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Amnesty International: Bahraini officer released with conditions

Further information on UA: 181/11 Index: MDE 11/041/2011 Bahrain Date: 28 July 2011 Date: 14 January 2011

URGENT ACTION bahraini officer released with conditions

A former Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) officer detained in Bahrain since 15 February has now been released on bail after being sentenced to one year in prison. His appeal will be heard in September. Amne sty International is calling for his conviction to be annulled .

Mohamed Albuflasa, a Sunni Bahraini and former BDF officer, was detained on 15 February, the same day that he spoke from a podium during protests in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout. In his speech he spoke against corruption within the government and the lack of economic opportunities for many people. He called for genuine political reforms and for co-existence between Shi’a and Sunni Bahrainis.

Mohamed Albuflasa was sentenced on 24 July to one year in prison by a military court in Manama on charges of participating in an illegal public gathering and inciting hatred towards the regime. He was released later the same day on bail and on condition that he does not travel outside Bahrain. The reason for his release is unclear but appears to be part of the authorities’ current efforts to assuage international concerns about the human rights situation in the country. Mohamed Albuflasa has appealed against his sentence and the appeal should be heard in September. He explained to Amnesty International that his sentence is considered to have begun on 15 April 2011, the date when a two-month detention order issued by a military disciplinary committee in mid-March expired. He also said that he had been aware of Amnesty’s calls for his release while he was detained and wanted to thank all those who sent appeals on his behalf.

Amnesty international considers him to have been a prisoner of conscience and to have been sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his views in public and therefore calls for his release to be unconditional and for his conviction to be annulled.

Please write immediately in Arabic , English or your own language:

Welcoming Mohamed Albuflasa‘s release but urging the authorities to annul his conviction and to remove the travel ban imposed on him, as well as any other conditions that have been attached to his release, given that Amnesty International considers he was sentenced solely for peacefully expressing his views in public; Urging the authorities to respect and uphold the rights to freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 15 SEPTEMBER 2011 TO :

King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1766 4587 Salutation: Your Majesty

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Shaikh Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs P. O. Box 450, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17531284 Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Social Development and Human Rights Dr Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi Ministry of Social Development and Human Rights PO Box 32868, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17101955 Email: info@social.gov.bh Salutation: Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 181/11.

Further information:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/034/2011/en Name: Mohamed Albuflasa Gender m/f: male Further information on UA: 181/11 Index: MDE 11/041/2011 Issue Date: 28 July 2011

amnesty.org

Read more on Al Buflasa Case:

Amnesty International: Mounting fears for Bahraini teachers held after protests

Left: Jalila al-Salman and Right: Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb

27 July 2011 Bahrain’s authorities must immediately release two teachers held since they led a strike in March if they are being held solely for their involvement in peaceful protests, Amnesty International said today amid claims one of them was tortured.

Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb were among several board members of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) arrested in Manama after the group called for a teachers’ strike amid wide-scale pro-reform protests in March.

Their colleagues have since been released, but the two – the group’s former president and vice-president – are still facing trial on charges that include “inciting hatred against the regime” and “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force”.

“None of the statements made in relation to the teachers’ strike advocated violence of any kind. If these teachers are being held solely because they led a peaceful demonstration, they must be released immediately,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

“We are very concerned about reports that Jalila al-Salman was beaten in custody – Bahraini authorities must immediately set up a full, impartial and independent investigation into these allegations and bring to justice anyone found responsible.”

Following the unrest in Bahrain in February and March, the Minister of Human Rights and Social Development dissolved the BTA’s board and replaced them with government appointees.

More than 40 security officers raided Jalila al-Salman’s house in Manama on 29 March. At first, she was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate and held in solitary confinement and subjected to beatings for about a week.

She was then transferred to a detention centre in ‘Issa Town, just south of the capital, where she remains. Her family learned of her whereabouts two months after her arrest, but have only been allowed to visit her on two occasions, under strict surveillance.

Both Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb appeared before a military court several times in June before their cases were transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.

According to local human rights organizations, many teachers and members of the BTA were detained, harassed and tortured or otherwise ill-treated for their participation in protests earlier this year.

Hundreds of people across Bahraini society have been detained since mid-March, when authorities cracked down on pro-reform protests. Scores of detainees, including medical professionals and prominent opposition activists, were brought before military courts for leading the protests and in some cases calling for a change of government.

Roula al-Saffar, the head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, has been held for more than 100 days and is the only other woman besides Jalila al-Salman who is still being detained in relation to the protests. She is among a group of health professionals accused of committing felonies during the protests, including theft of medicines, stockpiling arms and giving anti-government statements to the media – accusations that they strongly deny.

“Bahrain’s authorities must release all detainees who are still being held merely for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression during protests earlier this year,” said Malcolm Smart. “Anyone charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence must be promptly given a fair trial in a civilian court and without resort to the death penalty.”

Document - Bahrain: Teachers arrested for striking in Bahrain

UA: 227/11 Index: MDE 11/040/2011 Bahrain Date: 26 July 2011 Date: 14 January 2011

URGENT ACTION

teachers arrested for striking in bahrain The former president and vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers ’ Association (BTA) have been detained since the end of March . They are now facing trial and Amnesty International believes they are likely to be prisoners of conscience .

Jalila a l - Salman and Mahdi ‘ Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, together with several other board members of the BTA, were arrested in March and April 2011. While their colleagues were released, they were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on 15 June on charges which include “inciting hatred towards the regime”, “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force”, “calling on parents not to send their children to school” and “calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations”. After further hearings on 22 and 29 June - their trial was transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.

Jalila al-Salman’s house in Manama was raided on 29 March by more than 40 security officers. She was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Manama where she remained for about a week during which she was reportedly beaten, including with objects, and held in solitary confinement. She is believed to have been transferred to the custody of the military and held there for around two months, before being transferred again to a detention centre in ‘Issa Town in Bahrain, where she is currently held. Jalila al-Salman’s family were not aware of her whereabouts until soon after her transfer to the detention centre in ‘Issa Town and have only been allowed to see her there on two occasions. The second of these visits was on 16 July, and was under very strict surveillance.

Amnesty International has reviewed statements issued by the BTA. One of them, published on 13 March, called on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike, and on parents not to take their children to school during large-scale demonstrations in Bahrain. Amnesty International has also listened to speeches delivered by Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb that made similar appeals. It has, however, seen no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind in these or other activities. Consequently, although the organization does not have the full details of the evidence presented so far in the trial, it believes that they are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA.

Please write immediately in English or Arabic :

Expressing concern that Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Deeb are being detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA and calling for their immediate and unconditional release if this is the case;

Urging the authorities to protect them from torture or other ill-treatment and immediately set up a full, impartial and independent investigation into the alleged ill-treatment of Jalila al-Salman, to make its results public, and bring to justice anyone responsible.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 2 SEPTEMBER 2011 TO : King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 176 64 587 Salutation: Your Majesty

Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 175 33 033 Salutation: Your Highness

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khlaifa Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 175 31 284 Salutation: Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION teachers arrested for striking in bahrain ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

After the February-March 2011 unrest in Bahrain, the Minister of Human Rights and Social Development dissolved the board of the BTA and other associations and substituted the board members by government-appointed members. Local human rights organizations have reported that many teachers and members of the BTA have been subjected to torture, detention and harassment for their participation in peaceful protests. All teachers have reportedly been released except the two mentioned above.

Hundreds of people have been detained in Bahrain in connection with anti-government protests since mid-March when Bahraini armed and security forces crushed the protests. Scores of detainees, including medical doctors and prominent opposition activists, were brought before military courts for leading the protests and in some cases for calling for regime change. On 29 June the King of Bahrain issued a decree transferring all cases being examined by military courts to ordinary civilian courts.

Name: Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb Gender m/f: Jalila al-Salman - female Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb - male UA: 227/11 Index: MDE 11/040/2011 Issue Date: 26 July 2011

amnesty.org

RSF: Journalist Reem Khalifa violently attacked during a news conference in Bahrain

26 July 2011

Bahrain

During a news conference at Manama’s Ramada Hotel on 14 July, the journalist Reem Khalifa was violently attacked by government supporters, who accused her of using violence. Like many other journalists, Khalifa is constantly harassed by the regime’s supporters and often gets telephone death threats. She has been a target ever since a news conference by foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa on 17 February at which she expressed outrage at the government’s violent crackdown on the initial demonstrations and talked of a “massacre.” The secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council attended the news conference.

rsf.org

Reuters: Bahrain commission to investigate army, torture claims

By Praveen Menon MANAMA | Sun Jul 24, 2011 4:06pm EDT (Reuters) - A commission tasked by Bahrain to investigate weeks of protests that rocked the Gulf island kingdom said Sunday it would look at the role of the security forces in the unrest and examine charges of torture.

At a news conference marking the launch of the five-member panel's investigation, chairman Cherif Bassiouni said his team would look at 30 police officers being investigated by the Interior Ministry for allegedly not following procedures.

He said the army would also be investigated.

"We will investigate the role of the army. The army is not above the law and not beyond the law," Bassiouni said, adding most of the incidents under investigation happened while the military was in charge.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers imposed martial law and crushed weeks of pro-democracy protests led mostly by the Shi'ite majority in March, lifting the state of emergency some four months later.

During the crackdown, hundreds of people were arrested, most of them Shi'ites, and some 2,000 who were sacked.

Tensions are still simmering in the Gulf Arab state, with small protests erupting daily in Shi'ite villages ringing the capital since emergency law ended on June 1.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa set up the panel of human rights and legal experts in June after facing international criticism for the crackdown, including from long-time ally the United States, whose strategic Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.

Panel chief Bassiouni is an Egyptian-American law professor and U.N. war crimes expert who was involved in the formation of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) and recently headed a U.N. inquiry into events in Libya.

The commission also includes Canadian judge and former ICC president Philippe Kirsch, British human rights lawyer Nigel Rodley, Iranian lawyer Mahnoush Arsanjani and Kuwaiti Islamic law expert Badria al-Awadhi.

TORTURE CLAIMS

Bahrain has said it will give the commission access to official files and allow it to meet witnesses in secret. But opposition groups have argued bias may mar a mission set up by the government.

Bassiouni said the panel was investigating the 33 deaths recorded during the protests and crackdown, as well as 400 cases of injuries. He also said the commission would investigate claims of torture in detention, including of several medical workers.

"(The mandate) also includes a number of allegations of torture including that of the offences which occurred against medical personnel, which are well documented by international human rights groups," Bassiouni told reporters.

Bahrain denies any systematic abuse by police and has said all charges of torture will be investigated.

The government has accused protesters of a sectarian agenda backed by Shi'ite power Iran, just across Gulf waters.

Despite the opposition's denials, such suspicions linger among the Sunni population and highlight sectarian tensions that continue to divide the kingdom.

Bassiouni told reporters the panel would hand over its report to the king in October but said the real task would be to act on the commission's recommendations.

"The risk is that there are too many high expectations of what we may be able to accomplish," he said. "It becomes a matter of internal significance to act on the recommendations ... this crisis had a traumatic effect on the people of Bahrain."

(Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Sophie Hares)

reuters.com

ABC: Arrested Bahraini doctor speaks out about torture at detention

Tanya Nolan reported this story on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 12:22:00 - ABC

Download the audio report here

ELEANOR HALL: Yesterday we brought you an interview with Human Rights Watch on its report accusing the government in Bahrain of engaging in a concerted attack on the country's medical community.

The report documents the cases of 48 medical staff who were arrested after treating protesters injured in the uprisings earlier this year.

This morning The World Today spoke to one of the doctors charged. The doctor asked that the voice be disguised to protect their identity.

Tanya Nolan reports.

TANYA NOLAN: A doctor that served the kingdom of Bahrain for 16 years describes the moment the regime turned against them.

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: I was kidnapped from my house. I wouldn't call it arrest because they present at my house 3am in the morning with civilian clothes, civilian cars, no identities were shown.

They were like militias or thugs. We didn't know that they were security forces.

TANYA NOLAN: It was late March and this doctor's first thought was that they were being rounded up for treating protesters involved in the anti-government uprisings earlier in the year.

The doctor was taken to a place they later identified as the central intelligence building in the capital Manama.

Despite knowing of other doctors and nurses also rounded up this doctor couldn't believe their own government could be behind the secretive detention and questioning about alleged links to Iran and terrorist groups.

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: They were asking me about weapons and where do we hide the weapons.

They tried - they tried to link me to Iran and to Hezbollah and they were asking who from the United States supporting you - very weird questions. I thought it had zero relation to me.

TANYA NOLAN: Why do you think you were being held?

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: Definitely for helping treating protesters.

TANYA NOLAN: And you know this because some of your colleagues were treated in the same way? Arrested and detained without any charge?

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: Yes. Actually all of us, we were detained, arrested in the same way.

We were tortured and I think we were targeted basically because we were the first line of witnesses who witnessed the crimes of the regime and the brutality of the regime against the protesters.

TANYA NOLAN: This Shia doctor goes into more detail about the brutal treatment meted out by the Sunni regime's security forces during nearly two months in detention.

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: They used rubber hoses to beat me all the time. They were threatening me with rape. I was not allowed to sleep, not even for one hour.

TANYA NOLAN: It was the signing of a confession while blindfolded that secured the doctors' release.

To add to the indignity, the group of 48 were forced to appear on national television and admit to crimes including links to Iran, stealing hospital equipment and causing the deaths of patients.

But it's the charges of inciting the protesters to overthrow the regime that are most serious in a country that doesn't tolerate dissent and still hands out the death penalty.

This doctor is one of the hundreds of the hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, lawyers and other medical professionals to be charged and detained since the imposition of emergency rule in March.

Their fate is largely unknown. The media has been banned from covering their military trials.

However in a small sign of hope the military trials scheduled against the 48 medicos accused have now been moved to the civilian courts, something this doctor believes is a result of the increasing international attention on the actions of the regime.

But this doctor questions how a trial can be fair when it's based on trumped up charges.

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: Our verdicts are already subjugated, already (inaudible).

It I think it's political decision rather than - because if you go back to there's no crimes against us. There is no way to prove that we were holding weapons and it's all like the fabrication of the regime against us.

TANYA NOLAN: For now this doctor lives in limbo, released from detention but unable to work, unallowed to travel and prohibited from speaking to the media - the only thing they can pin their small hopes on.

BAHRAINI DOCTOR: The worst, it's not coming to us, it's coming to every Bahraini. They're just suppressing us and trying to attack and target every Shia who are in here.

Unless there is sense and justice here that things will not be corrected.

ELEANOR HALL: That's a Bahraini doctor charged for treating protesters involved in the anti-government uprisings earlier this year. Tanya Nolan with that report.

abc.net.au

Global Research: Bahrain: Washington and London Endorse Dialogue With Tyrants, War Criminals and Torturers

July 20, 2011 by Finian Cunningham

Efforts by the US and British-backed Bahraini regime to repair its international image over human rights violations are in tatters with the revelation that senior members of the oil kingdom’s royal family have been personally involved in torturing hundreds of civilian detainees, including doctors and nurses.

One of the torturers-in-chief is Captain Nasser Al Khalifa, son of the king. He graduated this year “with honours” from the US Marine Corps University at Qantico, Washington.

This criminal rule by inner-circle members of the House of Al Khalifa also exposes Washington and London’s efforts to positively talk up reforms and dialogue by their Persian Gulf ally as a cynical sham. In Libya and Syria, war and sanctions are declared against alleged human rights abusers. But in Bahrain, Washington and London say pro-democracy protesters must embrace the rulers’ so-called initiative for national dialogue.

Revelations of royal family brutality in Bahrain also make a mockery of King Hamad’s announcement last month of an “independent” human rights probe into violations that took place during the Western-backed Saudi-led military invasion of the oil-rich kingdom earlier this year.

Yet again Washington and London had trumpeted this move as a positive step to reform in the Gulf kingdom, where a minority unelected Sunni elite has ruled over a majority Shia population for 40 years since nominal independence from Britain in 1971.

But how can such a regime be taken seriously for investigating crimes against humanity when the perpetrators of those crimes are senior members of the regime? Since the popular and peaceful uprising against the US and British-backed monarchy began in mid-February, nearly 40 unarmed civilians have been killed by state forces. The head of the armed services is Supreme Commander King Hamad.

The king’s other son by his second of four marriages, Shaikh Khalid, is also named as being personally involved in meting out torture to prisoners. Shaikhs Khalid and Nasser are half brothers of Crown Prince Salman, who was greeted in Washington by President Barack Obama last month when he announced Bahrain’s “national dialogue” and “political reforms”.

The Crown Prince told media then after his White House meeting: “I fully share the President’s outlook concerning respect for universal human rights and the continuance of Bahrain’s process of meaningful reform.”

In stark contrast to such rhetoric about respecting universal human rights, many former Bahraini detainees described to Global Research a litany of brutalities that they endured at the hands of senior members of the Al Khalifa regime. The victims have told how they were punched, kicked and whipped and made to stand for days continuously without sleep. If they fell over from exhaustion, they would be kicked and punched and forced to resume standing.

Prisoners were routinely blindfolded, electrocuted, suspended from ceilings with handcuffs, or trussed like chickens on a metal pole and left to hang for prolonged periods. In many instances, former inmates said they or members of their families were threatened with rape if they did not sign confessions to scripted crimes.

Most of the torture is believed to have taken place in the underground cells of the Ministry of Interior headquarters – al Qala – in the capital, Manama. The king’s sons were present during interrogations and were personally involved in torture sessions, according to former detainees in independent testimonies. Other members of the Al Khalifa entourage are accused of participating in gross maltreatment of prisoners. They include high-ranking officers in the Bahrain Defence Forces.

One senior royal family member in particular with blood on her hands is Shaikha Noura Al Khalifa, who is a Ministry of Interior officer. Her precise relation to King Hamad is not clear, but she is one of the regime inner-circle. She is said to have overseen the torture of female detainees, including teachers, students, doctors and nurses.

One released female detainee told how she was blindfolded, beaten on the head and verbally abused. “I was called a dirty Shia whore,” she said.

The former detainee said her interrogators would refer deferentially to the torturer-in-chief present in the room by her royal title “shaikha”. At one point, the prisoner’s blindfold slipped off and she said she recognised the royal.

Other former female prisoners told how they were subjected to similar physical and mental trauma conducted by Shaikha Noura. Bahraini prison sources have told Global Research that the 20-year-old female poet Ayat Al Qurmezi, who was released last week from a one-year sentence, was also subjected to torture by the same royal.

Among the degradations suffered by the young poet were repeated threats of rape and a toilet brush was forced into her mouth – presumably as retribution for a poem recited at a pro-democracy demonstration in February when she criticised the Sunni rulers.

Ever since the US and Britain gave the green light to the Saudi-led invasion of Bahrain on 14 March, over 1,500 civilians – mainly from the majority Shia community – have been detained without trial. Four people have died in custody from torture, including journalist Karim Fakhrawi, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights [1].

Other rights groups, such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Front Line Defenders and Human Rights First, have testified that torture of detainees is routine and pervasive.

In a report out this week, Human Rights Watch condemned the Bahraini regime for systematic torture against dozens of medical professionals in particular [2].

More than 70 medics have been arrested; 48 are being prosecuted with charges that can only be described as ludicrous, such as “inciting hatred against the rulers”. If found guilty, the medics are facing 20-year prison sentences. The defendants include internationally respected senior surgeons Ali Al Ekri, Ghassan Dhaif and Basim Dhaif. They were trained at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, in Dublin. Disgracefully, the RCSI has remained silent about the violation of their members, owing to its vested financial interests with the Al Khalifa regime [3].

All of the detained medics have been subjected to torture and coerced into signing confessions. The female royal, Shaikha Noura, has overseen and conducted the abuse of female medics as well as other female prisoners, according to prison sources.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the head of state, has in recent weeks announced a raft of seeming concessionary initiatives, including: the end of martial law courts along with the end of a state of emergency; a process of national dialogue for reconciliation and reform; and an independent probe into allegations of human rights violations.

The moves by the ruler of the oil-rich kingdom, where the US Navy Fifth Fleet is based, have been enthusiastically endorsed by Washington and London. “We welcome the recent positive developments,” said Michael Posner, the US administration’s human rights envoy on a visit to Manama last month.

However, evidence that members of the ruling family have been personally involved in torturing detainees, suspected of supporting a peaceful pro-democracy movement, suggests that the regime’s initiatives are a cynical public relations exercise.

That Washington and London have both endorsed the Al Khalifas’ “dialogue and reform efforts” points to an equally cynical attempt by these Western governments to give cover to their client regime. The question has to be asked: how can pro-democracy parties in Bahrain be seriously expected to have a conversation about reforms with tyrants, criminals and torturers?

Calls for indictments at the International Criminal Court would be more appropriate.

A more pertinent question perhaps over Bahrain is: how can anyone really take Washington or London serious about their avowed commitment to democracy and human rights?

Finian Cunningham is a Global Research Correspondent based in Belfast, Ireland. He was expelled from Bahrain for his critical journalism on 18 June 2011.

cunninghamfin@yahoo.com

Notes

[1] http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3921 [2] hrw.org/node/100587 [3] globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24449

globalresearch.ca

HRF: After Opposition’s Withdrawal, U.S. Urged to Declare its Position on National Dialogue in Bahrain

July 19, 2011

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. government should immediately and publicly declare whether it still supports the Bahraini government’s National Dialogue after the country’s main opposition party, Al Wefaq, has officially withdrawn, said Human Rights First today.

“A wide range of human rights defenders in Bahrain told us last week the dialogue is cosmetic, and the U.S. government is losing credibility by being associated with it,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who just returned from a fact finding mission in Bahrain. “Even as the dialogue sessions meet, the Bahraini government continues to shoot at civilians, detain opposition members, torture human rights defenders and intimidate all those who speak out.”

Last week, Human Rights First released a new report on the continuing human rights crackdown in Bahrain. The report is based on eye-witness testimonies and in-country interviews with human rights defenders, and includes recommendations for the U.S. and Bahraini governments.

The complete report and recommendations can be found here. “Human rights defenders told us the Bahraini government must rebuild community trust before any dialogue can be real,” added Dooley. “They argue that the U.S. government has influence it can use in persuading the Bahraini government to take necessary confidence-building steps. These steps include: stopping all violence against peaceful protesters, ending the abuse and torture of all detainees –and giving them medical attention and visits from their families–and releasing all political detainees and members of the opposition. It’s time the U.S. government uses that influence.”

The main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, withdrew from the National Dialogue on Sunday, claiming it would not lead to real reforms. The group’s spokesperson said that the opposition has been marginalized in the talks, and that their presence has been merely to add credibility to a flawed process.

humanrightsfirst.org

BCHR expresses its concern over the safety of the prisoner of conscience Mohamed Al Buflasa and demands his immediate release

Allegations of torture must be investigated to bring justice to the victims.

Al Buflasa expressed his opinion by participating in Lulu Roundabout and he did not commit any punishable crime.

20 July 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) received worrying reports that Mohamed Al Buflasa - one of the detainees of the protests demanding democracy and freedom in Bahrain - attempted suicide.

Al Buflasa (36 years) was the first missing person after the start of the political events in Bahrain on 14th of February 2011. He made a speech on 15th of February at Lulu Roundabout - the center of the demonstrations - in which he asked for political and economic reforms. He disappeared hours after making the speech with reports saying that he was kidnapped. Al Buflasa is a Bahraini poet, married with two daughters and a son. He ran for the parliamentary elections of 2010 as an independent as he was not affiliated with any political party [1].

An official source at Bahrain Defence Force reported after more than a month of Al Buflasa disappearance that he was called to the headquarters of the Bahrain Defence Force and that "one of our employees committed a forbidden act as mentioned in the rules and regulations of the Bahrain Defence Force. As such, necessary legal actions were taken against him and he will be brought before a court to be convicted according to the law." [2]. There were no other confirmation of the military status of Al Buflasa who retired from the military 3 years ago and who did not present himself at the Lulu Roundabout in a military capacity especially since he ran for the parliamentary elections which is forbidden on military personnel.

The detainee's family on his blog stated: "He met his brother and he was held in a small cell (1 meter x 1 meter) in solitary. He was tortured and he was on hunger strike and signs of exhaustion was very apparent on him" [3]

The blog adds: "He was tried before a military court without giving him the right to defend himself or assign an attorney. He was sentenced to two months in prison after his arrest. He was supposed to have ended his sentence on 14th April 2011 but they did not release him yet".

The parliament made a request on 22nd February asking for his release but this request was not answered yet [4].

On 15th April, the military Public Prosecutor extended his detention for another 45 days after Buflasa served his sentence for two months as imposed by the military court in March despite the fact that the claims made against him were not clear.

Since mid-April, none of his family members were allowed to visit Mohamed. A lawyer assigned by his family was not allowed to enter the Military Prosecution building to request a family visit and the authorities did not respond to a written request for a family visit [5].

Reports indicate that he is still detained in one of Bahrain Defence Force prisons and he is being subjected to physical and mental torture.

BCHR considers the detainee Mohamed Al Buflasa a political prisoner because he was kidnapped after making a speech at Lulu Roundabout in which he demanded political and economic reforms. The center would like to mention that Bahrain is part of the International Convention related to civil and political rights which forbids arbitrary detention. It was mentioned in the convention that any detainee must be informed of "the reasons behind his arrest and must be immediately informed of any allegations against him/her" and must be swiftly brought before a judge. The United Nations team concerned with arbitrary detention said that an arrest caused by exercising basic rights like the right of freedom of expression is considered an arbitrary detention. In addition to BCHR opinion regarding the importance of the release of all detainees in the aftermath of the late demonstrations in Bahrain, the BCHR calls for the following:

1. Allowing the family of detainee Mohamed Al Buflasa to visit him and make sure he is well especially after news of his attempted suicide. 2. The immediate release of detainee Mohamed Al Buflasa. 3. The investigation into allegations of torture made against him and bringing those responsible to justice and compensating the detainees for the mental and physical harm caused to them.

Read more on Al Buflasa Case:

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[1] Video recording of Mohamed Al Buflasa speech at Lulu Roundabout on 15th April 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8JhxRa4kgo [2] An announcement by an official at Bahrain Defence Force http://www.alwasatnews.com/3101/news/read/530490/1.htmlhttp://freealbuflasa.blogspot.com/ [4] An urgent request by the parliment to release Al Buflasa http://www.alwasatnews.com/3092/news/read/528505/1.html [5] Amnesty International statement amnesty.org/ar/news-and-update..

UK parliamentary panel calls for ‘end to torture and politically motivated arrests’ in Bahrain

20 July 2011

By RAY MOSELEY AL ARABIYA

A British parliamentary committee called on Wednesday for immediate action to ensure an end to torture and politically motivated detentions in Bahrain and accused Iraq of widespread human rights abuses, including torture and poor conditions in prisons.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee also said it plans to launch in inquiry in the autumn concerning aspects of British foreign policy and the Arab Spring.

In a report on human rights around the world, the committee said events of the Arab Spring should remind the Foreign Office that there are risks for the United Kingdom in failing to take a stronger and more consistent stance against rights violations by foreign regimes.

It said the committee was less confident than the Foreign Office that there is little conflict between Britain’s simultaneous pursuit of commercial interests and improved human rights standards abroad.

The Foreign Office, it recommended, should take a more robust and consistent position on human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa. It said the Foreign Office should have treated Bahrain as a “country of concern” in its 2010 annual human rights report.

The committee welcomed the Bahrain government’s establishment of a commission to investigate recent events involving protestors but said: “We remain concerned that immediate action is needed to ensure an end to torture and politically motivated detentions.”

Human rights, it said, should be at the heart of Foreign Office work in implementing its so-called Arab Partnership program. The government recently announced a four-year, £110 million partnership fund to support political reforms, give economic aid and carry out public finance reforms.

[..] alarabiya.net

Foreign Affairs Committee - Eighth Report The FCO's Human Rights Work 2010-11 Bahrain

18. Witnesses regarded the consistency of the Government's approach between different countries as a particular issue in the Middle East and North Africa, and one having resonance beyond that region. Of countries in the region, the FCO Report identified Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen as "countries of concern" (see paragraphs 48-57). Human Rights Watch argued that Bahrain was a "glaring omission" from the list, on the grounds that "serious human rights abuses existed before 2011" and a "noticeable crackdown" had began already in August 2010.[21]

19. Sir Emyr Jones Parry, former UK Permanent Representative to the UN, writing to us in his current capacity as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of REDRESS (the NGO that works on behalf of torture survivors), criticised the FCO Report for its relatively mild treatment of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain specifically as regards torture. Sir Emyr said that the passage on torture in the report's "country of concern" section on Saudi Arabia was "muted and not contextualised"; and that the omission of Bahrain from the list of "countries of concern" was "unfortunate, given the history of torture there and the close links between Bahrain and the UK". Sir Emyr highlighted the fact that British nationals had been tortured in Saudi Arabia, and that a dual UK-Bahraini national appeared to have been tortured in Bahrain. Sir Emyr said:

Egypt has demonstrated how the West failed to be sufficiently robust on values and rights, and tolerated policies and practices which it has taken the courage of the people of Egypt to bring us closer to ending [...] Silence, defended by discrete diplomatic pressure to make clear British opposition to torture, fails to put us publicly on the right side of the argument and has demonstrably not produced improvements within the countries concerned.[23]

57. Inasmuch as they are all countries where human rights are being seriously violated, we have no quarrel with the FCO's selection of "countries of concern" in its 2010 report, though we consider Bahrain should have been included. We share the FCO's deep concern about the human rights situation in all these states.

126. We also asked Mr Browne in May why arms export licences to Saudi Arabia had not been revoked, given the risk that certain categories of British-supplied equipment could be used for internal repression, either in Saudi Arabia or in Bahrain. On the Minister's behalf, Thomas Drew, Director for National Security at the FCO Directorate for Defence and Strategic Threats, replied that "it is a question of looking at this case-by-case—at specific equipment for specific areas. [...] There is no arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, therefore we have looked specifically item by item, which is why we came up with the conclusions that we did".[202]

128. We conclude that the recent policy of revoking arms export licences to countries in the Middle East and North Africa appears to have been inconsistently applied, inasmuch as no licences to Saudi Arabia, Syria or Yemen have been revoked, despite the fact that the risk of repressive use of equipment sold by British companies to those countries for their own use, or supplied by Saudi Arabia to other states such as Bahrain, appears to be as high as in the countries to which licences have been revoked. We recommend that the Government's review address specifically the issue of policy towards Saudi Arabia.

166. As we prepared this Report in June and early July 2011, the developing situation in the Middle East and North Africa engaged a wide range of human rights issues:

In Bahrain, the authorities were detaining and imprisoning large numbers of civilians after protests against the regime. In particular, the authorities had detained, reportedly mistreated, tried and in some cases imposed lengthy prison sentences on medical personnel who had treated injured civilians. Over 30 people were reported to have been killed by the security forces, and the regime had called in armed support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. By early July, the Sunni regime had opened talks with the main Shia opposition group, in a "national dialogue" on political reform; and it was being reported that the regime had announced an investigation into the security forces' handling of the unrest and that most of the Saudi troops were being withdrawn.[251] Subsequently the Bahrain regime has announced the establishment of a commission to investigate the events of recent months.[252]

170. We welcome the way in which the Government has put the UK at the forefront of international support for political and economic liberalisation in the Middle East and North Africa in response to the 'Arab Spring'. We agree with the Foreign Secretary that the 'Arab Spring' represents an opportunity for an historic advance in human rights and political and economic freedoms. However, the political outlook across the region is far from clear and may yet deteriorate. The human rights agenda in the region is now vast, ranging from urgent humanitarian and security risks facing civilians to the necessarily slow embedding of human rights norms in the security and other state institutions of democratising states. In Bahrain, we welcome the regime's establishment of a commission to investigate recent events, but we remain concerned that immediate action is needed to ensure an end to torture and politically-motivated detentions. We recommend that the FCO place human rights—and in particular political and civil rights—at the heart of its work with the Middle East and North Africa through the 'Arab Partnership' in coming years. We further recommend that the FCO devote a major dedicated section of its 2011 human rights report to reporting in detail on the human rights work which it is undertaking in the region.

www.publications.parliament.uk

HRF: Jalila al-Salman: Female Teacher Forgotten in Bahraini Prison

By Stephanie El Rayess Human Rights Defenders

20 July 2011

In addition to opposition members, human rights defenders, peaceful protesters, students and athletes, the Bahraini government is cracking down on its teachers. Teachers like Jalila al-Salman who was arrested in March for her alleged role in coordinating a teachers’ strike following the February and March protests that called for government reform. Over 40 security officers raided Jalila’s home in late March and arrested her in front of her three children. Jalila is still locked up, and her family claims she has been tortured. She may get her day in court, though no exact word on when. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights raised alarm of the government’s violent crackdown on the Bahraini Teacher’s Association (BTA) and the country’s teachers in a recently released report. According to their findings, many have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, military prosecution, torture, suspensions, salary cuts, and investigations due to their support of the peaceful demonstrations. Education International, a global federation of teacher unions, also condemned the Bahrain’s Ministry of Social Development’s decision to dissolve the BTA and to prosecute its leaders in military courts, calling it a “serious assault on teachers’ rights.”

Jalila has devoted her life to education. Her colleagues describe her sincerity, work ethic, and passion for teaching students and helping faculty over her 25 year career as an educator. Because of her years’ long struggle to improve teaching conditions in Bahrain, she faced numerous threats and was passed over for promotion. In addition to her work at Saba Secondary School, Jalila was the Vice-President of the BTA, which was formed as a substitute to the teachers’ union after the government’s 2003 ban on all unions in the public sector.

Members of Bahrain Teachers Association: Jalila AlSalman, Mahdi Abu Deeb, Sana Abdu Alrazzaq (left to right)
Jalila was reportedly severely tortured during her first few weeks of detention and is still being mistreated. Released detainees had previously described to Human Rights First a common pattern of ill-treatment and humiliation at Bahraini prisons, including verbal abuse, long periods of blindfolding (sometimes for several days), being beaten while handcuffed, being forced to sign documents which they were not even permitted to see, and being made to chant pro-government slogans. According to some who served time with Jalila, the 46 year-old mother of three, she has been a source of inspiration and comfort to her fellow detainees. One of these women is Ayat Hassan Mohammad al-Ghermezi, the 20-year-old poet and student who was released last week after being detained for reciting a poem that criticized the government. She too was tortured while in prison, which she described in a recent interview with The Independent newspaper.

Jalila and her colleagues are facing charges of “calling for and inciting the overthrow and hatred of the ruling system, possessing anti-political system pamphlets, spreading malicious and fabricated news and taking part in illegal gatherings,” the Bahrain News Agency reported. Jalila’s defense attorneys presented evidence and five witness statements from teachers and headmasters showing that she had no interest in politics or taking part in a political rally, which the Bahraini regime wrongly classifies as ‘crimes’. Like Jalila, the other accused teachers plead not guilty. Yet, the Military Prosecution claimed, “The suspects’ statements, investigations and technical information are enough to blame them.” Human Rights First has received information that Jalila’s case was transferred out of the military courts and that the trial is not likely to take place before September 15th.

In a recently released report, Human Rights First documented how the Bahraini government continues to intimidate, torture, and detain human rights defenders, citing eyewitness accounts and testimonies of injured detainees being tortured on their wounds, sexual abuse, and attacks at medical facilities. The release of some activists like Ayat al-Ghermezi is a relief, but much more needs to be done to rebuild the trust of the Bahraini people. Immediately releasing detained students and teachers and investigating the reports of torture and human rights violations during detention are necessary steps in this regard.

www.humanrightsfirst.org