15 Jul, 2015

Concern over Privacy as New Evidences Emerge on Spyware sales To Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over recent reports and evidence indicating Bahrain’s purchase of advanced surveillance tools primarily used to spy on human rights activists and political opponents.

 

The recent hack by an unknown source of the Italian surveillance technology company Hacking Team revealed some troubling connections with Bahrain. Over 400 gigabytes of data, ranging from e-mails to personal WhatsApp backups, linked the company and its services to several governments around the world. This sensitive information entailed a purchase of the notorious spyware “Remote Control System” which spies on political opponents, human rights advocates, journalists and digital activists. It does so by recording Skype calls, controlling the target’s devices and eavesdropping via a computer’s webcam.

 

This spyware and other surveillance services were used by 37 countries, including Bahrain. Among the 400 gigabytes of data, was a file called “Midworld Pro – Bahrain” which indicated a Bahraini purchase of the “Remote Control System” spyware worth €210,000 (over 87,000 Bahraini dinars), likely used to target human rights activists and political opposition.

 

This is not the first time Bahrain has been found to be using malware to spy on activists and violate their privacy. Research published in August 2014 found Bahrain to be using the UK FinFisher spy software (also known as FinSpy) to hack on human rights lawyers, politicians and even members of a government commission investigating human rights abuses.  

 

BCHR considers these new findings to be compelling evidence of the repressive conditions in Bahrain, and sees it as a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 of that Declaration urges that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Article 19 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

 

Bahrain is known to have been arresting and torturing online users who have practiced their freedom of expression over the Internet. in its latest report about freedom on the Internet, Freedom House has ranked Bahrain as not free.  

 

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on European governments to:     

  • Apply stronger measures to prevent such technology from being supplied to states that do not comply with international human rights norms and practices.

 

And to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately stop purchasing and engaging with Hacking Team and any other spyware provider.
  • Stop spying on human rights activists and political opponents
  • Respect its obligation to protect human rights, including the right to privacy and to freedom of expression.

 

14 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Mohamed Faraj Deprived of Medical Care in Jaw Prison

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the deprivation of adequate medical care of detainees in Jaw Prison, including in cases where the detainees are suffering from serious diseases. The BCHR has regularly documented the refusal by prison officials to give the detainees the medical assistance that they need.

For example, Mohammed Faraj (21 years old) was arrested on 27 October 2014, when he was sentenced to 10 years on charges of alleged “criminal burning and illegal gathering,” which was reduced upon appeal to 7 years on 26 January 2015. He was arrested at the court where he presented himself in a wheelchair.

Since then, he has been detained at Jaw Prison. According to medical reports obtained by BCHR, Faraj is suffering from a rare disease called Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Before his arrest, he was receiving treatment at the neurology clinic in Salmaniya Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Issa Al-Shroogi. His disease requires injection treatments three times a week and a regular intake of medicine. However, the administration at Jaw Prison refuses to accept the injections and medicine that his family has tried to provide many times. As Faraj’s disease has worsened, his lawyer, Sami Siadi, has submitted two letters to the judge in question requesting a suspension of the prison sentence. However, this request has not been answered despite the fact that Faraj continues facing serious risks such as sight loss and paralysis.

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on governments and international organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Provide Mohamed Faraj and all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment; and
  • End the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation and punishment for exercising their human rights.

 

13 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Torture and Unfair trials for opposition affiliates sends the 7th man to death row

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini authorities’ use of capital punishment in politically motivated cases amid concerns that charges are based on confessions extracted by means of torture and as a result of unfair trials.  

On 29 April 2015, a Bahraini court convicted 12 men in the case of killing the policeman Mahmoud Fareed and sentenced yet another person, Salman Isa, to death, while others were handed down imprisonment sentences ranging between life to 10 years, and all have had their citizenship revoked.

Salman Isa, 30 years old, who is the most recent of 7 cases of death penalty, was first arrested on 27 December 2014, following houseraid in the village of Aker by security men in civilian clothes at around 23:00 pm. Eyewitnesses said Salman was beaten at time of arrest by the security men.

Salman was taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) where he was detained for 14 days without being allowed to contact his family or lawyer. He was allegedly subjected to physical and psychological torture, including electric shocks all over his body, sexual assaults and threats of further assaults if he spoke of it, being kept in a very cold temperature for 6 hours. As a result of torture, Salman suffers from hearing impairment and a broken nose. The BCHR received reports that Salman was tortured at the hands of the infamous torturer Turki Al-Majed.

Therefore, the BCHR believes that the authorities did not provide Salman and other defendants in the case with due processes and their trial lacked the basics standards of fair trials. The case of Salman is an example of the unjust judiciary system in Bahrain that orders capital punishment in unfair trials and base conviction on confessions extracted under duress. The BCHR has previously documented cases similar cases of death sentences that have been based on confessions extracted through the means of torture, including the cases of Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, Maher AlKhabbaz, Abbas Alsalmea, Sami Mushaima and Ali Abdulshaheed Al-Singace.

Based on the aforementioned, the BCHR calls on the United States, the European Union, and other national and international bodies to actively engage the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Vacate the use of death penalty;

  • Put an end to the use of torture in detention centres and hold accountable anyone responsible in all torture cases carried out in Bahrain

  • Request the Government of Bahrain to comply with UPR recommendations, adopt the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and abolish the death penalty