Bahrain Inquiry Receives 5,200 Complaints So Far
26 August 2011
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) announced today, 26th August 2011, that the final date for the submission of complaints will be 30th September 2011. Thus far, in excess of 5200 complaints have been received by the BICI, all of which are being examined and cases investigated according to the Commission mandate. The final report is due to be submitted on 30th October to HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and will be made public in its entirety. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry was established on 29th June 2011 in the Kingdom of Bahrain pursuant to Royal Order No. 28 by His Majesty, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The BICI is mandated to “investigate and report on the events occurring in Bahrain in February/March 2011, and any subsequent consequences arising out of the aforementioned events, and to make such recommendations as it may deem appropriate”.
IFEX: Governments attack Twitter activists
24 August 2011
The governments of at least three Arab countries - Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait - have launched investigations into or prosecuted Twitter activists, provoking other countries in the region to follow suit, reports the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI). In Egypt, activist Asmaa Mahfouz faces a military investigation for her comments on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to a phone call she had made to a religious satellite channel, that "insulted the military," report ANHRI and Human Rights Watch. Mahfouz had criticised the military for failing to intervene to protect protesters on 23 July. Although she was released on 20,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$3,400) bail, Mahfouz still awaits trial.
The Mahfouz case is the latest in a series of moves prosecuting critical expression by Egypt's military, which is increasingly setting narrower and narrower limits on what is permissible, Human Rights Watch said. According to Human Rights Watch, military courts have sentenced at least 10,000 civilians since January 2011 after unfair proceedings.
Bahrain started targeting Twitter users last April when it investigated well-known rights activist Nabeel Rajab for publishing a picture of a Bahraini citizen who allegedly died after being tortured in police custody. According to ANHRI and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), of which Rajab is president, another investigation is planned into Rajab's tweets.
Last week, Rajab was called in for questioning for allegedly "deliberately posting sensational propaganda and false information on his social networking site likely to disrupt public order, spark fear among people, damage public interests and defame authorities." He had recently posted a letter critical of the head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Rajab stands by his posts and said he will continue to tweet. Read his posts here: @NABEELRAJAB
In Kuwait, blogger Nasser Abul was arrested in June for allegedly threatening state security in Twitter messages, report ANHRI and Human Rights Watch. Abel had posted tweets that sharply criticised and mocked the ruling families of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for the military crackdown on anti-government protests in Bahrain, supported by Saudi troops. His lawyer said that Abul denied writing some of the more inflammatory tweets, and that hackers had posted the messages.
"Nasser Abul has been held for more than a month on the basis of a few tweets that clearly constitute protected speech," said Human Rights Watch. "His detention appears to be an illegal effort to punish him and intimidate others who might dare be critical about Kuwait's fellow Gulf monarchs."
Kuwaiti authorities should immediately investigate allegations that Abul has been mistreated in detention, having reportedly been subjected to sleep deprivation, held in solitary confinement, and denied family visits and legal counsel, Human Rights Watch added.
Kuwait's "Al-Siyasah" newspaper reported that a member of Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family plans to file a defamation suit against Abul on behalf of the royal family.
Meanwhile, security services in the United Arab Emirates are closely monitoring activity on social networking sites, says ANHRI.
Anyone posting false and malicious news or statements that would harm public security would be punished with imprisonment of one month to three years, the Ministry of Interior announced on 17 August.
"It seems that Arab governments have run out of values like tolerance, dialogue, or respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and have settled for police repression as a means to deal with different and critical opinions," said ANHRI. "It has become crystal clear that a war is raging between speech and the police."
AP: Bahrain soccer stars pay price for protesting
By Michael Casey The Associated Press Posted: Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 SITRA, Bahrain – When anti-government protests broke out in Bahrain, Alaa and Mohammed Hubail hunkered down in their family compound and refused to take part. They feared their reputations as top soccer players would make them easy targets for police.
But Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa soon came out in support of peaceful protests. It was the green light the Hubail brothers were looking for and they joined a march of several hundred athletes to Pearl Square, the epicenter of Shiite-led protests against the Gulf nation's Sunni rulers.
It was a tragic miscalculation.
Two weeks after the February march, the 31-year-old Alaa Hubail was interrogated on state-run television and called a traitor. He and his 29-year-old brother were arrested a day later along with national team goalkeeper Ali Saeed Abdullah as they trained at their Al Alhi soccer club. They were among six players from the country's national team who were hauled into jail, where they say they were tortured for taking part in the protests.
Mohammed Hubail was tried and sentenced to two years in jail. He is out of jail while he appeals the sentence. Alaa's case is pending. They have gone from celebrities to pariahs among Bahrain's pro-government factions — barred from playing on the national team and blacklisted from the local league for what they contend was simply following the advice of the crown prince.
"I served my country with love and will continue as much as I can," Alaa Hubail, nicknamed the Golden Boy after the prolific striker was the top scorer in the 2004 Asian Cup, told The Associated Press at his home in the Shiite-dominated village of Sitra in the first interviews the brothers have given to foreign media.
"But I won't forget the experience which I went through for all my life" he said. "What happened to me was a cost of fame. Participating in the athletes' rally was not a crime."
The backlash against the Hubail brothers was part of a sweeping, government crackdown in a bid to snuff out opposition to the regime. Besides the arrest of hundreds of citizens, students were expelled from universities, government employees were fired, and doctors and nurses put on trial for treating injured protesters.
Protesters were denigrated and interrogated on state television and then accused of anti-state conspiracies in trials before a secretive, security court. Even some of the slightest infractions were dealt with harshly, including a 20-year-old woman who was sentenced to a year in prison for reading a poem critical of Bahrain's king.
Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain's Shiite majority took to the streets Feb. 14 to demand that the country's more than 200-year-old Sunni dynasty loosen its control on top government and security posts. After days of mostly peaceful protests, the regime cracked down on the protesters, resulting in the death of more than 30 people and the detention of thousands.
Of all the demonstrators, athletes would have seemed to be the least likely to be targeted. Many had close ties to members of the royal family and were involved in the regime's campaign to raise its global profile through sports.
It was a strategy that resulted in the kingdom securing the region's first Formula One race — the Bahrain Grand Prix — and being added this year to the European Tour schedule with the Volvo Golf Champions. The protests, however, forced the cancellation of this year's Bahrain GP and the next Volvo golf tournament.
Having athletes take to the streets, though, appears to have touched a nerve among several ministers. They launched attacks in state media calling the sportsmen disloyal and ungrateful after many had been rewarded with cushy jobs, houses or luxury cars.
Then, the arrests began.
More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees from soccer to pingpong were jailed after a special committee, chaired by Bahrain Football Association chairman Sheik Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, identified them from photos of the protests. A half-dozen soccer clubs, all from Shiite villages, were fined $20,000 each and remain suspended.
Most athletes have since been released, but those interviewed by the AP remained stunned by the government's actions — especially the jail terms, the alleged beatings and the charges of being agents of Iran or Hezbollah.
Many had for months refused to speak to the international media and only spoke to the AP reluctantly, admitting they feared their comments could get them longer jail sentences. But most felt the time had come to speak out after all they had endured.
"I only went to the roundabout for 30 minutes. I never said bad things about the government, especially the king," said Tariq al-Farsani, a well-known former bodybuilder who was arrested April 15 and spent about two months in jail. "The sports people only went there because they want freedom for the people. Everybody went there. It wasn't a big thing."
And despite the regime's call for unity in the divided nation, athletes continue to suffer.
All of those interviewed told the same story — they are now jobless, running out of money and living in a legal limbo. Most have not been allowed to return to government jobs, all are banned from playing for the national team and are still awaiting a date for their trials to resume.
"When I saw all this happen to me, I feel like I'm nothing. They don't care about anyone who served the country, who made history for this country," said Saleh Hasan, a nine-time Bahrain pingpong champion who was banned as a national coach and lost his job at the Ministry of Education.
"Seventy days in jail. This is their appreciation to me," he said. "I'm thinking a lot of ending my sportsman career. ... The things they do to me has given me another chance to think. All my history was a big mistake for this country if they will treat us like this."
Several athletes are still behind bars, including brothers Mohammed and Ali Mirza, who played for the country's handball team that went to the 2011 World Cup in January, and 16-year-old Iraqi soccer player Zulfiqar Naji, who played for Al Muharraq's junior team.
"This has been really hard," said Naji's mother Montaha Kassim, who brought her family to Bahrain eight years ago and plans to return to Iraq once her son is released. "When we were in Iraq with Saddam, nothing like this happened to us. I don't want to stay here anymore."
In a statement about the athletes, Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority said no one was jailed because of their profession, but that it "was their understanding that people have been detained for various reasons to do with the maintenance of public order or threats to national security."
It said Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry is investigating the allegations, including claims of torture, and a report is due at the end of October. As for whether athletes can return to their teams, it said this was a matter for individual clubs and team managers to sort out, not the government.
"The idea that there is some kind of conspiracy against sports people is ludicrous," the authority said. "Bahrain is proud of its patriotic sports men and women and looks forward to seeing their talents on display at the forthcoming Gulf Cooperation Council Games in Bahrain (in October)."
Like most Bahrain athletes, the Hubail brothers say they never dabbled in politics. Soccer, by far the most popular sport on the island, was all that mattered to them.
"Football is our life; the third thing after water, after food," said father Ahmed Hubail, laughing as he talked in the sparsely decorated family room of their modest, two-story villa. "Me, too. I'm an old man and I play football."
The brothers' arrival on the national team in 1998 came at an opportune time.
Bahrain had dropped to 139th in the FIFA world rankings and was on the verge of becoming a laughing stock in the Gulf. But a young team led by Alaa Hubail and several other Shiite stars sparked a run to the 2004 Asian Cup semifinal and lifted the team as high as 44th in the rankings.
The team twice was one match from qualifying for World Cups — losing playoff games to Trinidad and Tobago in 2006 and New Zealand in 2010 in what is still considered a remarkable achievement for a country of 525,000. Along the way, the boys were given the celebrity treatment in Bahrain. Alaa, a stern-looking father of one, had his portrait plastered all over Manama as part of a Pepsi advertising campaign.
"I'm very proud my sons were part of making history for the country," Ahmed Hubail said. "It's good. We try hard to just get our country up and to be famous in the world. We didn't expect they would be put in prison for doing nothing. They did nothing. They just participated in the march."
Pressure from FIFA helped gain the Hubail brothers' release in late June, but their ordeal didn't end there. The brothers were put on trial for protesting. They were left off the list of players for the team's 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although coach Peter Taylor told the AP he wouldn't rule out adding them at some point.
The uncertainty over their fate has left the family angry and bitter — much like many Shiites in their neighborhood of narrow lanes and mostly drab, one-story homes.
Neighborhoods like this have become the epicenter of the lingering protest movement against the government, places where the walls are alive with graffiti denouncing the royal family and a game of cat and mouse ensues nightly between truckloads of heavily armed riot police and stone-throwing youths.
On a recent night, the loud booms of stun grenades mingled alongside the sounds of elderly women banging huge pots in a sign the protest was about to kick off. Drivers beeped their horns in alliance with the protesters as the acrid smell of tear gas drifted across the rooftops.
The Hubail brothers aren't taking part in the protests any more and spend most of their days at the family compounds. Alaa has recently signed a deal to play for an Omani football club, but Mohammed is still searching for a team. He refused to return to former club Al Alhi after it insisted he sign a statement admitting to his crimes.
Mohammed Hubail still can't get over his treatment in jail — claiming he was blindfolded, handcuffed and kicked and beaten with hoses relentlessly by the police — and is angry that neither the executives from Al Alhi nor any of his fellow players stood up for him.
Mohammed has begun to question whether he will ever play soccer again. Even if the charges are dropped and the national team offers him a spot, Mohammed Hubail isn't sure he wants to wear Bahrain's red and white jersey.
"Sure, I want to play. But first we need a solution to all of this," he said. "I need to know what is going to happen to me. For our community, the nation, how long are we going to be like this?"
- Mid East Posts: What to do About Bahrain? A Headache For Both Obama and Blatter, Aug 2011
- The Economist: Football in Bahrain: A house divided, Aug 2011
- Human Rights First Urges FIFA, U.S. World Cup Team to Condemn Bahrain’s Attack on Athletes , July 2011
- The Times: Bahrain's soccer stars tortured in custody , July 2011
- Bahrain: Arrest, military trials, & suspension from sport activities, for athletes who practice their legitimate rights , July 2011
- BYSHR Report: “Sports” defendant in Bahrain, because of freedom of opinion and expression , April 2011
apt: Government of Bahrain Urged to Prevent Torture
25 August 2011
Geneva, 25 August 2011. The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) calls upon the Government of Bahrain to urgently take measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment. If the Government of Bahrain has a political will to improve human rights protection for detainees, it should publicly demonstrate this by ratifying the UN torture prevention treaty before the end of 2011.
Ensuring non-repetition of violations in the future constitutes a form of reparation for victims and contributes to reconciliation, the APT writes in a public submission to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry submitted yesterday. The Geneva-based human rights organization therefore calls upon Bahrain to install mechanisms for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment, as part of a process of establishing truth and rendering justice for human rights violations that have taken place since February 2011 in Bahrain.
Bahrain should sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) before the end of 2011 and create its implementation mechanisms without delay, the organization recommends. This treaty prevents torture in its State’s Parties through creating a system of regular visits by independent experts to all places of deprivation of liberty.
The APT further urges Bahrain to improve safeguards against torture in national law and practice. "Provisions should be taken immediately to abolish the use of incommunicado detention. All persons deprived of liberty need to be given the opportunity to meet an independent lawyer from the outset of their detention", the submission highlights.
The submission to the Bahrain Independent Inquiry Commission "Installation of mechanisms for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment" is available on APT’s website.
HRF: Kansas City Mayor Urged to Revoke Medal from Bahraini King
August 18, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First is urging Mayor James of Kansas City, Missouri, to request the return of the Kansas Medal of Freedom from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in light of his regime’s continuing violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists. The King received the award in the early 1970’s, according to the Bahraini Embassy’s website. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has overseen a series of brutal measures since March, in which hundreds have been detained—some of them doctors and other medical professionals—and there has been widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. On June 15, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe citied Bahrain as one of the countries where there had been “violent repression of peaceful protests”. In response to the King’s appalling human rights record, Human Rights First has asked current Kansas city Mayor Sylvester James to consider revoking the King’s medal to make clear that the people of Kansas City do not support such acts.
A letter sent to Mayor James from Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from a mission in Bahrain, notes, “We want to bring to the Mayor’s attention how his office and constituents are publicly associated with the Bahraini King at a time when his regime is internationally recognized as having committed serious human rights violations”.
“We hope the gesture in asking the King to return the medal will help the positive international pressure to stop human rights abuses,” added Dooley.
Earlier this month, Human Rights First issued “Bahrain: A Tortuous Process,” a report based on research conducted by Dooley during his second fact-finding mission to Bahrain from July 6 -12. In May, the organization issued “Bahrain: Speaking Softly,” a report capturing the findings of Dooley’s May 2011 trip to the region, his first since the Bahraini Government’s violent anti-democracy crackdown began. Both reports contain a series of recommendations for the U.S. Government and its officials, as well as for the Bahraini leadership.
IHRC: Action Alert: Bahrain – Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Co-Defendants Face Uncertain Future
23 AUGUST 2011
Concerns are raised over the future of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and his co-defendants in run up to appeal.
Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, a Bahraini human rights activist, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court on 22 June with 20 other activists calling for justice. He is currently appealing against this conviction along with his co-defendants, who were also handed heavy sentences. 2. Background
Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and many of his co-defendants were sentenced on 22 June to life imprisonment for their political activism during the course of widespread protests in the country in the spring. Their trial was conducted in an ‘emergency’ military court, despite martial law having ended on 1 June. The co-defendants received sentences ranging from 2-15 years imprisonment.
Reports have indicated that immediately after the verdict, many of them were beaten and tortured in an effort to extract a confession from them.
The UN High Commissioner has condemned these proceedings and the lengthy prison sentences as being part of a campaign of political repression being perpetrated by the Bahraini regime on its people.
These men were clearly not given the rights expected in a fair trial, and for this reason are appealing against their conviction.
Al-Singace and many of his co-defendants are currently being held at the notorious Qrain prison, which is famed for its frequent use of torture and widespread human rights violations.
If enough attention can be brought to their appeal, there remains a strong chance that the Bahraini regime will be forced to release Al-Singace and his co-defendants. We must not let the injustices which permeated the first trial to spill over into their appeal, which would force these men to suffer life sentences for bravely speaking out against government brutality.
A list of those convicted in June who will be appealing, along with their sentences, is as follows:
Abdulwahab Hussain Ali (life), Hassan Ali Mushaima (life), Mohammed Habib Al Safaf (life), Ebrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa (5 years), Abduljalil Mansoor Makk (life), Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singace (life), Saeed Mirza Ahmed (life), Abdul Hadi Abdullah Mahdi Hassan (15 years), Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos (15 years), Abdulhadi Al Khawaja (life), Salah Hubail Al Khawaj (5 years), Mohammed Hassan Jawad (15 years), Mohammed Ali Ismael (15 years), Al Hurr Yousif Mohammed (2 years), Akeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh (15 years), Ali Hassan Abdullah (15 years), Abdulghani Ali Khanjar (15 years), Saeed Abdulnabi Shehab (life), Abdulraoof Al Shayeb (15 years), Abbas Al Omran (15 years), Ali Hassan Mushaima (15 years).
3. Action required
Write to the Bahraini Minister of Interior, Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, calling on him to ensure that Al-Singace and his co-defendants are released immediately. Campaigners are welcome to use their own writings in their letters, or use the sample letter provided below.
4. Sample letter ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A sample letter is given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is very important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.
a) Bahraini Minister of Interior, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa.
[Your name] [Your address]
Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa Ministry of Interior P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17232661
Your Excellency Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa,
Re: The release of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Co-defendants
I am writing to you with deep concern about the appeal that Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and his co-defendants, who were sentenced on 22 June, will be launching. As their initial trial took place in an ‘emergency’ court and was just subject to military prejudice and government intrusion, their appeal is certainly in danger of falling to a similar miscarriage of justice.
Al-Singace is a political activist, whose courage has allowed him to speak out against the injustices perpetuated against the Bahraini people. It is for this reason that he is an exemplary Muslim. His co-defendants likewise love their country, but are sick of seeing the rights of innocent Bahrainis be trampled upon by your government.
The initial trial of Al-Singace and his co-defendants was conducted illegally in a military court that shouldn’t have existed after martial law was repealed. I demand that you immediately release these prisoners, as their incarceration was predicated upon the suppression of the rule-of-law,, and the suspension of due-process.
I look forward to your reply regarding this urgent matter.
[Your signature] [Your name]
a) Minister of foreign affairs in your country. (UK campaigners can write using the address supplied below, fax: +44 (0)20 7839 2417 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Your name] [Your address]
Rt Hon. William Hague MP Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH, United Kingdom.
Dear Mr Hague,
Re: The release of Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Co-defendants
I am writing to you with deep concern about the appeal that Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and his co-defendants, who were sentenced on 22 June, will be launching. As their initial trial took place in an ‘emergency’ court and was just subject to military prejudice and government intrusion, their appeal is certainly in danger of falling to a similar miscarriage of justice.
Al-Singace is a political activist, whose courage has allowed him to speak out against the injustices perpetuated against the Bahraini people. It is for this reason that he is an exemplary Muslim. His co-defendants likewise love their country, but are sick of seeing the rights of innocent Bahrainis be trampled upon by its regime.
The initial trial of Al-Singace and his co-defendants was conducted illegally in a military court that shouldn’t have existed after martial law was repealed. I demand that you use your power as Foreign Minister to press for the immediate release of these prisoners, as their incarceration was predicated upon the suppression of the rule-of-law and equality, and the rejection of due-process.
Refusal to pressure the Bahraini regime on this issue will result in yet another miscarriage of justice being perpetrated against activists like Al-Singace. Prove that your government is not complicit in the crackdown against freedom in Bahrain by condemning the al-Khalifa regime, and bring these injustices to account.
I look forward to your reply regarding this urgent matter.
[Your signature] [Your name]
Bloomberg: Torture in Bahrain Becomes Routine With Help From Nokia Siemens
By Vernon Silver and Ben Elgin - Aug 23, 2011 Bloomberg Markets Magazine
The interrogation of Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar followed a pattern.
First, Bahraini jailers armed with stiff rubber hoses beat the 39-year-old school administrator and human rights activist in a windowless room two stories below ground in the Persian Gulf kingdom’s National Security Apparatus building. Then, they dragged him upstairs for questioning by a uniformed officer armed with another kind of weapon: transcripts of his text messages and details from personal mobile phone conversations, he says. If he refused to sufficiently explain his communications, he was sent back for more beatings, says Al Khanjar, who was detained from August 2010 to February.
“It was amazing,” he says of the messages they obtained. “How did they know about these?”
The answer: Computers loaded with Western-made surveillance software generated the transcripts wielded in the interrogations described by Al Khanjar and scores of other detainees whose similar treatment was tracked by rights activists, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its October issue.
The spy gear in Bahrain was sold by Siemens AG (SIE), and maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks and NSN’s divested unit, Trovicor GmbH, according to two people whose positions at the companies gave them direct knowledge of the installations. Both requested anonymity because they have signed nondisclosure agreements. The sale and maintenance contracts were also confirmed by Ben Roome, a Nokia Siemens spokesman based in Farnborough, England.
The Only Way
The only way officers could have obtained messages was through the interception program, says Ahmed Aldoseri, director of information and communications technologies at Bahrain’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. While he won’t disclose details about the program, he says, “If they have a transcript of an SMS message, it’s because the security organ was monitoring the user at their monitoring center.”
The use of the system for interrogation in Bahrain illustrates how Western-produced surveillance technology sold to one authoritarian government became an investigative tool of choice to gather information about political dissidents -- and silence them.
Companies are free to sell such equipment almost anywhere. For the most part, the U.S. and European countries lack export controls to deter the use of such systems for repression.
“The technology is becoming very sophisticated, and the only thing limiting it is how deeply governments want to snoop into lives,” says Rob Faris, research director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Surveillance is typically a state secret, and we only get bits and pieces that leak out.”
Some industry insiders now say their own products have become dangerous in the hands of regimes where law enforcement crosses the line to repression.
The images of the Arab spring crackdowns earlier this year unnerved Nikhil Gyamlani, who as a consultant for Trovicor and Nokia Siemens had developed monitoring systems and sold them to some of the countries. The authorities jammed or restricted communications to stymie gatherings and knew where to send riot police before a protest could even start, according to eyewitness reports.
For that to happen, government officials had to have some means of figuring out where to go or whom to target to nip protests in the bud, Gyamlani, 34, says.
Targeting With Technology
“There’s very little chance a government is smart enough without this technology,” he says while smoking Marlboros and drinking Bavarian beer on the patio of a pasta restaurant in Munich. Gyamlani says nondisclosure agreements with his former employers prohibit him from revealing details about specific countries he worked with.
At least 30 people have been killed so far in this year’s uprising in Bahrain, a U.S. ally situated between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that is home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Security forces beat paramedics, doctors and nurses who treated the wounded, and prosecutors have charged dozens of medical workers with crimes such as “incitement against the regime,” according to Human Rights Watch. In June, the U.S. put Bahrain on its list of human rights violators.
A Secretive World
Across the Middle East in recent years, sales teams at Siemens, Nokia Siemens, Munich-based Trovicor and other companies have worked their connections among spy masters, police chiefs and military officers to provide country after country with monitoring gear, industry executives say. Their story is a window into a secretive world of surveillance businesses that is transforming the political and social fabric of countries from North Africa to the Persian Gulf.
Monitoring centers, as the systems are called, are sold around the globe by these companies and their competitors, such as Israel-based Nice Systems Ltd. (NICE), and Verint Systems Inc. (VRNT), headquartered in Melville, New York. They form the heart of so- called lawful interception surveillance systems. The equipment is marketed largely to law enforcement agencies tracking terrorists and other criminals.
The toolbox allows more than the interception of phone calls, e-mails, text messages and Voice Over Internet Protocol calls such as those made using Skype. Some products can also secretly activate laptop webcams or microphones on mobile devices. They can change the contents of written communications in mid-transmission, use voice recognition to scan phone networks, and pinpoint people’s locations through their mobile phones. The monitoring systems can scan communications for key words or recognize voices and then feed the data and recordings to operators at government agencies.
‘Effective As Weapons’
Monitoring technology is among the newest artillery in an unfolding digital arms race, says Marietje Schaake, a European Parliament member who tracks abuses of information and communications technology. “We have to acknowledge that certain software products now are actually as effective as weapons,” she says.
Uprisings from Tunisia to Bahrain have drawn strength from technologies such as social-networking sites and mobile-phone videos. Yet, the flip side of the technology that played a part in this year’s “Facebook revolutions” may be far more forceful. Rulers fought back, exploiting their citizens’ digital connections with increasingly intrusive tools.
They’ve tapped a market that’s worth more than $3 billion a year, according to Jerry Lucas, president of McLean, Virginia- based TeleStrategies Inc., organizer of the ISS World trade shows for intelligence and lawful interception businesses. He derives that estimate by applying per-employee revenue figures from publicly traded Verint’s lawful intercept business across the mostly privately held industry.
In the hands of autocrats, the surveillance gear is providing unprecedented power to monitor and crush dissent -- a phenomenon that Ben Wagner of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, calls “push-button autocracy.”
The technology has become pervasive. By the end of 2007, the Nokia Siemens Intelligence Solutions unit had more than 90 systems installed in 60 countries, according to company brochures.
Besides Bahrain, several other Middle Eastern nations that cracked down on uprisings this year -- including Egypt, Syria and Yemen -- also purchased monitoring centers from the chain of businesses now known as Trovicor. Trovicor equipment plays a surveillance role in at least 12 Middle Eastern and North African nations, according to the two people familiar with the installations.
Trovicor’s precursor, which started in 1993 as the voice- and data-recording unit of Siemens, in 2007 became part of Nokia Siemens Networks, the world’s second biggest maker of wireless communications equipment. NSN, a 50-50 joint venture with Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), sold the unit, known as Intelligence Solutions, in March 2009. The new owners, Guernsey-based Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, renamed the business Trovicor, coined from the Latin and Esperanto words for find and heart, according to the company’s website.
“We are very aware that communications technology can be used for good and ill,” NSN spokesman Roome says. The elevated risk of human rights abuses was a major reason for NSN’s exiting the monitoring-center business, and the company has since established a human rights policy and due diligence program, he says. “Ultimately people who use this technology to infringe human rights are responsible for their actions,” he says.
Asked whether Trovicor or its predecessors sold monitoring centers to Middle Eastern nations that have cracked down on uprisings this year, Roome says the company can’t talk about specific countries. NSN retained little documentation on the business after divesting it and has no data about the scope of its monitoring-center sales in the Mideast, he says.
Wolfram Trost, a spokesman for Munich-based Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering company, says he can’t comment because all documentation from the intelligence solutions unit had been transferred to Nokia Siemens.
Birgitt Fischer-Harrow, Trovicor’s head of marketing communications, said Trovicor’s contracts prevent it from disclosing its customers or the countries where it does business. She declined to comment further.
Trovicor’s owners only invest in ethical businesses, says Christian Hollenberg, a founder of Munich-based Perusa GmbH, the adviser to the Perusa investment fund. He includes in that category Trovicor, which the fund owns in its entirety.
“It’s a legal business, and it’s part of every communications network in the civilized world,” he says.
Bahrain is confronting alleged human rights violations through the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a panel established in June by royal decree to probe the recent violence, says government spokesman Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, the international counselor at Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority. Since July 24, the commission has recorded 140 allegations of physical abuse and torture, according to an Aug. 10 statement on its website.
“The first things we’re hearing is there wasn’t systematic abuse or torture, but there were abuses by rogue individuals within the security apparatus,” the government spokesman says. He says he isn’t in a position to comment on surveillance equipment or a specific interrogation.
Most countries, including the U.S. and European Union member states, employ interception technology in their telecommunications and data systems. A valuable tool for law enforcement, monitoring technology typically is accompanied by strict privacy protections and meets standards established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and similar organizations. After 9/11, as part of the war on terror, the administration of President George W. Bush secretly -- and controversially -- authorized the National Security Agency to monitor communications to and from the U.S.
The Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and other human rights activists have blamed Nokia Siemens for aiding government repression. In 2009, the company disclosed that it sold a monitoring center to Iran, prompting hearings in the European Parliament, proposals for tighter restrictions on U.S. trade with Iran, and an international “No to Nokia” boycott campaign. While there have been credible reports the gear may have been used to crack down on Iranian dissidents, those claims have never been substantiated, NSN spokesman Roome says.
In Bahrain, officials routinely use surveillance in the arrest and torture of political opponents, according to Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He says he has evidence of this from former detainees, including Al Khanjar, and their lawyers and family members.
‘Even Our Children’
During the recent crackdown, Rajab says, monitoring was pervasive.
“Everyone was interrogated based on telephone calls that were checked -- and not only us, the activists,” he says. “Even our children, our wives, our sisters are being monitored.”
At Bahrain’s telecommunications regulator, Aldoseri says monitoring technology is used only by order of legal authorities such as judges and prosecutors. A former fighter pilot, Aldoseri, 33, led the drafting of Bahrain’s 2009 regulations for lawful interception.
Available online, the regulations make clear that every phone and Internet operator must provide the state with the ability to monitor communications. Phone companies also must track the location of phones within a 164-foot (50-meter) radius, the rules say.
‘Risk of Abuse’
“You have the risk of abuse, so we made it as public as possible,” Aldoseri says.
For Bahraini security agents, monitoring centers are essential for gathering and printing text messages and other transmissions, Aldoseri says.
He says it’s impossible to know which contractor’s monitoring center processed a particular text message transcript. He says he’s barred from identifying vendors.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that Trovicor is there,” he says. “It could be their monitoring center or it could be someone else.”
During the Arab spring, it was easy to spot the company’s fingerprints, says Gyamlani. Tuning in to Germany’s N24 news channel at his home in Munich, he immediately suspected that governments were abusing systems he’d installed.
Failed uprisings stood out to him because of the way the authorities quashed unrest before it spread, says Gyamlani, a native of India who moved to Germany 12 years ago to study and work.
Remote Kill Switches
Once the equipment is installed, Gyamlani says, there is no way to shut it down long distance. He’s forming a new company, GlassCube, that he says will feature remote kill switches as well as other technology and contract requirements that would enable companies to curb such abuses from afar.
“With the power comes a big responsibility; this is a business where people can get killed,” he says. “It was depressing to see there was no control mechanism.”
Visitors to Trovicor’s headquarters on the third floor of a glass office building in Munich are greeted by a life-size statue of the company’s mascot -- a stalking panther -- by the reception desk. The mascot is a carryover from the Nokia Siemens unit, as were most of the company’s roughly 170 workers, current and former employees say.
Former and current Trovicor and Nokia Siemens employees interviewed declined to be identified by name when discussing company business in specific countries. Clients contacted declined to speak on the record about specific contracts. ‘Hidden Somewhere’
Al Khanjar, the Bahraini activist beaten during interrogations about his text messages, is in hiding today. He says he’s reluctant to communicate by mobile phone and takes calls using Skype on a computer with software that disguises its location. The Internet connection is his only way of communicating with his wife and 9-year-old son.
“I’m hidden somewhere,” he says. “I’m unfortunately in Bahrain. They’re going to kill me. What to do? What to do?”
Al Khanjar took up the anti-torture cause after being detained and interrogated for six days in 2000. His jailers handcuffed him, hung him from a stick “like a goat” and beat the soles of his feet, he says.
He’s now spokesman for the government-banned Bahraini National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture. He and other activists have documented the security service’s human rights violations for a decade, he says. His activism includes work with the United Nations Committee Against Torture and appearances on Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel.
An Agonizing Stretch
Al Khanjar says that on Aug. 15, 2010, three days after he returned from speaking about human rights to a committee at the House of Lords in London, plainclothes police knocked on his door in Bahrain at about 2:30 a.m. It was the start of a six- month ordeal.
For his first 85 days or so in custody, Al Khanjar saw no one from the outside, he says. For one agonizing stretch, his jailers forced him to stand without sleeping for five days. At other times they beat him with hoses and their hands and threatened him with sexual abuse, he says.
Al Khanjar’s interrogators repeatedly quizzed him about his contacts with Iran, where his wife’s family originated generations ago, he says. They also focused on his activities in opposition politics and in religious gatherings with fellow Shiite Muslims, who form a majority of the kingdom’s population yet are ruled by the Sunni minority.
“They had collected their information from tracking calls,” he says, including whom he spoke with and what they said. “They told me a lot of things about our activities in the human rights field and political activities I’d participated in.”
And they showed him several pages of transcripts of his text messages. An interrogator held the papers in front of Al Khanjar, pointing out the Arabic words printed in black ink on white paper and reading aloud details such as the dates and recipients of the texts, he says.
Al Khanjar says he sent one of the messages on June 9, 2009, after a flight to Qatar to visit a friend. His trip was thwarted when Qatar refused him entry at the Bahrain government’s request. He suspected that his appearances on the satellite news channel, based in Qatar, explained the Bahraini government’s interest in his travel there. Al Khanjar fired off the text to a fellow activist. “What happened to me is because of Al Jazeera,” it read.
More than a year later, when Al Khanjar was in jail, authorities seized on a transcript of that message, asking what he meant by it, particularly the reference to Al Jazeera, he says. Suspicious of his explanation, officers threatened to put him in a solitary confinement cell with no toilet two floors down -- the same floor where they tortured prisoners.
“You cannot hear anything,” Al Khanjar says. “You don’t know the time. You don’t know if it’s day or night. No windows.”
Only after overhearing officers refer in radio chatter among themselves to their national security building as Jazeera did he conclude their interest in his innocuous text message was a misunderstanding that he had been making a reference to their facilities.
“They thought that I knew something about their code,” he says. A prosecutor charged Al Khanjar with crimes that included establishing a group in violation of the law and inciting and participating in unauthorized meetings of more than five people for the purpose of undermining national security, according to a copy of the indictment translated by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales.
An arm of the England and Wales lawyers association, the committee sent a delegation to Bahrain that observed an Oct. 28, 2010, hearing in the case against Al Khanjar and 22 others arrested at the same time.
The detainees testified about being tortured while in custody, according to the bar committee’s February 2011 report: beatings, particularly to the legs and ears; being kept in stress positions or naked for prolonged periods; hanging in a position called falaqa in which the detainee is suspended from a bar and the soles of his feet beaten; and, in some cases, sexual abuse. The actions violated both international law and the laws of Bahrain, the report concluded. “Credible and pervasive allegations of mistreatment and torture, which are dismissed as fabrication by the Public Prosecutor, completely undermine the rule of law,” it stated.
Convicted in Absentia
In February, before Al Khanjar’s trial had reached its conclusion, protests flared and the government released all 23 detainees to relieve political tensions. Al Khanjar immediately went into hiding.
A separate military tribunal later tried him and others -- many, like him, in absentia -- and convicted them on charges that included trying to overthrow the government. Al Khanjar, who denies the charges in this and the earlier case, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Al Khanjar says the first of his communications used in the interrogations was intercepted in June 2009. At that time, the Nokia Siemens family of related companies was the only known supplier and maintainer of monitoring centers to Bahrain, the two people familiar with the installations say. The clusters of computers required constant upgrades by the companies, they say.
Company executives understood that they had the only monitoring-center computers in the country, based on conversations with Bahraini officials, one of those familiar with the situation says. The other says he knew of the arrangement from internal company communications. Neither knows whether the equipment originally installed and maintained by the companies is still in use.
NSN and Trovicor’s status as exclusive provider in Bahrain continued at least through 2009, the two people familiar with the installation say. That period of more than two years coincides with the dates of text messages used to interrogate scores of political detainees, human rights advocate Rajab says. Based on his conversations with former detainees and their representatives, he says that authorities used messages that dated as far back as the mid-2000s, even in recent interrogations.
Schaake, 32, who represents the Netherlands in the European Parliament, says companies should be barred from exporting such equipment to countries with poor human rights records. U.S. and EU export laws and UN sanctions control just a narrow slice of technology such as weapons systems or data encryption. International embargoes that cover a broader range of equipment target only a small circle of the worst actors, such as Myanmar and North Korea.
Transparency and Accountability
“It is time for more pressure, for more transparency and accountability when it comes to these products and services,” Schaake says. As a first step, Schaake says surveillance systems involving information and communications technology should join military items such as missile parts on lists of restricted exports.
Schaake helped to sponsor a parliamentary resolution in February 2010 that called for the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, to ban exports of such technology to regimes that could abuse it. The commission hasn’t implemented the nonbinding resolution.
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 2010 barring federal contracts with any businesses that sold monitoring gear to Iran. An investigation ordered by Congress and completed in June by the Government Accountability Office was unable to identify any companies supplying the technology to Iran, partly because the business is so secretive, the agency reported.
Lack of Oversight
Al Khanjar says lightly regulated sales of lawful interception technology expose an industry lacking appropriate oversight. “The United Nations should put pressure on those companies that supply equipment to these tyrant regimes,” he says.
Bahraini government regulator Aldoseri says the companies are all too happy to sell the equipment regardless of what happens once it’s installed.
“If you provide someone with a knife, you expect them to use it responsibly,” he says. That’s not necessarily the case with surveillance companies, he says.
“They don’t ask any of the operators or security organs what happens after. They provide equipment to filter and monitor and they don’t care about due process.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Vernon Silver in Rome at email@example.com; Ben Elgin in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact the editors responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at email@example.com; Gary Putka at firstname.lastname@example.org
ITUC: Bahrain’s Anti-union Repression
23 August 2011: The authorities in Bahrain are stepping up repression of the country’s trade union movement, with further suspensions and sackings of workers due to their actual or suspected participation in trade union and political actions earlier this year.
Government workers in particular are being targeted, including in health, education and municipal services, as the authorities seek to cleanse the public sector of workers who hold political opinions of which it does not approve.
Dismissals have in fact increased since June, and government workers facing dismissal report having to appear before disciplinary boards with no opportunity to mount a defence of any kind. There is little question that the outcomes of these hearings are predetermined. Minister of Labour, Jamil Humaidan, has disclaimed any responsibility over the public sector, effectively giving a green light to the on-going dismissals.
This year, some 2,600 workers in both the public and private sector have been fired, with an additional 361 workers suspended. Despite numerous promises to the contrary, the government has largely failed to reinstate workers illegally dismissed. According to the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions (GFBTU), only 134 workers have been reinstated to date. Many of these workers had to agree to unacceptable, indeed illegal, conditions in order to get their jobs back – including agreeing not to take part in any future political activity, waiving the right to participate in legal cases against the government and agreeing not to re-join their trade union.
Six members of the GFBTU Executive Board remain dismissed as well as 44 Executive Board members of GFBTU-affiliated unions. Of great concern, the Vice-President of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Jalila al Salman and Roula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, are to stand trial before a military tribunal next week, despite the fact that they are both civilians. It is highly unlikely that either will get a fair trial on the dubious charges related to the protests earlier this year. The two were only recently released on bail after being jailed for months, where they were reported to have been subjected to torture and degrading treatment during their detention.
“The Bahrain government is continuing its campaign of punitive action against workers who have simply exercised their rights under international law, causing real suffering to them and their families. The imprisoned trade unionists must be released without delay, and all the workers illegally dismissed must be reinstated,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “Instead of maintaining their destructive and repressive approach, the authorities should engage in meaningful dialogue with the GFBTU to resolve pressing issues such as job creation, labour relations and a broader agenda for real reform.”
Summon of Nabeel Rajab for his tweets, Return of military trials and other news from Bahrain
23 August 2011
Nabeel Rajab President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was summoned to the police station of Roundabout 17 of Madinat Hamad on August 19th for "deliberately posting sensational propaganda and false information on his social networking site likely to disrupt public order, spark fear among people, damage public interests and defame authorities" The interrogation was conducted by Ministry of Interior personnel. During the entire interrogation there was an individual videotaping the entire procedure. The questions were in regards to things he had written, his opinions and posting articles from the international media on twitter. They also interrogated him about Zakaryia AlAsheeri who had died in custody and had obvious torture marks on his body. They told him that AlAsheeri died of Sickle Cell disease, and he responded he had evidence that late AlAsheeri had been severely tortured. They also told him that Zainab AlJuma died a natural death, to which he responded that she had died due to teargas inhalation. He said he continues to stand by what he wrote and will continue to write on Twitter. Finally, they informed him that the case would be turned over to the public prosecution.
"Nabeel Rajab has been notified to abide by the law in exercising his right to freedom of expression, as stipulated in the constitution, and commit to legal constraints," the Northern Police director-general said.
Nabeel said that they had a stack of papers, all of which were copies of things he had written on Twitter. This is only one of a lengthy campaign of targeting human rights activists like Nabeel Rajab who is one of the leading activists in the country.
Today 40 people were taken to court, all of who have been in detention for several months without charges or trial. Amongst them were Hussain Ahmed and Wafi AlMajed, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's sons-in-law. Families were not notified, but found out through the internet, and showed up at the court where they were not allowed to speak to the detainees or sit in on the hearings. Amongst the charges were illegal assembly with the intent of disseminating false information, sending information internationally with the intent of distorting the country's image and incitement to hatred against the regime. The cases were adjourned for two weeks until September.
Despite the order from the King to move all cases to civilian courts, felonies cases are still set to be tried at the military court. Some of these cases are: the appeal of the 21 prominent activists, the case of the doctors and the case of those accused of allegedly cutting the tongue of man.
Report by Human Rights First about the return to Military Courts.
Jalila AlSalman, deputy head of the Bahrain Teacher's Association, and Roula AlSaffar, president of the nurse's society, were both released yesterday with ensuring the place of residence. The court case against them is still ongoing. AlSalman had recently been taken to the hospital twice due to chest pains.
Shaikh Isa Qassim, one of the most respected Shia clerics in Bahrain, today received a letter from the Minister of Justice, A copy of the letter in Arabic can be seen here. In short, it was a warning to the cleric in what the minister called: incitement to violence by use of his religious statute. The minster have included no supporting evidences to his accusations.
Last night a religious procession was attacked by civilian clothed thugs in Bani Jamrah. The thugs threw stones on people taking part in the ceremony then ran off, there was one serious injury in which a young man's wrist got cut when one of the stones flew into a car window causing glass to fly. In Muharraq a group of provocateurs targeted a religious procession by standing on the sides and chanting "the people want Khalifa bin Salman (the pm) at people taking part in the procession. Luckily there were no clashes.
Bahrain: Sectarian cleansing campaign to the security institutions
Bahrain’s regime aims at the slight Shiites manpower in the police and the army by killing, torturing and imprisoning
This campaign comes after decades of excluding Shiites out of military
Bahrain’s regime aims at the slight Shiites manpower in the police and the army by killing, torturing and imprisoning
31 July 2011
Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep grave due to the crackdown led by the regime in Bahrain against anyone expressing his/her views demanding freedom, democracy and human rights, this time it affected the employees of both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense which are chaired by members of the ruling family. The authorities have killed, arrested, and demobilized large numbers of their employees, BCHR has documented more than 248 cases.
Since decades Bahrain’s regime practiced the policy of sectarian discrimination in the military, in the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and any other military institutions. Since the seventies and after the independence of Bahrain, the Bahraini authority led a sectarian discrimination and marginalization campaign conduce to separate and imprison large number of military personnel, this discrimination against Shiite in these institutions continued until this day, reaching its peak in last March, through murdering, imprisonment and torturing lots of Shiites working in the police and the army. To fill this void in the military institutions, Bahrain’s regime employs foreign forces in the security forces and the army.
Since Monday, February 14, 2011 peaceful demonstrations inspired by the Arab spring in Tunisia and Egypt broke out in Bahrain, and many workers at the military stood side by side with the rest of the people demanding freedom, political and civil rights guaranteed by the international human rights covenants as well as the Constitution of Kingdom of Bahrain. Thursday, February 17, forces launched a surprised attack on the peaceful protestors at the Pearl Square in the early morning hours. This sparked an outrage among Bahraini people of all sects, affiliations and orientations, protests promoted Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to appear on the official TV trying to ease the demonstration and announced that every citizen has the right to express his opinion peacefully.
Friday, March 20, 2011 Jawad Shamlan’s family received a phone call from the Ministry of Interior stating Jawad’s death in mysterious circumstances . Shamlan used to work at Al khamis police station, that day he had delayed from the usual time, his family tried to contact him several times on his mobile but with no avail. Until someone answered the frequent calls saying that your son was killed.
The family received the corpse on the second day; Signs of live bullets appeared on his legs and stomach also, a sharp stab in his back .
Another military officer was killed Abdulaziz Jumaa Ayad, under torture with electric shocks in prison after being arrested by who thought they were military. On March 13, Ayad who works at Bahrain Defense Force disappeared and lost contact with his family, after days of his last phone call informing his family that he refused to be in the sniper squad to quell protests. March 24, an official at the military hospital called his family informing them with his death, later they found that he was killed under torture and electrocution and he was killed at March 17 according to the medical report, a week before his family was informed of his death. After that, the military hospital refused to hand over the corpse in an ambulance as it is common, but asked the family to take the body in their car.
On Wednesday, 16-3-2011, S.S a military officer at Bahrain defense forces got arrested after investigating him about pictures he took with his friends. He was transferred to a place where nearly thirty masked civilians stripped him of his cloths and started beating and torturing him continuously using rubber cables and metals, they cursed him and his sectarian beliefs. On Thursday, March 17, they unmasked him and unscrewed the restrictions after threatening him; he was forced to sign a pledge without knowing its content, and then they asked him to forget what happened and not talk about it to anyone or it will be repeated. On 17-7-2011, S.S received his dismissal out of the military service without knowing the reasons.
After the brutal attack at the protesters at the Pearl Square and the death of 4 martyrs, a group of military personnel announced their withdrawal from the military objecting on killing innocent civilians and demanding democracy and human rights like the other protesters, Ali Jassim Ghanimi was the first one. He went to Salmaniya hospital to check on the wounded and dead, and from there he announced his withdrawal from the military protesting against the military and the police repressive practices against unarmed peaceful people. Ghanimi had disappeared after the peninsula shield force arrival to Bahrain and their attack at the Pearl roundabout, also after their massive arrest campaign led by the government at those who participated in the sit-ins and marches. Security forces raided Ali Ghanimi house and broke its contents, stole his money and precious possessions as revenge of him and his family. Moreover, in order to support the demands movement Ali Ghanimi started a page on “FACEBOOK”, but not for very long he got arrested and the page closed. Until now, Ghanimi sits behind prison bars since 28 March 2011 without a trail and without knowing his charges.
Bahrain's flag expressing his peaceful demands and patriotism. After attacking the roundabout, bloody events sequenced, Shiite military personnel were targeted and discharged them from military, whereas most protesters demanding democracy and human rights are Shiites. As revenge the government started arresting group of them through raiding their houses at dawn, breaking all the house contents and in many cases stealing money and possessions. Furthermore, the government hastened the military trail without taking into account the international standards for the fair trial by having a lawyer and the right to defend themselves. The sentences ranged between 4 and 7 years. Perhaps the most prominent charge is "participating in a gathering intended to disrupt security," this is after some of them get on the roundabout's stage declaring their refusal to kill people, civilians and expressed their sympathy with the legitimate demands for democracy and human rights.
Among those targeted military personnel were the brothers Alaa Hubail and Mohammad Hubail, football players in the Bahraini national team, both were arrested and tortured, in addition to several other players who work in the military. Although, Alaa and Mohammad were released after several months in jail their trial is still on, this prevents them from talking about what they have gone through.
About 120 police personnel are behind Muharraq detention center bars, all of them have been investigated about participating in the peaceful protests for democracy and social justice. Some of them have had a fast trial while others are waiting for theirs . Almost all detainees in Bahrain have gone through systematic torture whereas 4 citizens were killed behind jails since the beginning of the protests in February.
Notably, targeting military personnel began before March 16, which is the date of the Peninsula Shield forces arrival and attack at the pearl Roundabout. Yousif Salman Jerdabi who’s an employee at the military hospital has disappeared at March 11, 2011. Then, one of his colleagues called his family to inform them that their son got arrested on the charges of taking pictures of wounded, although there were no wounded at that time. Moreover, the campaign has targeted personnel at silly reasons , such as Mohammad Owainati, whom was talking to his friends and asked “ Why don’t Prime minister Sh. Khalifa bin Salman Al khalifa just step down? “ Mohammad got arrested and trailed exactly after asking this question. Another one got arrested because of a joke he sent via SMS to his friend who snitches on him, like Sayed Ahmad Abbas Alalawi.
Lots of the detainees were arrested because there are pictures of them in the pearl roundabout, and were published on FACEBOOK or TWITTER by intelligence forces. Even a picture related to the last protests in their mobile is enough to drag them to jail and convicted them with not less than two years that is what happened to Hussain Ali Ahmad Isa. And Sayed Qasim Hadi Marzouq- awards winner in Bahrain and Gulf as the best sniper in bird shot- got arrested because of his refusal to shot protesters in the democracy protests. Even resigned police officers had their share; Redha Kathim Owainati refused what was happening and resigned. However, he got arrested.
Not less than five military offices are missing since the day of the pearl roundabout attack, March 17, without even their family knowing where they are, like Sayed Ali Sayed Ashour – Volleyball player- , the security forces still raid Naseem yousif Hussain house to arrest him, they have threatened his wife if he did not surrender himself, they will arrest all her brothers. Another one is Hassan Khalil Aqsh whose house had been raided three times, and his brother was threatened to be arrested from school, which urged him to convert his study to “home schooling”.
Bahrain’s authority justified the arrest of hundreds of military personnel with the law that prevents military personnel to participate in any political gathering but even to join with political assemblies. As a clear violation of Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 20: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and no one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights has previously documented the discrimination against the Shiite population in employment at the security services, which represent the largest recruitment in Bahrain (more than 60 thousand workers) and receive the largest budget in state , though the percentage of Shiites in it do not exceed 1%. BCHR believes that all those military personnel have been thrown in jail not because they are involved in any pro-democracy protests, but on the basis of their sectarian and religious background. The Interior Ministry and the Bahrain Defense Force profiteered from these protests to purge their institutions of the few remaining Shiites. Now, those institutions became models of cleansing and sectarian discrimination practiced in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s minister of defense Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa is from that part of the Khalifa’s who have a hostile history with Shiites since the beginning of the last century, but now; he dragged most of the khalifa’s family to hate Shiites.
Based on the foregoing, Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for the following:
1. Release of all prisoners of conscience from the military and civilians immediately 2. Investigate those in charge of killing, imprisonment and torture military personnel publically and transparently, also, compensation for all the crimes committed against them and pin them to work. 3. Stop the systematic discrimination against Shiites in state institutions and open the chance for them to work in the military and civilian sectors, so these institutions reflect the national fabric of the country's religion and social. 4. Stop bringing foreigners to work in the army and police, and stop using mercenaries in the security services. 5. Alienate those figures in the ruling family who are behind discrimination, marginalization and sectarian distinction that have had much influence on what the country’s problems.
http://www.alwasatnews.com/3119/news/read/533493/1.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYUbgDN1IR8  According to a witness http://www.alwasatnews.com/3040/news/read/518752/1.html