministers, the senior positions in the ministries. He is also the one who appoints the judges and the prosecutors, and the one who appoints forty members of the Shura Council. but most importantly, he changed the constitution in 2002 to the current one that does not comply with international standards regarding civil and Political Rights,
Recommendation number 158 from Spain called for putting an end to the targeting of human rights defenders. Unfortunately attacks on human rights defenders have escalated since then. I personally got arrested for a month because of tweeting and other Human Rights Defenders were targeted as well like Mohammed AlMaskati who is being tried for exercising his right to protest in the capital, and the of arrest human rights defender Naji Fateel who was severely tortured and imprisoned under the law of terrorism, and the arrest of blogger Nader Abdulimam, and blogger Mohamed Hassan and photographer Hussain Hubail and the arrest of lawyer Moosa Abdulaziz because of tweeting that he saw marks of torture on blogger Mohammed Hassan. Hundreds were arrested this year for exercising their right to expression, including women and children.
Recommendation 14 from France called for the ratification of the Convention relating to the protection of citizens from Enforced Disappearances, and recommendation 33 from Morocco is to add articles on enforced disappearances in the domestic law. The BCHR recently released a report on enforced disappearances documenting how it is a systematic policy to subject those arrested to enforced disappearance during which they are usually ill-treated and or torture.
Recommendation number 148 relates to the freedom expression is about allowing foreign media access to Bahrain, yet dozens were not allowed to access Bahrain, especially the day before the protests on August 14.
Recommendation number 60, 61 and 160 are all related to the right of peaceful assembly, but the king issued a blanket ban on all protests in the capital Manama in August.
The Government of Bahrain continues to use excessive force against most protests, then subjects areas that witnessed protests to collective punishment. By collective punishment I mean the practice of shooting teargas inside homes, cars, and the beating of villagers and the kidnapping of young people and torturing them in unofficial torture centers only because they exercised their right to assembly. To add to that, authorities have resorted to locking down entire villages using barbed wire and cement blocks to prevent protesters from reaching the main roads and to make arrests easier.
Recommendation number 102 was to reform the police and not to use force, but as an individual who documents the violations on the ground in Bahrain, there isn’t any reform. There is a widespread culture of impunity and high orders to practice violations as there are dozens of videos and pictures showing how the police torture, steal, and attack public and private properties.
The Prime Minister of Bahrain even went to the extent of visiting an officer Mubarak Bin Huwail who was acquitted of torture charges against medics despite sufficient evidence, thanking him for his job and reminding him that the laws are not applied to him.
Recommendation number 66 called for cooperating with the United Nations mechanisms. The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay mentioned in her opening speech of this session about the lack of cooperation and the effective cancellation of the visit of the Special Rapporteur of torture as recommendation number 59 had urged for allowing the Special Rapporteur on torture to visit Bahrain in 2012.
In the month of July the national assembly which is supposed to represent the people, issued recommendations for amendments to the law that further restricts basic human rights. The king, crown prince and prime minister called for the hesty implementation of these recommendations.
We thank the 47 countries who signed on to the joint statement on Bahrain, but as this is the third joint statement, we appeal to you to support a resolution on Bahrain in the next session.
Follow up on the implementation of the BICI and UPR recommendations here at the Human Rights Council to show Bahrain that their claims of implementation are not enough.