21 May, 2008

Statement by National and Int. NGO’s On the Candidacy of Bahrain to Human Rights Council

Statement by National and Int. NGO’s On the Candidacy of Bahrain to Human Rights Council May 18, 2008 We, the undersigned, national and international NGO’s, urge the Bahrain government to commit, if elected, to achieve the following, during its membership period: On the international level:

1. to support broad and equal attention by the Council to all serious human rights situations around the world, including through existing permanent agenda items, special sessions, new mandates, and other Council mechanisms, 2. to play a constructive role in the UPR process, by conducting an equal and objective assessment of the human rights records of all states, regardless of regional, cultural, or geo-political ties, 3. to support the further strengthening of and cooperation with the special procedures, both country-specific and thematic, 4. to support the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, 5. to support further strengthening the effective role of NGO’s in the councel and its mechanisms,

On the national level:

6. to schedule the implementation of all voluntary commitment stated by Bahrain government in its report and its statement to the HRC Universal Periodic Review this year, 7. to remove reservations on the ratified treaties, namely; ICERD (art. 22) Individual complaints (art.14), ICESCR (art. 8(1)(d)), ICCPR (arts. 3, 9(5), 14(7), 18 and 23) Inter-state complaints (art.41), CEDAW (arts. 2, 9(2), 15(4), 16, 29(1)), CAT (art. 30(1)) Inter-state complaints (art. 21): Individual complaints (art. 22), CRC-OP-AC (art. 3(2)), 8. to ratify other core treaties and instruments, namely: ICCPR-OP, ICCPR-OP, OP-CEDAW, OP-CAT, ICRMW, CPD, OP-CPD, CED, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Conventions on Refugees and Stateless Persons, Protocol III of Geneva Conventions, ILO Fundamental Conventions No 87, 98 and 100, and UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, 9. to submit due and overdue reports to UN treaty bodies, namely: CERD periodic reports due in 2007, HR Committee Initial report due in 2007, CAT periodic report due in 2007, CRC periodic reports overdue since 2004, CRC-OP-AC and CRC-OP-SC Initial reports overdue since 2006, 10. to fully cooperate with UN Special Procedures including; responding to all letters of allegation and urgent appeals and questionnaires on thematic issues within the deadlines, 11. to fully implement the recommendations of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (visited BAH in 2001) and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (visited BAH in 2006), 12. to respond positively and promptly to any request for visit by UN Special Procedures, including the standing request by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the expected request by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, 13. to react positively and concretely to the CRC’s 2002 concluding observations including providing information on serious allegations of torture and arbitrary arrest of persons under 18 and to investigate effectively all cases of torture by police officers or other government officials and bring the perpetrators to justice, 14. to react positively concretely to CAT’s 2005 conclusions and recommendations including; the full insurance of the independence of the judiciary, the lack of a comprehensive definition of torture in domestic law, the blanket amnesty extended to all alleged perpetrators of torture or other crimes by Decree No. 56 of 2002, the lack of redress available to victims of torture, to ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism, including the law, complies with international human rights law, the inadequate safeguards available to detainees, including access to external legal advice while in police custody, to medical assistance and to family members, and lack of access by independent monitors to all places of detention without prior notice, notwithstanding assurances by Bahrain that it will allow access to civil society organizations. 15. to react positively and concretely to CERD’s 2005 conclusions and recommendations including; to take measures to give effect to the provisions of the ICERD, to incorporate in domestic law a definition of racial discrimination that includes the elements set forth in article 1 of ICERD, to provide statistics on cases of application of relevant provisions of domestic legislation concerning racial discrimination, the disparate treatment of, opportunities afforded to, and discrimination faced by, members of some groups, in particular the Shia, and to provide information on concrete steps taken to ensure that everyone, without distinction based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin, enjoys the right set out in Art 5 of ICERD, 16. to react positively concretely to CERD’s request to maintain dialogue with all civil society organizations, including those critical of its policies, and to requests and concerns of SRSG on the situation of human rights defenders including; that the decision to dissolve the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was an attempt by the authorities to silence human rights defenders in the country, the use of criminal charges such as “encouraging hatred of the State” and “distributing falsehoods and rumors” frequently implies the risk of suppressing legitimate free speech particularly when such charges are raised against a person for having denounced alleged human rights violations, the heaviness of the alleged sentences for defamation which is still a criminal offence in the country, to provide information on certain human rights activists and on any charges brought against them, to review the Law on Societies and other relevant regulations to ensure that Bahrain’s legislation adequately protects the right of persons to freely organize to defend human rights. 17. to investigate and provide redress and safeguards in regard to the shared concern of three UN mandate holders with respect to the alleged disproportionate use of force by the Bahraini security forces when dispersing peaceful demonstrators where many of the demonstrators were reportedly beaten and some required hospital treatment. 18. to take serious steps regarding notes by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, together with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, that; Bahrain does not have a codified family law that stipulates clear and equitable norms on divorce or child custody, judges can decide cases according to their personal interpretation of Sharia, reported failures to take into account clear evidence of violence against women. 19. to take serious steps regarding allegations raised by CERD and UNHCR of substantial prejudice against women migrant domestic workers, their working conditions, and their lack of protection under the Labor Code. 20. to respond positively and concretely to the concern and request by CERD and UNHCR that Bahraini woman is unable to transmit her nationality to her child when she is married to a foreign national, and that a foreign man is unable to acquire Bahraini nationality in the same manner as a foreign woman. To consider modifying these provisions and ensure that particular groups of non-citizens are not discriminated against with regard to access to citizenship or naturalization. 21. to establish the national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles as recommended by CAT and CERD. Signatories up-to-date:

International and Non-Bahraini NGO’s:

1. Democracy Coalition Project, Dokhi Fassihian, Acting Executive Director 2. Africa Democracy Forum, Franck KAMUNGA, Coordinator 3. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Moataz El fegiery, Executive Director 4. Humanus International, Dieudonné Zognong, President, 5. FORUM-ASIA, Giyoun Kim, UN Advocacy Programme Manager 6. The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, Humberto Guerrero, Advocacy Director 7. Defense International – Norway 8. International Justice Network, USA 9. The Andean Commission of Jurists (Comision Andina de Juristas) – Peru 10. CARAM – ASIA 11. African Centre, Hannah Forster 12. The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists – Egypt 13. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive Director of 14. Yemen Women Journalists – MOF 15. TAKAMUL Youth Regional Network 16. The National Society for Democracy and Law – Palestine 17. Political Development Forum – Yemen 18. Earth Centre for Human Rights – Egypt 19. Yemen Organization for the defense of Rights and Freedoms 20. The Arab Centre for the Independence of Lawyers and Judges – Egypt 21. National Commission for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) –Yemen 22. Damascus Centre for Studies and Civil Rights – Syria 23. Yemen Monitor for Human Rights –Yemen 24. Human Rights First – Saudi Arabia 25. Women Journalist Without Restrictions – Yemen 26. Human Security Initiative – Sudan 27. Social Democratic Forum- Yemen 28. Conscience Institute for Human Rights, Palestine 29. Vo Van Ai, President, Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam 30.The Egyptian association for community participation enhancement 31.El Nadim Center for the psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence 32.Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies 33. Human Rights Watch

Bahrain National NGO’s:

29. Bahrain Human Rights Society 30. Bahrain Centre for Human Rights 31. Bahrain Women Petition 32. Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society 33. Returnee Committee 34. Democratic National Action Society – WA’AD 35. Movement of Liberties and Democracy "HAQ" 36. Bahrain Women Renaissance Society 37. Democratic Progressive Forum Society 38. Islamic Action Society- AMAL 39. National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture 40. Committee for the Unemployed and the Underpaid

12 May, 2008

BCHR: Media coverage of elections marred by self-censorship, political pressure, exclusion of voices and blocking of Internet

(BCHR/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 3 May 2008 BCHR press release:

On World Press Freedom Day: A Report by a Regional Group Calls for Reforming the Media in Bahrain; The BCHR Calls for Discussing Report Findings and Implementing Its Recommendations

The results of monitoring the media coverage of the last parliamentary elections in Bahrain reflected a number of pitfalls in terms of freedom of the media in fair coverage of elections. It aroused doubts about the fairness and credibility of radio and TV stations as well as the eight daily newspapers. Despite the relative margin of liberty in Bahrain in comparison with some neighboring countries, the report concludes that the media played a role in hindering democracy instead of supporting it and that there is a lot to do in order to reform this state of affairs. (. . . )

Summary of the results:

1. Candidates and political associations were prevented from accessing radio and television programs under the pretext of neutrality toward competitors. While, on the other hand, these stations were used during the campaign period for mobilization and propaganda in favor of the ruling elite and the government, which would influence the voter in favor of candidates close to the government. Programs were broadcast to undermine members of the opposition who did not have an opportunity to express their opinions.

2. On the main radio channels, the quantitative results in the report show that electoral mobilization and government news occupied 93% of broadcasting time compared to other topics, namely electoral information and competition. While on the main TV channel, electoral mobilization and government news occupied 71% of broadcasting time compared to other topics. Through qualitative results, the report shows that electoral mobilization is overwhelmingly used as political propaganda for the King and the royal family, which places indirect influence on the elections by strengthening the loyal candidates and weakening the opposition.

3. In regard to foreign press, the authorities adopted a clever yet manipulative approach, by selecting and generously hosting 200 representatives of foreign media, especially from Arab countries, and providing them with facilities and tours, which is reflected in their bias in covering the elections.

4. The authorities prevented access to Internet sites which are considered as dissident sites.

5. Although all eight daily newspapers are privately owned and declare themselves as independent and politically independent, in law and practice, they are subject to government influence and pressure. That is reflected in self-censorship and wide coverage of government news and achievements. ( . . . )

10. In conclusion, the media in Bahrain has failed to play an impartial role in 2006 elections of the House of Representatives. When radio and TV channels lack independence and refuse to take a campaigning role, and when the national newspapers lack impartiality and professionalism, and when candidates lack effective means to reach voters, that all reflects negatively on participation, the voter's right to access to information, and their ability to make the right choice, which would put under question the credibility of the entire democratic process. (. . . )

BACKGROUND: This report is the result of a project supervised by the Arab Working Group for Monitoring of Media Coverage of Elections in November 2006. It was undertaken in cooperation with International Media Support of Denmark, and was implemented by four national groups: BCHR, the Bahrain Society for Freedoms and Democracy Support, Amnesty International - Bahrain Group and Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society.

For the full press release, see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org

4 May, 2008

The release of Arab detainees in Guantanamo: Successful model for the national, regional and international joint efforts

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights - March 2008. The Kingdom of Bahrain is the first Arab country to have all its detainees released from Guantanamo. They were released as the result of a diplomatic and security agreement between the Bahraini and American authorities, but in reality this would have not taken place without the activity and continued pressure exerted by institutions of civil society, human rights organizations, the US law firm representing Bahraini detainees, a popular movement, and the parliament. The Bahraini detainees were released on a batch basis; three were returned in November 2005, and the other three were returned individually in October 2006 and July and August 2007.

The fact that the detainees now are with their relatives and loved ones, enjoying the full freedom, away from the Guantanamo prison base, proves that the United States no longer considers them to be ‘terrorists’ or ‘enemy combatants’, and a threat to its security - as it maintained during their detention. This also means that their detention for that period was arbitrary and unjust, and had they been given the opportunity to be tried before a court that applies international standards for fair trials they would have been declared innocent a long time ago.

Most of the Bahraini detainees were caught in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan as the United States has claimed, and this is also the case for many Arab detainees. It seems they were ‘bought’ from some poor Pakistani tribes as a result of generous offers made by American soldiers to buy any foreigners.

At the end of 2001 most of the detainees the Bahraini were sent to Guantanamo prison, where they remained isolated from the outside world for more than three years, until the US Supreme Court’s decision in June 2004 which allowed lawyers to visit them.

The role of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ role was to provide aid and assistance to the families of Arab detainees in Guantanamo, and to act as a coordinating body between the law firms representing the detainees in the USA and the detainees’ families, in order to provide further assistance to the pro-bono American lawyers in defending the Arab detainees.

It is important to note that lawyers could not make a defense for any detainee before American courts until they obtained power of attorney from the detainee himself, or from a member of his family. Since the detainees were not allowed to be visited by lawyers in the Guantanamo prison at the time, securing the power of attorney from their family members was essential in order to begin judicial proceeding in the American courts.

The BCHR’s work began in Yemen (as Yemeni nationals constituted one of the largest percentages of detainees in Guantanamo) but then continued in Bahrain, which became place where legal representation work began for detainees from all the Arab countries.

The BCHR’s role also included the coordination between the American lawyers defending detainees and the detainees’ families, as well as the coordination with institutions within civil society including human rights organizations in detainees’ home countries. We worked towards creating a direct relation between the two actors.

One of the difficulties faced in reaching the families of the detainees in the Arab world was the fact that we did not know the detainees’ names or addresses, since the American administration refused to release their names, addresses and their home countries, or indeed any information that could have guided us to know where they were. What made it even more difficult was the fact that many of the detainees’ families were not prepared to admit that they had relatives in the Guantanamo prison, out of fears of being targeted and harmed by the security authorities in their countries. Furthermore, some families felt shame as a result of the negative public opinion against them at the time as a result of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. The families were afraid of being targeted by the US and its allied governments in the Gulf countries as part of the “war on terror”.

Another obstacle was the lack of confidence of the majority of the detainees’ families had in the integrity and independence of the American judicial and administrative system, especially when it came to issues related to Muslims.

Role and importance of the US Lawyers

As the BCHR played the role of a coordinator between the law firms in the USA and the families of the detainees in the Arab world, we believe it is important to highlight the excellent and effective role played by lawyers in the US, and the institutions coordinating with them, as well as the role of the Center for Constitutional Rights. They were invaluable in highlighting the massive violations against detainees, and bringing this issue to the awareness of the public in the United States and throughout the whole world.

The fact that all these cases were legally drawn up and presented in the US courts played an active role in exposing the abuses and violations of the American government, embarrassing them, and applying pressure for change. Their work also exposed the failure of civil society institutions in the Arab states for their reluctance to pursue concrete step towards campaigning for the betterment of the detainees’ situation.

It is also important to note that the lawyers visits were the only means of providing information to the rest of the world, to raise awareness about the violations and abuses committed inside the prison, which were then reported by media and human rights organizations. The letters between detainees and their families were either censored or had large parts erased by American security agencies, making them worthless in providing information about conditions in the prison. Therefore the lawyers visits to detainees were the only means for an exchange of information between the detainees and the outside world.

Ten out of the five hundred American lawyers’ voluntarily represented Bahraini detainees. Between October 2004 and June 2007 the lawyers made 12 visits to the Guantanamo prison base, and five visits to Bahrain. The lawyers’ visits to the region usually aimed to keep the issue alive and popular through media, civil society institutions, Parliament and in meetings with officials in the Bahraini government. They also visited with families of the detainees to inform them of the latest developments.

Some of the lawyers who handled these cases were subject to internal pressure in the US, threats, and harassment, for defending persons accused by their government for carrying out terrorist attacks on their territory, or planning to do so. On the other hand lawyers initially also faced great difficulties in dealing with the detainees themselves, who suspected them of being intelligence agents working for the US government. The detainees feared that lawyers were at their disposal in order to push them into admitting things that they had not done which would subsequently convict them; for these reasons many of those lawyers were even rejected by the detainees.

Relationships between US pro-bono Lawyers and Gulf Governments

The nature of the relationship that has developed between the American law firms and each of the Governments of Gulf states varies between countries. Kuwait was the first Arab country to act in favor of its detained nationals by pressing charges at the Federal court in May 2002, hiring a well-known law firm in the United States. Kuwait is considered a rare case given that it is the only Arab state that paid large amounts of money to return its own citizens from the Guantanamo.

Bahrain’s government preferred to engage in diplomatic dialogue with the American administration rather than going through long and complicated judicial proceedings. It has therefore ignored for quite long time the work of the American lawyers who volunteered to defend the Bahraini detainees, but was later forced to consider them due to the pressure brought by the institutions of civil society, the press, and families of detainees as well as the Parliament. However, the relationship remained weak, aiming at quelling public pressure rather than real coordination.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia preferred direct security and diplomatic negotiations between the two countries rather than the judicial proceedings, and totally ignored the issues related to the US courts and the lawyers, refusing to receive any of the lawyers in Saudi Arabia. It even refused to provide lawyers representing Saudi detainees with an entry visa to meet the detainees’ families. Based on the above reasons, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights organized several individual and collective meetings between the Saudi detainees’ families and the American lawyers in Bahrain given that Bahrain is the closest state to Saudi Arabia.

How did the Gulf Governments deal with the detainees who returned from Guantanamo?

The way Gulf governments treated the detainees returned from Guantanamo differed between states. Bahrain, which has received all its detainees, investigated them for few hours upon their arrival and then released them after taking their residence details, and saved their case at the Public Prosecutors’ office.

As for Saudi Arabia, which has now received most of its detainees, it imprisoned them at the prison for up to two months and then shifted them to a rehabilitation program for six months in a location similar to a touristic resort, with swimming pools and different sports and leisure equipment. It then released them after giving each one a car, a life long monthly salary in addition to an amount of money for marriage purposes and a housing allocation.

In Kuwait, which has received eight of its twelve detainees at different times, detainees were held in custody for a period of three to six months, and were then presented to the court, were they were declared innocent. The Kuwaiti government provided each detainee with a monthly salary upon his arrival to Kuwait.

Their situation upon arrival

Almost all the detainees who returned from Guantanamo were able to re-integrate into their societies, and those who surrounded them tried to help them as well. Some detainees kept rejecting all that is American, doubting even the lawyers who defended them, the Human Rights Organizations and the International Red Cross, considering them all working for a United States agenda.

Several representatives from American and Western research or media institutions visited Gulf recently and tried to meet with the released detainees, but most detainees refused the meetings because they doubted their intentions or background. Other detainees did not meet them as an attempt to forget the painful past, and even boycott anything which might remind them of this past.

The positive outcome

Despite the tough conditions in dealing with the violations that took place in the Guantanamo, some positive sides should be highlighted.

Thanks to all the efforts, especially those of the international non governmental Human Rights institutions and the Civil Society institutions around the world, that made the detainees in Guantanamo no longer be seen as terrorists and murders, detained by the American justice system, but as victims of an unfair and illegal arrests, detained in prisons with conditions well below the minimum standards for human rights and dignity.

The other positive outcome was primarily the participation of actors within the movement related to this case. In Bahrain for instance, advocacy work on the Guantanamo issue strengthened cooperation between the Sunnis and the Shiites, considering that most of those who worked with us in defending the detainees in Guantanamo at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights were from the Shiite sect while all the detainees were from the Sunni sect. This strengthened the relations between the different sects at a time when sectarian tension was at its peak due to several incidents following the invasion of Iraq.

This also applies to the religious tolerance between the Muslims and other religions. The lawyers who volunteered to defend the detainees in the United Stated were Christians or Jewish, and this had a positive impact on the conservative Muslim societies in the Gulf States. It changed the negative perception many had about these two religions, and about the American people, because the lawyers presented a positive image of their citizens by working on this case and defending the human rights of others - against their own government’s policies.

The last point worth mentioning is the management of the negative relationship between Human Rights Activists in the Arab world and the Islamic movements. The Human rights movement in the Arab Gulf won the respect of the political Islamic groups after a period of tension and boycott.

This fruitful experience remains one of many experiences of cooperation between the activists and the institutions of civil societies and the governments overcoming all the geographic, ethnic and religious obstacles. It also strengthens the confidence in the work of the Human Rights organizations that played a major role and gives hope for a better future.

29 Apr, 2008

BCHR/IFEX: Authorities threaten to use force to prevent conference

Country/Topic: Bahrain Date: 29 April 2008 Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Person(s): Target(s): other Type(s) of violation(s): threatened Urgency: Threat (BCHR/IFEX) - A high Bahraini security officer informed Karbabad Matam, an events venue in Manama, that it was not allowed to hold a public conference scheduled for 25 April 2008. The security officer stated that, if necessary, the Security Special Forces (SSF) would intervene by force to prevent the event from taking place. The organisers of the event told BCHR that these threats were made by the head of the Exhibition police station on 24 April.

Political and human rights figures were supposed to take part in the event, including the head of BCHR, who was going to give a speech on human rights on a new public petition that demands the prime minister step down because of human rights violations that took place during his 27 years of service.

Restricting a peaceful gathering is a flagrant breach of Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of expression, the press and assembly, and also contradicts Article 23, concerned with freedom of expression, and Article 28, concerned with freedom of expression and the right to assembly, in the 2002 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The SSF have previously used violence to prevent political and cultural events, such as a 2006 conference, in which there was to be a screening of video clips of the public petition sent to the United Nations and signed by 83,000 citizens, demanding the drafting of a modern constitution through an elected council. Violence was used to prevent the event despite the fact that among the participants were Members of Parliament. On another occasion, the SSF attacked protestors in the area of el Malkeyia shore, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at them when they gathered to demand the removal of fish farms owned by the cousin of King Hamad ben Essa Al Khalifa. The king's cousin owns the entire shore and prohibits the inhabitants of Malkeyia from fishing it. Another gathering was attacked by SSF in the village of Noaydarat, where political figures assembled to show their solidarity with the secretary general of Haq Movement, Mr. Hasan Moshaymea, and Abdulhadi Khawaja, the head of BCHR, who were being brought to trial after giving speeches in which they criticised the government.

BCHR urges the Bahrain authorities: - to respect freedom of assembly, opinion and expression in accordance with international standards; - to refrain from using, or threatening to use, force in the suppression of peaceful gatherings; - to implement the government promises made during the periodical review of Bahrain by the Human Rights Council that took place in April, especially those relating to freedom of expression, and - to put a timeframe on the implementation of relevant recommendations by UN bodies.

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org

24 Apr, 2008

BCHR/IFEX: Journalist and editor fined in defamation case

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is concerned by the use of the repressive and widely condemned Press Decree Code 47 (2002) against a local journalist and news editor.

Jaafar Al Jamry from "Al Wasat" newspaper was handed a BD 150 (approx. US$396) fine by judges at the High Criminal Court on 16 April 2008. He was charged with publishing defamatory remarks and false information about an employee at the Health Ministry. Court proceedings were initiated against Al Jamry after a Health Ministry employee filed a complaint against him. Al Jamry has maintained his innocence, saying that his remarks did not target the employee in her personal capacity. The Lower Criminal Court previously ruled it had no jurisdiction over the case, which was then sent to the High Criminal Court. "We are disappointed to see that the legal system in Bahrain, specifically the repressive Press Decree of 2002, has been used against a journalist in Bahrain," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

"This law has been criticised by local NGOs and international human rights organisations for effectively criminalising people for exercising their civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and speech.

"Such developments are not in keeping with the promised democratic reforms in the country, and we urge the government to reconsider the law in this light. Legislation in Bahrain should support political reform and the development of a climate of openness in which Press freedoms are respected and upheld."

Updates the Al Jamry case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87313

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org

23 Apr, 2008

THE OBSERVATORY: Hearing in the trial of seven human rights defenders

THE OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (FIDH-OMCT)

PRESS RELEASE

BAHRAIN: Hearing in the trial of seven human rights defenders

International Mission of Judicial Observation

Geneva-Paris, April 23, 2008. On April 16, 2008, the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), sent an international mission of judicial observation in the framework of the trial of seven human rights defenders, which was held before the High Criminal Court of Bahrain.

Indeed, the Observatory recalls that Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, Hassan Abdulnabi, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Mr. Naji Al Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mr. Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee, remain detained subsequent to their participation in a peaceful demonstration at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day, on December 17, 2007[1]. They were then charged of “illegal gathering” as well as of “theft of a weapon and ammunition” and “possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

On February 24, 2008, a hearing took place regarding 18 persons involved in the December demonstration, including the seven above-mentioned defenders. In the course of the session, Messrs. Am-Sheikh, Abdulnabi, Abdulah Saleh, Mohammed Ali, Al-Fateel, Al-Sengais and Al-Arab pleaded not guilty. The defendants further complained about the acts of torture and ill-treatment that they had been enduring while in detention, such as being prevented from sleeping, tied up for long periods and denied medical attention. Some of them declared that they had been subjected to sexual assault in the framework of their detention.

A new hearing was set to March 17, 2008 to allow defence lawyers time to get prepared. After the hearing, the defendants were allowed to meet with their relatives briefly, before being transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Centre, in Muharraq. On March 17, 2008, the defence requested that a medical expertise be carried out. The Court then appointed a Commission of doctors from the Ministry of Health in order to examine the detainees and submit its report at the next hearing.

At the hearing of April 16, 2008, the report of the Medical Commission was presented to the Court, concluding that it was not possible to prove that they had been acts of torture committed against them, probably because of the time duration between their arrest and the medical examination, but underlining however that some of the detainees were presenting signs of former injuries that could result from acts of violence. A representative of the Prosecutor Office then stated that this language was too vague and then requested that doctors be interrogated by the Court during the next hearing, to which lawyers of the defence agreed, asking to have access to the report. The next hearing was set to May 11, 2008. At the end of the hearing, the families were able to discuss with the detainees during ten minutes.

The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the above human rights defenders and calls upon the Bahraini authorities to order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

The Observatory further urges the Bahraini authorities to release them immediately in the absence of valid legal charges, or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial, independent, competent and fair tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times.

Furthermore, the Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, as well as to conform with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

For further information, please contact:

OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39

FIDH : Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18

21 Apr, 2008

Bahrain Center for Human Rights : Court - Appointed Medical Examiners Confirm Torture

Bahrain: Court-Appointed Medical Examiners Confirm Torture Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Updating information on the unfair trials of a group of 15 activists, including 11 human rights defenders .

SEVERAL Bahrainis arrested last December were beaten in custody, according to court-appointed medical examiners. The doctors' report, submitted as 15 Bahrainis appeared in the High Criminal Court amid tight security on April 16th, was immediately disputed by the Public Prosecution. Riot police ringed the court building as the case resumed, after an earlier hearing was adjourned for three doctors to examine all 15 defendants, following complaints by some that they had been beaten in custody. International Federation of Human Rights delegate George Asaf, based in Lebanon, attended the hearing in a court packed with relatives and supporters of the defendants. A panel of three doctors was set up by Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer to examine all 15 defendants, under an order from the court. The doctors said in their report that some of the defendants were subjected to beatings and harsh treatment while they were in police custody. Public Prosecution head Haroon Al Zayani objected to the report and demanded that the doctors be summoned for cross-examination. The defence lawyers demanded time to study the case file and prepare their defence arguments. They also demanded to study the medical report and that more witnesses be summoned for cross-examination. The High Criminal Court presided over by Judge Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa adjourned the case until May 11 to give time to the lawyers to prepare their defence arguments, to summon the doctors and other witnesses for cross examination. The defence lawyers demanded once again that the 15 defendants to be released on any guarantee the court deemed suitable, but this was refused and they were further remanded in custody.

For more details on the case please refer to previous reports issued by National and International human rights organizations such as BCHR, www.bahrainrights.org, Human Rights Watch ,Front Line and The Observatory.

Human Rights watch : Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/21/bahrai17838.htm

Front line: Torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in detention http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1327

The Observatory: Ongoing arbitrary detention and ill-treatments of several human rights defenders http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5206

18 Apr, 2008

BCHR: Amounting Unrest and Violations in Bahrain

A Second Crackdown on Activists in Four Months: Detainees, Including Minors, are under serious risk of Torture and Unfair Trials 17 April 2008

Amounting Unrest and Violations in Bahrain

A Second Crackdown on Activists in Four Months: Detainees, Including Minors, are under serious risk of Torture and Unfair Trials

17 April 2008

The BCHR has received information about 47 people arrested during the last four weeks in different Shia’ villages. Most of the arrestees are from west cost villages of Karzakkan, Demistan, Sadad and Malekkya who were known in the area for their community activities including; organizing mass seminars on political and economic rights, organizing a “protest picnic” to “Um-el-Na’san” an island claimed by the King, and collecting signatures on a petition calling for the resignation of the 37-years in post Prime Minister. Many of them have been release later alleging being exposed to torture and ill-treatment. However, the following 26 arrestees are confirmed to be still in jail:

Detainees, arrested between 27th March and 8th April, 2008: 1. Sayyed Hadi Hameed Adnan Alawi , 28, Karzakkan 2. Mohammed Abbas Mohammed Ali, 29, Karzakkan 3. Ammar Hassan Ali Hassan Al-Basri, 17, Karzakkan 4. Saleh Ali Mohammed Ali Alseeb, 30, Karzakkan 5. Hassan Kadhem Ebrahim Ahmed, 30, Demestan 6. Ha’med Ebrahim Fardan, 27, Karzakkan 7. Ali Mohammed Habib Ashoor, 31, Karzakkan 8. Ahmed Ali Hassan, 35, Karzakkan

Detainees, arrested between 10th -15th April, 2008: 1. Mohammed Makki Mansoor, 27, Karzakkan 2. Fadhel Abbass Mohammed Ashoor, 25, Karzakkan 3. Kumail Ahmed Ali Abu-Sharaf, Karzakkan 4. Jassim Mohammed Habeeb, 29, Karzakkan 5. Fadhel Abbass Ali Ahmed, 28, Karzakkan 6. Hussain Abbass Ali Ahmed, 24, Karzakkan 7. Sayyed-Sadiq Ebraheem Jumma’ Ma’jed, 26 8. Sayyed-Ahmed Hameed Adnan Alawi, 23, Karzakkan 9. Sayyed-Jawad Hameed Adnan Alawi, 30, Karzakkan 10. Sayyed-Omran Hameed Adnan Alawi, 24, Karzakkan 11. Sadeq Jawad Al-Fardan, 27, Karzakkan 12. Qasim Mohammed Khaleel Ebraheem, 22, Karzakkan 13. Hussain Abdul-Kareem Makki Eyd, 24, Karzakkan 14. Habeeb Mohammed Habeeb Ashoor, 20, Karzakkan 15. Habeeb Ahmed Habeeb Mohammed Abbass, 22, 16. Hussain Ali Dhaif, 28, Karzakkan 17. Hussain Mohammed Khatam Hussain Mohammed, 28, Karzakkan 18. Ebraheem Saleh Ebraheem Jaffer, 22,

Moreover, the BCHR has received information yesterday that Shaker Mohammed Abdulhussain Abdul-A’al, 26, from Hamala, was summoned on 15th April to Hamad-Town police station were he was transferred to an unknown place. Worth noting that Shaker was briefly arrested on the 2nd of February, 2007 for delivering a speech criticizing the government and arrested again in 21st December, along with other members of the Unemployed Committee, in relation to protests, but released one month later and has testified to the BCHR of being subjected to severe torture including being blind folded and handcuffed for several days, hanged by the arms for two days and exposed to electric shocks.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is highly concerned for the safety and well being of the arrestees specially in the first period of detention were they are usually kept in solitary confinement that facilitate torture, as reported in other recent similar cases. The BCHR is also concerned that the detainees will not enjoy the rights of a fair trial, taking in account the partiality of the judiciary and the restrictive security related articles in the 1976 penal Code.

Official justification of the arrests:

The authorities staged the arrest campaign using the state-controlled media to link the wide wave of arrests in the last four weeks to two violent events; the burning on March 6th of a farm belong to a former high official, Abdul-Aziz Attyotalla Al-Khalifa, who is accused of torture in the past period, and the death on April 9th of a Pakistani member of the Special Security Force when his car and other security cars were allegedly surrounded by protesters from nearby villages. The official statement stated that policeman Majid Asghar Baksh was burned to death and two colleagues injured when masked men hurled Molotov cocktails at their patrol car in Karzakan . While Mr Baksh's grandfather and uncle claimed that the Majid, who is a member of the Special Security Force, had been attacked with sharp tools and severely beaten after being pulled out of the vehicle and that he sustained serious injuries to his head, face and left shoulder and bled from the ears, mouth and nose . A passing-by eye witness told the BCHR that when the police force was surrounded by protesters one of the police vehicles hit the security officer who was running out of his car. Background Information:

The situation in Bahrain has deteriorated since December 17, when an activist was allegedly killed by the Special Security Force while participating in a demonstration calling for equity in relation to victims of torture and state violations in the past. Mass protests erupted in the following days resulting in the burning of a police vehicle. The police surrounded villages, specially those inhabited by a majority of Shia’s in the North of the Bahrain Island and resorted an excessive use of tear gas and rubber bullets, leading to the injury and suffocation of many citizens including elderly citizens and children. Video films broadcasted by national and international electronic media documented the use of security armed militia wearing civilian clothes and black head masks to disperse demonstrations forming check points and entering the villages to chase suspect protesters and beating them severely.

In the aftermath, the security police conducted a crackdown arresting around 60 people out of which 18 are currently under trial including 11 human rights defenders under accusations of violence and unauthorized gatherings. Documented testimonies of released persons and of the defendants at court revealed that they were subjected to sever torture including electrical shocks and sexual abuse to force confession related to committing violence. Case files handed to defense lawyers showed that the investigations included demanding information on members and work of human rights groups, such as the Unemployment Committee and confessions to link recent disturbances to political activists and a well-known human rights defender.

The BCHR calls upon all concerned to urge the Bahrain authorities: • To release all detainees. • If criminal charges are well-founded against any person he should be treated as innocent until founded guilty by a fair trial according to international standards • To insure rights of detainees including prompt access to relatives, lawyer and impartial medical care. • To put an end to arbitrary detention, torture and unfair trials specially as a tool to suppress the practice of basic rights and peaceful activism • To reform the judiciary, the General prosecution and the criminal laws in order to maintain fair trial • to disband the Special Security Force which is known due to its brutality and which is established on sectarian division and composed overwhelmingly by non-Bahrainis or newly recruited and naturalized mercenaries • To impartially investigate the killing of the activist Ali Jassim which sparked the recent wave of unrest • To react positively to initiatives calling for equity and redress for victims of torture and other violations which is a source of continued rage and anger • To engage in dialogue and take serious measures to decrease tension which have resulted from sectarian discrimination and denial of basic freedoms as well as economic and social rights deprivations and problems which feeds disturbances and distracts human development

------------------------------------------------------------ Akhbar Al-Khaleej, April 13, 2008 Gulf Daily News and Akhbar Al-Khaleej, April 12, 2008

17 Apr, 2008

Arab League's proposed satellite broadcasting regulations would impede needed criticism of corruption and repression

JOINT ACTION: Arab League's proposed satellite broadcasting regulations would impede needed criticism of corruption and repression, warn 34 organisations

Date: 07 March 2008

(HRinfo/IFEX) - The following is a 5 March 2008 joint statement by HRinfo, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and 31 other organisations:

34 International and Arabian Human Rights Organisations declare: The document of organizing space transmission is invalid through its form and content

The undersigned human rights organisations confirm their total rejection of the document "Principles regulating Radio and Satellite TV Transmission and Receiving in the Arab Region", adopted by Arab ministers of information on 12 February 2008. Human rights organisations said that the document, which contains 12 articles, is full of ambiguous statements that would impose new restrictions on freedom of expression on the Arab satellite channels and is invalid without the affirmation of the Arab countries' parliaments.

Despite the document's first claim that it aims to "organize broadcasting and re-broadcasting, as well as receiving broadcasts in the Arab region, pay respect to freedom of expression, spread culture, and invigorate the culture through satellite transmission," we find that some articles contain statements that correspond to the same laws targeting critics of Arab governments, such as the statement referring to "the negative impact upon social peace, national unity, public order and politeness, protecting the higher interests of Arab countries and respecting the principle of national sovereignty of each country over its own land."

Human rights organisations who advocate for freedom of expression stated that "the document's articles aim in the first place to restrict documentary and public affairs programmes promoting dialogue which highlight and expose repressive acts and cases of corruption, widespread in the Arab world, by governments that have come to power in non-democratic ways, often against the wishes of their communities.

This document proposes restrictions that are open to interpretation, such as the requirement to "not discredit national leaders and religious figures." The document neither defines the distinction between criticism and "discrediting", nor clarifies clearly the standards for determining those figures. This consequently would result in targeting serious media programme makers and opening the door for governments to practice control and repression of freedom of expression, which violates the rights enshrined in international covenants and charters.

The document obliges television and broadcasting transmission corporations to subject their programme contents to a committee in charge of censorship, which would impose the scheduling of programmes, and intervene to protect children from inappropriate media materials. This would allow the censorship authority to interfere with the content of programmes that governments do not like.

The undersigned human rights organisations are convinced that articles in the document infringe on freedom of publication and broadcasting, which are aspects of freedom of expression.

Additionally, we find that the ministers ignored the legitimate process by which any document or agreement can be made mandatory: by first obtaining the consent of parliaments and legislative bodies, as stipulated in the countries' respective constitutions regarding any international agreement.

The governmental claim that it is just "a document of principles" is a denial of the possibility that governments will take legal action against any satellite channel that exercises its right to broadcast news and information in an independent manner.

This contradicts what is included in the document, which would impose certain punishments which could result in confiscation of the (. . .) equipment and cancellation of the licences of satellite channels opposing the governments' perspectives. This of course violates the legal principle of "no punishment without a court ruling."

Regarding this issue, the undersigned human rights organisations declare they will take the lead in supporting the broadly-based movement rejecting this document, acknowledging the right of media corporations to do their work with no restrictions or censorship and standing by the citizens' right to have serious programmes that reveal corruption and unmask the violations of their rights that citizens suffer from on a daily basis.

Signed,

The Arabic network for human rights information (HRinfo), Egypt Arab Program for Human Rights Activists, Egypt Palestinian Human Rights Foundation (Monitor), Lebanon Egyptian Association for the Support of the Democratic Development, Egypt Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, Egypt Egyptian Association for Economic & Social Rights, Egypt Social Democratic Party, Egypt The Coordinating Committee for the Trade Union and Worker Rights & Liberties, Egypt Syrian Human Rights Committee, Syria The Egyptian Observatory for Justice & Law, Egypt The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, Egypt National Center for Human Rights, Egypt Egyptian Democratic Institute, Egypt Arabic Foundation for Support of Civil Society & Human Rights, Egypt National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, Yemen Developing Democracy Group, Egypt Bahraini Human Rights Society, Bahrain Egyptian Awn human rights association, Egypt Human Rights First Saudi, Saudi Arabia Bahrain youth society for human rights, Bahrain Justice Watch Association, Somalia The legal assistance of human rights group, Egypt The Land Center for Human Rights, Egypt Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Freedom center for political rights and democracy support, Egypt Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt Nadeem Center for Psychological Therapy and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, Egypt Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, Egypt Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies, Syria Habi Center for Environmental Rights, Egypt Maat for juridical & Constitutional Studies, Egypt Hisham Mubarak law center, Egypt Forum for Development & Human Rights Dialogue, Egypt Association for Freedom of Thought & Expression, Egypt

16 Apr, 2008

A call for sincere reflection by government on their policies, and protestors on their practices

A Statement by vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights-12 April 2008 "We condemns the use of violence which according to official reports led to the death of a 24-year-old policeman, and the injury of his two colleagues," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

“The killing of a policeman last Wednesday* can be seen as the devastating result of the Bahraini government's policies of discrimination and mass naturalization, which have stoked hatred between communities in Bahrain. However, demonstrators must carefully consider the outcome of their actions, and the method of protest they choose”.

"Whether the killing was accidental or not, it is a dangerous sign of things to come unless serious reflection is taken by the Bahraini government and protestors," he added.

"The government must realize that putting those responsible for this act on trial is not enough to resolve the situation at this point. They must also explore the factors which have contributed to such hatred and violence towards security forces. These are:

- the politically motivated mass naturalization of foreign nationals into jobs which are denied to the majority of the local community (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/node/425) - the authorization for use of excessive violence by security forces against civilians at nonviolent demonstrations (see: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/346/list)

"The killing of the policeman was wrong, and should be dealt with according to fair and independent principles of law. But this violent situation has been developing for a long time in Bahrain, and this incident has shown us that it is necessary to examine how it reached this terrible stage.

"Perhaps if the government had previously dealt with the issues being raised by protestors in a nonviolent and conciliatory way, anger would not have reached such a high level and such an act would not have been committed?

"As human rights activists we support the demands of the protestors, and recognize that they have legitimate concerns. We call on the Bahraini government to do the same, to pre-empt such disastrous occurrences from being repeated in the future.

"At the same time, as human rights activists we cannot support such an action. We call on protestors to cease any violent attacks on human beings, and to consider the meaning and consequences of such actions. At the end of the day, it is a detriment to the validity of their cause."