BCHR: Bahraini Authorities Persistent Campaign Defaming Human Rights Defenders: Signals Possible Crackdown
Bahrain: 19 September 2007 The Bahrain center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned regarding the objectives and negative effects of the campaign run by the Bahraini Authorities to discredit the BCHR as well as other known activists. The information distributed includes fabricated accusations of relations to acts of violence which occurred in Bahrain during the eighties and nineties, sympathizing with Iran and coordinating with neo-conservatives in the United States!! Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, president of the BCHR has been a main target of the Authorities' defaming campaign (a Biography of Mr. Alkhawaja: See below). The Authorities campaign, which is trying to manipulate foreign media and international organizations, is using, among other methods; sending direct communications, using well known global information websites and launching new websites. Sizable human and financial resources have been allocated to carry out the campaign (Details of the Authorities Campaign: see below). The apparent objective of the campaign is to weaken regional and international cooperation and solidarity with members of the BCHR and other national activists who are considered out of the control of the Authorities. The BCHR’s international relations have in many occasions served as protection for human rights activities and the release from detention of human rights defenders including the President of the BCHR in 2004 and 2007. (BCHR’s Credibility and recent Int. activities: see below) The Bahraini Authorities has a record of defaming activists who report on, or publicly criticize, high ranking officials and Authorities policies, especially if western media and international human rights organizations are involved. The authorities tend to use the national public media in its campaigns while the activists are denied access to defend themselves. (Bahrain Authorities: A record of defaming activists: see below) The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls upon all those concerned to be aware of the misleading information and to do whatever possible to support human rights defenders in Bahrain and to hold the Bahrain authorities responsible for targeting activists. For more details please contact: Nabeel Rajab Vice-president Bahrain Center for Human Rights Email: email@example.com Details of the Authorities Campaign: The BCHR was informed by credible sources that Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, the powerful Minister of the Royal Court, held a meeting two months ago to speed efforts to encounter the “anti Authorities activities on the regional and international levels”. The Minister, who emphasized specially on the “harm that BCHR inflicting to the image of the country”, encouraged the attendees to contact and influence foreign media and human rights organizations and activists. He assured the participants of “unlimited budget” to carry out the outlined tasks. According to the sources, the meeting was attended by around 50 persons including selected officials from the Ministry of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Security Bureau and members of two Authorities-operated GONGO’s, namely the Bahrain Jurist Society, lead by Yousif Al-Hashemy and the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society Lead by Shura-Council member Faisal Fulad. Earlier this year, the Bahraini Authorities appointed Sheikh Abdulla Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, a senior security officer and member of the royal family, as the head of foreign-media affairs at the Ministry of Information which “keeps control” on foreign-media reporting on the country. Before his appointment, Sheikh Abdulla was the deputy head of National Security Bureau. The former head of the foreign-media affairs, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa ,who is a member of the royal family, was appointed as the Bahrain Ambassador to the UK to look after and mastermind the Authorities campaign against activities run from London. As a result of the aforementioned, an office was opened in London for the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society to encounter the activities of human rights NGO’s. A group of Arab journalists was formed and two new websites have been recently launched called “Illa Al-Watan” and “Bahrain Forum” which resort to publishing false reports about the BCHR and other political and human rights activists. Among the group working for the new ambassador are two consultants, Hassan Mousa, a former Human rights activist, and Hugh Canavan, a British who worked as an advisor to the foreign media section at the Ministry of Information in Bahrain before taking over the new role in London. Both Mousa and Canavan have been taken parts in activities representing that of the Bahrain Authorities and have been in delegations to Geneva and London to counter the activities of Bahraini human rights defenders, especially members of the BCHR. Mr. Mousa, although presents himself as member of OMCT, he is also a member of the Bahraini Government Delegations in official meetings with treaty bodies of United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) like CERD: Committee of Elimination of Racial Discrimination and CAT: Committee Against Torture. Mr. Canavan participated in House of Lords event about Bahrain, scheduled on December 15th, 2005 taking and defending the postures of the Government of Bahrain. The BCHR has been informed by foreign media reporters and members of International NGO’s that they have received communications aimed at discrediting the BCHR and its president Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Some of these communications were signed by Hugh Canavan who introduced himself as a British citizen and a former advisor of the Bahrain Ministry of Information. Mr. Hugh Canavan was a main editor of the “Bahrain Brief”, published by the Bahrain Authorities to influence international opinion. By examining the “information” sent by Mr. Canavan, it was found identical to information publicized in English by anonymous sources on well known websites such as Wikipedia.com and open democracy which contain falsified information clearly publicized to damage the BCHR’s credibility and to create a positive image of members of the Al-Khalifa ruling family in Bahrain. Bahrain Center for Human Rights: Credibility and recent activities: 1. The BCHR has maintained strong links and worked closely with international organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Frontline. The closure of the Center in 2004 served to enhance the BCHR’s credibility on the regional and international levels. Post its formal dissolution by the Bahraini Authorities, the BCHR succeeded in securing memberships in well known International organizations such as: FIDH (The International Federation for Human Rights), IFEX (International Freedom of Expression) , and CARAM-Asia (a regional Asian organization working on Migrant Workers Rights). The BCHR was honoured to be frequently invited by the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) to present alternatives (Shadow reports) to Bahrain State reports on Torture to Committees on Torture and Racial discrimination in 2005 and 2007. 2. Despite its closure (Official dissolution) in September2004 and the various abuses and harassments against its members, BCHR activities have shown distinguished enhancements in volume and type of internal and international activities. Among the recent activities this year were an international campaign staged by the BCHR in Washington, New York, Brussels and Geneva, highlighting the different gross human rights violations in Bahrain. The Authorities may have been further provoked when one of BCHR members took part in the latest international media coverage by CNN, BBC, and well known newspapers highlighting: corruption of the ruling family in Bahrain, poverty, sectarian discrimination and failed democracy in Bahrain. Furthermore, the president of the BCHR addressed the 5th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2007 on the issue of corruption and failure in housing policies. 3. BCHR was successful in highlighting and blowing the whistle on many human rights violations, represent distinguished diversity of tasks. Some of these issues are: a. Freedom of expression and assembly b. Labour and migrants rights c. Activists and human rights defenders d. Victims of Torture e. Religious Freedom f. Political Naturalization g. Discrimination and Favoritism h. Corruption i. Poverty and Economical rights j. Women Rights k. Violating Legislations l. Guantanamo prisoners Bahrain Authorities: A record of defaming activists: The Bahraini Authorities has a record of defaming activists who publicly criticize high ranking officials and government policies, especially if western media and international human rights organizations are involved. Abdelraouf Al-Shayeb, the president of the Committee of Victims of Torture was arrested twice on allegations relating to “sexual relations with a female domestic worker” and “promoting prostitution”. The charges were dropped in the first case, but he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in the second. The two cases were brought against Al-Shayeb after a trip to meet with international organizations in Geneva and the United Kingdom. Mr. Abdelrouf was granted political asylum in the UK in 2006 as a result of those cases and other harassments. Another case was of Musa Abdali, member of Committee of Unemployed, who was abducted by persons affiliated with or acting on behalf of Bahraini Security bodies beat him severely, assaulted him sexually, and threatened him with further harm unless he ceased his activities. As a result of such atrocities, Mr Abdali was granted political asylum in the UK starting August 2007. Ghada Jamsheer and Suad Mohamed, chairperson and member of the Women Petition Committee, were the target of a defaming campaign this year after traveling to Geneva and participating in an interview in Al-Hurra TV Channel. Another example was the BCHR Vice-President Nabeel Rajab who was subjected to intensive smear campaign by unknown sources using mobile messages as well as by post. A report by a former government consultant revealed information that link the campaign with a secret web lead by high officials. The campaign against Mr. Rajab is believed to be a reaction to his role in publicizing the scandalous Bandar gate report. Mr. Rajab was summoned and questioned by the National Security in relation to the case. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Biography of the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Based on his activities and credibility, Mr. Alkhawaja has taken many roles and positions in regional and international organizations. He is currently a member of the International Advisory Network in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center chaired by Mary Robinson, former UN High commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Alkhawaja is also member of the Advisory board of the ““Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies”. He is an expert and member of the coordinating committee of The Arab Group for Monitoring Media PerformancePerformance which has monitored media in the last election in Bahrain and in six other Arab countries. Mr. Alkhawaja was a part of Amnesty international’s fact finding mission in Iraq. He was assigned as a researcher and project consultant by Amnesty international and other International organizations. His struggle for human rights was acknowledged at the International conference of Human Rights Defenders in Dublin and was chosen by the Arab Program for Human Rights Defenders to be awarded as the activist of the region in 2005. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: History of struggle and Human Rights Activities: After finishing high school in Bahrain in 1977, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja traveled to the UK for further education. In 1979, he joined student activities in London reacting to demonstrations and arrests in Bahrain. Many students abroad, including Alkhawaja, were denied passport renewal and were asked to return home. In the summer of 1980, fellow students of Alkhawaja were detained and interrogated under torture for their activities in London. Alkhawaja’s family’s house was ransacked and searched. Fearing detention, Abdulhadi decided to stay abroad. In 1981 the Authorities staged a crackdown on dissidents of the Government, alleging the uncover of a coup attempt by the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. Hundreds of civilians, most of them were students, including minors, were detained and exposed to torture. Seventy Three (73) of the detainees were brought before the notorious, now abolished, , State Security Court which accused them of memberships in an illegal organization and attempting to use violence, eventually sentencing them to 7-25 years of imprisonment. During the Eighties and Nineties, The Islamic Front was one of four main opposition groups operating in exile. However, since 2002, the group has been operating in Bahrain as a registered political group under a new name: The Islamic Action Society (AMAL). Some members of the Islamic Front have been appointed in high rank positions since their return to Bahrain. Until 1989, Mr. Alkhawaja had been a member of the Islamic Front and consequently an active member of the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB), which was active in Damascus, London, Paris, and Geneva working mainly on arbitrary detention, torture, unfair trial, deprivation of nationality and coercive deportation. During the Eighties, The CDPPR adopted the case of the 73 political prisoners and cases of other detainees and groups. In 1991, Mr. Alkhawaja was granted political asylum in Denmark which became the base of the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO) that was established by Mr. Alkhawaja and other Bahrainis living in exile in the Scandinavian countries and the UK. The formation of BHRO followed Alkhawaja’s resignation from the CDPPB and the Islamic front in 1992. During the period 1992-2001 The BHRO gained mounting respect for it's persistent, professional, and non-partisan activities at the international level which contributed to the political changes that took place in Bahrain when the new ruler came to power in 1999. After his return to Bahrain in 2001, following a general amnesty, Alkhawaja was a main founder and the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) which was officially registered in June 2002. However, because of his human rights activities, Mr. Alkhawaja has been subjected to detention, unfair trial, and physical assaults. The well documented <a hrefhttp:="" hrw.org="" photos="" 2005="" bahrain="" "="">physical assaults against Mr. Alkhawaja in March 2002, June/July/September 2005, have not been investigated despite pledges by UN bodies and international NGO’s. The closure of the BCHR in Sep. 2004 and the abuses against its members including Mr. Alkhawaja attracted wide protests and reactions both inside BAHRAIN and on the international level. Because of such reactions the king was obliged to “Amnesty” Mr. Alkhawajaon two occasions: September 2004 and May 2007 to release him from detention and to call off the unfair trials on charges related to his criticism of the regime on issues of corruption and human rights abuses.