14 Jan, 2009

Bahrain: Security Authorities return to the use of torture by “falaqa” and electrocution to extract confessions from detainees

Bahrain: Security Authorities return to the use of torture by “falaqa” and electrocution to extract confessions from detainees

The detainees were unaware that they were being filmed while stating their confessions in a pre-prepared film to convict them and to mislead public opinion

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern and worry for the health and life of 14 Bahraini citizens who were arrested since 15 December by the National Security Apparatus, and whom the authority claims to be members of a “terrorist cell group”, and were trained in Syria last summer, as was stated in the film that was prepared in advance and which was broadcasted on Monday evening, 28 December.

What adds to the concern is what the lawyers of detainees reported and which is related to their clients being put through torture; whose marks were evident on their bodies. They are being held in solitary confinements, and most of them do not know the other detainees with them in the same case or the nature of the charges against them. According to what the detainees expressed to their lawyers, most of them have not visited Syria before, as was stated in the film. As per the information conveyed to the BCHR by the detainees’ lawyers, some of them were arrested as “hostages” until he handed over his wanted brother to the security Apparatus who came to arrest him when he was not at home; the other was brought in as a “witness” in the case to find themselves accused of being part of the alleged cell. Among the lawyers defending the alleged cell are the lawyers Ahmed Al-Arrayid, Hafedh Hafedh, Mohammed Ahmed and Mohammed Al-Jishi.

According to the statement made by the majority of detainees, the methods of torture , which was practiced by the National Security includes: 1) Electrocution in the armpits and in the genital organs of the detainees 2) Hanging up for long hours with tied hands, and beating on sensitive areas on the body 3) Falaqa – which is inserting a solid bar between the arms and legs after tying them, and hanging the detainee between two props where the body is kept hanging in the air, with head and leg positioned upside down, then the feet are beaten with a solid bar. 4) Solitary confinement and forcing them to stand for long hours with hands tied and eyes folded, with deprivation of sleep and going to the lavatory, and insulting and hurling abusive and libel words.

The BCHR fears that that torture, especially the electric shock, will cause permanent damage to the health of those detainees for the rest of their lives. The family of the young Maytham Bader Al-Sheikh – one of the convicts of the incidents of December 2007 and an activist in the Unemployed Committee – state that he was infected with a permanent and dangerous neuron disease and brain damage that are threatening his life due to torturing with the electrocution. It is noteworthy that Maythem was one of the ones who were exposed to heavy doses of physical and psychological torture during the first stage of investigation and which included electrocution in the various parts of the body and on his genital organs, in addition to sexually assaulting him.

On the other hand, and until they met with their lawyers, the detainees were not aware that they videotaped while they were making their “confessions”, and that they were broadcasted on Bahrain TV and on the newspapers. Regarding the circumstances of their confessions on TV, the detainees stated that one of the members of the National Security Apparatus informed them that a “sheikh” of the ruling family – without revealing his full name – will meet them to hear their statement and will submit it to the king of Bahrain for the purpose of releasing them. That employee asked them to repeat the “confessions” – which were extracted under torture – before the “sheikh” in order for him to seek their release. Accordingly, they were dressed differently and neatly in order to present a good image in front of the “sheikh”, as it appeared on Bahrain’s government TV screen, without being aware of the fact that there was a camera that was filming their conversation with the “sheikh” whose name they do not know. It is worth mentioning that the National Security Apparatus is headed by Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s former ambassador to UK.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdulla had played the role of the link between the king – Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa – and between two of the leaders of the Bahraini opposition who met him in the summer of 2007 in London; one of these two was Mr. Hasan Mushaima, whose name was mentioned among the confessions in that film as one of the main instigators of the terrorist cell.

The National Security Apparatus, headed by Sheikh Khalifa, replaced the former State Security Service of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and which is responsible for torturing a large number of citizens and exiling them, and is responsible for the death of many ppeople.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR stated that, “Picturing the political tension and the crisis plaguing the country as foreign plots or security issues and terrorist cells will not help in solving those poised issues but it would rather complicate matters. The Bahraini authorities should have preferably started laying down solutions for those issues, first and foremost the systematic discrimination against the Shiite population, and to stop the political and sectarian naturalization and to release all political detainees and to start a serious dialogue with the forces of society.”

The BCHR appeals to those concerned in the stability of the situation in Bahrain, and demands the following:

1. To stop all systematic practices of torture by the National Security Apparatus and Criminal Investigations, and to initiate an independent investigation in all subjects of torture and to prosecute the ones caught up in it, and to cure the damages made to the victims of torture. 2. To stop targeting political activists or human rights defenders or trying to ruin their reputation. 3. To refrain from picturing the political tension and country’s crisis as if it were security issues, and the need to stop treating the political issues as security one.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights – BCHR 9 January 2009

13 Jan, 2009

Activist prevented from speaking at mosque after criticising ruling elite

Date: 13 January

(BCHR/IFEX) - For two weeks in a row, reforms activist Hasan Mushaima has been prevented from reaching the Al-Sadeq mosque in the capital city of Manama, where he used to deliver a speech after the Friday evening prayers. Heavily armed foreign mercenaries were deployed to take over the area of the mosque, preventing its caretaker from opening it for prayers and blocking those who attend the mosque from entering its parking lot.

Mushaima is the secretary general of the HAQ Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy, a civil society organisation that is calling for respect for human rights, the combating of corruption and political naturalization, as well as good governance. In his speech, Mushaima speaks about human rights violations, economic rights, prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders. He also calls for democratisation and is a loud critic of corruption and the role of the ruling elite and the Executive in the misappropriation of lands and administering a change of demography plan. Mushaima participates regularly in an event on human rights and political developments in Bahrain sponsored by Lord Eric Avebury, the vice chairman of the Human Rights Parliamentary Group in the House of Lords, an activity fiercely attacked by the Bahraini authorities-controlled media.

Nabil Rajab, the president of BCHR, has been near the Al-Sadeq mosque and has witnessed the heavy security presence that was put in place to prevent Mushaima and those who want to pray from coming close to the mosque. Rajab stated: "The action of the local authorities to prevent Mr Mushaima from addressing the public is a blatant violation of freedom of expression as stated in Article 19 of the ICCPR ratified by Bahrain on September 20, 2006."

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to Cabinet Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa: - calling on the Bahraini authorities to show respect for human rights, in particular freedom of expression - urging the authorities to stop using force to silence activists and to allow Mushiama to continue addressing public issues without hindering his rights and the rights of those who attend the Al-Sadeq mosque and listen to him

APPEALS TO: His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

MORE INFORMATION:

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

10 Jan, 2009

Public Prosecutors Office Files Case Against Prominent ME Human Rights Activist

Former BCHR President Released on Bail Targeting of Activists Continues in Violation of Freedom of Expression Media Defamation Campaign Continues Against Activists

The BCHR is greatly disturbed upon hearing about the recent moves by the Public Prosecutors Office (PPO)against the prominent human rights activist Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. The PPO has charged Mr. Alkhawaja with encouragement of the overthrow of the government, incitement of hatred against the government and circulation of rumors which harm national interest.

Mr. Abdulhadi denied all charges during the 3.5 hours interrogation with the Public Prosecutors and refused to answer most questions due, as he stated, to the fact that the PPO and the entire judiciary system is not independent from the government and the laws by which he is to be tried are restrictive and violate, in accordance to many international human right organizations, international standards of human rights. He stated to the Public Prosecutor that much of what he may say to defend himself would probably be used out of context to condemn him given the flexible and restrictive nature of the charges and the laws used in Bahrain.

Mr. Abdulhadi also bluntly refused the implication that he has ever encouraged the use of violence, and said that non of his public speeches nor his writings has he ever done so and it is not part of his ideology. He also stressed that he has always encouraged the use of peaceful protest as can be clearly seen in all his writings and work.

The BCHR is also highly disturbed by the defamation campaign against Mr. Abdulhadi in the press that is well known for its allegiance to the government. Whereby they have not addressed the nature of the charges, nor Mr. Abdulhadi's work, but rather used insolent language and derogatory words that the BCHR refuses to repeat. This campaign has continued and is clearly sanctioned by the government. Most activist is Bahrain are not given a chance to clear their names in these same papers, nor are any of there reports published, which makes it a clear slandering campaign. The BCHR President MR. Nabeel Rajab was also a target of many of these campaigns specially after his return from a presentation in the US congress on discrimination in Bahrain.

Worth mentioning is that the former President of the BCHR was arrested in 2004, after speaking against the Prime Minister’s 40 years monopoly of that post as well as his governments violations and discrimination. He was charged with similar charges and was tried and sentenced to 1 year in jail but was pardoned by the king under intense pressure from international organizations and continuous demonstrations and protests calling for his release. He was also briefly arrested in February 2007 after a speech he made calling for reform and changes in the government as well as the release of the human rights activist arrested in what is known as the "December Case".

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights would like to remind all parties that • Freedom of expression is not only applied when an individual is expressing himself in matters deemed acceptable by the government, but is also applied in other cases whereby any individual is given the opportunity to be critical of government practices, which is the essence of democracy • It is still maintained that the laws by which activist are tried in Bahrain, specifically the Bahraini Penal Code, are restrictive and do not comply with international standards, as has been repetitively stated by International Human Rights Organizations • As is continuously proven, the Bahraini judiciary as well as the PPO are not independent and are subjected to higher government decisions making them incompetent and subjective in their execution of the law • That a man is innocent until proven guilty, and defamation campaigns against activists, who are not given a chance to defend themselves in the local media is unacceptable and goes against a number of universal rights • That the systematic targeting of activist is making the Bahraini governments credibility highly questionable and can be seen as a clear plan by the government to rid itself of any activist who may disagree or speak out against it. This is becoming clear due to the recent targeting of a number of activist in different waves of arrests (the December Case, the Karzakan case as well as the recent Terrorist Cell case) as well as the case of Mr. Mohammed Almasqati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society of Human Rights, whose trail commences next week on charges of engaging in work in an unregistered Society

The BCHR calls upon International Human Rights Organizations and other stake holders to address the Bahraini government on these issues and to pressure it to, drop all charges against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, accept criticism of the government and calls for reform as it falls under freedom of expression, cease this systematic campaign against Bahraini human rights activists both by the government as well as its media, reform its restrictive laws and guarantee the independence of the PPO as well as the Judiciary branch of government .

10 Jan, 2009

GDN:Nabeel Rajab: authorities had seriously violated the defendant's right of innocence until proven guilty

TV 'confessions' against the law By BASMA MOHAMMED Published: 7th January 2009

LAWYERS for the 14 Bahrainis arrested over the alleged National Day terror plot are to complain to judicial authorities over a television broadcast purportedly showing them confessing. The broadcast and release to the print media of the men's alleged confessions are against the law, said Mohammed Ahmed, one of the four-man defence team for the 14 accused.

He said he would be filing a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Council.

Authorities said at the time that the alleged confessions were made without pressure and were broadcast and published in public interest.

Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa later briefed MPs and Shura Council members on the case and said he was aware of the criticism, which he was willing to debate in public.

Mr Ahmed said Bahrain's laws stipulated that it was illegal to publish anything that may affect legal proceedings, or to identify suspects before they have gone to trial.

"The penal law is very clear, my reference is article number 246 from the law that states punishment for any publication that can affect a trial," said Mr Ahmed.

He said the law stipulated that violators could face jail and/or a fine.

Human rights activists have also condemned the broadcast and publication of the alleged confessions, saying they breached international law.

The 14 were arrested after police uncovered an alleged plot to attack targets including clubs, Manama nightspots, Exhibition Road (Avenue) and Diplomatic Area, on December 17, during the National Day holiday.

The plot was allegedly masterminded by two Bahrainis living in the UK and the 14 allegedly underwent training in Syria.

Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab said that authorities had seriously violated the defendant's right of innocence until proven guilty.

"The Public Prosecution has not only violated international court measures but also violated Bahraini law that prohibits publishing anything about a case that is undergoing investigation," said Mr Rajab.

He said the television confessions also included film clips of rioting and protests not related to the case.

Human Rights Society general secretary Dr Abdulla Al Derazi backed Mr Rajab, saying the confessions had no evidential value, since they had been broadcast and published before the trial.

He said he supported the government in trying to guarantee people's security, but that the handling of this case violated human rights. basma@gdn.com.bh

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© Gulf Daily News

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/printnews.asp?Article=239562

7 Jan, 2009

Front line: Arbitrary detention of human rights defender Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar

Bahrain: Arbitrary detention of human rights defender Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that the Bahrainian authorities have refused to disclose the whereabouts of human rights defender, Mr Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar, who was arbitrarily arrested, early in the morning of 21 December 2008, from his residence in Mahooze village by state security forces despite there being no arrest warrant against him. No reason has been given for his arrest and his whereabouts are as yet unknown. Further Information

Posted 06 January 2009. Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar, 36 years old, has been active in helping the families of the detainees in Bahrain and has also worked to support the Unemployed Committee. He is well known for his role in organising peaceful sit-ins in collaboration with the families of detainees and the Unemployed Committee.

Front Line believes that the arbitrary detention of Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar is directly related to his legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights, in particular his exercise of the right to assembly. In view of reports of Abdul-Redha Hassan Al-Saffar's detention and the fact that his whereabouts are currently unknown, Front Line is gravely concerned for his physical and psychological integrity and believes that this may form part of a campaign to restrict the work of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1749

7 Jan, 2009

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY :Slandering campaign , Arbitrary detention & Torture

Bahrain January 7, 2009

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.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) about a slandering media campaign against Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President of the BCHR and Protection Coordinator at Frontline, Mr. Ali Mushaima, a former leading member of the Unemployed Committee living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, Mr. Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb, former President of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the political party Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace, Head of the Human Rights Unit of Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, a religious scholar, and Mr. Ali Ahmed, an activist. All are well known, outspoken and leading participants in activities involving the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular the question of the equality in the enjoyment of economic, political and social rights in Bahrain, particularly in relation to the Shi’a minority.

According to the information received, on December 15, 2008, the authorities staged a wave of arrests to later announce uncovering an alleged “Terror Plot”. Approximately twenty youths involved in social protest movements were arrested and detained incommunicado until December 28, 2008. According to the detainees’ lawyers, the detainees showed signs of ill-treatment and torture during interrogation.

On December 28, 2008, a Government-owned and run TV “Bahrain Satellite” channel broadcast a pre-recorded video displaying unrelated images of violence amidst confessions of some of the detainees. The second day, daily newspapers showed publication of these confessions, names and pictures of thirteen of the youths, among them those shown in the TV broadcast.

One of the detainees, Mr. Hasan Ali Fateel - a former member of the Unemployed Committee - stated in his confession that Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja had encouraged the unemployed in 2006 to organize a series of sit-ins near the Royal Court and the House of Representatives, without making any relevant connection with the alleged terrorist scheme. He also mentioned the names of Mr. Hasan Mushaima and Dr. Alsingace as being instigators for demonstrations and public protests. Other detainees stated in their broadcast “confessions” that they had been instigated and instructed by Messrs. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, Ali Ahmed, Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb to carry out planned acts of terror.

Messrs. Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Alshayeb are now UK residents as they enjoy political asylum status after fleeing repression of the local authorities due to their human rights activities. Before and after the announcement of the alleged “Terror Plot” in December, the Bahrain authorities have been unsuccessfully exerting diplomatic pressure on the British authorities to have their political refugees status nullified in the UK.

The Observatory was also informed that Mr. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, a human rights defender, well-known for his role in organizing peaceful sit-ins in collaboration with the families of detainees and the Unemployed Committee, was also arrested by heavily armed forces dressed with military and civilian outfits led by officers of State Security Bureau in the early morning of December 21, 2008 from his residence in Mahooz village. On January 5, 2008, a lawyer known to the BCHR, met him in the public prosecution and reported that Mr. Al-Saffar was subjected to severe torture using electrocution in different parts of the body and in particular the genitals.

The Observatory fears that the mentioned defenders have been targeted to deter them from pursuing their human rights activities for the defence of the Shi’a minority rights, and urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against them, in line with Article 12.2 of the of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Ensure that the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Alsingace, Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, Ali Ahmed, Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb be guaranteed in all circumstances;

ii. Immediately release Mr. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, since his detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment in order to identify those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the criminal sanction provided by the law;

iv. Put an end to all forms of harassment against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and Article 12(2) mentioned above;

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

***

Paris-Geneva, January 7, 2009

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

3 Jan, 2009

Deploying foreign mercenaries to hinder religious practices, close a Shiite mosque, and prevent prayers

Bahraini Authorities stepping up in targeting Shiite citizens

Bahrain- 2009-01-03

In an escalation undermining the right to practice religious freedoms of Shiites in Bahrain, a large number of the Special Security Force, overwhelmingly staffed with non-Bahraini tribal Sunnis, besieged yesterday evening Al-Sadiq mosque in Al-Ghofool area in the capital, Manama, preventing Shiite citizens from praying behind Hasan Mushaima - the default Imam of the mosque for evening prayers every Saturday. The security Special Force prevented the mosque care-taker from opening the mosque for the evening prayers, and warned people from coming close the mosque or stay in the area.

This escalation coincided with other security measures constraining the exercise of Shiite their annual rituals in the occasion of Muharram. This include the use of Special Forces to remove black cloths and fabrics, containing slogans and condolences of Shiite figures attributing Imam Husain Bin Ali Bin Abi Taleb, Shiite used to hang on walls of houses and buildings. Al-Hussein Bin Ali, the third Shiite Imam, was killed in Karbala more than 1350 years and since then they commemorate his and his family death. These forces recently triggered a campaign to tear these fabrics, in very antagonistic manner, and confiscate others in of Shiite villages such as Al-Dair, Karzakan, Al-Mussala and Bilad Al-Qadeem.

Nabeel Rajab - President of BCHR – who was near Al-Sadeq mosque witnessing the heavy security presence to prevent Shiite citizens from praying in their mosque, stated that: "The action of the security services, under no justification, in closing the mosque and the preventing Shiite worshipers from performing their prayers is a flagrant violation of basic religious freedom of those citizens". He continued: "Targeting Shiite worship places and Matams in this way is a dangerous escalation signaling a potential and rapid deterioration of the overall security and stability in Bahrain". On the evening Friday January 1, 2009, the authorities used the Security Special Force to attack tens of citizens who went to Bahrain Airport to meet Mr Hasan Mushaima- the Secretary General of HAQ Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy - on arrival from the United Kingdom following a participation in an annual activity in the House of Lords concerned with the political and human rights situation in Bahrain.

In this regard, Mr. Rajab said: "I was monitoring the event at the airport at that instance. There was no reason what so ever to justify the attack of Special Forces on the innocent people and those around Mr. Mushaima on their way towards the car park." He continued: "It was a horrible and terrifying sight when those forces used utmost ferocity and brutality on those present at that time, without distinction between a young or elderly of men and women". The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely alarmed over the escalation of the use of excessive force in dealing with popular gatherings and fears that the persistent policy of suppressing religious freedoms and detaining and torturing Shiite citizens, under the context of “uncovering a terror plot”, could spark a popular anger, with unaccounted consequences. Therefore, the BCHR calls upon the following:

1 - Cease all provocative practices and programs to suppress Shiite citizens and respect their right in exercising religious freedoms in accordance to international norms. 2 - Terminate the implementation of the secret plot, revealed by Dr Salah al-Bandar - a former adviser to the Government of Bahrain - designed to contain and control Shiite religious institutions in Bahrain, including mosques and community centers (Matams) and interfere in its affairs. This includes bring all the perpetrators to justice. 3 - Respect and maintain freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance to international norms and amend all relevant laws. 4 – Launch a serious dialogue to prevent further deterioration of the security situation and the adoption of practical programs to resolve the outstanding issues, primarily the political naturalization and the marginalization of Shiites at all levels.

2 Jan, 2009

Bahrain: A New Wave of Arrests Justified By The Uncovering A “Terror Plot”

Bahrain: A New Wave of Arrests Justified By The Uncovering A “Terror Plot” Broadcasting “Confessions” on Government TV-Cannel before Legal Charging or Trial Defaming Campaign against Activists and Leading Human Rights Defenders Detention of Human Rights Defender Abdul-Redha Al-Saffar

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expresses its deep concerns on the well being and safety of more than 14 Bahraini nationals who have been detained by the National Security Apparatus since December 15th, 2008, in relation to the alleged uncover of a “terror plot”. The BCHR is concerned of the use of such events in the ongoing campaign against activists and human rights defenders . New wave of arrests and Arbitrary Detention: A new wave of arrest started on December 15, 2008. All of the detainees were from Shia villeges in the outskirts of the capital Manama. Relatives reported that the arrests took place at dawn without proper legal procedures. The where about of the detainees was not known until the evening of 28th December when a government run TV channel broadcasted a video clip of “confessions” of some of the detainees accusing themselves as being part of an alleged “terrorism plot”. Prior to the TV broadcast and up to this moment, the detainees have been held incommunicado and were neither allowed to seek legal counseling nor to meet with their families, a practice which could facilitate the use of torture and ill-treatment in order to coerce confessions as in many documented cases since December 2007. Lawyers who attended interrogation meetings by public attorney with some of the detainees reported signs of torture on the bodies of the detainees. Names and photos of thirteen of the detainees were published in the daily press on December 29 as “the accused of the terror plot”. The published names were: from Sanabis village; Ahmed Yousef Al-Same’a (26 years), Mohammed Jamil Taher Al-Same’a (22 years) and Ali Jamil Taher Al-Same’a (28 years). From Jidahfs village: Mohamed Abdullah Abdulhusain Al-Shargi, (32 years) Mohamed Ja’afar Isa Ebrahim, (32 years), Hassan Jassim Mohammed and Fathi Jassim Makki Jassim. From Daih village: Yaseen Ali Mushaima (21). From Sar village: Hasan Ali Fateel (27 years). From Jeblat Hebshi village: Mohammad Khalil Ibrahim Al-Medawob (28 years). From Karranah village: Mohammed Hassan Saleh Al-Jazeeri (20years). In addition to: Mohsen Ahmed Al-Gassab (31 years) and Mohamed Salaman Abdul-Rasool. It is worth noting that Hassan Jassim Mohammed, was arrested on December 18th, 2008 while preparing for a gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of his brother, Ali Jassim Mohammad (31 years), who was allegedly killed by the Security Special Force on December 17, 2007 while participating in a demonstration calling for truth and Justice for the victims of torture. The death case has not been investigated despite the wide unrest that took place after the death incident and despite the many public promises by government officials.

Detention of a human rights defender: Apart from the published names, the fate of a detained human rights defender Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar (36 years)- is not yet known. He was arrested in the early morning of Sunday 21st December 2008 from his residence in Mahooz village. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar is well known for his role in organizing peaceful sit-ins in collaboration with the families of detainees and the unemployed committee. Defaming Leading Human Rights Defenders and Activists: One of the detainees, Hasan Ali Fateel- a former member of the Unemployed Committee- stated in his broadcasted “confession” that Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the former president of BCHR, had encouraged the unemployed in 2006 to organize a series of sit-ins near the Royal Court and the House of Representatives. However, the broadcasted video clip failed to make any relevant connection with the alleged “terror Plot” which was to be carried out in December 2008. Other detainees stated in their broadcasted “confessions” that they were instigated and instructed by Mr. Ali Mushaima, a former leading member of the Unemployed Committee, and Mr. Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb, the former president of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture. Both activists have been living in exile and were granted political asylum during 2008 in the United Kingdom. Before the announcement of the alleged “terror Plot” last month, the Bahrain authorities had been unsuccessfully trying to influence the UK to restrict the activities of Bahrainis living in London. Other well-known activists mentioned as instigators were; Mr Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of HAQ Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Dr Abduljalil Alsingace, the head of Human Rights office at the same group and Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Meqdad, a Shia’ religious scholar who is well known of his public speeches criticizing the government for corruption and violations of basic freedoms and rights. Despite the allegations against the aforementioned figures, and the defaming campaign staged against them in the government TV and government controlled daily newspapers, none of them has been arrested or legally charged. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges all concerned to share its call to the authorities in Bahrain: 1. To ensure the physical and psychological safety of the detainees and secure their rights of prevention from torture and ill-treatment, access to proper legal counseling, meet with their families, be treated as innocent until proven guilty and to have the right of fair public trial in accordance with international norms. 2. To immediately release human rights defender Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar 3. To release of all detainees based on the lack of arrest and interrogation due procedures and the unlawful practice of condemning them as guilty in a public which reduces their chance of a fair trial 4. Stop harassing, defaming and detaining human rights defenders for their legitimate work in promoting and protection of human rights, 5. Conduct a thorough and impartial investigation in the reported violations and bring those responsible to justice.

More details and Background information Broadcasting confession-video-clip before trial: On the evening of 28th December 2008, the government run TV satellite channel broadcasted a video clip titled "Lost Deal with Terrorism: Diffusing a terror plot in the Kingdom of Bahrain". The video-clip started with emotional introduction with musical background describing the detainees in the so-called “terror plot” as criminals and terrorists while glorifying the "dedicated security forces of distinguished capacities who discovered the grave terror plot before being curried out”. This was followed by a pre-recorded video clip of “interviews” with six of those arrested since 15th December 2008, denouncing themselves for participation in the "terror plot". They blamed well known human rights defenders, political opposition and religious figures for inciting them. Although Shia’ themselves, they, strangely, stigmatized Shia’ religious institutions as places for inciting violence and terrorism. The recorded “confessions” were accompanied by special music effects, similar to that used in horror movies. The recorded “confessions”, focused on intended “bombings and serious terror acts”, while the broadcasted photos only presented a small quantity of nails, a number of tiny iron balls, and three metallic boxes said to be used in the manufacture of explosives. During the broadcast of the recorded “confessions”, video clips of riots and clashes, of no relevance to the defendants or the case, were shown. Some of the scenes shown were extracted from 2001 New Year riots which occurred at the Exhibition Road in the Capital by a group of hooligans. Other extracts were footage of events during popular protests in front of the American Embassy in 2002, aftermath the killing of Mohammed Al-Durrah, a Palestinian child, at the hands of Israeli forces. In addition to protests and unrest during last few years in deferent Shia’ Villages as a result of employment and lack of adequate housing as well as denouncing Government's policy of arbitrary detention, torture and sectarian discrimination against Shiite citizens. In that TV recording, the detainees “confessed” that while in Syria last summer, they were taken for few hours in three days to a farm in which they participated in “training to induce violence”. They also stated that they were instructed by a Bahraini young colleague who was recently granted political asylum status in the United Kingdom. Many relatives of the detainees told the press next day that their children have not travelled to Syria last summer. Many of the detainees, who participated in the "confessions" replay, were arrested as teenagers during the nineties unrests. It is to be mentioned that they all come from the three neighboring village which showed relentless protests in the past period. The Legal stance: The Department of Public Prosecutions (PP) had warned the lawyers to refrain from distributing any information on the progress of investigation in this case. Hence, the lawyers were surprised when they heard about the televised confessions few hours before broadcasting. They made attempts to stop it through the Judge of the urgent cases court, but he was not reachable. They were more astonished to learn later by an official statement that broadcast of the TV confession episode was granted the blessings and permission by the PP. Mr. Mohammed Ahmed, a member of the defense team, commented on the issue of broadcasting: “The State behavior of televising the confessions of the accused, is the conduct of disrespect to its judicial system, the Constitution and the principles contained therein”. He added: “It suggests that the State neither respects nor appreciates any of its enacted laws. My reference is the text of Article 245 of the Penal Code which states that: Punishable by imprisonment, for a term not exceeding one year, or a by fine, not exceeding 100 Bahraini Dinars, who publishes, using any publication means, of things which could affect those entrusted to decide in any case brought before the judiciary or in charge of investigation or experts duties, or influence the witnesses who may be required to perform testimony in that case or investigation, or matters that would prevent the individual from disclosure of information to people of jurisdiction, or influence public opinion in favor of a party to the case or the investigation or against him. If the publication was in order to influence the said or proven false, it was counted as an aggravating circumstance”. Background: For the past two years, the Government of Bahrain has been trying to convince the British authorities to refrain from granting asylum to Bahraini dissidents and activists, in the pretext that they were involved in inciting violence. The attempts of the Bahrainis went further to ask the British for the nullification of the status granted to few of well known former activists in the Unemployed Committee and the Committee of Victims of Torture, when they were in Bahrain. It seems that broadcasting such "confessions" serves that purpose and introduces more pressure on the British Authorities to contain those activists. The BCHR envisages that the recent campaign of detentions is part of a series of arrests targeting and containing human rights defenders and activists of popular committees in Shi'ite areas, whose youths exhibited relentless and spontaneous demonstrations and protests because of unemployment, low income and policies of sectarian discrimination they have been exposed to. It is widely known that Shiites youths are banned to join or recruited by some of the State institutions, effectively marginalized in all political and economic aspects of life, in addition to the systematic suppression of peaceful protests using foreign mercenaries. As a comment on bringing the recently detained youth in the televised confessions, Mr Nabeel Rajab, the president of BCHR, stated that “The Bahraini authorities had seriously violated the defendant's right of innocence until proven guilty, and grossly interfered in the function of the judiciary”. He added: “This is a preempt measure to secure a local public opinion and international condemnation to the detainees before bringing them to trial”. It is feared that fabricating confessions and bringing up names of well known human rights defenders and dissidents may have been to set the stage for their arrest. More over, BCHR foresees that framing Shiite worship centers (or Matams) as nests of provocation may be a prelude to attack any public activities by the opposition in the coming days of Ashura. Until recently, the security bodies in Bahrain have been known for fabrication of bogus security incidents and/or exaggerate signs of protest in the background of the security and political tensions in the country resulting from pending and unsolved public concerned issues. For several times and in order to cause a public diversion, the Government of Bahrain had portrayed many protests as acts of violence and terror plans. It even produced and broadcasted video films to support its allegations, the last of which is that submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2005, a copy of which was received by BCHR and was later exposed to the public. The Government of Bahrain, spoke also about terror cells and camps for inducing terrorism, but failed to provide any evidence in support of these claims and allegations. In 2006, it had claimed that it discovered a terror plot and a training camp for terrorists in the village of Bani Jamra. It was later found that it was bogus, and remained the focus of sarcastic comments in the press and the streets of Bahrain.

31 Dec, 2008

Authorities prevent direct access to online forums

Date: 30 December 2008 (BCHR/IFEX) - The http://bahrainonline.org and http://shaheed-bh.org websites are well known state-targeted public forums in Bahrain. Recently, for more than the tenth time since their launch, the authorities have prevented direct access to these public sites inside Bahrain. The administration teams of the websites have had to resort to providing different addresses for the public to access the sites.

Bahrainonline is one of the oldest and largest public forums in Bahrain, as well as the earliest to be targeted by the local authorities. It is an independent electronic forum and an easily accessible source of information and news exchange in Bahrain, as well as a host for articles and reports considered subversive by the authorities. During the first quarter of 2005, it was banned and its administrators were incarcerated and prosecuted by the authorities on charges of inciting hatred. After international and local protests, they were later released on bail, but were banned from traveling.

The Shaheed-bh ("Marytr") forum is dedicated to martyrs and victims of torture in Bahrain, and contains language considered to be offensive by the local authorities. As such, its administrators have sought anonymity. In addition to news and other information, the site contains archives of those killed during protests in the nineties, as well as a record of those detained and imprisoned in incidents that have taken place since December 2007.

Electronic sites, among them these leading forums, are used by opposition and human rights groups, as well as social organisations, to publicise their positions and advertise events. They are also considered an arena through which public views are influenced.

There are over 535 electronic sites in Bahrain, on 25 different themes, of which 111 are public forums, 60 are allocated to villages and towns and 59 belong to government organisations. There are about 200 blogs. Most of the bloggers operate anonymously for fear of attacks by the authorities. In 2007, blogger Mahmood Den was taken to court by the municipalities' minister on defamation charges.

BCHR expresses its concerns over the persistent measures undertaken by the Bahraini authorities to block the flow of information by preventing access to electronic sites and popular forums. The authorities' actions violate Article 19 of the ICCPR ratified by Bahrain on 20 September 2006.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to authorities: - calling on them to lift the ban on all electronic sites carrying information relating to public, cultural and human rights affairs in Bahrain and elsewhere - urging them to amend the Press Decree Code no. 47 of 2002 to bring it into conformity with international human rights standards

APPEALS TO: His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

25 Dec, 2008

Bahrain: Apprehending activists .. Using excessive force.. Dawn raids of Shiite villages by foreign Special Forces

Amidst security and political tensions, Authorities assert discovering another terrorist cell.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concerns about the deteriorating local security status due to excessive use of force, mass arrests of activists and demonstrators, and dawn raids to several Shiite villages using heavy armed foreign forces. An atmosphere of clashes between demonstrators and security forces consisting of foreign forces prevailed in all villages and areas of Bahrain after the Authority prevented a peaceful demonstration on December 17, called up on by the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture to commemorate the anniversary of victims of torture in the previous era. This date was chosen to retrieve the public memory about the two young men shot dead by snipers of special security forces during nineties of the last century, while they were participating in a peaceful march in the village of Sanabis calling for political reforms, democracy and restoration of the then dissolved parliament.

The clashes were concentrated in the villages of Duraz ,Sanabis , Jidhafs, Daih, North Sehla, Jabalat Habshi, Sitra, Malikeyya , Bani Jamra and South Sehla .The detainees, all Shiite, aged between twenty and thirty years. BCHR believes that the majority of detainees were targeted for their activities in popular and various human rights committees.

On the other hand, an official statement, released to local and international news agencies by a source in the National Security Bureau, stated that a "terrorist" cell was discovered consisting of a group of Bahrainis was "planning" to carry out a terrorist acts aimed at disrupting public order, terrorize innocent civilians and threaten their lives. The said statement did not disclose the number of persons involved or details of the case, but spoke of the intention of bombings, intimidation and murder of citizens and expats and did not publish any pictures or details of the nature of the explosives to be detonated or the bombing destinations.

The state- security Authorities in Bahrain have been known of fabricating fictitious security incidents or exaggeration what happens in protests or "riots" in the light of the security and political tensions in the country by its policies of discrimination against Shiites as well as other outstanding issues. In the past, the same Authorities had numerously portrayed some protesting activities as terrorist plans and spoke of cells and camps of terrorism, but failed to provide any evidence to support such claims and allegations. In 2006, the security authorities claimed that it had discovered a terrorist plot and a training camp to train terrorists in the village of Bani Jamra. But subsequently, it was found that the said place is an ordinary farm of no connection to security story. Rather, the whole issue became mockery and sarcastic comments in the press and public.

Another issue is the death of Majid Asghar Bakhsh in the village of Karzakan, a Pakistani national member of Special Forces who was on duty in civilian clothes in armed security patrol. The security Authorities initially claimed that his death was a result of fire set in the car by protesters, however, the forensic reports revealed later that his death was due to head injury and not burns, a testimony concurrent with that of lawyers confirming the death cause to be injury to the head. Doubts increased in the case when the lawyers brought up document proving that Bakhsh died on a day different from the alleged date.

According to the statement issued by the security authorities, the defendants in terrorist cell case would be prosecuted according to the internationally condemned Terrorism Code (Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts). The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism had condemned the law and so did many local, regional and international organizations. These would include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and Frontline Defenders who oppose the law as it violates human rights principles and its international charters.

Until this moment, neither the families have not met with the accused youth as the Public Prosecutions (PP) conducts prolonged interrogations after midnight till early morning. It is believed that the PP is using this time to ensure that the lawyers and families do not meet with the defendants.

Bahrain is in a state of deep tension primarily because of the unsolved issues such as the systematic discrimination against Shiites, the detention and imprisonment of dozens of detainees, political and sectarian naturalization, and the constitutional issue.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for:

1 – Release of all political and human rights activists from jails 2 - Stop the systematic discrimination against the Shiites in all fields. 3 - Cessation of politically motivated naturalization and stop recruiting foreign mercenaries in Special Forces. 4 – Open a dialogue with the different societal and political groups to reach practical solutions to the outstanding issues. 5- Stop attacks on peaceful marches and demonstrations, which represent signs of the freedom of expression.