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BCHR’s President and HRD Nabeel Rajab in Hospital

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the health and well-being of Nabeel Rajab. Rajab is at the time of writing in hospital following complications after a surgery. He has been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment and has not been given appropriate medical care for his condition. BCHR strongly condemns Bahrain’s treatment of Nabeel Rajab and other political prisoners, and call on the government to release them.

According to updates from Nabeel Rajab’s family, Rajab underwent surgery for a bleeding ulcer on 5 April. After the surgery Rajab was reportedly forced to wear dirty clothes soaked with blood and did not get access to hygiene products for two days. He was denied a family visit and was brought back to solitary confinement two days after the surgery with high risk of infection and in need of immediate, specialized care.

On 8 April, Nabeel was allowed a brief family visit, but was shortly afterwards rushed to hospital again. At the time of writing, Rajab remains in hospital to get treatment for the infected wound.

Nabeel Rajab is facing charges related to tweets and retweets about torture allegations at Jau Prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He is also facing charges in another case concerning tv interviews given during 2015. The hearings for both cases have continuously been postponed and Rajab has remained in pretrial detention for over 310 days.

The degrading and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners - a situation that has intensified following a crackdown on prisoners’ rights at Jau Prison in 2015 - violates human rights standards and the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). Nabeel Rajab is voluntarily maintained in a situation of extreme vulnerability and the Bahraini authorities should be called to take immediate steps to protect Nabeel from further degrading and other inhumane treatment, to ensure that he is treated humanely in accordance with international law and standards and allow an international monitor to visit him.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on Bahrain as well as the international community to press for Nabeel Rajab’s basic human rights to be respected, for his immediate and unconditional release, and for an end to the government of Bahrain’s reprisals against human rights defenders.


Bahrain: Wa’ad calls for solidarity against its dissolution

Farida Ghulam, the wife of Ebrahim Sharif, the former secretary-general of Bahraini opposition group National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), has written an open letter to political and human rights institutions worldwide calling for solidarity against the dissolution of Wa’ad.

Written on behalf of the secular political party, Ghulam’s letter asks for national figures, Arab organisations and international institutions to help “protect the little remaining freedoms enjoyed by Bahrainis that have been undermined over the past few years”.

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Suppressing Dissent and Sustaining Impunity - Torture in Bahrain 2015-2016

In light of Bahrain’s upcoming review by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has produced a shadow report demonstrating Bahrain’s continued use of torture. BCHR has documented and reported allegations of torture in the past year, and strongly condemns the alleged use of torture by the Bahraini government.

Read the report in full here.

The report highlights the cases of individuals including Hasan Jassim Hasan Al-Hayky, who died in custody on 31 July 2016, from, according to his family, injuries sustained during torture at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) where he was held following his arrest on charges related to his alleged involvement in a bombing on 30 June 2016.

The BCHR has documented cases of impunity in the case of Hasan Majeed Al-Shaikh, who was charged on drug related offences, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Al-Shaikh died whilst in custody amid allegations of torture. Prisoners have also been denied access to adequate and timely medical treatment, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Ali Al-Moaaily, and Jaffar Ali Oun, have all been denied access to medical care, and are being detained in unsanitary conditions. Al-Khawaja, is currently suffering from vision loss during daylight time, and at risk of potentially severe neural complications. In August 2016 Oun’s family reported that he had been suffering from a significant and growing swelling on his head. The swelling had been present for some time when it was reported, he was eventually taken for surgery after repeated requests.

Ali Mohamed Ali Al-Arab, was arrested on 2 February 2017, his family were unaware of his arrest until 9 February 2017. In March 2017 BCHR received information that witnesses reported seeing Ali arrive in Jau prison in a terrible physical condition, and that all of his toenails had been removed. The report also highlights the alleged use of coerced confessions during the trial process. Ali Al-Singace (21), Sami Mushaima (42), and Abbas Al-Samea (27), were executed on 15 January 2017, following allegations of torture and unfair trials. BCHR documented allegations of torture made by Al-Samea and Mushaima throughout the trial process.

The national laws of Bahrain, including both its constitution and penal code, expressly prohibit torture, in accordance with the international treaties to which it has acceded.

Article 19(d) of Bahrain’s Constitution states: “No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”

The Bahrain Penal Code (1976), amended in 2013, sets out sanctions for the use of torture. Article 208 states: “[a] prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with public service who causes severe pain or sufferings, physically or morally, either personally or through a third party, to a prisoner, or a detainee to get from him information or confessions or to penalize him for something he has committed or he is accused of having committed. The same sanction is applied for the intimidation or coercion. A prison sentence shall be the penalty for every civil servant or officer entrusted with a public service who threatens, either personally or through a third party with his full consent, a prisoner or a detainee for any of the causes cited in the first paragraph. The penalty shall be life imprisonment should the use of torture or force lead to death.”

Furthermore, Article 232 of the Penal Code engages these same sanctions, and applies it to any other persons.

Bahrain has acceded to the UN Convention Against Torture (UN-CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). All three of these treaties make provisions that expressly forbid the use of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. 

Article 1 of the UN-CAT defines torture as: “…any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Following the ratification of the Arab Charter on Human Rights in 2006, Bahrain brought its provisions into effect in 2008. The charter expressly prohibits torture under Article 8, whilst Article 8(2) creates an obligation for states to ensure that torture is prohibited in national law, and guarantees compensation, and rehabilitation, for victims.

In spite of these protections against torture, the development of national mechanisms for the prevention of torture, and for the prosecution of individuals alleged to be utilizing torture, BCHR has documented cases of alleged torture that demonstrate Bahrain systematically utilizes torture during interrogation, and detention. Reports received by BCHR suggest that children, disabled persons, women, and human rights defenders are allegedly being subjected to acts of torture. It has also been reported internationally that three men executed on 15 January 2017 were allegedly subjected to torture, and subsequently unfair trials. Whilst the escalating crackdown on civil society in the past year, and the end of a moratorium on the death penalty in January 2017, demonstrates that Bahrain needs to be pressed to implement effective reforms, and work to end the culture of impunity within its security forces.

Read the report in full here.


The Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends that the Committee Against Torture:

  • Urges Bahrain to guarantee that all physicians and medical staff dealing with imprisoned persons duly document all signs and allegations of torture or ill-treatment and transfer responsibility for all types of healthcare of persons deprived of liberty to the Ministry of Health in order to ensure that medical staff can operate fully independently from the security services;
  • Urges Bahrain to take prompt and effective measures to ensure that all detainees are all legal safeguards against torture and inhumane treatment;
  • Request the Bahraini authorities to ensure that all detainees are held in places officially intended for that purpose and that their next of kin and lawyers receive accurate information, without delay, about their arrest and the place where they are being held;
  • Recommend that Bahrain calls upon judges to declare as inadmissible any statements obtained under torture or other ill-treatment and to refuse to accept them as evidence in any judicial proceedings;
  • Requests that Bahrain observes its international obligations, in particular regarding arrest, detention or imprisonment of children that shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time;
  • Urges Bahrain to establish effective and independent mechanism for receiving and handling complaints of prison violence, including gender-based violence and sexual harassments; and that they should ensure the use of same-sex guards in contexts where the detainee is vulnerable to attack or harassments.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights also makes the following general recommendations:

  • Bahrain must sign the Optional Protocol against Torture;
  • Bahrain must schedule an urgent visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, unusual, or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Bahrain should be pushed to take all effective legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to prevent acts of torture, and should establish new, and demonstrably independent accountability mechanisms empowered to conduct investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners;
  • Bahrain should be pushed to explain the reasons behind the clemency shown to security officers involved in ill-treatment, torture, and death, and to take measures to end the culture of impunity;
  • Bahrain should be encouraged to explain in detail the current judicial procedure taken when allegations of torture are made in court before the Public Prosecutor’s Office prior to a court session.

BCHR Discussing HRD Issues in Bahrain at the Pre-Session ahead of UPR 2017

On 6 April 2017, Bahrain Center for Human Rights took part in the pre-session event organized by UPR Info, ahead of the 27th UPR session organized at Palais des Nations in Geneva. BCHR's Vice President Said Yousif al-Muhafhda attended the event delivering a speech on reprisals and repression against human rights defenders (HRDs) in Bahrain. Read his speech below.

Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain Under Attack  

Mr President 

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to discuss concerns about the ongoing harassment, intimidation and attacks on Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain.  

Article 12 of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders mandates states to take necessary measures to ensure their protection.  

During the 2012 UPR review cycle, Spain, Norway and Denmark made recommendations that directly concern human rights defenders. A total of five recommendations concerning harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives were presented. The Bahraini government accepted four and noted one. The joint submission made by BCHR, Civicus and the Gulf Center for Human Rights in September 2016 concluded that none of the five recommendations were implemented. 

Among others, the Bahraini government committed to ensuring “that human rights defenders must be protected and allowed to conduct their work without intimidation and harassment.” However, this commitment has not materialised into action. Human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives are continuously punished for their work.  

In spite of its international commitments, Bahrain has employed systematic modes of harassment and reprisals against human rights defenders and members of civil society. The most common methods include unlawful arrests, forced exile, citizenship revocations and travel bans imposed on human rights defenders cooperating with UN mechanisms

BCHR’s president Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016, the opening day of the 32nd UNHRC session. He has been kept in pre-trial detention for over 290 days on multiple charges for which, if convicted, he could be sentenced to 18 years in prison.  
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former president and co-founder of the BCHR was sentenced to life imprisonment for his pro-democracy activism during the 2011 Bahraini uprisings. He is currently suffering from a severe deterioration in his health, including his vision, and needs urgent access to medical care. 

Human rights defenders are being sentenced in absentia, with the expectation that they will be arrested if they return to Bahrain, thus actively forcing them into exile. Such is the case of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who was sentenced to one year in prison in absentia for allegedly assaulting airport security officers, forcing her to remain in exile.  

Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, is on trial for charges including ‘insulting the king’ while living in exile.  

Social media activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, as well as myself, have been forced into exile due to our human rights work. 

Another common form of reprisals against human rights defenders is the use of citizenship revocation. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a human rights defender exiled in London, had his citizenship revoked. The government also arrested two of his family members, which is symptomatic of new methods being used. 

I, myself, received messages through a social network platform, where a Bahraini police officer threatened to target my family members in Bahrain if I continue to speak out about the ongoing human rights abuses in kingdom.  

Reprisals are also being levied against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN.  

In June 2016, during the UNHRC’s 32nd session, Bahraini human rights defenders including BCHR staff, and family members of victims of extrajudicial killings were banned from traveling to Geneva. BCHR’s Nedal Al-Salman was banned from travelling to Geneva to participate in a UN roundtable in August 2016. 
Ebtesam Alsaeg was arrested last month upon her return to Bahrain from the UNHRC in Geneva and interrogated for six hours about her activities at the UN. 

Pro-government newspapers continue to defame human rights defenders as ‘agents’, and work to incite the arrest of those who participate at the UN. 

We urge UN member states to call on Bahrain to implement, and enforce the five recommendations related to human rights defenders. We ask member states to request the government of Bahrain to release all jailed human rights defenders. And, finally, we urge member states to call on Bahrain to allow human rights defenders to work freely without fear of retaliation and reprisals, and to implement measures to prevent the judicial system from punishing human rights defenders. 



The family of an imprisoned activist in Bahrain says he has undergone surgery for bleeding ulcers.

Loved ones of Nabeel Rajab said Wednesday that he was taken to a military hospital for the surgery and that they were denied access to see him. They say Rajab has been held in solitary confinement for 10 months.

Bahrain's government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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For Trump, a Focus on U.S. Interests and a Disdain for Moralizing

WASHINGTON — As the world recoiled at the televised images of lifeless children in the latest atrocity in Syria's savage civil war on Tuesday, the White House issued a statement expressing outrage just as any White House presumably would.

But where other presidents might have used the moment to call for the departure of Syria’s authoritarian leader, Bashar al-Assad, President Trump’s spokesman dismissed the notion as impractical because it would not happen. “We would look like, to some degree, rather silly not acknowledging the political realities that exist in Syria,” said the spokesman, Sean Spicer.

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US and Russia Clash Over US Attempt to Debate Rights at UN

UNITED NATIONS — The United States and Russia clashed Monday over a U.S. attempt to have the Security Council debate human rights violations as a major cause of conflict for the first time during this month's American presidency of the U.N.'s most powerful body.

The council approved April's agenda without including that debate. But it can still be added if at least nine of the 15 council members vote for it and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters later that the United States "fully expects" to hold the debate on April 18.

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Tough Love for Bahrain

What happens if you make legal protest impossible? In some countries—e.g., Russia and China—you wind up with one-party rule. Those countries have secret police forces efficient enough to squelch most dissent and rulers canny enough to manufacture their own popularity. Dissidents, by contrast, have little if any outside backing.

That’s not what is happening in Bahrain, a tiny American ally (population 1.4 million) on the Persian Gulf (or as Arabs like to call it, the Arabian Gulf) where a Sunni ruling family is attempting to keep control of a restive, mostly Shiite populace.

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Washington’s Dilemma As Bahrain Snuggles Up To Putin

This year, while Putin’s regime committed war crimes in Syria, the king of Bahrain visited Russia twice. 

The first Trump cabinet discussion on Russia should be fun. Quite apart from the question of what role Russia played in the presidential election, nominees for top posts have said very different things about President Putin.

Trump has expressed admiration of the Russian president and several of his close circle have links to the Kremlin. Other cabinet nominees, including Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, are clearly not fans of the Russian president.

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