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HRW: Bahrain: Rescind Travel Ban on Rights Defenders

September 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.hrw.org

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

29 Sep 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brutal repression of human rights defenders in historic crackdown

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

29 September 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ifex.org

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

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

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

28 September 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Including Head of BCHR and HRW Advisory Committee member Nabeel Rajab

September 24, 2010

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

Via facsimile: +973-1-766-4587

Your Majesty,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Hassan Elmasry Co-Chair MENA Advisory Committee

Kathleen Peratis Co-Chair MENA Advisory Committee

Asli Bâli Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Moulay Hicham Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Bruce Rabb Officer MENA Advisory Committee

Gary Sick Officer MENA Advisory Committee

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

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

Bahrain: public freedom in a dark tunnel

Blocked websites, banning of political publications, withdrawal of citizenship of religious figure, and attack on a mosque

22nd September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), expresses deep concern about the immense and rapid deterioration in public freedom in Bahrain, specifically in the freedom of opinion and expression. In the past few days licenses of printed publications were withdrawn from two political organizations, more websites have been blocked, Sheikh AbdulJalil Almuqdad who holds anti-government views has been prevented from giving sermons, the citizenship of Sheikh Najati and his family has been revoked because of his political positions, moreover two groups who share national news on the blackberry and the web have been stopped. Most of these violations happened in the last 24 hours in a fierce attack that aims at silencing all those who oppose government policies.

Political Societies under liberty restricting laws

On the 19th of September, the Public Information Department withdrew the license[1] for “The Democrat” which is the monthly publication of the society of Waad and the license of “AlWefaq” which is the weekly publication of the largest political society in Bahrain, AlWefaq. The justification given is that “these publications work on misleading public opinion, insulting names and persons and defaming them, and the publication of many false topics that aim at discrimination, sectarianism and to stir the public, as well as containing inflammatory titles and topics that do not serve the public interest in the kingdom.” The same department had previously called upon[2] and threatened those in charge of the publications of four political societies amongst them Waad and Alwefaq, attempting to put pressure on them to make their publications only about the news of their organizations and to stop publishing news that are related to the political and human rights situation in the country. At the same time a warning has been directed at the Islamic society about their publication and it is expected that their license will be withdrawn soon. The Department has also previously closed the Alwafeq[3] and the Islamic Society websites.

These violations of freedom of publication and expression which target political societies come as a result of the latter continually exposing the violations committed by the authorities towards the rights of citizens and the attacks on activists under the pretext of waging a war on terror. The publications have also been exposing crimes of corruption, discrimination, and political naturalization to change the demographic makeup in the country. The withdrawal of publication licenses has come at the same time that these societies were to begin their election campaigns for their candidates; this is an attempt to weaken these candidates, make it more difficult to reach their constituents, meanwhile strengthening their competitors, the government candidates. It is worth noting that the law on the organization of press which the actions of Department of Public Information were based on is one of the laws which restrict public liberties and conflicts with the relevant international standards, and there have been continuous demands from many international human rights organizations[4] to amend or cancel this law .

Targeting clerics and the hegemony over religious platforms

Moreover, on the 19th of September, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs prevented the cleric Abdul Jaleel Almuqdad from publicly speaking for two weeks starting Friday the 24th of September. This cleric is known for his honest criticism of the authorities concerning issues of prisoners, freedoms and democracy, and he is also known to be affiliated with the Alwafaa opposition movement. The justification given by the ministry was that this decision came “as a result of violations committed by Almuqdad in his last sermon, which entails a threat to national peace, and the blatant meddling in the work of law enforcement and disrespect for the judicial proceedings, as well as violating the ethics of religious sermons”. In his last sermon Almuqdad criticized the deterioration of human rights conditions in the country and the torture of activists and cleric, their defamation in the media before being convicted by the judicial system, being denied their civil rights and being suspended from their jobs[5].

On Friday the 24th of September the mosque Almuqdad was supposed to speak in was attacked, worshippers were attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas, and some were arrested, between them: Hussain Qambar Alomar (29 years), Ja'afar Abullah AlOmar (36 years), Ahmed AbduAli AlOmar (28 years), and Ahmed Marhoon AlOmar (55 years).

This prevention comes as a part of a campaign that aims to control religious platforms and subject them to government control. The campaign was initiated with a request that came in the month of Ramadan in a televised speech by the king[6] , and it was supported by his son the Crown prince Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Alkhalifa and his uncle the prime minister Khalifa Bin Salman Alkhalifa. The BCHR has reason to believe that this campaign is a part of a policy to silence the voices of opposition and to confiscate freedoms. This specific decision is an interference in the authority of the Mosques and the freedom of the orator, especially in raising issues of freedom and human rights. Moreover, it seeks to transform the religious platforms into a political tool to be used by the authorities to propagate their own concepts to the people, specifically the concept of submitting to the government and keeping silent about the abuses and violations, meanwhile prohibiting the issues of human rights and political affairs.

Revoking citizenship to silence opposition

On the 19th of September, in a sharp and shocking escalation in the policy of silencing opposition, the authorities revoked the citizenship of Sheikh Hussain AlNajati and his family[7] through the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The governments justification for the decision to revoke his citizenship is that “Sheikh Najati, who is in his fifth decade of his age, and his wife and children got their Bahraini passports in violation of the provisions of nationality and passport laws”[8], it was not clarified what kind of violation had been committed. The following day they contradicted themselves by claiming that “AlNajati and his family never really got a Bahraini citizenship” , it is known that Sheikh AlNajati was born in the city of Muharraq in Bahrain and had received the Bahraini nationality in accordance with the law, and he is one of the people who returned to Bahrain in 2001 after years of forced exile. AlNajati is known for his positions on human rights and political issues, most important amongst them being to postpone Friday prayers in protest against the law of political associations which restricts political activity, AlNajati described the passing of the Association law as a clear “violation” of the rights of political associations in the country. AlNajati had also supervised the negotiations that took place between government officials and members of the victims of torture committee which did not result in any agreements. Moreover, AlNajati was one of the clerics who signed the “senior religious scholars”[9] statement, which was recently issued calling on the king to take an “initiative of sincere salvage” to calm the current security conditions.

Bahraini law does not permit the withdrawal of citizenship after acquiring it, except in the case of high treason, and other exceptions mentioned in the law which do not apply in the case of AlNajati.

The BCHR believes that this dangerous escalation aims to increase the fear felt by opposition, specifically clerics. It also serves as a veiled threat of the possibility of arbitrarily revoking the citizenships of activists and clerics of Persian decent if they continue their political or human rights activity which opposes the government. What is equally disturbing is that the authorities are granting citizenship to tens of thousands of people from some Arabic and Asian countries based on sectarian and tribal preferences, proving the exploitation of their authority, meanwhile revoking the citizenship of a citizen who was born and raised in Bahrain, and threatening others of revoking their citizenship for discriminative sectarian reasons. The closure of more websites and the banning of broadcasts The closure of websites and banning of broadcasts continue, amongst those is the website of the political and human rights activist Abdulwahab Hussain, one of the leaders of the AlWafaa opposition group. Abdulwahab recently hosted a sit-in for the families of prisoners in his own home. The sit-in also included human rights activists and lawyers, the events of the sit-in were continuously being broadcasted on his website. “Group Mohannad” and “Breaking News”, which broadcast national news through the blackberry and some Twitter and Facebook groups have also been banned.[10]

The Legitimacy and fate of the security crackdown

This fierce campaign on freedom of expression and publication conflicts with Bahrain’s position as a member of the Human Rights Council, and its professed respect for the freedom of opinion and expression. It also contradicts Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which was ratified by Bahrain, which states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Moreover, this campaign contradicts with the freedom of religious belief.

The BCHR reiterates its call to the government of Bahrain and other concerned bodies including national and international associations and organizations, to pursue the Bahraini authorities and to make the following appeals:

1. The immediate cessation of the campaign on the freedom of expression and publishing. 2. To lift the ban on the publications of political societies, and allow their publishing and distribution. 3. To lift the ban on the public speaking of Sheikh Abdul Jalil AlMuqdad and to stop targeting religious platforms and confiscating religious freedoms from preachers. 4. To undo the withdrawal of AlNajati and his family’s citizenship, and to stop the intimidation of opponents using policies that contradict with constitutional provisions and international standards of human rights. 5. To unblock all the public websites which have been blocked before and in the latest security campaign. 6. To cancel all the proceedings which restrict freedom of opinion and expression or prevent the transmission of information. 7. To accomplish Bahrain’s international commitments and respect all forms of freedom of expression and publication as stipulated in international charters and conventions. 8. To amend press law number 47 from 2002 and make it in line with international standards of human rights. 9. To find a solution to the root of the problems and treat the causes of tension by beginning a process of a serious and sincere political reform and by resolving the human rights files which are related to civil, political, economic social and cultural rights. 10. To stop chasing and harassing human rights defenders and provide the appropriate legal and practical environment for their activity in accordance with the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

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[1]alwasatnews.com/2936 [2]alwasatnews.com/2918 [3]http://www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/3365 [4]Freedom House and CPJ [5]http://bahrainonline.org/showpost.php?p=1988560&postcount=4 [6]http://www.aljazeera.net [7]alwasatnews.com/2936 [8]alwasatnews.com/2937 [9]manamavoice.com [10]http://www.bna.bh/?ID=174536

Bahrain:Continuous Violations, Changing Charges And Growing Restrictions On Freedoms

• Changing the charges relating to communication with foreign bodies and organizations • Increase in arrests, including arrest of young children • Closure of more opposition websites • Prevention of human rights activist from leaving the country to participate in the Bahrain event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva

19 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern at the continuous and rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain; with the increase in arbitrary arrests, including children aged no more than 10 years of age, and late night raids. Detainees continue to be held in secret and isolated locations and are still prohibited from seeing their families and lawyers. The BCHR believes that questions should be raised as to the intentions behind the changes in the phrasing of the charges put against the detained political and human rights activists, as well as the continued official global media campaign on the supposed ‘terrorist network’ as a means of justifying their repression against innocent civilians. On Saturday the 18th of September 2010, Layla Dashti a human rights activist, was prevented from leaving the country whilst heading to Geneva to participate in meeting on the Bahraini situation in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Continued Systematic Torture and Arbitrary Arrests

Persistent human rights violations are taking place as the security onslaught undertaken by the Bahraini authorities continues. One month on from the arrests, detainees are still prohibited from their basic rights as they are not allowed to see their lawyers or families. To add to that, there are reliable reports that the detainees are subjected to systematic torture.

On the 8th of September 2010, renowned blogger Ali Abdulemam was taken to the public attorney late at night with no lawyer present. This has raised fears that this is a deliberate attempt by the public prosecutor to hide the effects of torture, a ploy that has been previously used. The charges put forward to him by the public prosecutor were; establishing and maintaining an internet forum (Bahrainonline) which “spreads false news”[1], as well as receiving funding for the website from one of the opposition figures accused in the alleged terrorist network . The second accusation in particular raises many eyebrows as such websites require no more than $200 annually to run.

Last week the house of Hassan Mushaima – the General Secretary for the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy – was raided only hours after his appearance on television where he was speaking about the current situation in Bahrain. His son Mohamed, 21 years of age, was arrested, revealing the extent of intolerance the authorities have when being criticized. Mohamed’s arrest is a clear attempt to blackmail his father. It is worth noting that Hassan Mushaima is currently in London receiving treatment for cancer.

The Attorney- General, Ali Fadhel Buainain[2], spoke last week to the Bahrain News Agency informing them of the detainees’ safety whilst emphasizing that there was no ill-treatment or torture , particularly singling out the case of Jaffar Al-Hesabi (a British citizen). This statement was released after great pressure from the British media and human rights groups. The lack of information or reference to the 200+ detainees (Bahraini nationals) currently being held is a clear statement from the authorities of their ruthlessness, and nothing has been done to reassure the families of those being held.

Changing the declared charges against detainees after they were published with the consent of the Ministry of Interior

The lack of substance to the charges against political activists, defenders of human rights and religious clerics in the so-called terrorist network is further confirmed by the constant change in the charges against its alleged members based on the reactions of local and international communities. On the 4th of September the media began reporting on the allegations as being based on "communication with third-party and providing false statements" and "contacts with foreign bodies and political parties abroad, urging them not to support the illegal group" and "coordination and organization of the leaders of the illegal group with international organizations and bodies". After a wave of international criticism by various institutions and human rights organizations, the prosecution later issued a statement announcing the withdrawal of charges linking the alleged network to any foreign parties. It instead rephrased[3] the charges accusing its members of attempting to set up an organization which aims to overthrow the government and carry out acts of sabotage and destruction and raise funds for terrorist organizations .

The center believes that the retreat from some of the charges related to links with the outside or changing the charges against the detainees came after international pressures on the government. It is also based on the fact that the initial charges are tantamount to incriminating the exercise of basic rights, and that such exercise is part of human rights and in line with international standards which allow the documentation of local violations of human rights and submitting them to the international organizations and mechanisms in relation to human rights. The repeated changing of charges and the images of the accused also indicate the lack of credibility of the case as a whole, its fragility and the baseless charges directed against activists and human rights defenders.

Arrests have continued unabated since the beginning of the campaign and exceeded the 250 arrests documented by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The Center believes that there are other detainees whose cases have not been documented due to the state of fear which the citizens suffer from and their reluctance to resort to human rights bodies and the closure of public news sources such as websites which are sources for information. Among the detainees, two children from Al-Dair village; Mohammed Ali, 10 years who is in fifth grade, and Aymen Jaffer, 11 years, who were both arrested on 31st August.

Mohamed Ali, 10 years old

Most of the detained were attacked and severely beaten at the time of their arrest. An example of that was when several young youths who were in a small farm in the village of Bani Jamra got arrested. Amongst these detained youths was Mohamed Jafar Mohamed from Bani Jamra, whose baseball cap was found at the location of arrest, surrounded by blood. The whereabouts and condition of the youths is still unknown.

On the left, Mohamed Jafar Mohamed, and on the right is his cap surrounded by blood located at the place of arrest.

Whilst arrests are ongoing, there has also been an increase in kidnapping cases in several areas across the kingdom. Those kidnapped are reportedly sexually harassed, stripped of their clothes, photographed naked, and tortured. The BCHR will disclose no further information with regards to these abductions and urges any person who is abducted and abused to report these violations to us along with any evidence such as images or documents.

Elsewhere, security services published reports on Tuesday 14th of September detailing an alleged act of terrorism where four parked cars were deliberately set ablaze outside a residential building belonging to security personnel in Hamad Town. On the same day, local media published pictures of new defendants as part of another ‘terrorist network’ that allegedly plotted to detonate several explosive devices across the country during the days of Eid. The Bahraini authorities are clearly attempting to exaggerate the current state of affairs across the country in a desperate attempt to make it appear that the country is under terrorist attack, and hence justifying the hundred of arrests that have taken place in the past month.

Whilst rejecting the use of violence in all forms, especially that which may endanger the safety of others and damaging public and private property, the BCHR would like to make clear the obvious bias that exists within the information issued by the security services and media. There is clearly no neutral way of ensuring that the information provided by the security services is credible.

The BCHR would also like to point out that publishing pictures of detainees is a clear violation of the principle that the accused is always innocent until proven guilty.

More Closure of Websites

Concurrent with this campaign, the Bahraini authorities blocked more political websites, even those licensed by the government. The website of the opposition party Al-Wefaq, which is the biggest Shia opposition group with 17 of the 40 seats in the House of Representatives, was also blocked at a time that the party was preparing to launch its campaign for the upcoming elections. The Islamic Action Society’s, which is the second biggest Shia party in Bahrain, website remains blocked, along with Mr Abdul Wahab Hussein's website, a leader of the opposition whose policies were targeted in this crackdown. The national publications of both Al-Wefaq and Islamic Action Societies have also been blocked.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reiterates its call to the Government of Bahrain and the parties concerned, including associations, local and international organizations, to pressure the Bahraini authorities to commit to the following requests:

1. The immediate release of all activists and defenders of human rights, whose arrests are related to exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of expression, and their right to attend peaceful gathering. These are rights that are guaranteed to them by international law. 2. To immediately cease the psychological and physical torture of detainees; ensuring the detainees’ right to see their lawyer and family is fulfilled, whilst also investigating allegations of torture, and bringing perpetrators to justice. 3. The immediate cessation of the terrorism law, which goes against the international standards of human rights, as well as being rejected by the United Nations and other international organizations. 4. To stop the organized media campaign which incites hatred and drives the country towards sectarian tension. 5. To stop the publication of names and photographs of detainees in Bahraini newspapers, adhering to the principle of innocent until proven guilty. 6. For the local authorities to operate on the principle of equality, applying the law to all without exception, and providing the accused with the right to a fair trial. 7. To find a solution to the root of the problem, to address these problems accordingly to decrease the ever increasing tensions which currently exist, and to begin a process of political reform, finding viable solutions to outstanding legal files relating to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. 8. To stop harassing human rights defenders and to provide these same defenders with the legal environment which allows them to freely conduct their activities in accordance to the Declaration of Private International Defenders of Human Rights.

---

[1]bna.bh alwasatnews.com/2928[2] alwasatnews.com/2924[3]

Continuing attempts to mislead public opinion : Bahrain newspapers Forge statement of U.S. Department of State

21 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern at the Bahraini authorities’ continuing attempts to withhold information in order to manipulate public opinion by forging and distorting information. This has been noticed recently in the attempt of the Bahraini authorities to forge the statement of U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley concerning the recent arrests of Bahraini opposition figures, and the attempt of the Bahraini authorities to make the criticism sound as commendation.

In the daily press briefing on 15th September, a reporter addressed a question to Philip J. Crowley, the US Dept of State starting with the following statement[1]: “There has been a string of arrests of opposition figures in Bahrain in recent days. Human rights groups are also alleging police torture,” then the reporter requested a comment on this “given the close relations between Bahrain and the United States”. “This is something that we are in touch with Bahraini authorities and have expressed our concern,” Mr. Crowley said. “At the same time, we have confidence as Bahrain evolves that you don’t have to make a choice between security and democracy, and that this is the message that we’re sending to the government.”

Later, when the reporter asked the US Dept of State spokesman if they “believe the government’s claim that these opposition figures were trying to sort of arrange a coup against the royal family”, his answer was: “I don’t know that we’re aware of any information along those lines for –“

However, the Bahraini authorities forged the statement of US Dept of State spokesperson and sent their own version to the local daily newspapers. The following points out the manipulation to the statement:

“Attention to events in Kingdom... America: Bahrain evolves in security and democracy. During his daily press briefing in the US Dept of State in Washington, the ministry spokesman Philip J. Crowley expressed his country’s interest in the security events that the Kingdom of Bahrain has experienced recently. To a reporter’s question in this regard, the spokesman stressed that the United States has confidence that Bahrain is evolving in the fields of development, security and democracy”.

This distortion shows the efforts of the Bahraini authorities to mislead the public opinion on the local-scale as they want to convince people that the government is receiving sympathy and solidarity from all around the world amid growing international criticism of their security attacks that resulted in hundreds of detainees and hostages as well as blocking websites and suspending journals that belong to political parties.

This act of manipulation is inconsistent with the requirements of free press and with Bahrain’s position as a member in the Human Rights Council as well as the government claims to respect the freedom of opinion and expression.

Therefore, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights reiterates its call for the following:

1. To stop media blackout and distortion of information. 2. Immediately stop targeting the civil liberties and human rights, and stop any type of violation and attacks against citizens and activists in like manner. 3. To begin the process of a serious and genuine political reform in order to eliminate the causes of tension. This should be done through resolving all outstanding legal issues related to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

--

[1]Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC - September 15, 2010

Bahrain: Update – Public Prosecutor denies processing case of detained human rights defender Ali Abdulemam

Posted on 2010/09/23

Front Line is gravely concerned that the Prosecutor General of Bahrain has denied that a file has been opened regarding human rights defender Mr Ali Abdulemam, who has not been seen since his arrest on 4 September 2010.

alleged torture when they appeared separately and individually befThe denial follows an announcement by the Bahraini authorities on 22 September that detained human rights activists will for the first time be allowed to receive visits from their lawyers and families, who will also be informed of the detainees' whereabouts for the first time.

Following this announcement, on 23 September 2010, Ali Abdulemam's brother, Mr Hossain Abdulemam, went to the Office of the Public Prosecutor to apply for permission to visit Ali Abdulemam in prison. However, an employee at the office told Hossain Abdulemma that Ali has not appeared before the Public Prosecutor and that there is no record of him or personal number for him in the office.

Under the 2006 “Law to Protect Society from Acts of Terrorism” - the legislation cited with regard to the recent arrests of Ali Abdulemam and at least 23 other Bahraini activists and opposition leaders for an alleged “terrorist plot” - the security forces have the right to detain individuals for a maximum period of 15 days before either bringing them before the Public Prosecutor, or releasing them. Ali Abdulemam's initial 15-day period of detention expired on Sunday, 19 September. His detention now appears to continue in contravention of the applicable Bahraini legislation.

Ali Abdulemam, a leading human rights defender and blogger who runs an independent online news forum, was arrested on 4 September after receiving a phone call from the National Security Apparatus of Bahrain summoning him for questioning. He has not been seen since. In a public statement reported shortly after Ali Abdulemam's disappearance, the Interior Ministry of Bahrain acknowledged his arrest, denying that he and other detainees had been detained because of their political views.

"Any assumption that Mr. Abdulemam has been arrested purely on the basis of any political views he may hold is entirely inaccurate," the ministry reportedly said. "[It] is connected solely to evidence of his involvement with senior members of the terrorist network... authorities are continuing to investigate the full extent of Mr. Abdulemam's involvement in the terrorist plot."

Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor's denial follows reports in Bahrain's state-run media that Ali Abdulemam had already appeared before the prosecutor some days after his arrest. Unconfirmed reports alleged that he had confessed to his part in the alleged terrorist plot.

Front Line is gravely concerned regarding the Public Prosecutor's denial of having processed Ali Abdulemam's case, as it reinforces fears that he may have been tortured or ill-treated whilst in detention. Front Line and other international human rights organisations have documented numerous cases of torture and ill-treatment in Bahrain's detention centres. In addition, other recently arrested human rights activists, including Abduljalil Al Singace, Abdul Ghani al-Khanjar, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, and Abdulhadi al-Mokhaider, are reported to have ore the Public Prosecutor.

Front Line demands the initiation of a fair, transparent and legitimate legal process in relation to Ali Abdulemam's case, failing his immediate and unconditional release from detention. It is believed that his arrest is directly linked to his human rights activities, particularly his work in support of freedom of expression in Bahrain. Front Line reminds the Bahraini authorities of their obligations in this regard under both international standards and national legislation.

frontlinedefenders.org

BAHRAIN: Observatory For The Protection Of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2010

Political context

Despite the commitments taken by the authorities and the recommendations made by the Member States of the Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain in April 2008, the year 2009 saw the adoption of none of the principal reforms expected to guarantee improved respect for citizens’ rights[1]. Bahrain civil society, heavily implicated in the fight against discrimination and corruption, continued to be subjected to the interference of an all-powerful executive body. In addition, the laws regulating freedoms of association[2], public Assembly[3], expression[4] and trade union freedom remained extremely restrictive.

Freedom of expression in particular deteriorated considerably, notably through blocks on Internet websites, proceedings against journalists and media campaigns against defenders. Since January 5, 2009, a Ministry of Culture and Information By-law authorises the suspension of websites by simple request of the Minister and without any judicial control. Under this by-law, “telecommunication companies and Internet service providers are required to prohibit any means that allow access to sites blocked by the Ministry, whether by Internet address, use of a proxy server or any other means” (Article 3). This measure deprives human rights defenders of a basic tool for denouncing human rights violations. At the beginning of 2009, the authorities ordered the blocking of the Aafaq.org information website, based in Washington (United States), the Bahrain-eve blog of the President of the Women’s Petition Committee and the blog of the Bahrainblogs.org aggregator. At the end of 2009, nearly 600 websites were still inaccessible within the country[5]. Moreover, the blocking of websites occurred in a climate of widespread censorship; trials of journalists also increased in 2009. In addition, the draft amendment of Law No. 47 on the Press, which was approved in 2008 by the Shura Council and which annuls most prison sentences against journalists, had still not been submitted by the Government to the National Assembly by the end of 2009.

2009 was also marked by the pardon granted in April 2009 by the King of Bahrain to 178 political prisoners[6] sentenced or prosecuted for attacks on security. Nevertheless, those who voiced opposition to the Government, especially those who denounced discrimination against the Shia population, continued to be subjected to acts of harassment.

Ongoing obstacles to freedom of association

In 2009, several human rights organisations were still obliged to carry out their work without being registered, in particular the Bahrain Youth Human Rights Society (BYHRS), the National Committee for the Unemployed and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).

Without legal recognition, the founders of these NGOs remained liable to judicial proceedings. As an example, proceedings against Mr. Mohammed Abdul Nabi al-Maskati, BYHRS Director, was still being prosecuted since the end of 2007 for “operating an unregistered association before the issue of a registration license”. He risks a six months’ prison sentence and a fine of 5,000 dinars (around 9,450 euros). The hearing was postponed from November 16, 2009 to January 25, 2010.

Obstacles to freedom of peaceful assembly

In 2009, there were considerable restrictions on the organisation of peaceful assemblies. On May 16, 2009, special forces prevented the organisation of a public seminar on the “political naturalisation” process in Bahrain, by which the Government naturalises foreigners belonging to the Sunni obedience in order to counteract the demographic weight of the Shia community on the country’s population, and to denounce discrimination against the Shia population. The seminar was organised by six political groups[7] and was due to be held at the premises of the National Democratic Action Society (Waad) in the village of Arad on Muharraq Island. The special forces surrounded the building and prevented most of the seminar organisers and participants from entering on the grounds that the authorities had not authorised the seminar. In addition, on August 25, 2009, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, was arrested and held for several hours by the police when he and three other people protested in front of the Saudi embassy against the arbitrary detention of a Bahraini citizen held for seven years in Saudi prisons. Mr. Rajab was threatened with reprisals if he returned to protest in front of the Saudi embassy even if there were no more than four protesters[8]. The police also resorted again to the use of violence to break up demonstrations or unauthorised peaceful assemblies, with complete impunity. As an example, on March 13 and 15, 2009, the special forces, which are responsible to the security services, opened fire on families who had gathered peacefully in Sitra to call for the return of their lands confiscated by the army, and at the Duraz roundabout near Manama to demand the release of political detainees. Several demonstrators were injured[9].

Moreover, on February 11, 2009, Mr. Sayed Sharaf Ahmed, a board member of the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture, was arrested at his home and held for several days with no contact with his family or with a lawyer. Mr. Sayed Sharaf Ahmed is known for his role in the organisation of peaceful sit-ins in Sitra in support of prisoners’ rights. He was arrested firstly without a warrant, and then later accused of “burning tyres” and “holding up the traffic”. He was released six months later due to lack of evidence[10].

Bahraini defenders in exile abroad were also targets of acts of intimidation because of their participation in rallies to condemn human rights violations in their country. For instance, Messrs. Abbass Abdul Aziz al-Omran, a former member of BCHR, and Ali Mushaima, a former member of the Unemployed and Underpaid Committee (UUC), were attacked in London by three masked men on July 2, 2009. Three days later, Mr. Mushaima received a telephone call from an unknown person who threatened that he would be attacked again if he continued his protests against the Bahrain Government. Messrs. Abbas al-Omran and Ali Mushaima are regular participants in demonstrations opposite the Bahrain embassy in London[11].

Recourse to anti-terrorist legislation to prosecute human rights defenders

In 2009, a wave of arrests on the basis of anti-terrorist legislation, followed by a defamation campaign, targeted 35 activists including several human rights defenders accused of being involved in an “planned attack” foiled by the authorities in December 2008. On January 26, 2009, Mr. Hassan Mushaima, President of the unauthorised political organisation al-Haq, Mr. Abduljalil al-Sengais, Head of the human rights unit of the same organisation, and Mr. Habib al-Moqdad, a religious dignitary, were arrested at their homes by security agents and then taken to Dry Dock prison on Muharraq Island. M. Abduljalil al-Sengais was released on bail on January 27, 2009. The accusations against all three included their participation in creating an illegal association in opposition to the Bahrain Constitution and resorting to terrorism to achieve its objectives, a charge that is punishable by life imprisonment, under Article 6 of Law No. 58 of 2006 on Terrorism[12]. Several other activists arrested in December 2008 in relation to the same case complained of being subjected to ill-treatment and torture during questioning. The police would also have forced them to make false declarations and accusations against several human rights defenders, “confessions” that were then relayed through the press and television.

The trial of the 35 people involved in the so-called “terrorist plot”case, or case No. 1403/2008, was opened on February 23, 2009 before the Manama High Criminal Court. Amongst the people charged were Messrs. Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil al-Sengais, Habib al-Moqdad, Abbass Abdul Aziz al-Omran[13], Abdul-redha Hassan al-Saffar, known for his ties with UUC and arrested on December 21, 2008, Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof al-Shayeb, former President of the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture. All these people are known for their demands for equal rights. All the activists prosecuted in this case were finally granted a royal pardon by the King on April 12, 2009.

Judicial harassment of journalists who denounce human rights violations

In 2009, judicial proceedings were opened against several journalists who denounced human rights violations. As an example, Ms. Maryam al-Shoroogi, a journalist with the al-Wasat daily paper, was accused of making remarks that “damage the unity of the country by introducing discrimination between Sunni and Shia Muslims”, following the publication of an article in the edition of August 27, 2008 in which she condemned discriminatory employment practices by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB). On October 17, 2009, the Manama High Criminal Court sentenced her to payment of a fine of 50 dinars (around 92 euros). She appealed against the decision[14]. Similarly, on March 5, 2009, the General Prosecutor summoned Ms. Lamees Dhaif, a journalist with the daily newspaper al-Waqt, after a series of articles entitled “the Dossier of Great Shame” appeared between November 22 and 26, 2008, in which she denounced the failings in the legal system and called for the adoption of a new family code.

Ms. Dhaif is being prosecuted for “public insult to the constituent body”under Article 216 of the Criminal Code, punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, rather than Law No. 47 on the Press. As of the end of 2009, proceedings against her continued[15].

Urgent Interventions issued by The Observatory in 2009

Click to enlarge

Full Report on fidh.org (PDF)

Footnotes: ---------- 1 / An action plan for the implementation of UPR recommendations was adopted on July 10, 2008, but the principal reforms contained in the plan, relating to fundamental freedoms, remained pending at the end of 2009. 2 / See Law No. 21 of 1989 on Associations. A new Bill on Associations, drawn up in 2007 by the Ministry of Social Development in consultation with civil society organisations, had still not been presented to Parliament by the end of 2009. 3 / See Law No. 32 of 2006 on Public Assemblies. 4 / See Law No. 17 of 2002 on the Press and Publications. 5 / See Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Release, May 14, 2009 and BCHR. 6 / Including Mr. Hassan Abdulnabi, a member of the Unemployed and Underpaid Committee (UUC), Mr. Naji al-Fateel, a member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mr. Mohammed Abdullah al-Sengais, founder of the Committee to Combat High Prices (CCHP), and Mr. Isa al-Sarh, a member of the Amal Political Society. 7 / These were the Waad, the Progressive Forum, al-Wefaq, Amal, the National Coalition and al-Ekha. 8 / Law No. 32 of 2006 on Public Assemblies prohibits any unauthorised assembly of more than four people. See BCHR. 9 / See BCHR Press Release, March 26, 2009. 10 / See BCHR Press Release, March 2, 2009 and BHRS. 11 / Idem. 12 / The other charges - “incitement to overthrow the Government and the political system” and “incitement to hatred of the regime” - are punishable under the Criminal Code by five and three years’ imprisonment respectively. 13 / The name of Mr. Abbass Abdulaziz al-Omran was only added on February 10, 2009 to the indictment sent by the Prosecutor to the High Criminal Court in relation to this case. 14 / The trial at appeal was planned for January 17, 2010. See BCHR and BHRS. 15 / See BCHR and IFEX Joint Press Release, March 10, 2009, and RSF Press Release, May 14, 2009.