The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) express concern at the ongoing ill-treatment of detained human rights defender Naji Fateel and call for his immediate release as he commences a hunger strike for freedom.
On 1 September 2014, imprisoned human rights defender and the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)Naji Fateel announced the start of a hunger strike along with over 30 other prisoners at Jaw prison, including Ahmed Abbas, another imprisoned member of the BYSHR, in solidarity with the leading human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja who has been on hunger strike himself for over 13 days as of today, and also to demand their own release as their detention is due to the legitimate exercise of their rights of expression and assembly.
Fateel has been detained since 2 May 2013 on charges of “setting up a terrorist group which aims to suspend the constitution and harm national unity” in relation to the opposition youth movement known as the 14 February Coalition. Information relating to torture and evidence of his torture were obvious during his trial, which fell short of international fair trial principles, despite the obvious marks from such treatment on his body no investigation was launched into the allegations of torture and he was instead sentenced to 15 years in prison on 29 September 2013. Furthermore, he suffers from inflammation and pain in his leg which was broken prior to his arrest and which he was beaten on during interrogation. He is in need of medical care to remove pins which were left in his leg from when it was splinted before arrest.
According to reports, Fateel has been subjected to severe torture during interrogation in the notorious Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He has received electric shocks to his genitals, left foot, and back, and been subjected to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish photographs of his wife (taken from her camera which was confiscated when security forces raided the family home), verbal abuse, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats to rape him, standing for long hours, and sleep deprivation.
Since his arrest, Fateel has been subjected to repeated acts of ill-treatment and ongoing poor prison conditions. On 26 August 2014, his family, having waited 15 minutes for Fateel to appear at a scheduled visit at Prison of Jaw, were informed by the prison officials that he was not going to attend the visit because he was in solitary confinement. His wife was not given any basis for this treatment.
Fateel later called his wife and informed her that the reason for putting him – and others- in solitary confinement was because they had objected to the poor prison conditions, including lack of air conditioning in the current hot weather and unusable toilets, and demanding proper medical care for the many ill prisoners. Although he was taken out of solitary he said it might happen again as he will continue demanding improvements of these conditions.
When his trial of appeal started in November 2013, the Bahraini authorities denied entry to a lawyer who was sent by international NGOs for trial observation. On 29 May 2014 the court of appeal upheld the 15 years imprisonment sentence of the human rights defender without investigating his torture allegations.
The GCHR and the BCHR believe that the prosecution and sentences against the human rights defender Naji Fateel are solely related to his legitimate and peaceful activities in the field of human rights.
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 leading human rights organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release Naji Fateel and all human rights defenders and activists held in Bahrain as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities;
2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into all reports of alleged torture of Naji Fateel with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with international standards;
3. Ensure the implementation of international standards related to interrogation, detention, and a fair trial, and to ensure the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and the defendant's right to innocence until proven guilty in a lawful court which meet the requirements of a fair trial.
4. 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.