17 Prisoners of Conscience in Bahrain face up to life imprisonment
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Appeals for Their Release
The Reinforcement Of The State Security Articles Of The 1976 Penal Code
On 30th April 2004, seventeen Bahrainis were arrested for collecting signatures for a constitutional reforms petition. Police stormed the signature collection stands in different areas and arrested three people in Sanad, four in Hamad Town, six in Mahooz, and four in Musallah.
The youths aged between 16 and 20 were accused by the Public Prosecution of attempting to change the country's political system , causing hostility towards the government , illegally forcing the King to abstain from any performance that lawfully falls within his competence and disseminating false report, statements or malicious rumours, or produce any publicity seeking damage public security, cause damage to the public interest. According to the 1976 Penal Code, these charges could lead up to life imprisonment.
The detainees are Ameer Radhi, Hussain Abdali, Hussain Al Matrook and Hussain Al Arabi were rounded up in Musallah by the Khamis Police Station following an order issued by the Public Prosecutor to arrest those involved in collecting signatures. Ibrahim Mahdi, Hussain Mansour and his 17-year-old brother Ahmed were arrested in Sanad; Ali Al Sabaa, Abdullah Anan, Mohammed Al Sabaa, Muzzafar Mousa, Saleh Matrook and Habib Asoumi in Mahooz; Mohammed Saeed, Hussain Al Hamam, Mohammed Al Hajri and Zuhair Ismail were rounded up in Hamad Town.
Three of the detainees have been released on bail on 2nd May 2004 for lack of evidence, while the remaining 14 persons are kept in prison for 45 days. The released persons are Hussain Mansour Abdalla Obeid (17 years old from Sanad), Muzzafar Mousa Shaker Bur (42 years old from Mahooz) and Mohammed Mousa Al Sabaa (16 years old from Mahooz).The relatives of the detainees have approached the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights BCHR, demanding their immediate release. A committee was formed by the relatives on 2 May 2004, including four representatives from the families and three members of the BCHR, to campaign for the release of the detainees. It is worth mentioning that the BCHR sent a letter to Shaikh Abdulrahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, the Public Prosecutor, inquiring about the reasons behind the detaining of these persons, their legal status, as some of them are below the age of 18, and if they were arrested for simply practicing their basic rights namely collecting signatures for a petition calling for reforms.
The BCHR has called upon the Public Prosecution to treat the detainees in accordance with International standards. The BCHR has also requested the concerned authority to immediately release the detainees.
These tensions rose when the four societies declared their intention to organize a public gathering on 21st April 2004 to launch a popular petition which will address king Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa. The petition is a part of a campaign adopted by the four societies and a number of lawyers and activists following a conference on 14th-15th February 2004. The conference took place despite attempts by the authorities to abort it on the allegation of being unauthorized.
Political dispute started when the four groups had boycotted the elections of the House of Representatives, complaining that the people in Bahrain who voted in favor of the National Charter in 14th-15th February 2001, had no say in the new constitution declared by the King in February 14th, 2002.
According to the new changes in the constitution, the king appoints an equal number to the 40 elected representatives forming a Shura council which shares legislative power; legislations are proposed by the two councils or the government but should all be drafted and scheduled only by the Government, whereas legislations are not enacted without the approval of the King. On the other hand, the King appoints the Cabinet and administrates the country through it. The King also appoints members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of the Judiciary. Furthermore, the National Council has become unable to put forward a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.
Please appeal to the Bahraini authorities to:
- Secure the rights and the well-being of the detainees,
- Immediately release them, and
- Amend the 1976 Penal Code.
Ref. BCHR Communiqué: Tension Rises in Bahrain: Intimidating Societies for Exercising Basic Rights Obstructing Peaceful Gathering and Popular Petitions, 19th April, 2004.
Relevant sections of Bahrain Penal Code 1976:
Article 160: imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 yeas shall be the punishment for any person who favours or advocates in any manner, whatsoever, the overthrow or change of the country's political, social or economic system with the use of force, intimidation or such other illegal methods.
Article 165: A prison sentence shall be passed against any person who expressly incites others to develop hatred orhostility towards the system of government. Article 166 Imprisonment for life shall be the punishment for any person who resorts to violence, intimidation or any other illegal method to force the Amir of the country or the Prime Minister to perform or to abstain from performing any act that lawfully falls within his competence.
Article 169: A punishment of imprisonment for a period of no more than two years and a fine not exceeding and a fine not exceeding BD200 or either penalty shall be inflicted upon any person who publishes by any method of publication untrue reports, falsified or forged documents or falsely attributed to other persons should they undermine the public peace or cause damage to the country's supreme interest or to the State's creditworthiness. If such publication results in undermining public peace or causing damage to the country's supreme interest or to the State's creditworthiness, the punishment shall be a prison sentence.