Bahrain: Judicial crackdown continues on human rights defenders and activists
17 October 2012- The Gulf centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Centre for human rights (BCHR) express their deepest concern over the escalated judicial crackdown on activists as several human rights defenders and political activists have been summoned for interrogation or arrested in the past few days, due to their legitimate peaceful activism for rights and democracy. The GCHR and BCHR believe that the silence of the international community on the continued judicial harassment and detention of some activist is leading to escalation to a wider group of activists and an immediate action is required to put an end to these violations.
On 16 October 2012, human rights defender and president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Mohamed Al-Masktai has been summoned for interrogation at Al-Naem police station. He was then arrested and kept in custody to be brought the following day before the public prosecution office on charges of “rioting and participating in an illegal gathering.” in reference to the Friday protest in Manama (12 October 2012) entitled “Self determination”. On 17 Oct 2012 he was released after interrogation.
Human rights defender Mohamed Al-Masktai has been active in documenting and reporting the violations committed by the Bahraini authorities in recent months. In September 2012 he has been subjected to intimidation campaign as he received more than a dozen anonymous phone calls threatening his life and the safety of his family, which followed an oral intervention he delivered at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, during a panel discussion focused on intimidations and reprisals, where he informed the (HRC) about the massive intimidation campaign against him.
On 16 October 2012, human rights defender Nader Abdulemam was summoned for interrogation at the public prosecution office. At the time of writing this appeal Nader Abdulemam has not appeared at the public prosecution office as yet.
In addition to her previous 13 plus lawsuits, activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja was summoned again for a new case that includes the charge of “insulting a police officer”. The case goes back to 6 May 2012, however it has been activated just now and a trial was scheduled on 17 October 2012, but postponed to 2 November 2012 in order to summon Al-Khawaja.
Al-Khawaja was recently released on 3 October 2012 after she spent two months imprisonment sentence on the charge of “ripping photo of king of Bahrain”. She is expecting verdicts on several cases in the coming weeks.
On 16 October 2012, the court refused to release leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab; during a session of his appeal trial against 3 year imprisonment sentence which has he received on charges of “participating in illegal gatherings” and “calling for gatherings over social media”.
In addition, the court refused to provide assistance to allow foreigner witnesses to enter Bahrain and testify on behalf of Rajab. On 15 October 2012, Stephanie David, a representative from FIDH has been denied entry to Bahrain to testify for Rajab, as she was required to provide an authorization from the court. Rajab’s lawyers objected to the manipulation of evidences and the trial records. A paragraph was included in the previous session log, although it was not discussed during the session, and a CD which included videos showing Rajab participating in various events and demos, has disappeared from the case records. This CD was provided by the public prosecution to convict Rajab, but the lawyers found it was evidence of the peaceful nature of his activities. The next session of trial will be on 8 Nov 2012.
Activist Mohamed Al-Tal was also summoned for interrogation on 14 Oct 2012 on the charge of “participating in illegal gathering” in reference to the Friday protest in Manama (12 October 2012) entitled “Self determination”. He was then arrested and transferred to the public prosecution office. Al-Tal has been previously detained for several weeks following his arrest from a previous protest in Manama, and was recently released before he got arrested again. On 15 Oct 2012, the public prosecution office ordered his detention for 30 days “pending investigation”.
Activist Maasomma Al-Sayed is still in detention since 21 September 2012, after she got arrested during a protest in Manama.
More grassroots activists who are leading or actively promoting the right to protest peacefully in Bahrain are expected to receive summons and be arrested in the coming few days, as Bahraini authorities crackdown on the rights granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a silence from the US, UK and the some other western government.
The GCHR and BCHR believe that the above mentioned human rights defender have been targeted for their legitimate work in exercising, defending and promoting human rights, including the right to assembly and the right to freedom of expression. In addition, GCHR and BCHR believe that leading human rights defenders, Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Maskati and Zainab Al-Khawaja are targeted solely due to their co-operation with the UN system and in particular their role in documenting and reporting the continued human rights violations, which was exposed during the recent UPR review of Bahrain’s record last month in Geneva.
The GCHR and BCHR believe that the Bahraini authority is taking advantage from the silence of the international community to even further crackdown on human rights activists who are working on reporting human rights violations in Bahrain. The GCHR and BCHR are gravely concerned that the recent arrests are part of an on-going trend of using the politically-structured judiciary to create false cases associated with politically motivated charges against human rights defenders and activists.
The GCHR and BCHR urge the UN, US administration as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and the leading human rights organizations to:
1. Call for the immediate release of human rights defenders and activists Nabeel Rajab, Mohamed Al-Tal, and Maasomma Al-Sayed, as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience; 2. Immediately stop the judicial harassment of human rights defenders and drop all charges against them and stop the exploitation of the judicial system for political purposes; 3. Increase the pressure on the government of Bahrain to stop the daily human rights violations as well as escalating attacks on human rights defenders; 4. Put pressure on the government of Bahrain to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.