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The Bahraini government pursues defenders from other Gulf countries for their education in human rights in Bahrain

After disbanding the board of directors of the only licensed human rights organization

The human rights setback continues in Bahrain, as a result of the media and security crackdown against public freedoms and human rights, a campaign which targets activists and human rights defenders and their institutions. This campaign has evolved to a new level as the authorities pursue defenders of human rights from the gulf and lists them on blacklists to prevent them from entering the country.

For the first time there is a serious threat to human rights defenders from the neighboring gulf countries who have attended human rights courses in Bahrain. The Ministry of Interior has announced[1] that they are in the “process of taking legal action against people who come from neighboring countries, after they had secretly attended unlicensed sessions and programs in the kingdom of Bahrain through the Bahrain Human Rights Society. The Ministry explained that “the special investigations have been completed on these trainees who for now are considered persona non grata in the kingdom”. This threat comes after the decision of the Minister of Social Development, Fatima AlBalushi, to dissolute the elected board of directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and to appoint staff from the ministry as director of this society. AlBalushi also stated that the society has committed grave management violations and illegal activities, amongst them offering secret and unlicensed courses and programs to people from neighboring countries, that based on agreements with international bodies and organizations and without consulting the concerned Bahraini authorities.”

In a time that Ministries, state institutions and the Ministry of Social Affairs are supposed to facilitate the work of civil society institutions and human rights organizations, they are in fact cornering and making things more difficult for them, creating obstacles and complications and dealing with them with a repressive mentality.

The BCHR fears that this campaign will target hundreds of activists and human rights defenders, in the neighboring gulf countries, who participated in the previous years in human rights programs, seminars, lectures and training courses. Targeting defenders in the region may come as an attempt to weaken the coordination and follow-up that has intensified in recent years between the defenders in the gulf region and with human rights institutions and international organizations. A group of activists and human rights defenders in the Gulf region have issued a statement[2] condemning the human rights violations that are taking place in the country since the beginning of the security campaign. Targeting these activists may also come as a voluntary service the security services in Bahrain are providing to the neighboring countries in order for them to enforce restrictions on the activists who work in those countries and to limit the impact of their activities and the spread of the education of human rights where it is unwanted.

Even though the Bahrain Human Rights Society is considered the only independent society accepted to work under the umbrella of the internationally condemned “Law of Associations”, that has not protected it from security and legal persecution by the Bahraini authorities. The BCHR fears that the continuation of targeting activists, the security crackdown and the campaign of harassment faced by the institutions of civil society and the political and human rights organizations will lead the members of these groups and organizations towards covert action again after a few years of working openly.

The BCHR demands the following from the Bahraini authorities:

1- To stop targeting human rights defenders, whether they are in Bahrain or other Gulf countries, and to create an appropriate environment for them to carry out their human rights work. 2- To stop targeting civil society institutions, especially human rights organizations, and to withdraw the decision to disband the Bahrain Society for Human Rights board of directors. And to stop dealing with the defenders and organization of human rights with a repressive mentality. 3- To stop the continuous violations of human rights instead of targeting the groups who work on documenting those violations.

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[1]manamavoice.com [2]manamavoice.com

Report On Bar Human Rights Committee Hearing Observation: Bahrain

Report On Bar Human Rights Committee Hearing Observation: Bahrain

A report on hearings in:

(1) the Adary Park case, and

(2) the Ma’ameer case (No 4583/2009)

Criminal High Court – 4th - 5th July 2010

Content

INTRODUCTION OVERVIEW OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN BAHRAIN BAHRAIN’S LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK BAHRAIN’S REGIONAL OBLIGATIONS BAHRAIN’S INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS THE HEARINGS The Adary Park case The Ma’ameer case MEETINGS Meeting with Head of Prosecutions Meeting with senior defence lawyer Meeting with the families of the Ma’ameer defendants Meeting with Under Secretary of Ministry of Interior Meeting with detainees from previous cases CONCLUSIONS RECOMMENDATIONS Acknowledgments

The trial observation was undertaken by Pete Weatherby on behalf of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales. The report was written by Pete Weatherby, Barrister at Garden Court North Chambers, Manchester and Garden Court Chambers, London. It was edited by Priscilla Dudhia and Sally Longworth.

Responsibility for the content of this report, and the views expressed within, lies solely with the Bar Human Rights Committee.

About the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) is the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales. It is an independent body concerned with protecting the rights of advocates, judges and human rights defenders around the world. The Committee is concerned with defending the rule of law and internationally recognised legal standards relating to human rights and the right to a fair trial.

The remit of BHRC extends to all countries of the world, apart from its own jurisdiction of England & Wales. This reflects the Committee's need to maintain its role as an independent but legally qualified observer, critic and advisor, with internationally accepted rule of law principles at the heart of its agenda.

INTRODUCTION

During July 2010, BHRC undertook a mission to observe parts of the trials of two groups of individuals accused of offences connected to protests and tyre burnings. With the government refusing to issue permits for peaceful demonstrations, tyre burning has become a regular form of protest in Bahrain, particularly amongst young Shiite men.

On the facts presented, BHRC is concerned that during the arrest, detention and trial of the accused, the following human rights were breached:

• The right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as proscribed in the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the Kingdom of Bahrain is party.

• The right to a fair trial as proscribed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Kingdom of Bahrain is party.

This report describes the background, charges and the results of the hearings. Although the purpose of this visit was to observe the trials, whilst in Bahrain BHRC had the opportunity to meet with a number of government and prosecution officials and various other individuals and groups. These opportunities were welcomed, as it enabled BHRC to discuss various issues raised by the hearings, as well as providing a balanced overview of the situation in Bahrain. The issues raised by these meetings are outlined below.

Since the visit there have been a large number of arrests of opposition and human rights activists and protestors, many of whom have now been charged under ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation. There are widespread reports of torture and mistreatment of these detainees, and they have been held for long periods without recourse to a lawyer. One of the current detainees is a dual British/Bahraini national. The Bahraini press has been banned from reporting all but official statements concerning the arrests, and many websites have been blocked.

The report concludes by outlining key recommendations for the Kingdom of Bahrain, based on the trial observations and the other meetings.

OVERVIEW OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN BAHRAIN

Bahrain has signed and ratified numerous international human rights treaties and documents. Its constitution also contains many of the fundamental human rights principles, such as those relating to the right to a fair trial and the prohibition on torture. The National Human Rights Institution (“NHRI”), which seeks to promote and protect human rights in the Kingdom, was established in 2009 as a response to recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council in its 2008 Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”). This year saw the appointment by Royal Order of 22 members to the Institution, a number of whom are high-ranking government officials, or members of the Shura, the appointed upper chamber of parliament. This raises questions over the impartiality of the body.

Despite some positive developments since 1999, there are excessive limitations on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly. These hinder the work of human rights groups, as well as the exercise of these rights by ordinary citizens. Decree No 18 of 1973 on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings requires prior notification of “every meeting held in a public or private place participated [in] by individuals who do not have [a] personal invitation”. It imposes disproportionate penalties, including imprisonment, for speech-related conduct, even in the absence of a threat or incitement to violence or hatred. Furthermore, it outlaws demonstrations for election purposes, political rallies and generally limits the freedom of peaceful assembly. Human Rights groups must register with the authorities, but a number have been refused registration, putting them outside the law.

Legislation on national security and counter-terrorism also threatens the exercise of these freedoms. The recent detentions are seen by many as part of a government clampdown in the run up to the parliamentary elections in October. It has been reported that 159 individuals are presently in detention, although other sources indicate the figure may be higher. The government asserts that these individuals are suspected of having committed security-related offences, such as terrorism. As stated, there is currently a press ban on reporting the recent arrests and detention, other than from official statements.

BHRC is concerned about the excessively broad definitions of “terrorism” and “terrorist act” in the Protecting Society from Terrorists Act no.58 (2006), which undermine the principle of legality. Article 1 prohibits any act that would “damage national unity” or “obstruct public authorities from performing their duties”. The scope of the definitions increases the potential for the government to stifle dissident political views. The risk of ill-treatment, torture and arbitrary detention is also heightened by the Act, which allows for extended periods of detention without charge or judicial review. In 2006, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism publicly urged Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to make amendments before the legislation was brought into force. Unfortunately, these recommendations were ignored.

Dr Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, a leader of the opposition Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy was charged under this act in January 2009, together with thirty-four others. Shortly after, a royal pardon was issued and the accused were released. However, Dr Al-Singace was arrested again on 13th August this year. He was detained at Bahrain International Airport having arrived back from London where he had taken part in a seminar hosted by Baroness Falkner at the House of Lords, in which he criticised human rights violations in Bahrain. His detention was followed by the arrests of several other senior activists. Dr Al-Singace remains in detention and has reportedly made confessions after being subjected to torture including severe beatings, electric shocks, and being made to stand for long periods (particularly cruel as he has had Polio in childhood, and is severely disabled). Two other attendees at the seminar, Abdulghani Al Khanjar and Jaafar Hisabi (who has dual nationality), are also detained. The three have now been charged with a variety of offences including trying to overthrow the government, and “Contacting and working with international organisations”. According to the Bahraini media the government is to ask Britain to expel two other opposition figures who appeared at the same seminar, to face similar charges.

Persistent allegations of torture against political opponents, protestors and human rights defenders in Bahrain remain, notwithstanding efforts between 2001-2002 to usher in a new age of respect for the rule of law. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with former detainees and forensic medical reports concluded that security officials have repeatedly used torture as a means of obtaining confessions from suspects of national security offences. Common practices include electric shock treatment, suspension in painful positions particularly by handcuffs, beating the soles of feet (known as falaka) and beating the head, torso and limbs. Officials have continued to deny allegations of torture, most notably in 2008 during Bahrain’s UPR.

BAHRAIN’S LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

The legislative framework of Bahraini law incorporates most central human rights principles. In the current context these include fair trial provisions, respect for detainees, a prohibition on torture, and access to legal advice and representation from an early stage. Unfortunately, there remain concerns about the implementation of these laws and very serious concerns regarding the treatment of detainees. Furthermore, the very wide scope of anti-terrorist provisions raises issues of legality in cases with a political or protest element. The report from the last Bar Human Rights Committee visit to Bahrain (Kirsty Brimelow, 30 June 2009) sets out in full the relevant human rights legislation and the situation at that time.

Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain contains many of the fundamental international human rights principles. Those relevant to the hearings are listed below:

Article 19 – Prohibition against Torture “d. No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”

Article 20 - Criminal Trials “c. An accused person is innocent until proved guilty in a legal trial in which he is assured of the necessary guarantees to exercise the right of defence at all stages of the investigation and trial in accordance with the law. d. It is forbidden to harm an accused person physically or mentally. e. Every person accused of an offence must have a lawyer to defend him with his consent. f. The right to litigate is guaranteed under the law.”

BAHRAIN’S REGIONAL OBLIGATIONS

The relevant provisions of the Arab Charter on Human Rights are set out below:

Article 7 “The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a lawful trial where defence rights are guaranteed.”

Article 13 “A. The State parties shall protect every person in their territory from physical or psychological torture, or from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. [The State parties] shall take effective measures to prevent such acts; performing or participating in them shall be considered a crime punished by law. B. No medical or scientific experimentation shall be carried out on a person without his free consent.”

Article 15 “Those punished with deprivation of liberty must be treated with humanely.”

BAHRAIN’S INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS

Of particular significance to the rights allegedly violated in the cases under consideration are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1977 (“ICCPR”) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”). It is of note, however, that Bahrain has not signed the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The First Optional Protocol enables those who claim that their rights enshrined in the ICCPR have been breached to file “individual” communications or complaints with the Human Rights Committee. Accordingly, while Bahrain is bound by the reporting mechanism enshrined in the ICCPR and therefore subject to scrutiny in this way from the Human Rights Committee, there is no recourse for an individual in respect of a specific violation.

The relevant provisions of the ICCPR are;

Article 7 – Prohibition against Torture “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Article 14 – The Right to a Fair Trial “1. All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The press and the public may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice; but any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public ... 2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. 3. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (c) To be tried without undue delay; (d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; ... (e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him; (f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court; (g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.”

The relevant provisions of the CAT are:

Article 1 – Definition of Torture “1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

Article 4 – Criminalisation of Torture “1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.”

Article 11 – Prohibition of Torture for those in Custody “Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture.”

Article 12 – Investigation of Acts of Torture “Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Article 13 – Right of Complaint to the Competent Authorities “Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to, and to have his case promptly and impartially examined by, its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.”

Article 14 “1. Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible... 2. Nothing in this article shall affect any right of the victim or other persons to compensation which may exist under national law.”

Article 15 – Prohibition against Evidence obtained under Torture “Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”

Other applicable international human rights standards include: • UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any form of Detention or Imprisonment; • Basic Principles for the Independence of the Judiciary; • Guidelines on the Roles of Prosecutors; • UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

THE HEARINGS

The Adary Park case

Background The Adary Park case involves five youths charged in relation to a large fire which resulted from tyre protests around the time of the 2010 Bahrain F1 Grand Prix. One of the defendants was under 18 at the time of the commission of the alleged crime. They were brought before a new division of the Criminal High Court set up to deal with protest and security cases - so-called ‘special’ cases.

Charges Four of the five defendants are accused of setting fires and taking part in the illegal protest. The fifth defendant has been charged with falsification (perverting the course of justice).

Arrest The prosecution case is largely based on disputed confessions of three of the accused men, and no doubt, evidence of the burns. BHRC spoke to the sister of one of the defendants with burns; she had pertinent information (including alibi) which should be investigated.

Three of the defendants had made confessions; all alleged to have been made under torture. The defendants claim that the confessions were made after having been subjected to beatings. They claim also to have been sprayed in the face with an unknown chemical. The defendants assert that they were denied access to a lawyer for a period between three weeks and a month and a half.

Prison conditions Defence counsel complained to the court regarding the lack of proper medical care in the defendants’ current prison and asked the judge to order their transfer. One defendant continues to suffer from the serious burns he has and another has a sickle cell illness.

Hearing - DATE: 4 July 2010

The hearing took place in the Criminal High Court.

Observed by representatives from: • Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales • Islamic Human Rights Commission • Defence Counsel: Mohamed Al Tajer

Main submissions made by Defence Counsel 1) Defence counsel asked for the case to be adjourned as the prosecution papers had not been served until a few days before the hearing, and the prosecution still had to serve video footage which was said to be relevant to their case.

2) Defence counsel asked the judge to require prosecution witnesses to appear before the court in person.

3) Defence counsel requested the court to order the transfer of defendants to another prison due to problems with medical care mentioned above.

The hearing was in public and the judge listened to the submissions. The Prosecutor did not respond and the court retired without making a ruling. BHRC was informed by defence lawyers that the Public Prosecutor would make submissions in private, after which the court would deliver its ruling.

The Ruling The court agreed to the further disclosure and to the adjournment, but only for approximately a week. The judge declined to order the transfer of the defendants.

Defence counsel was unhappy with the short time allowed to prepare a case which involved disputed confessions.

The Ma’ameer case

Background This case related to the death of a Pakistani worker, alleged by the prosecution to have been caused by a molotov cocktail being thrown at his vehicle during a protest, but the alternative defence hypothesis was that he had driven through a burning barricade of tyres in the Ma’ameer area and the vehicle had caught fire. The victim had five children and was the sole earner for his family.

The ten defendants were all young men from the Ma’ameer area: Kumail Hussain, Mohamed Hasan, Jassim Hasan, Issa Ali Sarhan, Hussain Hamza, Sadeq Jaffar Madi, Ahmed Ali Ahmed, Mohamed Ahmed, Ali Ahmed and Ebrahim Jaffer.

The prosecution’s case was based almost entirely on confessions by seven of the defendants. The confessions were challenged on the basis that they had been obtained by torture. Previously during the proceedings, doctors provided by the police/Public Prosecutor had rejected the assertion by the defendants that their injuries were caused by torture, and concluded that the injuries were self-inflicted, caused by resisting arrest, or by natural causes. The defence lawyers indicated that they had applied to the court for the detainees to be examined by independent doctors, but this had been denied. They were also denied access to the burnt vehicle, examination of which may have determined the cause of the fire. No evidence was presented as to how the vehicle had caught fire. The defendants assert that they were denied legal access for a period between three and six weeks.

BHRC had met with a senior Public Prosecutor on 4 July 2010 to discuss judicial independence and aspects of the court procedures, but were unable to ask about these allegations of torture, as he did not respond to our request for a further meeting.

Charges The defendants were charged with murder. One of the defendants was being tried in absentia, as he had not been apprehended.

Arrest According to first-hand accounts of relatives the defendants were beaten on arrest and dragged from their homes. They were kept for long periods without access to their lawyers or families. It was during this time that the disputed confessions were made.

Hearing - 5th July 2010

The final hearing took place in the Criminal High Court of Bahrain.

Observed by representatives from: • Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales • Islamic Human Rights Commission • Defence Counsel: The defendants were represented by a team of lawyers headed by Mohammed Al Tajer.

The defendants sat handcuffed on one side of the courtroom, surrounded by a large number of police and security personnel. The families of the defendants were present and sat on the opposite side, together with journalists and observers. Before the judges entered, Mr Al Tajer informed the BHRC that the escorting officers had informed him that the defendants were to be transferred to a new prison after the hearing, which indicated that they already knew the outcome of the hearing.

The three judges entered the courtroom, accompanied by the Public Prosecutor. The Presiding Judge delivered a very short verdict, convicting the seven defendants who had made confessions and sentencing them to life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years, under the 2006 Anti-Terror law, and acquitting the other three. Written reasons were handed down later in the day. In the written judgment, the judges rejected the defence submissions concerning ill-treatment of the detainees and based the convictions on the confessions.

The judges left to uproar in the court. There were clashes between defendants and their relatives and the security forces, and batons were used. Outside the court teargas was fired at protestors, and the father of one of the detainees was beaten to the ground. BHRC observed the security forces’ approach to be very heavy-handed.

Defence lawyers have lodged an appeal and the first stage will be heard in September or October 2010.

It is of note that the same judge acquitted a group of defendants in an earlier case due to ill-treatment and coerced confessions. In that case he had allowed the defence to instruct independent doctors. However, the appeal court overturned his decision and imprisoned the defendants.

MEETINGS

Meeting with Head of Prosecutions – 4th July 2010

BHRC was able to meet with Nawaf Hamza, Head of Prosecutions. The meeting lasted for approximately 40 minutes after which Mr Hamza brought the interview to an end, stating that his grasp of the English language was not strong enough to deal with the questions asked. BHRC sent a written request for a further meeting, to which no reply was received.

Mr Hamza was very articulate in English and answered many of the questions about court procedure, the independence of the judiciary and the public prosecution system. The meeting ended before BHRC could inquire about the alleged mistreatment of detainees. With regard to the independence of the judiciary, Mr Hamza explained that judges did not necessarily have to be lawyers and that they were appointed by a committee, the Judicial High Council, which makes recommendations to the King. The Judicial High Council also recommends applicants for the post of Attorney-General. Judges have normally worked as Public Prosecutors first, though this is not a prerequisite to the post.

Mr Hamza asserted that the prosecution is forbidden from privately discussing the case with the judiciary. He was unable to explain why the Public Prosecutor did not respond to the submissions made by the defence in the Adary Park case.

In respect to entitlement to legal representation, Mr Hamza indicated that in a case where the sentence is less than 3 years’ imprisonment a defendant can choose whether to be represented, at his own cost. If however the punishment is 3 years or more, he is entitled to a lawyer, appointed and paid for by the court, if required.

Meeting with senior defence lawyer – 4th July 2010

In view of the current wave of arrests BHRC will refer to the lawyer as Mr A. Mr A holds a position within the Bahrain Bar Society, and is also involved with the defence committees of lawyers in the ‘special’ cases. Mr A indicated that Mr Hamza was one of a number of Head Prosecutors.

Mr A stated that the Public Prosecutor maintained a close relationship with the judiciary; it is normal for private discussions to take place between them. He said that Mr Hamza had been correct regarding the provision of lawyers in court, save that the payment to lawyers appointed by the court is so low that many lawyers do not consider it worthwhile taking the case. The payment is 100 dinars for conducting the entire case (approximately £200), which can take between 2-4 years to receive due to administrative processes. As a result, it is common for lawyers to excuse themselves, leaving defendants unrepresented.

Mr A noted that there had been ongoing controversy regarding the appointment of judges. BHRC was informed that the successful judges are usually members of families connected to the Al Khalifa family. A few years ago there had been a successful challenge to the appointment of a number of judges who had performed less well in judicial examinations than other applicants who had not been appointed. The ruling had been overturned in the Appeal Court. According to Mr A, the procedure now ensures that judges are public prosecutors first. Mr A also stated that there had been concern from the business community about the quality of judgments in commercial cases, as well as corruption. As a result, a court of arbitration has been established.

Mr A then outlined the problems in the Ma’ameer Case. He stated that photographs clearly showed the effects of the mistreatment, the court had declined to allow evidence from independent doctors, and that witnesses were reluctant to come forward for fear of arrest. The BHRC was provided with copies of the photographs.

Having received this information BHRC tried to meet with senior officials in the Ministry of the Interior and a meeting was arranged for the following day.

Meeting with the families of the Ma’ameer defendants – 4th July 2010

BHRC met with families of the accused men in the Ma’ameer case, who recounted their claims of mistreatment and torture. There were direct accounts of beatings upon arrest and hearsay accounts of forced confessions. Some of the allegations were evidenced by photographs, which depicted a variety of injuries to the head, torso, limbs and feet. There was no means of verifying the claims made by the families, but the accounts were given individually rather than in a group and the themes were consistent. The allegations included different types of beating, including falaka, attempted rape, whipping with a hose, hanging by handcuffs, electric shock treatment, the use of chemical spray, and threats to family members, particularly of rape of mothers and sisters. According to the families, the accused men were denied access to legal counsel until after the confessions were extracted (this was confirmed by the lawyers). Moreover, they claimed that many of the men were interrogated by the Public Prosecutor in the early hours of the morning; the defendant’s told their families that if they denied commission of the crime they were threatened or sent back for further ill-treatment.

The BHRC met with one of the defence witnesses who provided testimony that he had seen the victim’s vehicle burning and had assisted him. According to the individual, the man’s hair was on fire and he helped extinguish it. This individual did not see how the vehicle caught fire, but the incident happened as the police were leaving the village, and he directed the man towards where the police were. The victim was apparently able to walk and returned to the burning vehicle to remove his bags. The vehicle had come from the same direction as the burning barricade of tyres and the witness speculated that it may have driven through and caught fire. Three days later, at 2am the police broke into the house of the man who had assisted the victim, and arrested him. He was beaten and sprayed with a chemical. The suspect was not told why he was under arrest and he was not given access to a lawyer or his family. Despite the beatings which left bruising to his arms, back, neck, fingers and nails, he did not make any confession. The suspect worked for a government department and was not charged.

BHRC also met with other community and political leaders in Ma’ameer which gave interesting context and background, albeit from one side of the community divide. These included Al Wefaq and the Bahraini Human Rights Society. Elsewhere BHRC also met with representatives of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (“BCHR”), the Bahrain Transparency Society, Al Wefa, and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (“BYSHR”). These individuals provided valuable context and spoke about the harassment of human rights groups, referring to the closure of BCHR and the seizure of its assets by the government, the censorship of websites, and the imposition of a large fine against a leading member of the BYSHR for running an unregistered group, after the government refused registration. They also noted their concern at “GONGOs” (Government-supported non-governmental bodies) which claim to uphold and monitor human rights in the Kingdom but in reality lack independence from the government.

Meeting with Under Secretary of Ministry of Interior – 5th July 2010

Following the Ma’ameer case hearing, BHRC met with the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Brigadier Tariq Bin Daina (subsequent to the meeting he was promoted to Major General and made Chief of Public Security). Mr Bin Daina was accompanied by Brigadier Mohammed Bu Hammoud, Deputy Under Secretary for Legal Affairs, Colonel Naji Al Hashel, a director responsible for the Central Governorate, and Major Isa Al Qattan, a director responsible for security in Manama. The meeting lasted two hours and BHRC was impressed at the willingness of these senior officials to discuss the issues raised. The meeting was conducted in English, without an interpreter, and all present were fluent or nearly so.

Mr Bin Daina explained that the public prosecutor system had derived from the French judicial system. The police can only arrest suspects without a warrant in narrow circumstances such as when they see the commission of a crime. In all other cases, they must seek a warrant from the public prosecutor. The police must inform the arrestee of the reason for the arrest and escort him to a police station immediately. The suspect has the right to see a lawyer from the outset. The police invite a suspect to make a statement, but otherwise the suspect is not questioned by them. This is left to the Public Prosecutor.

Mr Bin Daina and Mr Bu Hammoud rejected claims of private meetings between the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor; the fact that the Public Prosecutor had entered the court with the judges in the Ma’ameer hearing did not indicate otherwise. Mr Bu Hammoud stated that the Public Prosecutor is located on the floor above and uses a stairway which leads to the same entrance as that used by the judges.

Neither Mr Bin Daina nor Mr Bu Hammoud were sure how judicial appointments are made, though they thought there were various routes such as being a secretary to a judge, a Public Prosecutor or a lawyer.

BHRC inquired about the mistreatment of detainees, stating that all seven of the convicted men in the Ma’ameer case had alleged that their confessions were obtained through torture and that the same issue had arisen in the Adary Park case, as well as other ‘special’ cases. All four officials strongly denied that mistreatment of detainees occurred in Bahrain. They claimed that defence lawyers were making false allegations. They also stated that doctors instructed for the defence in such cases merely accepted the word of detainees. There was particular concern regarding the Human Rights Watch report into mistreatment of detainees, which the officials felt was unfair. As regards the photographs of the injuries sustained by the Ma’ameer detainees, the officials reacted with some amusement and confusion. Mr Bu Hammoud questioned the authenticity of the photographs, stating that cameras were not permitted into police stations. Major Al-Qattan asserted that detainees were not mistreated, but were he to torture a suspect it would be done in a manner that would not leave an injury. There was a suggestion that the photographs had been tampered with.

BHRC highlighted the similar accounts that it received regarding the methods of mistreatment alleged and the persistence of these claims in addition to the fact that confessions were almost always obtained before lawyers had access to the detainees. Mr Bin Daina replied by stating that “99%” of defendants claimed mistreatment and the only answer to the lack of legal assistance in the police station or before the Public Prosecutor was that detainees had either not requested a lawyer or there had been “problems” in obtaining a power of attorney.

A rather confusing discussion then ensued regarding tape recording and CCTV in police stations. At first BHRC was informed that taping suspects would be illegal, after which it was suggested that on occasion there was some taping of suspects. It was ultimately claimed that some police stations were in the process of addressing this issue. The officials indicated that tape recording is soon to be introduced in the main Manama police station. They felt that these measures would be useful to prevent false allegations from being made against police officers.

Mr Bu Hammoud indicated that he was responsible for the internal investigation of complaints against police and other law enforcement personnel and that he took his job very seriously. He claimed to be responsible for a significant number of officers being court-martialled each year. He was not sure whether the courts martial were public, but in fact journalists did not attend. He was unaware of any publicity around these cases and he did not appear to be against the proceedings being open to the public or conducted in the presence of journalists.

BHRC raised the issue of the Human Rights Committee of which Mr Bin Daina was the chair. Mr Bu Hammoud explained that this was a policy body, rather than one which provides an individual complaints mechanism. BHRC suggested that an independent human rights commission should be established to investigate complaints of torture and mistreatment of detainees. Initially Mr Bu Hammoud was against this, indicating that his department adequately dealt with such issues. He also stated that some individuals would contest the independence of the commission and refuse to accept its decisions. Mr Bu Hammoud eventually accepted the principle of an independent body, but stated that this was not the right time.

Various websites are blocked within Bahrain, including those of human rights groups such as the BCHR. BHRC raised the issue of censorship with Mr Bu Hammoud, who acknowledged that it does occur in respect of explicit sex sites, but that this was an area outside of the Ministry of Interior’s remit. (It is noted that since the recent crackdown and arrests a large number of websites have been blocked and the press have been ordered not to publish any reference to the arrests apart from official statements).

Finally, Mr Bu Hammoud referred to double standards from certain countries regarding respect for human rights, and he referred expressly to Guantanamo Bay. He had travelled to Guantanamo to repatriate the Bahraini detainees. BHRC noted agreement with Mr Bu Hammoud’s views on Guantanamo, but indicated that alleged human rights abuses in Bahrain were not improved by the position in other countries.

Meeting with detainees from previous cases – 5th and 6th July 2010

BHRC met with three men who had been detained in a previous ‘special’ case who were also convicted on coerced confessions, allegedly extracted through torture. Following the meeting with the Ma’ameer detainees, BHRC had asked to meet other detainees who could shed light on the allegations of mistreatment, based on first-hand experience. Once again BHRC cannot verify what was claimed in each particular case, but the allegations are of the same nature as those claimed in the present cases. One of these detainees named Mr Nawaf Hamza as being complicit in his torture. It was said that where detainees appeared in front of Public Prosecutors but refused to make or sign confessions they would be returned to detention for further mistreatment.

On the morning of 6 July, BHRC visited the home of a detainee in a previous ‘special’ case who had been released from his sentence. He graphically described the nature of the torture he had been subjected to prior to confessing in his case. This involved hanging from hand-cuffs in a stair well, beatings, and rape with a baton. He had resisted making a false confession until he was repeatedly subjected to electric shock treatment, with what he believed to be an anti-attack device, on his armpit, chest, nipples, thigh and genitalia. He was taken before the Public Prosecutor in the early hours of the morning, whom he informed of the mistreatment. He was then returned to police and beaten before being brought back before the Public Prosecutor, in whose presence he made a written confession. The accused had repeatedly asked for a lawyer, but this request was refused. At court he denied the charge and asserted that the confession had been extracted by torture. The judge however disbelieved him and he was convicted and imprisoned.

This man indicated that he had seen a doctor provided by the police on the second day of his detention. The doctor conducted routine checks, such as taking his blood pressure, but he had not been allowed to speak. The man suffered from a degenerative condition and he had subsequently been informed by his own doctor that his mistreatment had worsened the condition.

Finally, BHRC met with representatives from the British and American embassies, to whom the findings of this visit were reported.

CONCLUSIONS

BHRC welcomes the cooperation of the officials with whom it met, which demonstrated a willingness by the Bahraini authorities to address the issues raised during the visit. However, it is concerned by the persistent gap between Bahrain’s legislative framework and the practical implementation of its human rights obligations.

It is disappointing that the issues raised by our Bahrain trial observation report of 2009 are of concern in the present hearings: admissibility of coerced confessions and alleged torture/cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The allegations of mistreatment and torture of detainees are not simply persistent; they are pervasive. In virtually all the cases of convictions in ‘special’ cases investigated by BHRC, those convictions were founded on disputed confessions, all alleged to have been made under duress and torture. It is not credible to blame this on defence lawyers or the political situation. Moreover, despite clear provisions for legal advice and representation in Bahraini law, these confessions invariably occurred prior to any access to lawyers. It may be that there are some detainees who have declined legal assistance, and there may have been difficulties with availability of lawyers on some occasions, but it offends common sense to suppose that all of these detainees were afforded their proper rights under the law. If they were not, this alone must support their contentions of mistreatment. BHRC was repeatedly told that detainees were taken before the Public Prosecutor in the early hours of the morning when access to defence lawyers would be most difficult. In the Ma’ameer case all 7 convicted men confessed to the killing and then tried to retract their admissions. Seven separate disputed confessions in a murder case is an extremely irregular phenomenon yet is a pattern in cases of this type in Bahrain.

The recommendations made below should contribute to reducing or eradicating such serious human rights abuses. In addition, in any case where allegations against the police are exaggerated or indeed fabricated, the measures suggested would protect the security forces from allegations which must damage the reputation of the state domestically and internationally.

Confessions were the sole or main evidence against the accused in both cases observed on this visit. Under Article 15 of the CAT, the Kingdom of Bahrain is prohibited from admitting in proceedings any evidence or statements extracted through torture. A similar obligation can be found in Article 13 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, Article 19 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain as well as the Human Rights Committee’s General Comments 13 and 20. The alleged mistreatment clearly reaches the threshold required for torture. In the absence of a thorough and impartial investigation of the evidence, the confessions should not have been made admissible.

In light of the allegations in these cases, BHRC encourages Bahrain to educate and train its police and security officials on its international human rights obligations pertaining to the prohibition on torture. This would be in line with UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, Article 5 of which prohibits such an official from inflicting, instigating or tolerating an act of torture/cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Moreover, it is recommended that medical personnel are instructed on Bahrain’s torture obligations, in order to encourage thorough and careful investigation of any such allegations.

It is not sufficient or credible for the Kingdom of Bahrain to claim that defence lawyers are making false accusations relating to torture/ill-treatment. Given the widespread reports of such claims, Bahrain should investigate all cases of alleged torture and prosecute those responsible, in compliance with its obligations under the CAT.

It is of concern that Bahrain has neither signed nor ratified the Optional Protocol to the CAT. This would allow independent experts to make regular visits to places of detention in Bahrain and thus monitor the treatment of detainees. No mechanism exists on the international or national level for victims to voice their abuses. It is therefore imperative that the Kingdom becomes a party to this Protocol. It is also recommended that Bahrain set up an independent body to receive individual complaints relating to torture, given that the present NHRI does not have a mandate to do so, and is unlikely to meet impartiality standards.

The defendants’ right to legal access was violated in the above cases. Confessions were extracted before such access, contrary to Article 14 of the ICCPR and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any form of Detention or Imprisonment, which provides for the defendant’s right to prompt communication with his lawyer. Further, defence counsel in the Adary Park case were not served with the prosecution papers until shortly before the hearing and the video evidence had not made available at all. Article 14(3)(b) of the ICCPR states that the defendant must be given “adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence”, and it is questionable whether the short adjournment allowed was compliant with that requirement.

Discussion with defence lawyers indicated that there are serious concerns about the potential influence of the Public Prosecutor in judicial decisions, and the number of judges connected to the Royal Family. BHRC suggests the Kingdom of Bahrain ensure the full implementation of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, in particular the following provisions:

2. “The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.” 4. “There shall not be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process…”

The Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors also states that “prosecutors should be strictly separated from judicial functions”.

In response to the concerns raised by defence counsel about the selection and ability of judges, the principles on qualification, selection and training should be borne in mind:

10. “Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law. Any method of judicial selection shall safeguard against judicial appointments for improper motives. In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status, except that a requirement, that a candidate for judicial office must be a national of the country concerned, shall not be considered discriminatory.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

With reference to the cases observed during this visit and the wider evidence gathered, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales strongly urges the Kingdom of Bahrain to:

• Set up a full, independent and prompt investigation into the allegations of torture, with a view to bringing criminal charges against those responsible, if sufficient evidence is revealed, as required by Article 2 of CAT.

• Hold a public inquiry into the torture allegations and if torture is established, provide redress to the victims in compliance with its obligations under Article 14 of CAT.

• Set up a truly independent and impartial commission to receive and deal with individual complaints of human rights violations within Bahrain.

• Ratify without delay the Option Protocol to the CAT.

• Ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel, civil or military, medical personnel, public officials and other persons who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.

• Ensure that all legitimate prosecutions are instituted in accordance with the law and are brought before fair, independent and impartial tribunals prescribed by law and that the conduct of such proceedings be in accordance with internationally recognised standards governing fair trials, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

• Ensure that all persons arrested are taken to a police station and are able to seek legal advice as soon as practicable, in compliance with its obligations under ICCPR Article 14.

• Ensure that medical personnel appointed to examine detainees alleging torture or other mistreatment are independent and detainees have access to such medical examination as of right and in private.

• Restate its commitment to all other regional and international human rights instruments ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain, including the International Covenant against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to ratify without delay the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.

• Amend the Anti-Terror legislation in line with the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur to ensure that the definitions are not overly broad, that legitimate political or other legitimate activity is not criminalised or impeded, and to ensure speedy access to lawyers and review of detention by a court in such cases.

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The Observatory: Obstacles to freedom of movement and violations to freedom of association in Bahrain

1 October 2010

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Regional Coordinator of the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Frontline), and Ms. Laila Dashti, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the committee of detainees [1] have been prevented from leaving Bahrain in reprisals of their human rights activities. The Observatory has also been informed of the ministerial order to dissolve the Board of Directors of BHRS.

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.

According to the information received, on September 27, 2010, at 10:30 am, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, was prevented from leaving Bahrain at the causeway to Saudi Arabia [2]. At the Bahrain passport checkpoint, Mr. Rajab was left waiting for about 30 minutes, before being escorted to the arrival passport checkpoint by a security officer in plain clothes. He was informed that he was not authorised to leave the country. When Mr. Rajab asked if there was an official travel ban against him, the passport officer answered that there was no such order on the computer system and provided no grounds for the refusal to let him leave Bahrain.

On September 26, 2010, at 3:30 am, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was prevented from boarding a plane to Barcelona at Bahrain International airport to attend a human rights course on transitional justice. At the passport check point, his passport was taken away before an official in plain clothes came and told the passport officer that Mr. Alkhawaja was banned from travelling and that he could check with General Attorney Office. The passport officer accompanied Mr. Alkhawaja to the check-in desk to cancel the boarding cards and ordered to load off his luggage. On September 28, 2010, Mr. Alkhawaja’s lawyer met Mr. Wa’el Bu-Allai, the Head of the General Attorney Office, who told him that preventing anybody from leaving the country could only be based either on a court order or an order by the Prosecution Office. He affirmed that there was no such order against Mr. Alkhawaja so he should not have been prevented from leaving the country.

Furthermore, on September 20, 2010, Ms. Laila Dashti was prevented from leaving the country to participate to the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Despite several requests addressed to the Bahraini authorities, she did not receive any explanation from the Interior Ministry about the grounds for refusal to let her leave the country.

The Observatory fears that this de facto travel bans may merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities, In particular, the travel bans against Messrs. Alkhawaja and Rajab may be linked to the false accusation that they are supporting violence by submitting false information to international organisations published on September 1, 2010, by the newspaper Al-watan [3]. More generally, the Observatory recalls that these measures take place in a context of escalating threats and intimidation against the civil society and organisations criticising the current administration, while general elections are scheduled for October 23, 2010.

Additionally,on September 6, 2010, the Bahraini authorities published a ministerial order announcing that it would dissolve the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and dismissed its elected General Secretary, Dr. Abdulla Alderazi. An employee of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Mr. Abdulla Al Jowder, was appointed to administer the society until the holding of a General Assembly, pursuant to Article 23 of the Law of Association No. 21 of 1989 [4]. The grounds provided were the organisation’s lack of neutrality towards all sections of Bahraini society, complaints sent to the Ministry of Social Development by the Bahrain Journalist Association and the publication of articles issued by “illegal entities” on its website.

The interim director, appointed for eight months, shall have access to all administrative and financial records and shall be responsible for calling the annual General Assembly which shall elect the new board. The interim director has also absolute authority upon the criteria for membership. The interim director shall prepare a report for the Ministry of Social Affairs on the status of the assembly including the financial control during the past two years and should address proposals for the reform of the organisation.

On September 19, 2010, the suspended board members of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), filed a court case against the Ministry of Social Affairs. The suit was lodged before the Urgent matters Court to challenge the legality of the ministry’s decision to suspend the board. It should be examined in October, 2010.

The order to dissolve the BHRS follows a statement published on September 2, 2010 in local newspapers by the Ministry of Social Development in which he threatened to initiate legal and administrative action against human rights societies which, according to the Ministry, would defend a specific category of citizens and neglect the others. On August 28, 2010, BHRS organised a press conference together with eleven other NGOs, with the presence of family members of detainees including human rights defenders arrested in the context of the broad wave of arrests launched mid-August to allegedly dismantle a terrorist network. During the press conference, BHRS denounced the detainees’ conditions of detention and the lack of access to the detainees by their lawyers and families and called for the respect of the right to due process and a fair trial.

The Observatory recalls that, since mid August, eleven Bahraini human rights defenders remain in detention as to date [5] in the framework of a broader crackdown on the civil society that has also targeted several religious and political activists.

The Observatory condemns this serious attack against the independence of a human rights NGO and the travel bans against Ms. Dashti and Messrs Alkhawaja and Rajab, which seem to aim at intimidating human rights organisations in Bahrain to conduct legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against human rights organisations and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the independence of human rights organisations and prevent any interference in their activities;

iv. Repeal the ministerial order, refrain from interfering with the internal management of human rights NGOs as well as with activities of promotion and protection of human rights;

v. Amend Article 23 of the Law of Association No. 21 of 1989 which provides that the Board of directors may be suspended if the Ministry considers that the association has committed minor violations, without providing any definition of “minor violations” thus violating the freedom of association;

vi. Release all human rights defenders;

vii. 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”, and its Article 12.2 which provides 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”;

viii. 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.

Footnotes

[1] The committee of detainees was created in August 2010 in the context of the latest crackdown on activists.

[2] Two other human rights defenders having recently been prevented from leaving Bahrain - Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Ms. Laila Dashti, Mr. Rajab decided to cross the border to check whether he was also the subject of a similar measure.

[3] See Observatory Press Release, September 8, 2010.

[4] According to this provision, the Ministry of Social Development may suspend the board of directors of an association and appoint a temporary administrator if the association has committed minor violations that do not require the dissolution of the association.

[5] See Observatory Press Release, September 8, 2010.

fidh.org

IRCT: To the government of Bahrain: ensure that victims of torture are able to access rehabilitative services

24-09-2010

The IRCT is alarmed by recent reports that the government of Bahrain has closed down Al Karama Centre for Human Rights. The centre had provided for the referral of victims of torture for appropriate treatment. In another worrying development we also note various media reports alleging an increase in torture and other human rights abuses in the Gulf state ahead of next month’s elections.

“We calll on the government of Bahrain to fulfil its moral and legal obligation to ensure that all victims of torture within its borders are able to access relevant and effective rehabilitative services” says IRCT Secretary-General Brita Sydhoff, and adds:

“Torture is a fundamental and extremely grave crime, against the individual victim and against our common humanity. All victims of torture have an inalienable right to reparations, including medical and psychological rehabilitation. And it’s a state obligation to ensure that this right is respected and realised. It is my hope and belief that the government of Bahrain will take immediate action to ensure that Al Karama is allowed to resume its vital work.”

www.irct.org

Bahrain: Front Line Mission to Bahrain raises new concerns about the risk of torture for imprisoned human rights defenders

and political activists

2010/09/29

Vincent Forest, Head of the EU office of Front Line - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders based in Dublin, Ireland - today completed a mission to Bahrain to assess the current situation for imprisoned human rights defenders and political activists in light of the recent clampdown.

In particular Mr Forest was following up on the case of imprisoned blogger and human rights defender Ali Abdulemam who had previously worked with Front Line in Dublin. Ali Abdulemam is the director of online news forum Bahrainonline.org.

Following a 2-hour meeting with representatives of the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice & Social Development Mr Forest reiterated Front Line's concern about the personal security of Ali Abdulemam and other detained defenders particularly in the light of new and credible reports of torture.

“Although the allegations of ill-treatment and torture are denied by the Ministry of Interior, Front Line is deeply concerned for the safety and security of Ali Abdulemam given that he has been held incommunicado for more than 3 weeks, without any contact with his family, not even a phone call despite the fact this is specifically allowed for under Bahraini law” said Mr Forest in Manama today.

“Despite the fact that the authorities claim that like all other detainees Ali Abduleman was brought before the Public Prosecutor soon after his arrest, when Ali's brother went last week to the Prosecutor's office he was told that they had no file or record of Ali Abdulemam's arrest. Therefore there are doubts that he has ever been brought before the Prosecutor as prescribed by domestic law, and consequently any investigation that has effectively started without access to a lawyer is illegal”, said Mr Forest.

Under the 2006 “Law to Protect Society from Acts of Terrorism” - the legislation cited with regard to the recent arrests of Ali Abdulemam and at least 23 other Bahraini activists and opposition leaders for an alleged “terrorist plot” - the security forces have the right to detain individuals for a maximum period of 15 days before either bringing them before the Public Prosecutor, or releasing them.

“Ali Abdulemam's initial 15-day period of detention expired on Sunday, 19 September. His detention now appears to continue in contravention of the applicable Bahraini legislation. In addition, the authorities are currently unable to provide details on the exact charges that Ali Abdulemam and the other detained human rights defenders will face” said Mr Forest.

As part of the government clampdown the Bahrain Human Rights Society, an independent human rights NGO, has effectively been taken over by the Ministry of Social Development which claimed that it has “decided to appoint a temporary manager from the Ministry to make sure the BHRS can continue its work smoothly and effectively”.

The Bahraini authorities have announced that the families of the detained human rights defenders can visit them at the National Security Agency's detention centre on a weekly basis from the week of 27 September onwards. Front Line will continue to monitor the situation to see whether this announcement becomes reality. Indeed, it is not known who will be allowed to meet with the detainees.

Front Line demands that Ali Abdulemam and other detained human rights defenders be either released or charged with a recognisable offence under international law. Ali Abdulemam should as a matter of urgency have access to his lawyer and family, said Mr Forest. “All allegations of ill-treatment and torture should be independently and impartially investigated”.

Front Line is further concerned by reports that Ali Abdulemam has allegedly been fired by his employer Gulf Air. Front Line also calls on the relevant authorities in Bahrain to immediately lift travel bans imposed on those human rights defenders who are targeted on the basis on their legitimate and peaceful human rights work.

For further information please contact Jim Loughran Head of Communications Front Line Tel +353 1 212 37 50 Mob +353 (0)87 9377586 jimloughran@frontlinedefenders.org

Vincent Forest, Head of Front Line's EU Office Tel +32 2 2309383 Mob +32 486 368760 Email vforest@frontlinedefenders.org

frontlinedefenders.org

HRW: Bahrain: Rescind Travel Ban on Rights Defenders

September 29, 2010

(New York) - Bahrain should immediately rescind a travel ban against prominent human rights defenders whom authorities recently prevented from leaving the country, Human Rights Watch said today.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), an independent group whose legal standing the government does not recognize, was stopped at the border on September 27, 2010, and told by authorities that he would not be allowed to cross. He had been on his way to a meeting in Saudi Arabia. On September 26, authorities prevented Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja, the former president of the BCHR and the current Middle East and North Africa director for the international human rights organization Frontline, from boarding a plane at Bahrain International Airport.

"The authorities are trying to keep human rights defenders from spreading information about a recent spate of arrests of opposition members," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead, Bahrain officials need to investigate the serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of the detainees at the hands of Bahrain's security forces."

Rajab told Human Rights Watch that authorities have provided no explanation for the travel bans. Another source close to both Rajab and al-Khawaja told Human Rights Watch that al-Khawaja has since sought clarification about the travel ban, but that the authorities informed him that they are not aware of any official bans against him.

Less than a month before the two men were prevented from leaving the country, the Bahrain News Agency and a pro-government newspaper alleged that Rajab and al-Khawaja were part of a "terrorist network," and accused the BCHR of dealing with international organizations and providing "false information."

In a letter to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on September 3, Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern at the prevailing climate of suspicion, prejudice, and anger generated by media attacks against human rights defenders in the country, and urged him to investigate persistent and credible allegations of the torture and ill-treatment of opposition leaders held in incommunicado detention for weeks.

Earlier this month, on September 18, authorities prevented Laila Dashti, a member of the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society, from traveling to Geneva to attend the 15th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government also denies Dashti's group official recognition.

These actions violate article 12(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides: "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own." Bahrain acceded to the ICCPR in 2006.

On September 24, the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division sent a letter to the King urging him to ensure the safety and protection of human rights defenders, including Rajab, who is also a MENA Advisory Committee member. In their letter, the Advisory Committee members noted that the "media attacks are intended to tarnish Mr. Rajab's reputation and standing in the community," and warned that they could "potentially endanger Mr. Rajab and his family by appearing to make him a legitimate target for attack by third parties." Human Rights Watch has not yet received any responses to its letters.

www.hrw.org

The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists: Urgent - Bahrain without Rights

29 Sep 2010

The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists received this morning Monday 9/28/2010 with deep concern the news of the travel ban of the two promising human rights activists Mr. Nabeel Rajab, Chairman of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, on his way to travel to Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Abdul Hadi al-Khawaga, Coordinator of Front Line International MENA for the defense of human rights, on his way to Europe. Meanwhile, the authorities has also banned the human rights activist Laila Dashti from traveling without giving any reasons in a clear violation of freedom of movement set forth in the text of Article (13 / 1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is worth mentioning that Rajab and Al-Khawaga had been subjected to smear campaigns inside and outside Bahrain by which they are accused of their belonging to terrorist group, followed by security and media harassments that led to move temporarily the activities and the work of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights to Europe.

The Program expresses the deep disturbance on the escalated wave of arbitrary arrests prevailed in Bahrain, which involved more than two hundred and fifty detainees over the past months. The Program also emphasizes the concern over the increased human rights violations, especially the right to bodily integrity, where the detained activist Dr. Sinces lost his hearing in one ear after being exposed to physical and psychological torture at the hands of security forces in violation to the provisions of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Moreover, the Program condemns the repressive acts of the Bahraini authorities that targeted the activists and defenders of human rights, in the absence of local and international oversight. In a series of arbitrary arrests, the activists are subjected to the worst kinds of torture and mental and physical abuse along with the smear campaigns against them hush the voices of the opposition so as to prevent any competition in upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Program had repeatedly called upon and urged the Bahraini authorities to re- consider its approach towards the activists, demanded the immediate release of all non charged detainees and asked the authorities to announce the venue of detainees, to provide them with protection and to find out those involved in the arrests and torture to shoulder them legal accountability for their immoral and illegal approach. In this regard, the Program expresses its deep condemnation for the ignorance of the international community of all breach and violations of international laws and norms in Bahrain.

In this context, the Program calls on the State of Bahrain:

1 / To activate the implementation of the international conventions signed by Bahrain. 2 / To immediately release all detainees unconditionally. 3 / To hold accountability to those involved in the acts of torture against activists and defenders of human rights. 4 / To stop all security and information prosecutions against our fellow activists in Bahrain.

The Program also calls for the civil society organizations and human rights activists in other zones of the world to stand in solidarity with our fellow human rights defenders in Bahrain, as well as to demand the international community to stop the fierce campaign against the activists.

Brutal repression of human rights defenders in historic crackdown

BCHR president Nabeel Rajab is skyped into a Human Rights Council meeting on Bahrain, organised by CIHRS.

29 September 2010

Hundreds of Bahraini political activists, human rights defenders and Shiite religious figures have been arrested in recent months - many of them tortured in detention - in the worst crackdown on free expression the country has ever seen, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Human Rights Watch. Authorities have blocked numerous websites, shut down independent rights groups and threatened rights defenders who have criticised the torture of prominent activists.

The international community's silence about repressive measures in Bahrain only gives tacit support to authorities to continue stifling dissident voices who are potential monitors to parliamentary elections on 23 October, say 26 rights groups, including BCHR, CIHRS, ANHRI and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). It is widely expected that there will be elections abuses as part of a long-held pattern of political marginalisation of Shiite and opposition communities.

To prevent independent and critical information from being published, the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority has censored the website of Al-Wefaq Society, the largest political society in the country. The Society had recently announced plans to launch a visual and audio service on its website, as well as plans to participate in the elections.

There has been a systematic campaign to create a complete media blackout, says BCHR. Among the blocked websites is BahraniNet.net, known for its rapid media coverage and photos of protests. Most of the blocked websites are discussion forums that belong to Shiite villages that continue to deal with unrest and arrests of protesters.

The Information Affairs Authority has also banned the publication of information about detained activists and has ordered all civil society organisations to support the regime or face harassment. As a result of this intense repression, BCHR and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) have been forced to temporarily relocate to Europe. Some human rights activists have been prevented from travelling, including Nabeel Rajab of BCHR, and Laila Dashti of BYSHR, who was supposed to attend the 15th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council last week, where CIHRS was organising events on Bahrain, including delivering an oral intervention before the Council.

The minister of development and social solidarity issued a decree to dissolve the managing board of the Bahraini Association for Human Rights and replace the elected chairman with a government official - guaranteeing the government's control over the organisation. This decision came after the organisation expressed solidarity with victims of the crackdown. The society has made several statements affirming the basic rights of detainees, including access to lawyers and family members and their right to a fair trial.

BCHR and other local human rights groups have also strongly criticised the government's treatment of detainees and published reports saying that security forces have carried out torture.

Human Rights Watch has called on King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to conduct an independent investigation into recent allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prominent opposition leaders and demonstrators by security forces. Recent arrests of high-profile opposition leaders and activists are linked to their criticism of government policies.

In response to the crackdown, rights organisation Front Line went on a mission to Bahrain that was completed on 29 September. The mission focussed on the case of imprisoned blogger and human rights activist Ali Abdulemam, who has been held incommunicado for the last three weeks, denied so much as a phone call.

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Bahrain imposes De-facto Ban on travel against Human Rights Defenders

“It seems that the National Security Apparatus is in a panic and has decided to misuse its influence to prevent human rights defenders from travelling assuming that this will hinder reporting human rights abuses, specially committed by the Apparatus itself, to international bodies.” - Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja

To the left:Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and to the right:Mr. Nabeel Rajab. Bottom photos show marks of violence used By Bahraini riot police against the two human rights defenders during previous events

28 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned for the de-facto ban on travel against three human rights defenders namely; Ms. Layla Dashti, leading member of the Committee of Detainees, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the regional coordinator for Front Line, the international organization based in Dublin and Mr. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division, Chairperson in CARAM Asia and Deputy Secretary General in FIDH. On Saturday 18 September 2010, Ms. Layla Dashti, was prevented from leaving Bahrain airport whilst heading to Geneva to participate in seminar on Bahrain during the meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council. An official in plain national clothes ordered the passport officer not to allow Ms. Dashti to travel despite an argument by the passport officer that the computer system does not show an official ban on her travel. The next day she went to the relevant authorities at the Ministry of Interior and the Passport Department, where they assured her that there was no official ban on travel against her and that they have no explanation why she was prevented from travelling.

On 26 September 2010, at 3:30 am, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was leaving from Bahrain airport to Barcelona to attend a human rights course on transitional Justice. At the passport check point, his passport was taken away for five minuets then an official in plain national clothes came and told the passport officer that Mr Alkhawaja is banned from travelling and that he could check with General Attorney Office. The passport officer accompanied Mr Alkhawaja to the check-in desk to cancel the boarding cards and ordered to load off his luggage. On 28 September 2010, Mr Alkhawaja’s lawyer, Mohammed Al-Jeshi, managed to meet with Mr. Wa'el Bu-Allai, the acting General Attorney (head of the General Attorney Office). Bu-Allai told Mr. Aljeshi that preventing anybody from leaving the country is based either on a court order or an order by the Prosecution Office. He affirmed that there is no such order against Abdulhadi Alkhawaja so he should not had been prevented from leaving the country.

On 27 September 2010, at 10:30 am, Nabeel Rajab, was prevented from leaving Bahrain at the causeway to Saudi Arabia. At the Bahrain passport checkpoint, Mr Rajab was left waiting for about 30 minutes, then a security officer in plain national clothes accompanied Mr Rajab back to Bahrain arrivals passport point where he was informed that he is not allowed to leave the country. When Mr Rajab asked if there is an official ban on travel against him, the passport officer answered that there was no such order on the computer system.

Mr Alkhawaja told BCHR: “Telling from a previous same experience last year when I was prevented from leaving the country, the passport department told me that their computer system did not show any order to prevent me from leaving the country and that it might be the decision of an apparatus other then the ministry of interior. When I asked if it was the National Security Apparatus they refused to answer”. The same experience happened to human rights defender ,Mr Abdulredha Mohammed in June 2010[1]. Mr Mohammed was told by the passport officer that there was no official travel ban against him, however, he will not be able to travel unless he checked with the National Security Apparatus . In both these previous cases the de facto ban was lifted as result of public campaigning, International pressure and intervention by International human rights organizations.

In regard to the possible motive behind this travel ban, it is worth noting that this apparatus unofficially published a conclusive report in Al-Watan daily newspaper which included accusation against Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and Nabeel Rajab of supporting violence by submitting false information to international organizations[2].

“It seems that the National Security Apparatus is in a panic and has decided to misuse its influence to prevent human rights defenders from travelling assuming that this will hinder reporting human rights abuses, specially committed by the Apparatus itself, to international bodies.” Alkhawaja told BCHR. “Reporting human rights violations to International bodies is a noble work not a crime, however, I personally have not been reporting on human rights in Bahrain to international organizations since I started working with Front Line in October 2008. As a policy, my work with Front Line covers the region excluding Bahrain where I am based and which is covered by another colleague” explained Mr Alkhawaja.

The Bahrain Centre for Human rights calls upon the Bahrain authorities and urges the concerned bodies to intervene in order to:

1. Remove immediately the de-facto ban on travel against Ms. Layla Dashti, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and Mr. Nabeel Rajab or any other human rights defender who could be banned from travelling because of his human rights work 2. Conduct an independent, thorough and prompt Investigation in abuses committed by the National Security Apparatus including misuse of its influence to ban the travel of human rights defenders, make the result public, and bring those responsible to justice 3. Secure a safe environment for the work of human rights defenders in accordance with the United Nation’s Declaration on human rights defenders.

[1]Bahrain: Human rights defender Mr Abdul-Redha Mohammed prevented from travelling [2]HRW: Bahrain: Halt Threats Against Rights Defenders

In a letter to the King of Bahrain: Advisory Committee of HRW MENA raise concerns on targeting of human rights activists

Including Head of BCHR and HRW Advisory Committee member Nabeel Rajab

September 24, 2010

His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Office of H.M. the King Rifa’a Palace Kingdom of Bahrain

Via facsimile: +973-1-766-4587

Your Majesty,

We are writing as the officers of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division to express our grave concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain. We are concerned in particular by the apparent targeting of human rights activists, including our colleague Nabeel Rajab, who is the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and a member of this Advisory Committee. On September 3, Human Rights Watch wrote to you and requested your intervention to halt the campaign of public vilification in official media as well as in media considered close to the government of our colleague. These media reports have accused Mr. Rajab of liaising with “international organizations”– an evident reference to Human Rights Watch as well as other international rights groups.

As you are aware, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has criticized the government’s recent arrests of opposition figures, including civil society activists, and the group continues to disseminate important information regarding the alleged mistreatment and torture of detainees by security forces. We are seriously concerned that Mr. Rajab and other human rights defenders in Bahrain are essentially being targeted for their human rights monitoring and reporting activities.

These media attacks are intended to tarnish Mr. Rajab’s reputation and standing in the community. More importantly, they potentially endanger Mr. Rajab and his family by appearing to make him a legitimate target for attack by third parties. Over the past few weeks, Mr. Rajab has expressed serious concern to Human Rights Watch and members of this Advisory Committee that the aforementioned media attacks have created a prevailing climate of suspicion, prejudice, and anger against human rights defenders in the country. He has informed us that he has taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of his family, but there is deep uncertainty and unpredictability regarding future government actions against him and other human rights defenders in the country with whom we work.

Mr. Rajab is a dedicated human rights defender who continually works to improve the human rights situation for all Bahrainis, an invaluable member of this committee, and, above all, a friend and colleague.

We therefore urge you and the government of Bahrain to take all necessary measures to ensure his personal safety and allow him and other human rights defenders in the country to continue their important work without threat of arrest or interference.

Sincerely,

Hassan Elmasry Co-Chair MENA Advisory Committee

Kathleen Peratis Co-Chair MENA Advisory Committee

Asli Bâli Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Moulay Hicham Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Bruce Rabb Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Gary Sick Officer MENA Advisory Committee

CC: H.E. Houda Ezra Nonoo Ambassador, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain Via facsimile: 202-362-2192

Nizar Al Baharna Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Via facsimile: +973-17-210-666