Bahrain: On 7th anniversary of beginning of popular movement, NGOs call for end to systematic targeting of human rights defenders and journalists
On the 7th anniversary of the peaceful popular movement of the Bahraini people which started on 14 February 2011, the undersigned NGOs call on the international community to help free human rights defenders in Bahrain, some of whom are jailed for life, and to stop the persecution of journalists simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Bahrain now has a reputation as one of the few countries in which all well-known human rights defenders (who are not already in jail or in exile) have been banned from working freely or travelling. This is designed to isolate the human rights movement and cut its links with the international mechanisms in particular the United Nations. A collective travel ban is essentially imposed on all human rights defenders, preventing them from participating in the activities of the three sessions held each year at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Likewise, international NGOs and journalists, along with UN experts, cannot freely visit Bahrain.
Human Rights Defenders in Jail, Victims of Torture and Ill-Treatment
Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders are in jail, facing ill-treatment. On 05 February 2018, Khadija Al-Mousawi tweeted that she visited her husband, prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been targeted and abused in Jaw prison. He has been taken to hospital in shackles.
"When I went to visit my husband he was talking about going to the hospital chained," she tweeted. "I expected him to say that he felt humiliated, but he said the opposite. He was walking very slowly because of the weight of chains and the chain distance between the feet, but he was raising his head having a nice feeling.”
Al-Khawaja is the Founder and Former President of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as the former MENA Protection Coordinator for Front Line Defenders. He has been held in Jaw prison since his sentencing to life in prison in 2011, along with other human rights defenders and activists, including blogger Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, who collectively make up the Bahrain 13.
In the past year, Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience have protested repeatedly about the deteriorating conditions in Jaw Prison, which mimic the general deterioration of conditions in Bahrain for human rights defenders and civil society.
After he sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior in November 2017 about the conditions in prison, Al-Khawaja was also denied the right to make any phone calls until 17 December, which appears to be a reprisal against him for raising his complaint.
Another prominent human rights defender who has been ill-treated in detention (including being returned to unsanitary conditions following surgery, which resulted in an infection) is Nabeel Rajab, GCHR’s Founding Director, Co-Founder and President of BCHR, FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Human Rights Watch MENA Advisory Board. On 15 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld the two-year prison sentence against Rajab for talking with various media outlets about human rights issues. On this sentence alone, he will remain in prison until December 2018, even though he has now been incarcerated already for 20 months since his arrest on 13 June 2016.
One of the things that Rajab is accused of falsely stating is that journalists and NGOs are banned from entering the country. However, it is hard to dispute that the country is not only closed in term of civic society space, but equally not accessible for the international human rights observers. Among those NGOs which have not received permission to enter the country are signatories to this letter including FIDH, Front Line Defenders and GCHR, which has been waiting for the green light to enter the country to do a human rights mission since 2012.
In another case, Rajab is being prosecuted over two charges both related to tweets and retweets posted in 2015 about the war in Yemen and also about allegations of torture in Jaw prison after a prison riot in March 2015. The first charge is “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison. The second charge is “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. A verdict is expected at the next hearing on 21 February 2018 and Rajab faces imprisonment of up to 15 years if convicted.
Women human rights defenders are not spared torture and abuse in prison. On 22 October 2017, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, the monitoring and documentation officer of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, was released from prison pending trial. Al-Saegh was held in solitary confinement in Isa Town Women’s Prison since her arrest on 03 July 2017 and subjected to harsh interrogation. The Public Prosecution ordered Al-Saegh to be incarcerated for six months pending investigation under the anti-terrorism law. In July 2017, a group of UN experts expressed “deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.”
In a previous incident, on 27 May 2017, Al-Saegh was arrested and suffered torture and abuse at the hands of the National Security Agency (NSA). She was summoned to Muharraq police station for questioning about her human rights activities and then tortured and sexually abused by members of the NSA. The security officers also threatened to murder her and her children. She was released seven hours later but had to go directly to hospital suffering from a “severe nervous breakdown.”
During the interrogation in May, she was asked about the work of activists inside and outside Bahrain, and about her human rights work in Geneva during the UN HRC sessions.
In 2017, the security authorities arrested and tortured many human rights defenders and then released them after forcing them to pledge to stop their human rights activities. Other people who were interrogated at Muharraq police station subsequently renounced their activism on Twitter and stopped tweeting. Only Al-Saegh strongly condemned these illegal practices, describing them on Twitter as a "crime against humanity."
All human rights defenders in Bahrain are either in prison or exile, or prevented from freely working or travelling, such as Zainab Al-Khamees, banned from travel since November 2016, and Nedal Al-Salman, BCHR’s Acting President, banned from travel regularly since May 2016, preventing her from attending UN HRC sessions. Al-Salman has been accused of illegal gathering and was interrogated four times, with charges remaining against her. The ban has been lifted twice and re-imposed, often for unknown reasons.
On 25 January 2016, human rights defender and board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Naji Fateel was among 57 prisoners sentenced to additional 15-year terms for allegedly being involved in disturbances in Jaw prison in March 2015. The public prosecutor accused the men of having “unleashed acts of chaos, riots and rebellion inside (prison) buildings,” and they were charged with “damaging public property, attacking police, arson and resisting authorities,” among other offences. Fateel was already serving a 15-year prison sentence for “establishing a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution,” and has been in prison since May 2013. He was badly tortured in prison, and it is believed that his imprisonment stems from his human rights work, including his interactions with the UN.
Journalists Tortured and Jailed, Media Shut Down
Journalists in Bahrain are not able to work freely and have suffered terribly for covering human
rights violations. Journalist Nazeeha Saeed, former correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, reported being tortured in 2011. She is no longer able to work as a journalist in Bahrain and forced to leave the country. On 18 July 2017, an appeal court in Manama upheld the sentence imposed for “working without a license” against Saeed. She was fined 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. USD$2650). Saeed was charged with unlawfully working for the international media under Article 88 of Law 47/2002. Saeed had applied for renewal of her license but her application was rejected without any basis. It was the first time in 12 years that her accreditation was not renewed. She was also placed under a travel ban.
Previously, Saeed was arrested and tortured in May 2011 after covering protests. She was repeatedly beaten and subject to electro-shocks 10 times while in police detention. One of the policewomen responsible was brought to trial but acquitted in October 2012. In November 2015, authorities decided against charging other identified officers because of “insufficient” evidences.
On 30 October 2017, human rights defender and “Al-Wasat” journalist Mahmoud Abdul-Ridha Al-Jazeeri was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and his nationality was ordered to be revoked. On 28 December 2015, Al-Jazeeri was arrested during a raid on his home by security forces in plain clothes. His arrest came one day after he wrote an article reporting on the regular consultative (Shura) council’s session, during which an MP asked authorities to punish Bahrainis who had their citizenship revoked on political grounds by depriving them of government housing. He was charged with supporting terrorism, inciting hatred of the regime, having contacts with a foreign country, and seeking to overthrow the government by joining Al-Wafa and the February 14 Youth Movement. He was subjected to ill-treatment in detention including being blindfolded and not being allowed to sit or sleep for almost three days. He is appealing the sentence.
On 24 June 2017, “Al-Wasat” newspaper notified its employees in an e-mail of the decision to lay off all 160 staff members. On 04 June 2017, Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) suspended “Al-Wasat” for allegedly violating the law and repeating the publication of and broadcasting news that stirs up the community and affects the relations of the Kingdom of Bahrain with other countries. The suspension relates to an article published about protests in Morocco on 04 June 2017, which was accused of “abuse of one of the Arab countries."
Editor-in-Chief Mansoor Al-Jamri said, "After 15 years of journalism, we reaffirm that the success of “Al-Wasat”’s unique project would not have been achieved without the confidence of its constituents, which it considered a civilised means of reform, a bridge of understanding, cooperation, coexistence and acceptance of opinion and the opposite opinion, depending on the loyalty to the whole nation of all groups of society, while adhering that is internationally acclaimed to media professionalism." He added, "The most important of all: honesty in saying and acting."
Recommendations to the International Community:
We, the undersigned NGOs, appeal to the United Nations mechanisms, the European Union, in addition to all governments with influence - in particular the United States and the United Kingdom - to apply serious pressure on Bahrain to demand the immediate release of all detained human rights defenders as well as all prisoners of conscience; and to protect public freedom, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and freedom of association; and to stop the security forces from practicing any form of torture or ill-treatment on detainees, a practice which is well documented in recent years and regarded as systematic in Bahrain.
We further call on the Bahrain authorities to allow the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of expression and torture to visit Bahrain immediately in order to meet representatives of civil society, meet detainees, assess the human rights situation in the country as well as to convey their recommendations to solve the crisis facing human rights defenders and journalists.
In addition, we call on the government of Bahrain to fulfill its promises made during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review to uphold international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including by taking immediate steps to:
- Overturn the convictions, following unfair trials, of demonstrators and human rights defenders and activists, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, and immediately and unconditionally free them;
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain, bring an end to the practice of torture and ill-treatment in prison, police stations or secret locations and bring perpetrators to justice immediately;
- Allow human rights defenders to work freely inside of Bahrain, and travel abroad, including by removing travel bans against Nedal Al-Salman, Zainab Al-Khamees, and Ebtisam Al-Saegh;
- Allow foreign NGOs, journalists and UN representatives to freely visit Bahrain;
- End the harassment of journalists and allow all journalists to carry out their work without fear of reprisals;
- Respect the right to freedom of expression and opinion for all people in Bahrain, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bahrain Constitution.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
FIDH, under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Bahrain: abusive convictions of four women on terrorism charges
FIDH and BCHR strongly condemn an unprecedent wave of death sentences in Bahrain
Manama, Paris, 1 February 2018 : Bahrain has witnessed a dramatic increase in the use of capital punishment since 2017, and recent executions mark a dangerous return to the death penalty after a halt on executions since 2010. Our organisation strongly condemn this tragic trend and urge the authorities to abolish the death penalty immediately.
(Picture above: Mohammed Al Mitgawi; a human rights activist on death role)
Today a new death sentence confirmed the dramatic acceleration of death sentences in Bahrain.
« Today Moosa Abdulla was sentenced to death after sentencing Ali Al Arab, Ahmed Al Malaly and Maher Al Khabaz earlier this week. 22 Bahrainis remain currently on death row, which marks a record in the history of Bahrain », Stated Maytham Al Salman, Special Advisor at the BCHR.
On 25 December 2017, a Bahraini military court sentenced six men to death on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting to assassinate a military official.
The victims in this trial were subjected to torture, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, solitary confinement and enforced disappearance. Communications engineer Sayed Alawi Hussein Alawi, and Sayed Fadhel Abbas were forcibly disappeared for nearly a year, and Mohammed Al-Shehabi and Mohammed Al-Motaghawi were forcibly disappeared for several months. Some of the lawyers and families of the defendants were threatened with reprisals if they revealed their treatment to the media or international human rights organizations. All the defendants were denied the right to meet their lawyers before the trials.
« We strongly oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and for all crimes », expressed Florence Bellivier, FIDH Deputy Secretary General on Death Penalty. « The increased application of the death penalty in Bahrain is of high concern, as it also reveals a discriminatory and inhuman practice, in addition to the violation of the rights to a fair trial and the instrumentalization of death penalty as a political tool »
The fact that the defendants were tried before military courts and not civil courts is significative. These courts were condemned by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011 for their acceptance of confessions extracted under torture and their failure to hold fair trials. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommended halting trying civilians in military courts in 2011, which was accepted by authorities. However, Bahrain amended the constitution to grant these courts the power to try civilians on 3 April 2017. This constitutional amendment was regarded by Bahraini human rights organizations as catastrophic.
“The prosecution of peaceful dissidents in military courts is expected to flourish if the international community remains silent ”, declared Maytham Al Salman “ Mohammed Al Mitqawi, a peaceful activist who has been working with human rights organizations and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in reporting violations, who is today on death row.”
A year ago, on 15 January 2017, the Bahraini authorities executed Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42) in such conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Dr Agnes Callamard, qualified the executions as “extrajudicial executions”
FIDH and BCHR condemn the last wave of death sentences and executions in the strongest terms, and urge the government of Bahrain to immediately abolish the death penalty and accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for the abolition of the death penalty.
Furthermore, FIDH and BCHR call on the government of Bahrain to repeal the constitutional amendment of 3 April 2017 and restore Article 105 of the Bahraini Constitution to its previous state to ensure that civilians are not tried in military courts. They also urge authorities to open an independent investigation into all complaints of violations in all the cases , particularly those related to complaints of torture and ill-treatment, and adopt the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary adopted by the United Nations in 1985.
Press Contact ;
+961 81 784 437 / email@example.com
Bahrain: Fears for Nabeel Rajab’s life inside his prison
Beirut - Paris - Geneva, January 25, 2018: According to a credible confidential source, Bahraini authorities have planned to interfere with prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab’s medication in a clear attempt to threaten his security and integrity. The Bahraini authorities should immediately and unconditionally release him.
“This attempted attack on Nabeel’s health is certainly not random” said today the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH - OMCT partnership), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf center for Human Rights (GCHR). It falls at a time when the government has tried to keep him under tight surveillance to prevent him from speaking out. The authorities couldn’t stop him from speaking out to defend human rights so they might be looking at other ways to silence him for good”. The situation is even more worrisome as Nabeel Rajab needs surgery and has no choice but to take the medication he is given.
“Bahrain has been cracking down on our friend and Deputy Secretary General, Nabeel Rajab for years with abusive tactics,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President. “Recently alarming signals have multiplied raising security concerns regarding his detention condition. The government should put a stop to these tactics, and immediately release him. We seriously fear for his life”, he added.
“The Bahraini authorities should allow an international independent medical examination of Nabeel Rajab and the results of this examination to be duly recorded and accessible by his family. Nabeel Rajab’s life is at serious risk and he should receive urgently the medical treatment he needs by a trusted medical institution,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
In the last months, a number of prominent dissidents and activists have become seriously ill in detention in Bahrain, and have been denied independent, adequate and trusted care. Authorities have detained, imprisoned, tortured, intimidated, stripped of their nationality, or forced into exile many people who peacefully opposed or openly criticized the authorities’ actions and policies. The authorities have also shut down numerous independent media outlets.
“Authorities should immediately release him and allow him to seek medical care freely from a doctor of his choice”, said Maytham Al Salman, BCHR Special Advisor. “There are fewer and fewer human rights defenders able to work in Bahrain, and they do so at great risks, even in detention, as demonstrated by this case” he added. “The harassment of Nabeel Rajab is intended to silencing the whole Bahraini society”.
FIDH: Audrey Couprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
BCHR: Julie Gromellon: +961 81 784 437
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Bahrain: Reverse Nabeel Rajab’s Prison Sentence
Bahrain: Relatives of exiled activists continue to be targeted amid ongoing unrest
The signatory human rights organizations express their condemnation over the continued targeting and harassment of human rights defenders and their families. "Human rights defenders have been subjected to systematic and continuous violations, including arbitrary detention, travel bans and torture". Testimonies documented by reliable human rights organizations confirmed the continued target and harassment of also the families of human rights defenders.
The signatory organizations confirmed that they have monitored and documented the abuse committed by members of the security services against Yunes Ahmed Sultan, a Bahraini citizen, who is also the brother of human rights defender Mohammed Sultan, member of Bahrain Center for Human Rights. This abuse had revealed the extent of the involvement of the security services in targeting and harassing the families of human rights activists, as well as the torture policy that has become systematic, rampant and frequent, accompanied by methods of sexual assault and harassment.
The latest victim is Yunes, who was subjected to physical and psychological torture and degrading treatment, was indeed sexually assaulted by officer Taher Al Alawi on November 26, 2017 in the Southern Province Police Station (Hamad Town, Roundabout 17). Yunes was coerced to work and cooperate with the security agencies to monitor human rights activity and monitor the activities of human rights organizations cooperating with the United Nations' human rights mechanisms. (The victim's statement is attached with this statement).
The undersigned organizations demand the Government of Bahrain to open a genuine investigation into this incident and stop the targeting and harassment of human rights activists and their families. The Government of Bahrain is bound by Article 2 of the United Nations' Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The signatories also call on Bahrain to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst, to visit Bahrain in order to stand upon the real situation of human rights defenders and their families.
- SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
- Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
- The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights
- Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
"Yunes Ahmed Sultan", is a Bahraini citizen who has been interrogated, tortured, and threatened by Bahraini police officers on two recent occasions in November 2017.
On 19 November 2017, officers at the Southern Province Police Station (Hamad Town, Roundabout 17) called Yunes Sultan and ordered him to come to the station. He arrived 15 minutes later, and officers took him to the investigation officer's bureau.
The investigation officer questioned him about the activities of his brother Mohamed Sultan, a Bahraini refugee currently residing in France and two other exiled Bahraini rights activists, Sayed Yousif AlMuhafda, vice president of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, currently based in Germany and Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, based also in France.
During the investigation, the officer accused Yunes Sultan of meeting with exiled human rights defenders in France and Germany, and of cooperating with others to overthrow the government in Bahrain. Sultan denied these charges, and the officer called two other policemen who threatened to beat him and sexually assault him.
The officer also offered him financial rewards in order to provide him with intelligence on the activits' movements and work.
On 26 November 2017, officers at the station called Sultan again and asked him to come and see officer Taher Al Alawi. Sultan arrived and was taken to officer Al Alawi's office. Officer Al Alawi offered him tea or water, Sultan first said "no, thanks" but the officer insisted, and Sultan chose water. Officer Al Alawi instead threw the water in Sultan's face and began to insult him and his religious beliefs.
Officer Al Alawi stated that they had evidence against him, and brought a laptop with photos of him in public ceremonies with a number of public figures, including Nabeel Rajab and others. Again, Sultan denied any criminal activities, and stated that he could not recall details of any conversations he had with these public figures.
Two officers pinned Sultan to the wall, and officer Al Alawi told them "Do what you wish." The three officers began beating Sultan and started stripping him off his clothes, and sexually assaulting him. They also began kicking him on different parts of his body.
Officer Al Alawi ordered the other officers to leave the room and take all Sultan's clothes away. Officer Al Alawi resumed the investigations with Sultan while totally naked and again accused him of "terrorist activities", and pressured him to provide information on his brother Mohamed Sultan and Yousif AlMuhafdah and Hussain Jawad, or he would charge him with various crimes linked to terrorism and collusion.
Later, the police guards returned Sultan's clothes and ordered him to dress. He later discovered that the underwear he was given was not even his own!
Yunes said that the officers told him he has 15 days to think about their offer and to come back to the police station. The fifteenth day ended on Monday, 11 December. From then on, they have called him numerous times but out of fear he did not answer any of the calls. On the 13th of December, at 1:00 AM precisely, Sultan received a call from officer Al Alawi in which he directly threatened him and said: "are you afraid of me? A call at this time of the night would of course scare you, wouldn’t it? Your deadline has finished"!
Yunes Sultan said he was intimidated and out of fear for his safety and wellbeing he is now in France where he began the process of filing an asylum claim after fleeing Bahrain on the same day of the 13th of December 2017.
Bahrain:Secret military courts sentence civilians forced to confess under torture
The general principles of the Comparative International Law and the International Bill on the judiciary and trials warn of trying civilians in military courts or extending the application of special judicial laws in extraordinary cases.
It is well known and recognized that military courts are those which handle offenses committed by military personnel and associated with their military functions, and this is how the military court was described in the 2002 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and particularly in section b of Article 105 thereof, which stipulates that,
“The jurisdiction of military courts shall be confined to military offences committed by members of the Defense Force, the National Guard, and the Security Forces. It does not extend to other persons except when martial law is declared and within the bounds prescribed by law.”
However, after the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was issued – especially paragraph 119, which led to consequent legal effects 5 nullifying the sentences of military courts during the period of the declaration of martial law that was accompanied by human rights violations, and then repeating the trials in civil courts – Bahrain resorted to surpassing this constitutional prohibition by amending Article 105 of the Constitution on March 30, 2017, lifting the constitutional impediment of trying civilians in military courts.
This constitutional amendment resulted in an amendment to the Military Judiciary Law on April 18, 2017, i.e. after less than twenty days and on an expedited basis. This law expands to make the military judiciary specialized in prosecuting civilians accused in the political cases stated in the Bahraini Penal Code (general law).
Full report here.
Julie Gromellon – Head of international relations - BHCR
BCHR IS very concerned by the fact that the Bahraini authorities are using the counter-terrorism law to try ordinary civilians before Military courts and is using it as tool to suppress the political opposition. It is important to note that Bahrain is not a country facing pressing security issues or massive terrorist attacks that could justify this amendment of the law.
Without posing any security threat, 7 Bahraini citizens are facing a military court this month and at least 2 of them under this new amendment may be sentenced to death penalty. According to BCHR findings most of these citizens were subjected to enforced disappearances, brutally tortured and denied their right to meet with their lawyers and families during the interrogation period.
Their trials violated the basic principles of fair trials, and the recent amendment on military Court might be used to condemn them to very harsh sentences, including death penalty, as already said.
It’s also important to note that three of the accused were detained as children.
For us it is clear that Civilians, and children in particular, should not be tried before military courts under any circumstances.
We therefore call on the government of Bahrain should urgently transfer civilian cases to the regular courts and to place a moratorium on all death sentences; and ban all use of the death penalty;
We also call on the EU to Publicly support measures to end the trial of civilians before military courts.
Watch video here.
Bahrain: Human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja faces reprisals in detention after protesting poor prison conditions
One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his human rights work, has protested unfair prison regulations. We, the undersigned, call for his release from prison, and barring that, for improved standards in Jau prison.
Al-Khawaja is the Founder and Former President of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as the former MENA Protection Coordinator for Front Line Defenders. He has been held in Jau prison, since his sentencing in 2011, along with other human rights defenders and activists including blogger Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace who collectively make up the Bahrain 13.
In the past year, Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience have protested repeatedly about the deteriorating conditions in prison, which mimic the general deterioration of conditions in Bahrain for human rights defenders and civil society.
Since 16 October, all of the prisoners’ belongings have been confiscated, reportedly for the purposes of being searched. When Al-Khawaja and others asked for the confiscated items to be returned, they were told “they are still under investigation." On 10 November, the prison authorities restricted all access to television, radio, books, and there are no independent newspapers available. Now, the only newspapers prisoners infrequently receive are government-backed. In addition, family visits have been further restricted so that prisoners are barely able to have a meaningful conversation. At the same time, all phone calls are closely monitored. Meanwhile, prisoners have also lost access to pens or paper, and all daily activities have been cancelled.
This complete restriction from all independent outside information, and increased restrictions on limited family contact leaves the prisoners feeling completely cut off from the world while facing further constraint in their daily lives. These steps have reportedly come at the direction of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior.
The undersigned are gravely concerned about Al-Khawaja’s claims that the main purpose of these restrictions is “primarily an act of retribution and secondarily for the of isolation - what the authorities are doing is tantamount to psychological warfare.”
After he sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior in November about the conditions in prison, Al-Khawaja was also denied the right to make any phone calls until 17 December, which the undersigned groups believe appears to be a reprisal against him for raising his complaint.
In Al-Khawaja’s letter to the Ministry of Interior, he expressed that:
1. Even in oppressive countries that arrest, torture and try people, the authorities do not come back after six or seven years to retaliate against the prisoners who are essentially being held hostage because of things happening outside the prison and even outside the country.
2. What is happening is not a sign of strength and courage, but rather evidence of weakness and fear. It is proof that the person in power is feeling unstable, and because he cannot face the world he retaliates against people he's already holding hostage.
3. If you think that your actions will affect our determination and spirit, then you are committing a big mistake. On the contrary, it only strengthens our will and makes us more intent on continuing down the path we've chosen because it reaffirms the righteousness of our cause.
Al-Khawaja and the other high profile activists and human rights defenders have sent many letters of protest about these and previous prison restrictions, including the denial of medication and proper access to healthcare. We the undersigned are alarmed at reports that restrictions to proper medical care are ongoing despite numerous complaints by prisoners as well as international NGOs, the United Nations and other governments.
Yet every letter the detainees send receives a response dismissing their complaints by contending that the prison authorities are acting "according to the regulations."
According to Bahrain’s prison rules, male prisoners have the right to two hours of family visits a month (one hour bi-weekly) and a three-hour monthly visit for their spouses. In addition to violating their own prison rules, the government of Bahrain’s treatment of Al-Khawaja is in violation of a number of international legal principles.
In particular, the prison authorities have failed to meet the standards set forth by the United Nations in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (known also as the Nelson Mandela Rules). Rule 43 states that collective punishment is prohibited as torture or cruel treatment, and that the restriction of family contact cannot be used as punishment and can only be limited as strictly necessary for maintenance and order of the prison.
The interference with family visits, the confiscation of paper and writing instruments, and the revocation of phone use is in violation of Rule 58, which provides that prisoners are entitled to contact with their family, in writing, telecommunications, and in-person visits.
The removal of the television, radio, and newspapers is in violation of Rule 63, which requires that prisoners be informed regularly of important news items. The confiscation of books is also in violation of Rule 64, which states that every prison should keep a library for the use of prisoners. Bahrain has failed to meet each of these minimum standards.
The current situation in Bahrain is dire. Human rights defenders are in jail, banned from travel, are in exile or are being intimidated to prevent them from working. Many human rights defenders have been called for interrogation and some have been abused and tortured, leading to some even announcing their intention to quit their human rights work.
We the undersigned call on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and other human rights defenders from prison;
- Provide proper access to medical care and sanitary conditions in prison;
- Allow Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and all prisoners proper access to families; and
- Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
CIVICUS, World Alliance for Citizen Participation
FIDH, under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
World Organisation Against Torture, under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Please circulate a link to this appeal using the hashtag #FreeAbdulhadi
Minister of Interior
Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa
CARAM Asia Media Statement on International Migrants Day 2017 for the Protection of Migrant Workers’ Rights
CARAM Asia Bhd (541195‑T)
5th Floor, Wisma Hamid Arshat, No. 12-5,
Jalan Bangsar Utama 9, Bangsar Utama 59000,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel:(603) 22827708, 22821669 Fax: (603) 22821155
“Governments need to abide by international rights standards and guarantee migrants’ rights protections.”
NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
On December 18, 1990, the General Assembly adopted the international Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and it is on this day we celebrate International Migrants Day. We are supposed to be reminded of the enormous contribution migrants make to the global economy, to societies and communities in both source and destination countries. Instead, we are being reminded of the hardships they face on a daily basis.
According to global estimates on migrant workers by the UN and the ILO, there are 244 million international migrants, of which 150 million migrants are in the global workforce and 75 million international migrants are living in Asia. South Asia and Southeast Asia are comprised of many heavily populous, low-income and developing countries, which aim to export manpower to ease unemployment at home and earn foreign exchange in the form of remittances.
Despite the enormous contribution of migrant workers to the economies of their host countries and the remittances they send home, which help to maintain their families and boost the economies of their countries of origin, this sizeable population continues to endure hardship in silence. The obligation of protecting migrant workers’ rights rests equally upon both source and destination countries. Unfortunately, governments commonly treat migrant workers as commodities. As a result, many migrants and migrant domestic workers suffer rights violations at the hands of employers, recruiting agents and other involved actors. Violations range from exploitation in the form of unpaid wages and wrongful dismissal, non-existence of employment contract or contract substitution, withholding of passports by employers, violence in the form of verbal/physical abuses, threats, wrongful arrest and detention, denial of medical care /treatment, and even torture.
CARAM Asia, together with its 42 member organizations in 22 countries across Asia, urges all countries sending and receiving migrants to urgently provide protection mechanisms for migrant workers’ and to continue to work for wider ratification and practice of international conventions which provide migrants with rights protections including but not limited to: the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; ILO Convention 143 (Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers), and ILO Convention 189 for Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
In the six years since the International Labour Organization adopted Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in 2011, governments in nearly 50 countries have adopted labour reforms and policies and updated their legislation to provide better employment protection for domestic workers, and 24 countries have already ratified the Convention. Within Asia Pacific, only the Philippines has ratified Convention 189, meaning that many source countries in the Asia Pacific do not provide their own citizens working as domestic workers proper protections as stipulated under Convention 189.
ITUC reports there are over 67 million domestic workers in the world, the vast majority of them women. More than 11 million are migrant workers. Outside the official figures, some 17 million children are believed to be trapped in domestic work, many in conditions of forced labour. As long as domestic work remains unrecognized as formal work and beyond commensurate protections, abuse, sub-par wages and excessive working hours will remain the standard. However, there are some good practices, such as allowing domestic workers to organize into associations or unions in some countries. However, in some countries there are systems in place like the sponsorship system known as the Kafala system. A system whereby an individual’s right to work and legal presence is dependent on his or her employer. With tight restrictions on changing employers, this dependency renders workers vulnerable to exploitation. Bad practices, such as travel bans and the Kafala style systems, need to be culled.
According to the UN Treaty Collection Report, globally only 49 countries have ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Again we need to emphasise that Asian countries which send their citizens out to various parts of the world to Asia and Middle East to work have not ratified these important conventions. These countries’ reluctance demonstrates a lack of commitment to securing protections for their citizens who go abroad to work. It is clear that the objectives of the labour sending countries is to earn foreign remittances at any cost, and for the labour receiving countries it is to get work done with reduced wages regardless of violations of international labour standards.
Governments are enforcing strict new laws and cracking down on undocumented migrants as a “national security” measure. This is problematic as it catches up those who may be victims of forced labour or trafficking in persons, and those who may be undocumented due to the negligence and/or exploitation by employers or agents and/or syndicates.
Crackdowns have been implemented in these countries for many years, but this has not helped authorities to solve the problem of regularizing labour migration. It has further victimized this vulnerable group, and left many in detention or deported back home to crushing debts paid to agents in order to have migrated in the first place. Rather than punish migrants, governments need to address the root causes of migration and resolve systematic issues in the recruitment process which allow agents and middlemen to take advantage of migrants.
On September 19, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments during its summit on large movements of refugees and migrants to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (NY Declaration). The NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It paves the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
CARAM Asia feels strongly that the voices of migrant workers should be included in the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration drafting process, that migrant organisations and communities must be allowed to speak out on their own behalf, and that the Global Compact should be a rights-based document. Global leaders need to address the root causes of migration and provide decent work opportunities in home countries so that migration becomes an option rather than a necessity, and provide proper protections for those who do chose to migrate.
On this International Migrants’ Day, CARAM Asia and all member organizations in migrant sending and receiving countries reiterate our call to all governments to:
- Ensure that basic human rights are respected for all migrants at all times as per international conventions and protocols;
- Urgently take steps to ratify both ILO Convention 143 concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers, and ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers;
- Develop effective systems of global governance on migration which are based on fundamental human rights and putting an end to modern slavery;
- Reform the private recruiting industry and ensure that it is regulated using ethical practices which uphold the benefits and rights of migrant workers;
- Incorporate a rights based framework in every bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreement on labour migration and make them legally binding;
- Stop labour trafficking and bring all racketeers to justice across the migration continuum;
- Take responsibility to ensure migrant workers access full redress through migrant friendly mechanisms which can bring them justice.
CARAM Asia (Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility) is a regional network of 42 organizations in 22 countries across Asia and has Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
This statement is issued by: CARAM Asia Task Force on Migrant Workers’ Rights (MWR).
18 December 2017