As part of a wider repressive campaign against freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain, the number of detained Bahraini photographers rises to six.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern for the Bahrain authorities’ continuing disregard of calls by international human rights organisations to end the security clampdown on Bahrainis demanding freedom and democracy. The BCHR is particularly concerned about the targeting of journalists, photographers and human rights activists whose peaceful activities have managed to break through the government’s news blackout and widely disseminate the far-reaching violations of the Bahrain government.
At dawn on Thursday 24 July 2014, 30 year-old Ammar Abdul-Rasool was arrested during a series of illegal raids affecting some ten houses in his home village of Akkar. Abdul-Rasool is the recipient of over eighty international awards for his photography, and is a member of the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP).
According to a testimony from his family, a group of eight masked civilians accompanied by a military force raided Abdul-Rasool’s father’s house at dawn on Thursday 24 July in order to arrest the award-winning photographer. The troops had no legal permission authorizing the search of the house and did not present an arrest warrant. However, Abdul-Rasool does not live with his father, so the troops requested that the father take them to his son’s apartment, which was then broken into by the same force. The family said that the men ransacked the apartment and seized two digital cameras and a mobile phone belonging to Abdul-Rasool, whereafter he was taken to the criminal investigation department (CID), which is a well-known site for torture and degrading treatment of detainees; in particular political detainees and prisoners of conscience.
This is not the first time that Abdul-Rasool has been targeted. Previously, he was arrested in February 2013 and detained at the central police station before being released the same day.
In view of the Bahraini authorities’ vicious crackdown on freedom of expression and their targeting of media activity, the BCHR fears that detained Ammar Abdul-Rasool will suffer torture and/or imprisonment. The BCHR has previously documented six detained photographers - two suffered extra-judicial execution, and eight were fired at directly by security forces using shotguns.
The BCHR believes that the targeting and arrest of photographers represents a flagrant violation of the covenants and international treaties that guarantee the right to freedom of expression, in particular 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 regardless of frontiers.”
On the basis of what has been mentioned above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and all other allies of the Bahrain government, and international institutions to:
- Put pressure on the Bahrain authority for the immediate release of Ammar Abdul-Rasool and all detained photographers, and allow them to exercise their right to freedom of expression without hindrance;
- Put pressure on the Bahrain authority to be regardful of the maintenance of human rights, in particular the freedom of the press and the freedom of dissemination of information;
- Put the Bahraini government on trial at an international tribunal on account of its continuing violations of international treaties to which it is a signatory, in particular Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Put pressure on the Bahrain authorities to discontinue the systematic targeting of photographers, journalists and bloggers;
- Hold to account all those, particularly high-ranking individuals, who have been involved in supervising or ordering torture.