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RSF: Governments still cracking down hard on media covering pro-democracy demonstrations

10 May 2011

The human rights situation and the problems for those who defend media freedom continue to be extremely worrying in Bahrain. Several journalists have been summoned for questioning including Issa Ebrahim, a photographer for the daily Al-Wasat, who was detained and interrogated for several hours on 5 May.

The following are still detained:

- Al-Bilad editor Jasem Al-Sabbagh, held since 26 April.

- Al-Watan sports reporter Abdullah Ashur, held since 13 April.

- Al-Bilad sports reporter Abdullah Alawi, who was arrested in April. The Bahraini news agency reported that the trial of 21 people accused of belonging to terrorist organizations and trying to overthrow the government began before a military court on 8 May. The defendants include several human rights activists and the bloggers Abdul Jalil Al-Singace and Ali Abdulemam. After the trial opened, it was adjourned until 12 May.

The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace was rearrested on 16 March after being held from September to February. He was previously arrested in 2009 for allegedly trying to destabilize the government because he used his blog (http://alsingace.katib.org) to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain’s Shiite population.

Abdulemam, who is being tried in absentia, is regarded by fellow Bahrainis as one of his country’s Internet pioneers and is an active member of Bahrain Online, a pro-democracy forum that gets more than 100,000 visitors a day despite being blocked within Bahrain. A contributor to the international bloggers network Global Voices, he has taken part in many international conferences at which he has denounced human rights violations in Bahrain. He was also detained from September to February but avoided being rearrested.

Abbas Al-Omran, a human rights activist who obtained refugee status in Britain a few years ago, has also been put on the list of wanted persons. A member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, he provides the international media with information about human rights violations in Bahrain.

Mujtaba Salmat, a blogger and photographer who was arrested on 17 March for covering the anti-government demonstrations in Manama’s Pearl Square and posting the photos on Facebook, was released on 27 April.

The opposition newspaper Al-Wasat announced in its 8 May issue, previously billed as the last issue, that its board had reversed its decision to close and intended to continue publishing. Closed by the information ministry on 3 May for allegedly disseminating false information that undermined the country’s international image and reputation, it was allowed to resume publishing the next day but three of its most senior journalists – editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid and local news editor Aqil Mirza – were forced to resign. Several of its journalists were also arrested.

rsf.org

HRW: Bahrain: Activist Bears Signs of Abuse

Concerns About Ill-Treatment in Military Court Hearings for 14 May 10, 2011

(Washington, DC) - A prominent rights activist who was active in Bahrain's pro-democracy street protests appeared before a special military court on May 8, 2011, bearing visible signs of ill-treatment and perhaps torture, Human Rights Watch said today.

The activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was one of 14 defendants, most active with opposition political movements, charged with attempting to "topple the regime forcibly in collaboration with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country." His wife and daughter spoke with him briefly after the court session, the first time they had been allowed to see him since he was arrested and badly beaten on April 9. They observed multiple facial injuries, and he told them he had four fractures on the left side of his face, including one in his jaw that had required four hours of corrective surgery.

"It appears that Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's jailers tortured him during the month they held him in incommunicado detention," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Torture or ill-treatment is a serious crime, and Bahraini officials who did or authorized this treatment need to be held accountable."

Human Rights Watch has documented the routine use of torture by Bahraini security officials during similar interrogations in political and security-related cases.

The National Safety Lower Court postponed resuming the trial until May 12 to allow defense lawyers to meet with their clients, and in some cases to appoint their own lawyers. The case was brought by the military prosecutor, and a military judge presides over the sessions. Bahrain's police and military have operated under martial law, termed a "state of national safety," since March 15.

The 13 defendants who appeared before the special court with al-Khawaja are Abd al-Wahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif, Hassan Mushaima, Abd al-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammed Habib al-Saffaf (al-Moqdad), Saeed Mirza Ahmed, Abd al-Jalil al-Moqdad, Abd a-Hadi Abdullah Mahdi Hassan, Al-Hurr Yusif Mohammed, Abdullah Isa al-Mahroos, Salah al-Khawaja, Mohammed Hassan Jawad, and Mohammed Ali Ismael.

Seven others being tried in abstentia in the same case are Akeel Ahmad al-Mafudh, Ali Hassan Abdullah, Abd al-Ghani al-Khanjar, Saeed Abd al-Nabi Shihab, Abd al-Rauf al-Shayeb, Abbas al-Umran, and Ali Hassan Mushaima. Several are in hiding, presumably in Bahrain, while others have been living abroad.

Prior to the May 8 court session, Bahrain's military public prosecutor, Col. Yusif Rashid Feleyfel, had formed an investigative committee composed of several public prosecutors who questioned the 14 suspects, the state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) announced.

Prosecutors have accused the defendants of a variety of national security crimes under Bahrain's 1976 Penal Code and the 2006 Counterterrorism Law. These alleged crimes include "organizing and managing a terrorist group for the overthrow and the change of the country's constitution and the royal rule," "seeking and correspond[ing] with a terrorist organization abroad working for a foreign country to conduct heinous acts" against Bahrain, funding a foreign terrorist organization, insulting the army, "broadcasting false news and rumors" that threatened public security, inciting sectarianism, and organizing and participating in rallies without having obtained the necessary permits.

"Some of these charges, like insulting the army, should not be crimes at all, and it looks like at least in Abdulhadi-al-Khawaja's case the authorities have tried to beat a confession out of him rather than come up with evidence to support these charges," Stork said.

According to information provided to Human Rights Watch, the 14 detainees appeared in court dressed in loose grey prison garb that covered their arms and legs. Most were unshaven and several had lost considerable weight - in the case of National Democratic Action Society leader Ebrahim Sharif, approximately 15 kilograms, according to a tweet posted by his family. Human Rights Watch earlier received unconfirmed reports that authorities had hospitalized Sharif, who has a history of heart problems, prior to the court session.

Other detainees, including Hassan Mushaima of the Al-Haq movement and Abd al-Wahab Hussein of the Wa'fa Society, had noticeable limps. Sources told Human Rights Watch that when the defendants asked to speak about the abuse they allegedly experienced in detention, security forces forcibly removed them from court.

According to several accounts provided to Human Rights Watch, several detainees did not have families present at the May 8 court hearing because the families had not been informed of the session. Government officials claimed that appropriate notice regarding the trial had been given in local newspapers. Human Rights Watch learned from another source that Sharif was unaware of the charges that had been brought against him until he appeared in court.

Maryam al-Khawaja, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's daughter, told Human Rights Watch on May 9 that her mother, Khadija al-Mousawi, and sister, Zainab al-Khawaja, met with him for about 10 minutes after the initial hearing. Al-Khawaja told his wife and daughter about the facial fractures. They also said they observed stitches above his left eye, and that he had difficulty eating and smiling because of his serious facial injuries, Maryam al-Khawaja told Human Rights Watch.

She said her father had gone on a hunger strike to protest his ill-treatment and his lack of access to a lawyer. She also said that he told his wife and daughter that he had been tortured, but could not describe details because the family meetings took place in the presence of security guards.

Human Rights Watch had previously received credible reports that al-Khawaja had been admitted to Bahrain Defense Force hospital for six days for treatment of injuries, including to his jaw and head. One person who claimed to have seen him said he was at that point unrecognizable as a result of apparent beatings in detention.

On May 8 authorities rejected claims that any detainees had been tortured. BNA reported that government sources maintained that information "received from the Military Hospital and the Salmaniya Medical Complex, the largest hospitals in the country, [show] that neither hospital has admitted or treated any of the detainees." The news agency said that "rumors about the admissions and hospitalization were untrue and were fabricated, politically-motivated news."

Human Rights Watch expressed serious concern about al-Khawaja's condition and those of others at risk of torture or ill-treatment in light of < href="http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/13/bahrain-suspicious-deaths-custody">recent documented cases of individuals who died in custody under suspicious circumstances. One of four such cases documented by Human Rights Watch in April was that of Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer, 34, whose body showed signs of severe physical abuse when Human Rights Watch viewed his remains.

Bahrain is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits "torture or... cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The prohibition on torture is absolute and non-derogable, which means that authorities may not torture even in circumstances of national emergency. Bahrain has also ratified the Convention against Torture, which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment under all circumstances, prohibits the use of statements made as a result of torture as evidence in legal proceedings, and requires the prosecution of those responsible for torture.

Human Rights Watch called on Bahrain to suspend further prosecution of civilians in special military courts, allow them full access to lawyers, family members, and necessary medical care, and set up an impartial commission to look into serious allegations of torture. Human Rights Watch opposes the creation and use of special courts or the use of military courts to try national security crimes.

Human Rights Watch also repeated its call for the United Nations Human Rights Council to address the violent suppression of protests and subsequent arbitrary detentions and torture or ill-treatment in custody of detainees in Bahrain by convening a "thematic" special session on civil protests in the region.

"Ordinary courts are perfectly capable of effectively prosecuting serious crimes, including terrorist offenses," Stork said. "Apparently Bahrain is not interested in justice but in punishing those involved in anti-government street protests."

www.hrw.org

Bahrain: Serious concerns about torture and fair trial of former Front Line Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

9 May 2011

Front Line expressed its shock and horror at the physical condition of its former Protection Coordinator Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja when he was presented for trial in Manama on Sunday 8 May 2011. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja had visibly been brutally beaten and had reportedly been taken to the military hospital to undergo a 4-hour operation during his period in incommunicado detention. Witnesses to the opening of the trial process reported he bore the evidence of having endured severe torture. He was reportedly the victim of 4 fractures to the side of his face and continues to have problems eating.

Further Information

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was one of 21 individuals presented for trial charged with a variety of charges including ”organising and managing a terrorist organisation” and “attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country.”

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and was until February 2011 employed by Front Line as its Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator. He stepped down from this international role with Front Line to engage with the peaceful protests in Bahrain. Front Line is profoundly shocked by the violent treatment Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has received, and calls for an urgent independent inquiry into his treatment and for those responsible to be brought to justice. More than 120 human rights defenders across the Middle East and North Africa have called for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's release.

Front Line also expresses serious reservations about the possibility that those who have been charged will receive a fair trial given the reports of torture in detention, the extensive incommunicado detention of those charged and the denial of proper access to lawyers of their choice in advance of the initial session of the trial on Sunday 8 May. There are also serious concerns about the rules and procedures of the ”National Safety Court” and whether these comply with international standards for fair trials. Front Line intends to send human rights monitors to the trial hearings.

Front Line also expresses concern that human rights defender Mr Ali Abdulemam was one of those listed for trial in absentia as part of the same trial. Ali Abdulemam is an internationally renowned blogger and advocate for freedom of expression. He was previously detained between September 2010 and February 2011 on similar charges. These charges against Ali Abdulemam have no credibility, and as no credible evidence was presented against Ali Abdulemam in the previous legal process, Front Line concludes that these charges are politically motivated.

Front Line urges the authorities in Bahrain to:

1.Immediately and unconditionally release Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja;

2.Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of torture sustained by Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja while in incommunicado detention, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3.Immediately drop all charges against all human rights defenders, including Mr Ali Abdulemam, as it is believed that they are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

4.Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

frontlinedefenders.org

The Observatory: Ongoing incommunicado and arbitrary detention of Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

6 May 2011

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing incommunicado and arbitrary detention of Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, former MENA Director at Front Line and former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).

According to the information received, as of May 5, 2011, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja remained detained but his whereabouts as well as official charges pending against him remained unknown. His lawyer is the only person who could have access to him on April 29 and 30, 2011. These two meetings of several hours were held in the presence of the Military Prosecutor. In addition, no information could be obtained regarding Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja’s physical condition, although witnesses claim to have seen him in a military hospital in a very bad state.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was brutally arrested on April 9, 2011, and witnesses present during his arrest declared that he was taken unconscious after having been violently beaten (See background information).

The Observatory firmly denounces the violation of the rights to due process and fair trial by the Bahraini authorities, the incommunicado and arbitrary detention of Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and as well as the judicial harassment against him, which seem to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities. The Observatory is also deeply concerned for his physical and psychological integrity as it is feared that he might be subjected to torture and acts of ill-treatments in the framework of incommunicado detention, in a context where four people arrested during the protests have died in custody between April 3 and 12, 2011 and dozens of detained activists complained of acts of torture and ill-treatment.

Background information:

On April 9, 2011, Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been organising peaceful awareness-raising and human rights education activities for protesters in the recent weeks, was arrested at his daughter’s house, along with two of his sons-in-law, Messrs. Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed, by masked policemen who forced entry to the building. The three men, and Mr. Al-Khawaja in particular, were severely beaten up before being taken to an unknown destination. Moreover, Mr. Mohammad Al-Maskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYHRS), who has been monitoring human rights violations committed since the protest movement began, and who was also present in the house, was severely beaten during the raid but not arrested.

On April 10, the Bahraini authorities wrote on twitter: “Al-Khawaja was arrested for charges to be brought against him legally. He violently resisted the arrest and had to be subdued” ; the twit then continues as “(Al-Khawaja) is not a reformer (...) He called for the overthrow of the legitimate regime”. To date, no information has been given to the family of Messrs. Almajid and Ahmed neither on their whereabouts nor regarding any charges pending against them.

On April 15, 2011, a group of more than 20 masked and armed plain-clothes men, belonging to security forces, entered the house where Mr. Al Tajer was present with his wife and young children. After thoroughly searching the house, the office, and taking computers and mobile phones, the men arrested Mr. Al Tajer and took him to an unknown destination.

On April 20, 2011, Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was allowed to make a one-minute phone call to his wife. He informed her that he was supposed to appear on April 21 at 8.00 am before the Military Court. Before this call, Mr. Alkhawaja’s daughter received a call from the military asking her to bring clothes for him. When his lawyers presented themselves before the Military Court, they were advised that the hearing will not take place on that date. They could not get any further information nor have access to their client.

Furthermore, the Observatory also recalls that since April 16, 2011, no information could be gathered regarding the whereabouts of Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, a human rights lawyer who was arrested on that day in his house. Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer was representing several protesters before the Lower National Safety Court, charged with murder of two policemen. On April 28, 2011, four of them were sentenced to death penalty and three to life imprisonment[1].

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Messrs. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, Almajid and Ahmed and ensure their access to their lawyers and families;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally released Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain as their detention merely seems at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iv. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative level, against Mr. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

v. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular :

-its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;

-its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ;

-its Article 9.3 which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, inter alia […] to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials so as to form an opinion on their compliance with national law and applicable international obligations and commitments; and to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms” ;

-its Article 10 which provides that “no one shall participate, by act or by failure to act where required, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms and no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing to do so”;

-and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and 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”.

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

● Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587 ● Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032 ● Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284 ● Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

fidh.org

Amnesty International: Bahrain: Human rights defender tortured in detention

Further information on UA: 79/11 Index: MDE 11/024/2011 Bahrain Date: 06 May 2011

URGENT ACTION HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER TORTURED IN DETENTION

‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a prominent human rights defender, has allegedly been tortured in detention and had to undergo surgery as a result of the injuries sustained. He is now being held in an unknown location in Bahrain. Two members of parliament were detained on 1 May and may also be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a prominent human rights defender and former Protection Co-ordinator for Front Line, an international NGO that works with human rights defenders, was arrested on 9 April. His arrest was in connection with the anti-government protests in February and March 2011. He was arrested in his daughter’s house. According to his family, he was beaten during the arrest, taken away barefoot and not allowed to take his medication with him. He has not been permitted family visits, although his family reportedly spoke with him on the phone on 20 April.

According to reports received by Amnesty International, when ‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was admitted to the Bahrain Defence Force military hospital in al-Riffa’, central Bahrain, around the end of April, he had cracks on his jaw and skull and black marks on his arms, allegedly caused by torture. He was reportedly admitted for six days and had several operations on his head and face. He was hastily returned to prison where he was said to have been tortured again.

The arrests of political opposition figures have continued in April and May. Those arrested include Matar Ibrahim Matar and Jawad Fairouz, who were detained on 1 May. Both men were members of parliament for al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’a party in Bahrain, who resigned together with most other members of al-Wefaq in protest at the government’s crackdown on the protests. On 4 May the Secretary General of the Islamic Action Society, Sheikh Mohamed Ali al-Mahfoodh, was also detained. The whereabouts of the three men remain unknown and Amnesty International fears they might be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in English or Arabic:

- Express concern about the detention of ‘Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Matar Ibrahim Matar, Jawad Fairouz and Sheikh Mohamed Ali al-Mahfoodh and urge the authorities to release them immediately unless they are charged with a recognizable criminal offence and tried in full conformity with international fair trial standards;

- Urge the authorities to protect Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Matar Ibrahim Matar, Jawad Fairouz , Sheikh Mohamed Ali al-Mahfoodh and all other detainees from torture and other ill-treatment;

- Urge the authorities to immediately set up an independent investigation into the alleged torture or other ill-treatment of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. to make its results public and to bring to justice anyone responsible;

- Urge the authorities to respect and uphold the rights to freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain, including the right to peaceful protest.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 JUNE 2011 TO:

King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17664587 Salutation: Your Majesty

Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17533033 Salutation: Your Highness

Commander-in-Chief of the BDF Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa Bahrain Defence Force Riffa Road, Bahrain E-mail: dgcbdf@gmail.com Fax: +971 17663923 Salutation: Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the third update of UA 79/11.

Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/017/2011/en

URGENT ACTION

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER TORTURED IN DETENTION

Additional Information

On 4 May, Bahrain’s parliament voted to extend a repressive state of emergency amid continued arrests of dissidents. Around 47 doctors and nurses, some detained for weeks, are facing trial in a military court after they were charged on 3 May for their role in treating anti-government protesters. On 5 May, some of the doctors where released but others continue to be detained.

The overwhelming majority of those detained since March 2011 are Shi’a Muslims who were active during the protests. Their whereabouts mostly remain unknown.

Some detainees have reportedly been tortured or otherwise ill-treated following arrest and at least four people have died in suspicious circumstances.

The dismissal of government employees who are known to have participated in protests continues unabated.

There have also been reports of several Shi'a mosques being destroyed by the security forces, allegedly because they did not have building permits.

This has increased suspicions that the whole of the majority Shi’a population of Bahrain is being punished for the February-March protests, which called for reforms and, in some cases, regime change.

Further information on UA: 79/11 Index: MDE 11/024/2011 Issue Date: 06 May 2011

amnesty.org

Switzerland FDFA is deeply concerned about the death sentences pronounced in Bahrain

6 May 2011

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is deeply concerned about the death sentences pronounced against four men on 28 April in Bahrain. They allegedly took part in anti-government protests.

The FDFA calls on the authorities in Bahrain to commute the death sentences as part of the appeal process. The current legal proceedings took place behind closed doors before a court martial, although the accused are civilians. In recent years, Bahrain has issued and carried out only very few death sentences. The FDFA is thus encouraging the Bahraini authorities to continue observing this de facto moratorium and to abolish the death sentence completely in a next step. Switzerland is categorically opposed to the death sentence and is committed to achieving its worldwide abolition.

Switzerland has already expressed its concern over the tense political situation in Bahrain in a number of bilateral demarches and will continue to call on the Bahraini authorities actively to continue their efforts to engage in a national dialogue.

eda.admin.ch

The Observatory: Judicial harassment against 47 medical staff and incommunicado detention of Doctors

5 May 2011 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain. Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment against 47 medical staff and the incommunicado detention of Dr. Ahmed Jamal, Dr. Raja Hassa Khadim and Dr. Nidal Khalifa, three doctors, for treating peaceful demonstrators injured during the crackdown on demonstrations in Bahrain.

According to the information received, on May 3, 2011, 24 doctors and 23 nurses were charged by the Military Public Prosecution of “refusal to extend assistance to a person in need”, “embezzlement of public funds”, “assault that resulted in death”, “unauthorized possession of weapons and ammunition”, “refusal to perform duties and putting people’s lives and health at risk”, “illegal detention”, “abuse of authority to suspend and stall laws and regulations”, “attempt to occupy buildings by force”, “incitement to the forceful overthrow of a political regime”, “incitement to the hatred of a regime”, “incitement to the hatred of a segment of society”, “dissemination of false news and malicious rumours that could harm public interest” and “participation in unauthorized rallies and meetings”. They will be tried before a military court but, as of issuing this Urgent Appeal, no date for an hearing had been set. No further information could be obtained whether the 47 are currently in incommunicado detention or in hiding.

Furthermore, according to the information received, between May 2 and 4, Dr. Ahmed Jamal, former President of the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS), Dr. Raja Hassa Khadim, President of the Bahrain Dental Society, and Dr. Nidal Khalifa, President of the Arab Association for the Skin Diseases and former Head of the Dermatology Unit in Salmanya Hospital, were arrested by the security forces and have been held incommunicado since then.

Moreover, the Observatory recalls that on April 4, 2011, Ms. Rulla El Saffar, President of the Bahrain Nursing Society (BNS), was summoned by phone to the Adlia Criminal Investigation Building and taken away by security forces to an unknown location. She remains detained incommunicado since then and may be one of the 47 under charges. On April 11, 2011, Dr. Nabeel Tamman, an Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) specialist, member of Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) and the former President of the Medical Committee, was also arrested, taken by security forces to an unknown location and then released on April 13 reportedly without charge. In addition, on April 6, 2011, the Social Development Minister had issued an edict suspending the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS), and the Ministry of Health suspended 30 doctors and nurses whose cases was referred to an “investigation committee” created by the Ministry, which mandate is to investigate the medical personnel who treated injured victims of demonstrations [1].

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment against the medical staff who provided medical assistance to injured demonstrators, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning the legitimate exercise of their profession. More generally, the Observatory is deeply concerned about the arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and acts of intimidation against all people who provided help to the victims of the repression of peaceful protest movements in the country.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned human rights defenders, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Ms. Rulla El Saffar, Dr. Ahmad Jamal, Dr. Raja Hassa Kadhim and Dr. Nidal Khalifa and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, ensure their access to their lawyers and families and release them immediately and unconditionally as their detention seems at merely sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative level, against the above-mentioned human rights defenders, as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular :

its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

its Article 10, which provides that “No one shall participate, by act or by failure to act where required, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms and no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing to do so”;

and its Article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and 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”.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

www.fidh.org

Overseas Press Club of America Letter to King of Bahrain

5 May 2011 Printer-friendly versionSend to friend Bahrain

H.M. King Hamada ibn Isa al-Khalifah Kingdom of Bahrain c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain 3502 International Drive, NW Washington D.C. 20008

Your Majesty:

Your government seems to be using every means possible to enforce a news blackout about events in Bahrain, even though electronic media make it virtually impossible to conceal what is happening anywhere in the world nowadays. The fate of the press may not loom large in the context of other events in your country and the rest of the Middle East. However, the Overseas Press Club of America takes a particular interesting in defending the freedom of the press and believes that in time of crisis it is more important than ever that the people know the facts.

Therefore, it is with some dismay that we have watched as these events were reported in the news and on the websites of human rights organizations:

- On March 12 – Security officers beat an Al Wasat photographer and smashed his equipment. - On March 15 – Dozens of men armed with clubs and knives attacked Al-Wasat’s printing plant, making the presses inoperable and threatening employees. - On March 18 – a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the house of Lamees

Dhaif, a commentator and journalist who has been critical of your government

- On March 30 – Mohammed Al-Maskati, who blogs under the name Emoodz¸ was arrested and his whereabouts were unknown - On April 2 – Another news blogger, Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri, was arrested and charged with spreading false news.. - On April 3 --- Al-Wasat did not appear and its on-line edition was disabled. The Information Ministry accused it of “deliberate news fabrication.” After editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri, managing editor Walid Nouwaihidh and local news director Aqeel Mirza all resigned, effectively ending the independence of the newspaper, the Information Ministry lifted its ban. - On April 4 – Bahrain deported two other Al-Wasat journalists who were Iraqi nationals. - On April 9 – Al-Ashiri dies in government custody, allegedly from sickle cell anemia. - On April 12 – Karim Fakhrawi, a founder and member of the board of Al-Wasat dies in government custody, a week after his detention. The government says he died of kidney failure but photos of his body published on line showed extensive cuts and bruises. Bahrain’s public prosecutor announces he will be filing charges of “publishing false reports” and “harming the interests of the country” against the three Al Wasat editors who resigned on April 3. - On April 25 – Yet another Al-Wasat journalists, the columnist Haidra Mohammed al-Nuaimi, was dragged out of his house by police, beaten on the street, and then taken to an unknown destination.

Even if the charges against the Al-Wasat journalists were true, these monstruous attacks against them are totally unjustified, as are the many other measures taken against other journalists and human rights workers. There seems to be a suspicion that the “news fabrication” they are accused of was planted deliberately in order to justify their prosecution. However, even if they originated the news, there should be no basis for prosecuting them. Freedom of the press includes the right to make mistakes unless the false news is knowingly printed with a deliberate intent to cause damage can be proven.

We urgently ask you to give Bahraini journalists and indeed all citizens the rights that people all over the Middle East are demanding and that are well accepted in democracies

Respectfully yours, Jeremy Main Larry Martz Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

Prince Kalifah in Sulman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister Manama Kingdom of Bahrain Washington, D.C. 20520

Cheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa Minister of Justice Manama Kingdom of Bahrain Fax: (011.41.973.1) 753.1284

H.E. Ali bin Saleh Al Sale Chairman of the Shura Council P.O. Box 2991 Manama Kingdom of Bahrain

H.E. Mohammed Abdulghaffar Minister Ministry of Information Manama Kingdom of Bahrain

H.E. Houda Nonoo Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S.A. Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain 3502 International Drive, NW Washington, D.C. 20008 Fax: (202) 362.2192

Ambassador Tawfeek Ahmed Khalil Almansoor Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Nations 866 Second Avenue New York, N.Y. 10017 Fax: (212) 319.0687

H.E. Stephanie Williams U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Embassy of the United States of America P. O Box 26431 Manama Bahrain

Nabeel Rajab President Bahrain Center for Human Rights Nabeel.rajab@Bahrainrights.org

Maria Otero Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520

www.opcofamerica.org

Bahrain's medics are the targets of retribution

The arrest and disappearance of Bahraini medics is part of a policy of retribution against those who helped protesters

by Joe Stork

5 May 2011

At about 11pm on 2 May, Bahrain's criminal investigations directorate summoned Dr Nedhal al-Khalifa, a 42-year-old dermatologist. Her father dropped her off at their headquarters at the ministry of interior at about midnight. Her family, including her four young children, didn't hear anything from her until she was released two days later. Her husband, Dr Sadiq Abdulla, a vascular surgeon, also 42, was detained in the same fashion on 14 April. His whereabouts and condition remains unknown, as does the reason for his detention.

These two doctors are among hundreds of Bahrainis detained without official explanation since mid-March, including scores of other doctors, nurses and medics. In almost all cases, the authorities have provided no information about their whereabouts or wellbeing. During this same period, at least four people have died in detention from abuse or medical neglect and the authorities are starting to televise "confessions" that might have been coerced. Except for a handful who saw a lawyer for the first time during their special military court trial, none of those detained have had access to lawyers or family members.

The arrests of so many medical professionals are part of a government policy of retribution against Bahrainis who supported pro-democracy protests. Some medics criticised assaults by security personnel on protesters at the Pearl roundabout in mid-February and again in mid-March that left more than a dozen dead, as well as several security officers, and many wounded. In the unfolding official narrative of events, the largely peaceful protests that brought hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis to the streets to demand democratic reforms were in fact part of a "coup attempt", in the words of prime minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa. "No violators will get away with it," he added. "All co-conspirators and abettors must be held accountable."

Medical personnel have been targets of repression from the outset. Security forces attacked a medical tent at the roundabout on the night of 17 February, assaulting and arresting doctors. Medics subsequently alleged that security officials ordered ambulances not to respond to calls from wounded protesters. When authorities violently dispersed the roundabout protesters on 16 March, security forces, armed and in many cases masked, had taken over the main hospital. There, and in other medical facilities, people whose wounds suggested they had been protesters were beaten, and many were arrested. Portions of the hospital became detention sites.

Authorities said that 47 doctors and medics will soon face prosecution, apparently in a special military court, for alleged acts that include claims of bringing weapons into the hospital, stealing blood so that protesters could feign serious injury, applying medications to simulate symptoms of nerve gas, refusing to treat injured or ill people who were not Shia and generally "serving the agenda of the protesters". They said 150 others are under investigation and suspended from their positions. Authorities said they will "reveal details" at a news conference on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch has written to Bahraini authorities requesting information to verify the criminal allegations – some serious and some far-fetched – but so far has received no response. Our researchers had regular and relatively unrestricted access to the main hospital between 17 February and 16 March. We saw protesters' tents in the parking lot outside the emergency wing, staffed by people who provided information to journalists and others reflecting protester views. Between 10 March and 16 March, rallies took place there featuring speeches by leading opposition figures. But at no point did we see or otherwise learn about any activities corresponding to the more serious government allegations.

In a public letter dated 26 April, seven leading national and international associations of medical professionals, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians, called on Bahrain's leaders to cease all attacks on health facilities, medical professionals and patients, and to release all medical professionals (as well as others) "detained and disappeared for non-violent exercise of their fundamental rights and their ethical duties".

Joe Stork: Deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division

guardian.co.uk

UN human rights chief voices deep concern about Bahrain crackdown

5 May 2011 – The United Nations human rights chief today voiced deep concern about the continued detention of hundreds of activists in Bahrain, the prosecution of scores of medical professionals, and the sentencing to death of four protestors after a closed-door military trial.

“The trial of civilians before military courts is always a cause of concern. The application of the death penalty without due process and after a trial held in secrecy is illegal and absolutely unacceptable,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated in a news release.

“The defendants are entitled to fair trials before civil courts, in accordance with international legal standards and in keeping with Bahrain’s international human rights obligations,” she added.

Bahrain is one of several nations in the Middle East and North Africa that has been rocked this year by protests calling for increased freedoms and democratic reforms. The Government’s crackdown on protesters has draw criticism from UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has urged maximum restraint and called for inclusive dialogue with all parties.

On Wednesday, Bahrain’s Justice Ministry announced that 23 doctors and 24 nurses from the Salmaniya Medical Complex are due to be tried in a military court on charges including participation in unlicensed protests and inciting hatred against the Government.

Last week four protestors were sentenced to death and three to life imprisonment for the alleged killing of two policemen. This took placed after they were reportedly held incommunicado, without access to their families and limited access to lawyers.

In addition, hundreds of people reportedly remain in detention for their alleged participation in the protest movement, including teachers, lawyers, journalists and bloggers, medical professionals, artists, activists and members of political bodies, according to the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR).

The Government has put the number of people in detention at 400, but OHCHR has received information that the figure may be higher than 1,000, the whereabouts of more than 50 of whom are unknown.

Ms. Pillay voiced particular concern about the reported deaths of at least four persons in custody. “There must be independent investigations of these cases of death in detention and allegations of torture. Bahraini authorities must stop the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and political activists, ensuring that their fundamental civil and political rights are protected.”

She urged the Government to urgently conduct an independent, impartial investigation and bring all those who were responsible for assaulting and killing protestors to justice, and reiterated her request for the Government to allow an OHCHR assessment mission into the country.

Pillay deeply concerned about dire human rights situation in Bahrain

5 May 2011

GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Thursday expressed deep concern about the continued detention of hundreds of activists in Bahrain, the prosecution of scores of medical professionals, and the sentencing to death of four protestors after a closed-door military trial.

The Justice Ministry announced on Wednesday that 23 doctors and 24 nurses from the Salmaniya Medical Complex are due to be tried in a military court on charges including participation in unlicensed protests and inciting hatred against the Government. This comes after four protestors were last week sentenced to death and three to life imprisonment for the alleged killing of two policemen. Prior to their sentencing, they were reportedly held incommunicado, without access to their families and limited access to lawyers. There are also allegations that some defence lawyers have been subject to intimidation.

“The trial of civilians before military courts is always a cause of concern. The application of the death penalty without due process and after a trial held in secrecy is illegal and absolutely unacceptable,” Pillay said. “The defendants are entitled to fair trials before civil courts, in accordance with international legal standards and in keeping with Bahrain’s international human rights obligations.”

Hundreds of individuals reportedly remain in detention for their alleged participation in the protest movement, including teachers, lawyers, journalists and bloggers, medical professionals, artists, activists and members of political bodies. The Government has put the number of people in detention at 400, but OHCHR has received information that the figure may be higher than 1,000, the whereabouts of more than 50 of whom are unknown. Another 312 were reportedly released after questioning, according to the Government. Many of the detainees are alleged to have been arrested while undergoing treatment at Salmaniya Medical Complex for injuries sustained during protests.

“Particularly worrying are the reports of the death of at least four persons in custody. My office has also received reports of severe torture against human rights defenders who are currently in detention,” the High Commissioner said. “There must be independent investigations of these cases of death in detention and allegations of torture. Bahraini authorities must stop the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and political activists, ensuring that their fundamental civil and political rights are protected.”

She said a series of measures taken by the Government appeared to be aimed at the continued silencing of dissent and creating a chilling effect against further protests. It is understood that more than 1,000 workers from various sectors have been dismissed for going on strike or participating in protests. Journalists have also reportedly been dismissed, expelled or arrested.

“All political detainees must be immediately released and all detainees must have prompt access to legal counsel,” the High Commissioner said.

Pillay noted that the Parliament yesterday voted to extend Bahrain’s State of National Safety and warned that this did not give authorities the license to violate internationally protected human rights.

“We have failed to see any reports of prosecutions against security forces for their violent actions against protestors,” she said. “I urge the Government to urgently conduct an independent, impartial investigation and bring all those who were responsible for assaulting and killing protestors to justice.”

Pillay reiterated her request for the Government to allow an OHCHR assessment mission into the country.

ENDS

un.org