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Bahrain: Justice denied for two years as Khalil Al-Halwachi is imprisoned without a verdict

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the Bahraini government’s practice of holding detainees for a prolonged and indefinite period prior to being sentenced and convicted of any official charge. This is the case with Khalil Al-Halwachi, who has been detained for approximately two years without being sentenced, thus violating his right to due process.

Khalil Al-Halwachi (59 years old) was arrested on 3 September 2014 through a house raid by security forces. The security forces presented neither a search nor an arrest warrant. Security forces transported Al-Halwachi to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where they allegedly subjected him to psychological torture and ill-treatment including keeping him in extremely low temperatures for hours at a time and preventing him from going to the toilet. Security forces then forced him to sign confessions while he was blindfolded.

The interrogation focused on the activities of AMAL political society and its founders, although the society has been closed down since 2012 and Al-Halwachi is no longer a member of the group.

At the public prosecution, the prosecutor interrogated Al-Halwachi without his lawyer, and charged him with alleged possession of a weapon. Security forces then transferred Al-Halwachi to the Dry Dock Detention Center. The authorities extended his detention three times under the Terrorism Law. After six months, on 22 March 2015, the authorities finally referred him to court. He made complaints about the ill-treatment he was subjected to with the ombudsman’s office, which transferred the case to the special investigation unit; but there was no outcome in Al-Halwachi’s case and he remains in detention during his trial.

Since the commencement of his trial in March 2015, the court has postponed it 17 times thus far. The court postponed the trial several times due to the absence of the prosecution’s witness. When the witness finally showed up, his answer to most of the questions was “I forgot.” The defense lawyers of Al-Halwachi and 16 other defendants in the case were not allowed to call defense witnesses. The last session he had was on 21 June 2016 and it was postponed to 19 September 2016.

Although Al-Halwachi has not been sentenced, prison authorities refuse to release him despite his deteriorating health, which includes repeated blood clotting episodes for which he is reportedly not getting proper medical care. He also has nerve damage, which caused paresthesia in his limbs, and has only gotten worse with his appalling prison conditions. He is currently isolated from other political detainees in ward 1 at Dry Dock Prison, apart from four political detainees with whom he had minimal contact, as they are not allowed to communicate with him.  

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006, requires state security forces to observe certain guidelines. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention;” and that “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgment.” Furthermore, Article 14 affirms the detainee’s right to a fair trial, as “everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Khalil Al-Halwachi and all detainees who are held over politically motivated charges;
  • End the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention;
  • End the practice of holding detainees for a long time before they are sentenced, as it violates their right to due process;
  • End the practice of torture as a means to extract confessions from detainees;
  • Bring to justice those who commit violations, including those who carry out and supervise abuses; and
  • Abide by international legislation, including conventions to which Bahrain is a signatory.

 

The "Miami Model" in Bahrain

How one American police chief exported his repressive tactics to the Middle East.

Last week, John Timoney — the former New York Police Department chief who went on to lead the police forces of Philadelphia and Miami — died at the age of sixty-eight.

For a cop who spent decades in the limelight, the obituaries have been glowing. The New York Times described Timoney  as an officer who “had the gall to change minds, one police department at a time.” Another Times obituary cited his working-class roots and degrees in history and urban planning, celebrating that the police chief “plotted innovative strategies that helped reverse years of skyrocketing crime.” According to the New Yorker, “John Timoney was a good cop. No small thing in America, in 2016.”

But for critics of militarized policing in the United States, Timoney is best remembered for pioneering the use of overwhelming force against demonstrators.

At the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia — and again at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Miami — Timoney deployed a suite of crowd suppression methods that came to be known as the “Miami model”: mass arrests followed by mass acquittals; the criminalization of peaceful assembly through the denial of protest permits and banning of everyday objects; the sequestration of “embedded” reporters; the recruitment of “infiltrators” in activist groups; and the unrestrained use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “less lethal” weaponry.

Also unmentioned by the Times, NPR, the Miami Herald, and nearly every other outlet was a seemingly discordant line on Timoney’s resume: consultant to the Ministry of the Interior, Bahrain, 2011–13.

But the Bahrain connection is not as surprising, nor as tangential, as it may first appear.

Continue reading here.

Coalition calls out Bahrain for sneakily shutting down the internet

Bahrain—Today a coalition of nearly 30 organizations from around the world called on authorities in Bahrain to restore the internet in the country. Citing complex disruptions to internet service that were recorded in the neighborhood of Duraz, the letter (PDF) demands that the telecoms authority turn the internet back on and commit to transparency related to shutdown orders.

“It’s clear that there is a coordinated effort across several ISPs to shut down mobile towers in Duraz at the same time every night, and deliberately degrade landline Internet traffic,” said Bill Marczak, co-founder of Bahrain Watch.

Rights groups first recorded disruptions in June around street demonstrations that arose amidst a general economic slowdown, and directly followed the government’s decision to strip citizenship from a prominent cleric. The non-profit organization Bahrain Watch then conducted an in-depth technical study of the shutdown to understand how it was implemented, which turned out to be a more complex form than seen before.

“The newly established regulatory bodies have given the authorities additional powers to control freedoms over the internet,”, observed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “Through these bodies and the regulations it has imposed, the government has tightened the control and surveillance on the Internet – gaining easier access to Internet users thus having the ability for quick arrest and prosecution.”

The letter, which was delivered to the Telecommunications Reglatory Authority of Bahrain, among other agencies, makes specific recommendations to authorities, including canceling any “service restriction orders” to telecommunications companies that enabled the shutdown; providing transparency around such orders; and respecting the right of Bahrainis to freedom of expression.

The coalition signers of the letter are members of the #KeepitOn campaign to fight internet shutdowns around the world, and include groups from as far afield as Pakistan, Uganda, the Cook Islands, Lebanon, the United States, and Malaysia. Earlier this year UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai pushed back stronglyagainst the use of shutdowns during protests, and in July the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution that specifically condemns internet shutdowns. The Global Network Initiative also joined the Industry Dialogue — which together include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, AT&T and Vodafone — to speak out against shutdowns. This statement was swiftly followed by a policy position from the GSMA, one of the world’s largest technology associations, that laid out strict standards for orders issued to telcos to restrict service.

Read the full letter here.

Media Contact:

Elena Mocanu
Advocacy Officer and International Office Manager
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
+45 53893133
Dronningensgade 14
1420 København K
Denmark

Clinton’s Bahrain problem has nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton had a wrongheaded policy on Bahrain and supported the regime while it cracked down on protesters and trampled its own people’s human rights. But that folly had nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation; it was part of the Obama administration’s overall muddled reaction to the Arab Spring.

Read the entire article here.

UK Journalist to Bahrain Mirror: Bahraini Uprising Saw no Support despite Peaceful Nature

On the sidelines of "The International Conference in Support of the Yemeni People", journalists and activists shared their views on the current situation in Yemen and countries of the Gulf region, including Bahrain.

Among the participants in the conference was British journalist Mohammad Ali Carter, who during the past couple of months went deep into the Yemeni conflict while working on a documentary about the Saudi Arabian regime for the London-based Ahlulbayt TV.

"I've been looking into the Yemen conflict in the past couple of months in preparation for a documentary which we did, which focused on Saudi Arabia as a regime, its history, what it's doing now, and what its potential future could be," said Carter in an exclusive interview with Bahrain Mirror.

Continue Reading here.

Bahrain: Authorities Targeting Shia clerics

Bahraini authorities are targeting Shia clerics in a systematic campaign of harassment that violates their rights to freedom of assembly and speech, and to religious freedom, Human Rights Watch said today.

On August 18, 2016, a Bahraini court convicted Sheikh Ali Humaidan of “illegal gathering” and sentenced him to one year in prison for his involvement in peaceful gatherings in the village of Diraz outside the home of the spiritual leader of an opposition group, who was arbitrarily stripped of his citizenship in June. Human Rights Watch has spoken to four Shia clerics who said that authorities have charged them with illegal gathering over their involvement in the protest and another three who said they were questioned.

Read full article here.

In the Firing Line: Women Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain Increasingly Targeted by Authorities

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned about the recent repressive steps of the Bahraini government, particularly against women human rights defenders. We condemn in the strongest terms the actions undertaken by the authorities and call for reconciliation.

In its most recent attempt to impede and restrict the work of human rights defenders in Bahrain, the government of Bahrain imposed a travel ban on Enas Oun, head of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Section. This morning, 22 August 2016, while on her way to a human rights workshop in Tunisia, she was stopped by Bahraini authorities at Bahrain International Airport. The authorities informed her that she cannot travel based on an order issued by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on the previous day, 21 August 2016. BCHR believes that by enforcing such bans, the government of Bahrain continues its attempts to impede human rights advocacy, clamp down on activists and restrict their movements.

Another woman human rights defender who was targeted by the authorities is Ghada Jamsheer, who is a writer, blogger and President of the Women’s Petition Committee (WPC), a network of female human rights defenders in Bahrain, campaigning for reform of Bahrain’s family laws. On 15 August 2016, Bahraini authorities arrested and detained Jamsheer upon her arrival to Bahrain International Airport from London. As of today, she has not been released nor allowed any direct contact with her family or lawyer. On 22 June 2016, a Bahraini court upheld a one-year sentence against Jamsheer over charges related to remarks she made on the social media website Twitter, regarding corruption by members of Bahrain’s ruling family in one of the government-run hospitals.

It is not the first time, that Jamsheer has been targeted by Bahraini authorities. She has been effectively banned from all national media and her online blog has been blocked in Bahrain since 2009. Jamsheer was previously arrested and detained in September 2014 for over three months for charges of defamation via Twitter in the same case. A few months later, in March 2015, the authorities imposed a travel ban on her, after she attempted to fly to France to receive medical treatment. In June 2015, Jamsheer, was also sentenced in the defamation case to one year and eight months in prison for tweeting about corruption at King Hamad hospital.

Other victims of the government’s crackdown on women human rights defenders is the journalist, human rights defender, and torture survivor Nazeeha Saeed. Saeed was banned from traveling in June 2016, The authorities summoned her for interrogation about her media work, accusing her of allegedly lacking the necessary governmental authorisation and was eventually fined the equivalent of USD$2,650.

Earlier this year, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested and detained together with her 15-months old son. Although she was released on 31 May 2016 on "humanitarian grounds" following international pressure, she was reportedly threatened with indefinite detention if she did not leave the country. She was eventually forced into exile in Denmark in June 2016. Zainab as well as her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja have been previously arrested and sentenced to jail terms by Bahraini authorities.

BCHR believes that the government of Bahrain is attempting to clamp down on human rights defenders and restrict their movements and means of advocacy. In recent months, this has resulted in extended media control and censorship, an increased amount of travel bans and revoked citizenships, as well as the accompanying repression and use of excessive force. Women defenders have been one of the main groups to be targeted by the authorities. Jamsheer, Oun, Al-Khawaja and Saeed are only a few women whom have been subjected to violations of their rights and freedoms. Currently, there are four women in detention over politically motivated charges, which are related to freedom of expression.

BCHR affirms that the measures and sentence against the aforementioned women human rights defenders is in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression and their right to free movement. Therefore BCHR calls upon the authorities to:

  • Release Ghada Jamsheer immediately and allow her to enter and leave Bahrain freely;
  • Immediately revoke all the regulations that restrict and impede basic human rights and freedoms stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
  • Immediately cease targeting activists and human rights defenders in all cases that contravene international law.

Bahrain’s New Order

The political news emanating from the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain has come fast and frequent this summer, with a series of actions taken by the courts, Parliament, and security forces effectively reshaping the formal political landscape of the country. These actions have dealt perhaps the final blow to the strategy set in the early years of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s reign, when opposition politicians were invited back from exile, the Parliament re-established, and the economy reshaped to better integrate a Shia community disproportionately dependent on the private sector for employment.

 

Read full article here.

Member in UK Parliament Calls on FCO to Pressure on Bahrain to Release Nabeel Rajab

A member in the UK Parliament called on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pressure on Bahrain to release the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.

In a letter to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MP Margaret Ferrier, the Scottish National Party politician, said that "the United Kingdom should use its influence to call for Mr. Rajab's release."

Continue Reading here.

Stop the War Coalition Extremely Concerned About Worsening HR Situation in Bahrain, Saudi Crimes in Yemen- Exclusive

For the past couple of years, London-based Stop the War Coalition has been very active in promoting humanitarian and human rights demands for causes related to the Middle East and the Arab World.

It has also precisely taken part, or even organized, events, marches, and conferences concerning the crackdown in Bahrain launched by the Saudi-backed ruling Al Khalifa family, as well as the Saudi war on Yemen.

 

Continue reading here.