On the Threshold of the Parliamentary Elections: Bahrain Enters a Battle to Abolish the Work of Human Rights Defenders
• Bringing the Rest of the Defendants to the Public Prosecution without informing their Lawyers to Conceal Effects of Torture • Depriving Activists and Defenders from Jobs and Public Services • An Incitement Campaign against the Detainees and their Religious Beliefs
10 September 2010
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its condemnation for the persistence of the constant campaign of suppressing public liberties, at a time where the country is living an undeclared state of emergency with the arrest of hundred of activists, human rights defenders and opposition religious figures, and the continuity of kidnappings of youth while physically abusing and sexually harassing them. The BCHR is continually receiving information about the increase of torture crimes and sexual harassment against detained Shiite clerics and stripping several detainees who are human right defenders off their clothes. The Authority is also carrying out collective punishment against the detainees and their families by announcing that they have been dismissed from their jobs and deprive them of the medical, educational and housing services provided by the State as part of its responsibility. The BCHR has also documented 240 arrests so far and it believes that there is approximately the same amount that have not yet been documented due to the suppressive campaign that targets anyone engaged in documenting these inhumane conditions. Many other dozens have been arrested and then released in a short period.
New information was received about the detainees being subjected to further torture and mutilating and humiliating them – The BCHR was informed that some of the detainees and among them Shiite clerics were sexually harassed and abused inside their cells; however, the BCHR does not intend to publish the names of those victims or the details of what they were subjected to due to the viciousness of those crimes and the effect they will have on the people's feelings in the conservative community of Bahrain. However, the BCHR will inform any local or international investigation of these crimes.
Some of the detainees were left nude the entire time of their arrest while being cuffed by the legs and blindfolded. Among those is the dentist and member of the BCHR, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi who stayed the entire time of his arrest nude, whilst being tortured the whole time and undressed just to humiliate him. The BCHR takes pride honoring its members on the international level for their proficiency at work where they have become esteemed human rights figures in the Arab world and globally, regrets that these members are being stripped off their clothes and tortured nude in front of the torturers in solitary cells. The fate of Hasan Al-Haddad, the detainee who is an activist in the Committee of the Unemployed, is so far unknown; he was last seen in the emergency section of the Military Hospital a few days ago while being under strict security. The BCHR could not obtain any information on his health condition to date. The families of detainees and their lawyers remain deprived from visiting them after more than 25 days while being in their solitary cells handcuffed and blindfolded.
Mr. Aqeel Al-Sari, a Shiite cleric, was taken to an interrogation room while being almost carried due to his inability to depend on himself because of a fracture in his right leg and swelling, bump and blackness in his left leg due to excessive torture such as being hanged by his legs (Falaqa), and his hands were also blackened while he complained from losing his ability to use them or feel with them. Another deep wound was seen in the back of his head, as well as bruises and swellings in many parts of his body. Al-Sari also complained to the Chief Prosecutor that he had difficulty breathing, and was taken to the Military Hospital three times due to his critical health condition.
Ambiguity in the Fate of Some of the Detainees
The reasons to worry are increasing for the BCHR due to the ambiguity behind some of the detainees who have not been brought to the Public Prosecution until now, although 15 days have elapsed which is the maximum period permitted by the Bahraini Anti-Terrorism Law before bringing them to the Public Prosecution. They might have been brought and interrogated confidentially away from their lawyers, and among those detainees are Suhail Al-Dirazi, Al-Hur Yousif Al-Qameesh, Ahmed Jamsheer, Fairoz and Abdul-Ameer Mall-Allah, Ebrahim Taher, Hasan Al-Haddad and Sayed Kadhim. In both cases, the BCHR believes that this is an attempt to conceal torture marks and physical wounds from their lawyers who are their only connection with the outside world, especially since the Authority is disturbed from the many international reports that are condemning their crimes. The BCHR also believes that the decision to arrest the detainees for two months by the Public Prosecution and keeping them away from their families and lawyers is a deliberate was of concealing the crime to ensure that the effects have faded away from the bodies of detainees. International law describes torture as one of the crimes against humanity. Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
The Pre-Conviction of the Defendants
In an obvious violation of international standards and conventions concerned with fair trials and in contradiction to what was even stated in the Bahraini Constitution that, "the defendant is innocent until proven guilty", the government-owned Bahraini Radio and Television Cooperation conspired with the National Security Apparatus by broadcasting the photographs of the defendants in the case of the alleged network organization in a half-an-hour film that was produced with the intention of attempting to influence local and international public opinion and to portray the defendants as terrorists at a time where they are isolated from the outside world and forbidden from defending themselves or even meeting their lawyers, and interrogation proceedings with them have not been completed as they have not been presented to the courts. That report, including the names and photos, was later published in the majority of local newspapers and on the website of the Bahrain News Agency . This publishing also breaches Article 246 of the Penal Code , which criminates publishing the photos of defendants before issuing a final sentence from the specialized court. This crime holds a punishment of a jail term. This occurs at a time where the Public Prosecution completely bans publishing anything about this case, and only allows publishing anything that is issued from the Public Prosecution itself which shows that it is a prior conviction of the defendants before being presented to court. This is an apparent violation of the defendants or their lawyers' right to defend themselves or express their opinion in the accusations charged against them. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense". This film also included personal details that are humiliating to the State more than them being humiliating to the defendants regarding the services and aids the defendants, their relatives and families benefited from ("on the expense of the State"), which should be considered to be their right and part of the State's responsibility, such as housing loans, educational and training scholarships, in a manner that was intended to degrade the defendants and their families.
Targeting the opposition and human rights defenders in their sources of living and from the state services in an organized campaign to smear their reputation
In a new revengeful approach that aims at doubling-up and intensifying the penalties against the detainees who are activists, human rights defenders and opposition cleric men, the Authority is tending towards depriving them from housing, educational and health services and dismissing those who work in the public sector from work, without them being presented to court or even having convicting sentences issued against them. This happened with an order from the Council of Ministers, headed by the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, who is a member of the ruling family. The stages to deprive them of the services and civil rights started by the Ministry of Health issuing an order to stop the healthcare of Mr. Hasan Al-Meshemea, head of Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy from cancer treatment, which he is receiving in a hospital in the British capital. As well as dismissing Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Sangaece from his work at the University of Bahrain, and withdrawing the house from the family of human rights defender Ahmed Jawad Al-Fardan who had received his house several weeks earlier after a wait that lasted 14 years. The local newspapers also published a story that the Civil Services Bureau dismissed all the defendants from their work in the State ministries , and it also published a news piece that confirms the State's approach to deprive them from the State services and its aids, through a statement revealed by the acting head of civil services court Sheikh Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa (member of the ruling family) that the concerned body in the court was ordered to coordinate with the following ministries: Education, Health and Municipal and Agricultural Affairs, to carry out the necessary measures to dismiss "those involved in the terrorist network organization" from work and to implement all the strict legal measures against them.
On the other hand, the media campaign to condemn the human rights defenders, political activists and the clerics opposing the government continued, as well as smearing their reputation on all levels in order to form a hostile public opinion towards them and to the activities they are engaged in, and among those activities is documenting human rights violations and submitting them to the State institutes. Al-Watan newspaper , affiliated with the King's Court, published on September 1 what it named the "incitement to terrorism" plot which included photos of opposition MPs, lawyers defending the detainees, as well as photos of human rights activists, unionists and clerics, accusing them of supporting terrorism. Among those photos were the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab and the former president of the BCHR and the Middle East and North Africa Coordinator in the Frontline Organization, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, who the newspaper accused of "publishing misinformation and smearing the image of Bahrain on the human rights level".
The newspaper continued to slander the human rights activists with the same accusations along with publishing their photos on September 3, 2010 even though this was banned from the Public Prosecution, who prohibited local newspapers from publishing anything on the abovementioned case. The photos of Nabeel Rajab and Sheikh Abdul-Jalil Al-Muqdad and Fakhriya Al-Sangaece were also published on BNA on September 4, 2010, at a time where they were not officially charged with anything and not even summoned for interrogation. The BCHR believes that publishing two different sets of photos of members of the alleged plot confirms the frailty of this badly directed ‘play’ with regards to the alleged ‘network’. This appears in the difference between the producers of the scenario in the type of activists and defenders whose names were supposed to be dragged into this campaign until the last moment before publishing them, when finally two lists with different or undecided names were published by the producers of this play. In equivalence to this, the Bahraini press, Radio and Television who are affiliated with the State are witnessing a campaign of sectarian incitement and incitement to hatred. The level of this sectarian hatred against Shiite increased through the electronic forums that are supported by the Authority, and through sham names that are active on social networks such as Twitter.
Severe Deterioration in the Liberties of Civil Society
In the same tone of this security and media attack carried out by the Authority, the harassments of the Authority against civil society institutes who criticized this attack and called for dialogue and conciliation continued, as well as the institutes who refused to yield to the Authority's pressures to support the official position of the Authority and to condemn the detainees before their trial. Four political societies faced harassments regarding their printed publications and they are: Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Democratic National Assemblage, Democratic National Action (Wa'ad), Islamic Action (Amal), as the Department of Press and Publications claimed that there were violations in their periodical publications, in what is believed to target restricting their freedom in expression and publication in violation to the essence of liberties granted by the Constitution, and which is a conspicuous attack against the freedom of expression and publication, this was directly followed with closing down the electronic website of Al-Wefaq National Society and the Islamic Action Society, the two largest opposition and officially authorized political groups in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Society for Human Rights was also exposed to targeting, starting with the Minister of Development and Social Affairs accusation that it is limiting its services to a certain type of citizen, and then it was followed by a decision to freeze the activities of the Society and dissolve the administrative board to remove its president Abdullah Al-Dirazi and appoint a temporary manager by the Ministry. This follows a press conference held by the Society for the families of detainees in the recent security campaign where they spoke about their sufferings and depriving them from knowing their children's fate and preventing them and their lawyers as well from visiting the detainees, in addition to defaming their detained children in both the government and pro-government media.
Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls upon all the concerned bodies including the local and international societies and organizations to demand the Bahraini Authorities the following:
1. Immediately stop the mental and physical torture against the detainees, and to run an unbiased, public and impartial investigation in the torture allegations and to present its committers to justice; 2. present all the detainees immediately to an independent medical committee to reveal the torture marks and happenings; 3. allow the detainees to contact and meet their families and lawyers regularly, which guarantees their fundamental rights and limits their presence in circumstances that facilitate torture; 4. release all the detainees, including the activists and human rights defenders because they have been arrested for reasons relating to them practicing their basic rights of expression, organization and peaceful assembling which are guaranteed by international laws; 5. immediately stop implementing the Anti-Terrorism Law; 6. stop the media campaign that incites hatred and draws the country towards sectarian clashes; 7. stop publishing the names and photos of the detainees in the Bahraini newspapers, considering that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty; 8. initiate a genuine and sincere political reform to the outstanding human rights cases related to civil and political rights or the economic, social and cultural rights.