BCHR has joind other NGOs to deliver the following statement during the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council:
Item 10 general debate statement - 25th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Madam Vice President,
Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call to the Council’s attention areas of human rights deficiencies that would benefit from technical assistance and capacity building in coordination with the Office of the High Commissioner. Specifically, we would like to encourage the Kingdom of Bahrain to enhance cooperation with OHCHR by establishing a country office in the Kingdom.
At the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council, 47 States signed a joint statement expressing their serious concern over a litany of ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain. These abuses include: the use of torture and ill-treatment; the increases in long sentences for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and the lack of sufficient guarantee of fair trial; the repression of demonstrations; and, the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including human rights defenders and journalists.
The statement also called on the Government of Bahrain to release prisoners held in relation to their human rights, and to invite OHCHR to establish a full mandate country office in Bahrain.
In the months since that statement, we have seen few constructive steps taken by Bahrain to address these ongoing abuses. Despite the committed efforts of OHCHR, the Bahraini government has prolonged negotiations for the establishment of a country office in the Kingdom.
With this ongoing process in mind, we join the 47 States in supporting OHCHR’s continuing negotiations with Bahrain. We agree that certain concrete steps by the government are essential in creating an environment in which an OHCHR mission can succeed. Such concrete steps should include releasing political prisoners and relaxing laws that unduly restrict civil society, free assembly and expression. We would also like to reiterate that any OHCHR mission in the country should include both a monitoring, as well as a capacity-building mandate.
Item 10 general debate statement - 25th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Madam Vice President,
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, with the support of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call to the Council’s attention the refusal of leading members of the Council to engage UN Special Procedures and mechanisms as a means of technical assistance and capacity building. For example, we specifically cite Saudi Arabia’s failure to constructively engage with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, many of which have maintained pending country visit requests for over ten years.
Six Special Procedures currently maintain outstanding country visit requests to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, pending since 2005, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, also pending since 2005, and, most recently, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, pending since 2013. Saudi Arabia has not allowed a Special Procedure to visit the country since 2008, when the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women traveled to the Kingdom and reported widespread and systemic abuse of women in the Kingdom, making numerous and broad recommendations to alleviate their plight. Since the Rapporteur issued her report, however, international human rights organizations and human rights defenders on the ground have found little to no progress in elevating Saudi women towards equality.
At the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, we call on all governments to positively and expeditiously respond to pending Special Procedure country visit requests in order to facilitate necessary technical assistance and capacity building. We further ask the Government of Saudi Arabia to implement all of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women in 2008. We also ask that Saudi Arabia, as a leading Member of the Human Rights Council, to not only invite the Special Procedures with pending visit requests, but to extend a standing invitation to all Special Procedures to conduct country visits to the Kingdom.
Thank you, Madam Vice President
Item 9 Oral intervention - 23rd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, in coordination with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like bring to the Council’s attention certain cases of religious intolerance and discrimination in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain’s exclusionary labor practices against Shi’a—particularly regarding the security forces; the dissolution of the Shi’a Islamic Scholars Council; and the harassment of leading Shi’a religious figures in the country, stand in opposition to Section II, paragraphs 46, 47, and 49 of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Bahraini Shi’a suffer from discrimination in public sector employment in Bahrain. Such discrimination is most concerning in the Ministry of Interior and security forces. Shi’a are not represented in the upper levels of leadership in the Bahraini security forces. Subsequently, these forces are often implicated in human rights abuses targeting Shi’a protestors, political and human rights activists, religious figures and places of worship.
Bahrain continues to target many leading Shi’a spiritual leaders with harassment and detention, including: Sheikh Mohammed Habib Miqdad, Sheikh Abduljalil Miqdad, and Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Mahfood.
Particularly concerning was the case of Sheikh Hussain Najati, whose Bahraini citizenship was arbitrarily revoked in 2012. Continued abuses against him were highlighted earlier this year by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, who expressed his concern that: “on 23 April  [Sheikh] Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave his own country for Lebanon after being exposed to enormous pressure and harassment by the authorities.”
The Bahrain government has repeatedly demonstrated a pattern of religious intolerance and discrimination towards the Shi’a majority population in Bahrain. We therefore call on the Government of Bahrain to facilitate a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on religious freedom to conduct a neutral and independent assessment in the country at the earliest possible date. We further call on the Bahrain government to fulfill its commitments to the recommendations of the BICI and UPR reports regarding safeguards against discrimination for followers of all faiths.
Item 9 Oral intervention - 23rd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, together with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call the Council’s attention to the continued lack of implementation of key elements of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action by leading Member States in the Human Rights Council. Today, we would specifically like to draw attention to ongoing failures to implement Article II B, Section 3 of the Declaration, which addresses “the equal status of human rights of women.”
The most concerning example of these violations can be found in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia continues to uphold its male-guardianship law, which legally binds women to a designated male guardian, thereby rendering women inferior citizens who are unable to act independently. Despite pledges to dismantle this system during its recent UPR, the guardianship laws continue to leave Saudi women dependent on men in most aspects of daily living. Areas encompassed under the male-guardianship laws extend to include women’s rights to access education, employment, legal proceedings, or even the ability to undergo certain medical procedures.
These systematic gender-based restrictions in Saudi law also extend to a woman’s basic right to travel. In addition to needing male permission to travel outside the country, Saudi Arabia also maintains a ban on the ability of women to drive. Women who challenge this ban may be jailed, fined or face corporal punishment.
We therefore call upon Saudi Arabia, as a Member State on the Human Rights Council, to expeditiously implement the standards laid out in Article II B, Section 3 of the Vienna Declaration, to ensure the equal status of human rights of women, by abolishing the male-guardianship system. Furthermore, in the interest of accountability, we call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to facilitate a visit by the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice.
Item 5 Oral intervention - 22nd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Said Yousif AlMuhafdha (BCHR):
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, with the support of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to call the Council’s attention to Bahrain’s engagement with the international human rights mechanisms of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture.
The Government of Bahrain acceded to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 2006 and the Convention against Torture in 1998. By the terms of its accession to these treaties, Bahrain is obligated to periodically report its progress in implementing its treaty obligations. Despite these obligations, however, Bahrain’s initial report to the Committee on Human Rights is now seven years overdue. Additionally, Bahrain submitted its last report to the Committee against Torture in 2005; its follow-up report to the Committee is also seven years past due. In the meantime, Bahrain has systematically violated its obligations under the ICCPR and CAT. Human rights defenders in Bahrain regularly report instances of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and denials of the rights to freedom of expression and association. Allegations of torture and the use of confessions derived from torture to secure convictions in Bahraini courts are also significantly widespread.
On the occasion of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, we call on Bahrain to adhere to its obligations under the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture, and submit timely reporting to their respective treaty bodies.
We additionally call on Bahrain to allow for the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment, to visit the country in order to conduct independent and neutral assessments of the human rights situation therein.
Item 6 Oral intervention - 22nd Sep 2014 - Delivered By Michael Payne (ADHRB):
Mr. Vice President,
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), together with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call the Council’s attention to the status of Bahrain’s implementation of its 2012 Universal Periodic Review. Of the 158 recommendations addressing issues ranging from the use of torture and arbitrary detention to restrictions on free speech and assembly, Bahrain has thus far failed to effectively implement the vast majority of these recommendations.
In the past two years since the Government of Bahrain accepted 158 of 176 recommendations presented during their 2012 UPR Second Cycle, Bahrain has continued to ignore key deficiencies in the country’s human rights policies. For example: the government accepted eight recommendations regarding restrictions on the ability of Bahraini mothers to pass their citizenship on to their children of non-Bahraini fathers. In accepting these recommendation, the Bahraini government noted that a draft law was already under consideration to address this issue. However, this draft law was not submitted to the parliament until January of this year, and the parliament has yet to make any further progress towards enacting this legislation.
In the same time period, however, the Government of Bahrain has taken a number of steps which directly contradict core recommendations from its latest UPR. Of particular concern has been the expeditious proposal, approval and enactment of a string of laws over the past 14 months, which expand Bahrain’s terrorism laws to greatly restrict free speech, press, association and assembly, as well as restricting civil society space.
We therefore call on Bahrain to take seriously both the letter and the spirit of the 158 recommendations it committed to effectively implementing in 2012, and to provide an aggressive and transparent timeline to fully implement the entirety of these recommendations. We further call on the international community and OHCHR to continue to support concrete steps towards reform and further capacity building in Bahrain, with the aim of achieving the international standards of human rights that all Bahrainis deserve.
Item 4 Oral intervention - 16th Sep 2014 - Delivered By Nabeel Rajab (BCHR):
Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), would like to call the Council’s attention to the status of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.
Three months ago, I completed a two-year arbitrary prison sentence in Bahrain. I am deeply grateful to all those who called for my release throughout my sentence. The dedication of all those to who worked on behalf of myself and other imprisoned Bahraini human rights defenders continues move me months after my release.
However, though I am free, other human rights defenders like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Maryam al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Singace, and Naji Fateel, as well as many others, remain in Bahraini detention. These counts of reprisals against human rights defenders make up only a portion of the nearly 4,000 political prisoners held under charges largely related to free expression or assembly.
With this experience in mind, we reiterate the call of 47 Member States, that Bahrain “release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders, some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained…”
We also call on the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to critically engage Bahrain regarding the ongoing arbitrary detention of the thousands of political prisoners in Bahrain. We believe that OHCHR can play a constructive role in facilitating the release of these prisoners, and an easing of the country’s expansive terrorism laws restricting free assembly and expression. Such steps by both OHCHR and the government would be a welcome beginning to the renewed process of necessary reform.
Item 4 Oral intervention - 16th Sep 2014
On 16 September, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy’s Advocacy Associate, Amanda Milani, read a letter from Bahraini child political prisoner, Jehad Sadeq, during an oral intervention at the 27th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 3.
Thank you, Mr. President,
Alsalam Foundation, acting in coordination with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, would like to present to the Human Rights Council excerpts from a letter written by Jehad Sadeq, a Bahraini youth currently imprisoned on charges of terrorism. Mr. Sadeq alleges that he was convicted on the basis of a confession obtained by means of torture, and that the Government of Bahrain has failed to investigate his allegations as required by the Convention against Torture.
Dear Honored Delegates,
I was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest when I was 16 years old. During interrogation, I was beaten and humiliated until I confessed. I wasn’t allowed to contact my family, and my lawyer was not allowed to attend my interrogations. Despite this, my trial went on, and I was tried under terrorism law although I was a child. I was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for a crime I did not commit.
My hobbies were photography, sports and traveling… I wished to graduate from high school and go to university with my friends to study engineering. Instead, I was deprived from doing what I love and pursuing my education. I would have now been in my freshman year at university, not in prison. I should be a student, not a political prisoner.
In Bahraini prisons there are many cases similar to mine. Therefore, in this letter, I’m addressing you on behalf of all detained children. I appeal to you to help us and act for our case by advising and pressuring the Bahraini government to release me and all other children that languish in prisons.
My friends and I will be waiting eagerly for your reply and your help to have us released.
On the occasion of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, the above-named human rights organizations join with Jehad Sadeq in calling upon the Bahraini government to release all child political prisoners in the country.
For more, please check http://adhrb.org/category/our-work/at-the-un/