Official Bahrain TV has led defamation and incitement campaigns against athletes

6 February, 2012

Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern regarding the revenge, arrest, torture and dismissal campaigns against a large number of athletes. The center has received lots of statements about Bahrain handball referees who got arbitrary arrested, psychological and physical tortured and got dismissed from their jobs in different periods since February 2011. Yet, many of them are banned from exercising handball arbitration, just because they sympathized with Bahrain’s revolution and aligned with the demands of democracy, freedom and human rights through participating in peaceful protests last February.

Many of these referees had suffered from the systematical libel campaign, through publishing their pictures and names in the local and governmental newspapers, social network pages and Bahrain TV to incite against them, which resulted to raiding their houses, arresting ,torturing and dismissed them from work. (See list below)

Whilst, Bahrain government announced that it has dropped the charges against 100 athletes on the background of participating in the mass protest, the reality is many of them are still in prison, and referees mentioned in the report below are still deprived from exercising their arbitration.

BCHR believes that these governmental campaigns against referees were motivated by revenge for expressing their political opinions which is a right guaranteed by international charters, or on a sectarian basis after the spread of hatred and sectarian culture promoted by the official television and newspapers. This campaign came after forming a commission of inquiry under direct orders from Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa – Son of the current King - Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (who designated by a royal order) and Chairman of the Bahraini Olympic Committee [1]. Furthermore, denying them from exercising arbitration or restricting them in any kind of security, judicial or administrative procedures on the background of exercising their legitimate rights is a discrimination, that is in contrary to the agreements signed by the government of Bahrain , particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which undertakes non-discrimination on basis of political opinion and to ensure expression of opinion right and the right of peaceful assembly [2].

BCHR demands the following:

1. Cancel all decrees of suspension and dismissal. Return all the referees to their former leadership positions, whether in the handball filed or national role as referees or in the workplace as employees, and compensate them. 2. An Immediate investigation in the referee’s torturing complains and holds those involved. 3. Stop pursuing athletes and ensure not to harm them for expressing their views. 4. Suspend Bahrain sport Federation membership in all international and continental federations for violating political neutrality, until taking back the actions which are based on political positions, and hold those responsible for this blatant breach. 5. Start radical reforms to reduce the royal family control in the sports field in Bahrain.

Detailed list of the referees and the violations they encountered:

1. Muammar Ameen Wattani (International Referee):

Muammar's picture was published on BahrainTv in the sport program “Hadath Khas” [Special Event], which is presented by Fayiz AlSada, and hosted Majed sultan, Abdullah Bunoval and Faisal AlSheikh. Where they libeled the athletes and called them traitors and other unmoral descriptions. Before the program, a defamation and distrust campaign invaded the social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and governmental and sectarian forums through publishing pictures of him in the march or in the Pearl Roundabout with sectarian and racist comments.

10th April, 2011, Local governmental newspapers published his final suspension from arbitration for participating in the march (The Handball Federation was the only sports body that published in the newspapers names of those who were suspended for participating in athletes march).

11th April, Muammar was dismissed from his job in the Ministry of Health, two days later; he was arrested and spent 79 days in detention, where he faced physical and psychological torture. The referee was in Noaim police station and transferred between Dry Dock and Hoora police station.

2. Isa Mohammed Sowayed (Retired International Referee -Chairman of the Referees Committee)

10th April, 2011, local newspapers published his suspension from all his positions in the Sport Federation as the Director of the Federation and the Chairman of the Referees Committee due to his participation in the athletes march (The Handball Federation was the only sports body that published in the newspapers names of those who were suspended for participating in athletes march).

3. Abdulwahid Al Eskafi -Retired International Referee and referee’s observer (a board member of Bahrain Handball Federation)

He was sacked from arbitration and arrested on April 13, in Noaim police station for 15 days and encountered to psychological torture and insults.

4. Abdul Ridha Kadhem Al Owaynati – Handball referee.

He was arrested on March 18, used to work in the Ministry of Interior and sentenced to four years. On August 8, he was released, since then he wasn’t called for arbitration resumption, although he was not banned from the Handball Federation.

5. Issa Jaffer – First referee

He was dismissed from his job in Bahrain National Gas Company (BANAGAS) for more than 6 months, and then returned under unfair terms.

Other suspended referee’s due to expressing their views:

15th April, 2011, the secretary general of the federation (Khalid Najim) stated that dismissing all referees made by the Handball Federation were taken based on pictures shown on Bahrain TV, after his meeting with the new committee where he called the dismissed referees as traitors.

* Radhi Habib – International lecturer in International Handball Federation , referee’s observer and a member in the Referees Committee * Ghassan Ameer – International Referee * Ali Ebrahim Al Shamrookh – Continental Referee * Mohammed Habib Radhi – Continental Referee * Hassan Abbas – Second Referee * Ali Al Shuwaikh – Second Referee * Hani Al-Shahabi – Second Referee

Read also:

Bahrain paving the way for Formula One Race by imprisoning Car Racing Champion Mohamed AlKhunaizi

Bahrain: Arrest, military trials, & suspension from sport activities, for athletes who practice their legitimate rights

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