4 Feb, 2009

Joint letter to the king of Bahrain - Harassment of women’s human rights defender, Ghada Jamsheer

King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa Office of the King The Amiri Court, Rifa’a Palace, PO Box 555 Manama, Bahrain

Subject: Harassment of women’s human rights defender, Ghada Jamsheer

January 28, 2009

Your Majesty:

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network is deeply concerned by the recent harassment campaign taken against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, a woman human rights defender. Ghada Jamsheer is the president of the Women’s Petition Committee, an organization which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the shari’ah family courts.

While Ghada Jamsheer was attending the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) conference in South Africa between 14 and 17 November 2008, her home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken. Her house phone, mobile phone, and email account are reportedly under surveillance.

Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threats, including many threatening text messages, and have been followed by a car. State security agents in civilian clothes have been sent to Ghada Jamsheer’s house to shout at her using abusive language. She has been accused of attacking officers performing their duties and has been prevented from accessing the media. In addition, we have learned that Ms. Jamsheer’s mother and sister have had court cases brought against them, which we are concerned is directly linked to her defense of human rights.

We are concerned that the harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular women’s rights in Bahrain, and that this may form part of an ongoing campaign against human rights defenders in the country. We are seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ghada Jamsheer, as well as that of her family.

We urge the authorities in Bahrain to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the harassment against Ghada Jamsheer and her family, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards ;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of Ghada Jamsheer and the members of her family;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

We appreciate your attention to this serious matter.

Sincerely yours,

Women Living Under Muslim Laws

International Solidarity Network

Front Line - International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights First

Center for Women’s Global Leadership

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Forward – Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD)

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights

Forum-Asia

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW – Asia-Pacific)

4 Feb, 2009

Front Line: Bahrain: Increasing restrictions on the activities of human rights defenders

Posted on 2009/02/03 Human rights defenders in Bahrain are facing increasing restrictions on their activities. The authorities have sought to target independent human rights organisations including the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and restrict human rights activities. Human Rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, fabricated judicial proceedings, threats and harassment.

Further Information According to the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), during the last two years the Government, represented by the Ministry of Development, has waged a campaign against local NGOs registered under Law 21/1989. Most human rights organisations refer to this law as one of the obstacles hindering the work of local NGOs in Bahrain. In addition, the Ministry of Development has launched another campaign against unregistered committees and NGOs that have refused to be registered according to such a defective law that hinders their social work.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights submitted its request for a license in 2005. However, the Ministry is still refusing to grant the license without any reasonable grounds. The Government has targeted the leaders of the organisation on several occasions and has attempted to suppress its activities.

Also, the Ministry of Development has rejected the registration request by the Child Association for reasons that contradict the provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Bahrain is a signatory. The Convention stipulates that children have the right to establish their own organisations to protect their rights. The Association submitted its application in 2004.

The NGOs that have been threatened by the Government are :

1.The Committee of the Unemployed and Low-paid workers. 2. The Committee of those Returning from Exile 3. The Committee for Adequate Housing 4. The Committee of Feminist Petition

The officials of these committees have stated that these are temporary committees that will end their work once the Bahraini Government solves the problems handled by each committee.

There is therefore an ongoing trend of repression of human rights defenders, and continuous attempts made by the Government to stop human rights organisations from functioning, contrary to the international laws that Bahrain has signed.

Also, freedom of expression is in danger. There there have been many orchestrated media attacks on human rights organisations and their members. The recent media campaign against human rights defenders started on 16 October 2008 in the form of inflammatory articles written by members of the elected house of representatives, writers, and editors of some local newspapers concerning some human rights defenders. These articles were published in the local Arabic newspapers Alwatan, Al-Ayam, Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Alwaqt and Al-Bilad, as well as in the regional newspapers Al-Khaleej and The Khaleej Times.

These articles described the human rights defenders as “traitors to Bahrain and stooges of the United States,” and interpreted the participation by human rights defenders in a briefing, held on 15 October 2008 in Washington DC., USA, on the theme of, the “Impact of Political Reform on Religious Freedom in Bahrain,” as a call for foreigners, specifically the United States Congress, to interfere in local affairs. Furthermore, these newspaper articles called for the Bahrainian authorities to take action against the same human rights defenders.

It appears that the media harassment of human rights defenders is due to their legitimate peaceful activities in defence of human rights in Bahrain, in particular their participation in the briefing concerning the “Impact of Political Reform on Religious Freedom in Bahrain.

Bahrain Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Front Line harassment human rights Human Rights Defenders Bahrain » Printer friendly version

1 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: An Oppressive Campaign Against Shia

Authorities Wage Offensive and Derogatory Measures Against Shia Citizens Hindering Religious Practices Stigmatization of Shia in Friday Sermons and TV-broadcasted Preaching

January 15, 2009 The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely alarmed to the escalation of the local in waging offensive measures by the Authorities against Shia citizens, especially during the month of Muharram, a holy and mourning month for Shia. The measures were not exhaustive to; stigmatization using media and Friday sermons, deployment of Security Special Forces to hinder religious practices, ridiculing Shia beliefs and history in State-sponsored public forums, prosecuting Shia for having Matams (Counity religious Centers) in their homes and inciting hatred against Shia religious centers. • Stigmatization using media and Friday sermons: On the same Friday when heavily armed Security Special Forces besieged Al-Sadeq Shia Mosque in the Capital Manama preventing its Shia prayers from coming closer to its proximity, Jasim Al-Saeedi, a Salafi MP in Friday Prayer sermon publicly denounced Shia of Bahrain being "Zionist, monkeys, pegs, and stooges to world Zionist Movement". In prayer' sermon of Friday January 2, 2009 (The fifth out of tenth day of the Hijri Month of Muharram commemorated by Shia), Al-Seedi stated that:" We should not loose sight of the sons of Zion, apes and pigs, as described by the Prophet peace be upon him. The sons of Zion, in different tongues, forms and sects, profaned Muslims with killings, destruction and burning their homes. The people of Zion are in Palestine, in Iraq and in Bahrain. We must be aware that Zion not only Jewish but takes many forms; a Christian, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a hooded Sikh, a Safavid, or a “Rafiḍi” (A derogatory term for the Shia)". Jasim Al-Saeedi's name was mentioned in what was locally dubbed "Al-Bandergate", a secret organization managed and financed by the Royal Court, having executive programs aiming at disfranchising Shia, marginalizing them in all aspect of life, coordinating the political naturalization to convert them into minority citizen by 2010, suppressing and controlling their religious centers and societal organizations, as well as introducing sectarian sedition and fomenting segregation between Shia and Sunni citizens. Jassim Al-Saeedi has been famed in publically attacking Shia beliefs and figures and inciting Authorities against activists and dissidents. Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, the Bahrain only Prime Minister since 1970, visited Al-Saidi's house few months back and stated that "Whoever with Al-Saidi, he is with us, and whoever likes him, he likes us ", giving indications of moral support to Al-Saidi's acts and stances. After his fomenting sermon, there was popular row and resentment to what Al-Saidi said when stigmatized the majority of citizens using abusive terms, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs (MOJIA) first stated, Al-Saidi will be stopped from group prayer and publically addressing people in sermons. At the end of the same weak, another statement from MOJIA officials assured that the stoppage of Al-Saidi is temporary and that they would investigate the matter. Week later Al-Saidi return to the same mosque and delivered similar speech. It is good to mention that Sunni Imam are appointed and paid by the government for the Friday sermons. • Deployment of the Security Special Forces to hinder religious practices: For two weeks in a row on Friday (2nd and 9th January), Al-Sadeq Shia mosque in Manama -the Capital- was besieged by heavy armed forces to prevent the mosque from being opened to perform evening prayer. The Authorities said that their act was to prevent Mr. Hasan Mushaima, the prayer Imam and the Secretary General of Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (Haq) from leading the prayer and addressing the public. It is feared that the presence of the Security Special Forces, which is heavily stuffed with non-Bahrainis, surrounding the mosque and preventing Shia from prayer could lead to clashes and confrontations. During the first ten days of the holy Muharram, preventing Shia from prayer and remove black fabric pasted on walls of village as sign of sadness and grieve. This also includes detaching portraits of Shia figures with their slogans commemorating Imam Husain. These incidents occurred at Hamad town and Shia villages of Karzakan, Dair and Al-Musalla, • Ridiculing Shia beliefs and history in State-sponsored public forums It is well known to the Authorities that the first ten days of Muharram, Shia in Bahrain, and the rest of the world, are holy days during which they mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. During this period, the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs sponsored what it called the "Fifth Da'awa (Call) Forum in the Love of Prophet Family and His Companions, in which ten Wahabis and Salafis were hosted to speak on the official Bahrain TV Satellite Channel. During their public talk and specially that on the ninth of Muharram (was shown on 5th and repeated early morning of 6th January 2009), representing utmost sad moment for Shia citizens, the MOJIA guests speakers were ridiculing Shia beliefs, books, writers and historians, considering it blasphemous and undermining Imam Husain and what Shia think of him. • Prosecuting Shia for having Matams in their homes Shia are well known of dedicating part of their houses to hold public venerations, locally dubbed as Matams. This tradition is more customary in areas where Shia do not have or banned from having an official Matam like Hamad Town. This practice has been socially accepted and respected, even in areas of mixed sects of Islam. During the holy month of Muharram this year and unlike the previous years, some of Shia residents in Hamad Town, received sermons to attend police stations and were threatened of prosecution if their Matams are not closed. • Inciting hatred against Shia religious centres On the eve of Monday of last December 28th, the National Security Agency (NSA) showed a pre-recorded TV show on "Bahrain Satellite Channel" in which a group of Shia youth, who were arrested over a week ago, were casting "confessions" of being involved in a "Terror Plot". The NSA alleged uncovering the group aiming at carrying out some terror acts, as per the agency. Among the "confession” statements, which was also posted on the next morning newspapers, it was claimed that “Shia mosques and Matams are hubs for terrorism” BCHR learned from the lawyers, after visiting the detainees, that those youth not only were subjected to torture and ill-treatment which include electrocution in their gentiles to coerce them to confession, but they were not aware of the camera recording and the fact that they “confessions” would be broadcasted on TV. The NSA deceived them by asking them to repeat the confessions obtained under torture in front of a "Shiekh" to arrange for a pardon. Comments and posture: Mr Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, stated: "We are extremely concerned that the Authorities are leading a sectarian campaign, stirring up religious sentiments and provoking one sect over the other and paving the way for a civil conflict, replicating the situation in Iraq". "We hold the ruling elite the full responsibility in not dampening the tense situation", he added. "BCHR believes that Shia citizens, and particularly the youths, feel they are cornered, and this will augment resentment and frustration among them", Mr Rajab continued. He concluded: "This is playing with fire and expediting sectarian confrontations between Shia and other fellow citizens for the sake of political power. We are really dismayed." The BCHR rings the bell of warning to the measures pursued and encouraged by the local Authorities in antagonizing Shia, provoking others against them while suppressing their religious freedom. The BCHR calls for: 1) Ending the defamatory and derogatory campaign against Shia, and prosecute those involved in it. 2) Government should works towards creating environment of religious sectarian tolerance and not hatred. 3) Treating Shia equally well as other citizens and stop hindering their practices and suppressing their religious freedom. 4) Ceasing all forms of discrimination and marginalization against Shia. This will include removal of all practices and introduction of legislative protection. 5) Halting the execution of "Al-Bandergate" plot aiming at marginalizing Shia and turning them to a minority by importing tens of thousands of non Bahrainis and granting them Bahraini nationality. This involves removing the repercussions of the plot and publicly prosecuting those involved.

31 Jan, 2009

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Bahrain: Concerns about recent arrests and allegations of torture

Document - Bahrain: Concerns about recent arrests and allegations of torture

30 January 2009

AI Index: MDE 11/001/2009

Amnesty International has written to the Bahraini government expressing serious concern about the continuing detention of two prominent Shi’a opposition activists and about allegations that 13 people arrested in December 2008 were tortured and otherwise ill-treated before their "confessions" were broadcast on television. In the early hours of 26 January 2009 Hassan Meshaima’, aged 61 and leader of the unauthorized al-Haq political association, ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Singace, spokesperson of the same association, and Mohammad Habib al-Muqdad, a religious scholar, were arrested from their homes by security officials and taken to the Dry Dock Prison in al-Muharraq. They were later questioned for several hours in the presence of their lawyers and then charged with terrorism-related offences. ‘Abd al-Jalil al-Singace was released on bail on 27 January, but the other two are still being held. All three reportedly deny the charges.

The specific charges brought against the three include “taking part in establishing an illegal association which opposes Bahrain’s constitution and which uses terrorism as a means to achieve its goals", which carries a sentence up to life imprisonment, according to Article 6 of Law 58 of 2006 relating to terrorism. The other charges,"calling and propagating for the overthrow of the regime and the political system by force" and "propagating for hatred of the regime” are punishable by five and three years of imprisonment respectively, according to Bahrain’s Penal Code. On 24 January, two days before their arrest, the three were summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor for questioning, but they declined to do so apparently because the summons failed to give reasons, as required by Bahrain’s Criminal Procedure Code.

Lawyers for the three and media reports have linked their arrests to those of a group of young men who were detained on 15 December 2008 and are now accused of “terrorism”. On 28 December, almost two weeks after their arrests, a government-controlled TV station broadcast a video recording of what were said to be the "confessions" of the 13 detainees, who were said to have participated in a “terrorism plot”and to have received military training in 2006 in al-Hujaira, a district of the Syrian capital, Damascus.They were said to have been planning to carry out violent attacks and sabotage and to have named Hassan Meshaima’ and the two others arrested on 26 January as instigators of the plot. The names and photographs of the 13 accused, together with their alleged confessions, were published in several Bahraini newspapers after the televised confessions.

In its letter to Bahrain's Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Amnesty International called for an urgent and independent investigation into allegations that the 13 people detained in December were tortured with electric shocks, beatings and by being suspended by the wrists for long periods soon after their arrest and while they were being held incommunicado in the headquarters of the National Security Apparatus in Manama. The organization called for any officials found responsible for torture or other serious abuses to be brought to justice. The detainees are reported to have been transferred to the Dry Dock Prison only after they had made “confessions”.

In its letter, Amnesty International also questioned why the videotaped “confessions” had been broadcast on TV and said this undermined both the presumption of innocence and the detainees’ right to fair trial. If and when the accused are brought to trial, the court would need to consider very carefully the impact of the broadcast and other publicity incriminating the defendants and whether this made it impossible for them to receive a fair trial. As well, it would need to assess whether any “confessions” which might be presented as evidence against the accused were obtained under torture or other duress, in which case they must be ruled inadmissible.

Amnesty International requested prompt clarification about the exact reasons for the continuing detention of Hassan Meshaima’ and Mohammad Hamid al-Muqdad. If the two are being held solely because of their non-violent political activities, including criticism of the government, Amnesty International would consider them to be prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release. The organization urged that all these detainees be humanely treated and have regular access to their lawyers, families and medical care, especially for Hassan Meshaima’, who is said to be diabetic and suffering from ill-health.

Public Document

****************************************

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: press@amnesty.org

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK www.amnesty.org

29 Jan, 2009

BCHR/IFEX: Activists imprisoned for writing slogans and posting portraits to commemorate torture victims

Date: 28 January 2009 The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has learned that three young men aged 19 and 20 were summoned on 8 January 2009 to renew their detention for an extra 15 days on charges of writing graffiti and sticking posters on the walls of the Ras Rumman area in the capital, Manama.

The three young men were detained at on 16 December 2008, while they were busy writing slogans and pasting pictures and posters in memory of victims of torture who were killed in Bahrain in past years. The Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture (CMVT) organises annual activities, focused on 17 December, Martyrs Day, to commemorate those who died as well as those still suffering as a result of torture in Bahrain, and to seek reparation and redress. Close to this event and during unrest, it is customary to see graffiti and portraits of martyrs on the walls of villages and cities in Bahrain. The authorities usually send a security-backed group to scratch out and wipe clean the graffiti and slogans after a short period of display.

BCHR President Nabeel Rajab stated, "Graffiti is one way of expressing views and is an area which is also coming under censorship, as evident from this incident". He continued, "It is sad that those young men are being punished and apprehended for trying to find a peaceful way of expressing themselves". Rajab added, "I urge the authorities to widen its tolerance for practices of freedom of expression and without any reprisals to release those young men".

BCHR expresses its concern over the fierce grip over all forms of freedom of expression, and considers this act a signal of deterioration to this as well as other rights. BCHR is alarmed by the fact that laws are devised and used in Bahrain to introduce more restraints and constraints on all forms of freedom of expression and protest.

MORE INFORMATION:

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

29 Jan, 2009

The Human Rights activist Maythem Al-Sheikh is at risk as a result of torture during the interrogation period

25 January 2009

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concern regarding the health and life of the young Maythem Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh (33 years), the activist in the Unemployed and Low-waged Committee, due to him being infected with Multiple Sclerosis disease. He is believed to be infected with this disease as a result of the torture he was exposed to after his arrest from his house at dawn on 21 December 2007.

The information that the Center received indicates that the symptoms of this disease are beginning to appear on Maythem Al-Sheikh just weeks after his arrest and torture he was exposed to on the hands of members of the Criminal Investigation Office. Since last August, Maythem Al-Sheikh tried to communicate his sufferings from the disease to the prisons administration, but his attempts failed due to the ignorance and doggedness of this department, until the Bahrain Society for Human Rights appealed to the Public Prosecution to present him to a specialist to diagnose his condition. Last November, after three months of his request, he was presented and for the first time to a nerves specialist to diagnose his condition. However, despite the proof of being infected with the above mentioned disease, he was only transported to the hospital to receive treatment on Wednesday, 12 January 2009.

Maythem Bader Al-Sheikh was sentenced to 5 years of prison in a case known locally as the incidents of December 2007, and which took place after the death of a young man in his 30's, a Jidhafs resident, during the protests on the Victims of Torture Day. The procedures of the arrest, investigation and trial raised suspicions in regards to failing to observe international standards for the procedures and fair trial. The International Frontline organization, in February 2008, considered Maythem and several of his companions, among them well-known activists, that they were arrested because of their peaceful activities in the human rights field. While the Human Rights Watch organization demanded, in July 2008, to immobilize the execution of the sentences and to carry out a thorough investigation in the allegations of the detainees being exposed to mistreatment and torture during their detention, the Bahrain authorities did not respond, until the time of writing this statements, to any of the investigation demands in the torture allegations at the detention center, especially in the first period that followed the arrest in the Criminal Investigation Office.

According to what the detainee Maythem Bader Al-Sheikh said to his visitors, members of the BCHR, when they visited him in the military hospital last Friday, that he was exposed to severe torture when he was arrested and for 45 continuous days in a building specified for torture called the (Detect) building, and is located in the Criminal Investigations Complex in Adliya area. This was in order to extract sayings and to force him to say confessions to acts he did not commit. Maythem was exposed to all sorts of torture, which included suspension by the hands all night, electric shock in various parts of the body and especially the sensitive areas, harassment and attempt of sexual assault, inserting a wooden rod by force in his rear part. The most he suffered from was the torture that took place on New Year's night of 2008, when a group of torturers continuously tortured him until the morning hours of that day. The torture effects were visible when his family members were permitted a visit after the end of the interrogation period. Among the names that participated in the interrogation and torture, according to his sayings are:

 Captain Fahad Al-Fadhala (Bahraini)  Lance Corporal Duaij Al-Kubaisi (Bahraini)  Corporal Hamza Al-Shomaley (Bahraini)  First Lieutenant Isa Al-Majali (Jordanian)  First police officer Abdul-Malik (Yemeni)

The medical report that was presented to the Court in the case, in which Maythem was accused, indicates the possibility that incidents of torture did happen to the detainees that Maythem was among. However, the Court reckoned neither the report nor the witnesses' statements. It was, on the contrary, remarkable that the sentence did not consider the detention period which is nearly a year, nor the holidays that are suppose to be deducted from the sentence, as is usual and as is known.

Members of the ruling family head the Ministry of the Interior, the National Security Service, the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Council, and the judges of the Higher Criminal Court, which Maythem and his fellows were sentenced in, and which strengthens the doubts in the independency and integrity of the sentence issued by the Court. Several BCHR reports stated the escalating rate of systematic torture in all security issues and arrests related to it, since December 2007 and until this moment. It is believed that there is a relation between the mounting public protests and the general resentment against the authority's policies in the various issues, among them the arbitrary arrest and torture.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) demands the authorities in Bahrain the following:

1. To immediately release the prisoner Maythem Bader Al-Sheikh, and all the other detainees who are believed to be arrested because of their peaceful demanding activities.

2. To urgently send Maythem Al-Sheikh to receive treatment outside Bahrain, since Bahrain lacks specialized centers, whether for the serious organic disease that he suffers from or from the psychological torture effects.

3. To open an urgent, independent and transparent investigation in the torture incidents that took place against the detainees, and especially Maythem Al-Sheikh, and to suspend the accused from work, to prepare for their presentation to a fair trial before a non-biased and just court.

4. To carry out a specialized medical examination to the rest of the detainees in the security issues which started in what was known as December 2007 incidents, and what followed that, and to reveal what the exposure to torture caused them during the investigation and detention period.

28 Jan, 2009

Joint Statement by BCHR,BHRS and BYSHR: Alarming Deterioration in Human Rights Situation, Detaining Two Prominent Activists

Bahrain: Alarming Deterioration in Human Rights Situation:

Detaining Two Prominent Activists while Releasing a Third on Bail and Ban of Travel Interrogation Issues: Internet Articles, Speeches, Assembly and Association Charges Based on Terrorism Law punishable up to Life Imprisonment

Assaulting relatives of the detainees at the General Prosecution Office Fear of Casualties and More Arrests Following Protests in Many Villages Abbas Al-Murshed, a Columnist, Hit by a Rubber Bullet in the Eye

January 28, 2009

The Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BHRS), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) are alarmed for the recent escalation of human rights violations in Bahrain.

The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, have learnt that after 24 hours of arrest and interrogations, the Public Prosecutors Office ordered the release on bail and travel ban of Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace and the extending in the detention of the other two activists; Mr. Hassan Mushaima, and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad for undefined period pending further investigations. The three activists were arrested between 2-3am on January 26, 2008 and were held in solitary detention at the Dry-Dock "Temporary Detention Centre" from time of arrest until showing up at the prosecution at 5:30pm on the same day.

Dr. Abdul-Jalil Abdulla Alsingace, (47 years) resident of Karbabad area, a professor at Bahrain University and the head of the Human Rights Committee of the Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy Movement (HAQ). HAQ Movement is an unregistered grassroots organization established in November 2005, which has been campaigning for democratic reforms and human rights. Dr. Alsingace is a blogger and known for his frequent articles critique of the government. He was subjected to a smear media campaign after participating in seminar on religious freedoms at the US congress last October .

Mr. Hassan Ali Mushaima, (61 years) from Jidhafs area, a retired teacher, previous vice president of Al-Wefaq political society, current president of the HAQ Movement and an activist who has been campaigning for democratic reforms and human rights for more than fifteen years resulting in his detention many times through that period. Early this year, Mr. Mushaima was subjected to physical assault by the Special Forces at Bahrain Airport upon his arrival from the UK after participating in a seminar at the British House of Lords focusing on reforms in Bahrain. For three weeks on a row before his arrest , armed Special Forces were deployed to prevent Mr Mushaima from addressing public through his weekly speeches at Al-Sadeque Mosque.

Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad, (47 years) from Bilad Al-Qadeem, a Shia scholar and social activist, is known to be outspoken delivering speeches in Shia community centers "Matams" in deferent areas of Bahrain raising public issues such as poverty, corruption, sectarian discrimination, arbitrary detention and torture. He is the head of Al-Zahra Charity Institution for Orphans.

Mr. Hassan Mushaima, and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad are still in solitary confinement. They have been denied any contact with family and proper legal consultations. Lawyers had attended the interrogation sessions at the General Persecution Office as observers.

The BSHR, the BCHR and the BYSHR are concerned for the health condition of Mr. Hassan Mushaima. His health deteriorated during the long hours of arrest and interrogations. According to his family, Mr. Hassan Mushaima suffers of high blood pressure, Diabetes mellitus and Gout.

Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace told BCHR, shortly after his release, that he was interrogated mainly on; his articles on "sensitive" issues published on the internet, his activity in unregistered organization namely HAQ movement, his role in organizing and leading public protests and unauthorized gatherings and his travels to the USA and the United kingdom including his participation and role in seminars organized there.

According to lawyers; Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace could be charged with "joining a society which aimed at de-activating the constitution, changing the regime and instigating hatred against it. Charges against Mr. Hassan Mushaima may include: "Illegally organizing and managing a group of people and using terrorist means to promote the changing of the political system". While charges against Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad may include "Joining a group and supporting it financially to prevent authorities from implementing laws in addition to abusing personal freedom of citizens through acts of terror" and "trying to subvert the political system and instigating hatred against the Ruling Family".

The charges, punishable up to life imprisonment, are based on the restrictive 1976 Penal Code and the 2006 Counter Terrorism (CT) Law which prosecutes on intentions and upgrades punishments mentioned in any law when the criminating act was related to "Terrorism". The two codes have been internationally denounced for violating basic rights. The CT law was particularly denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism , the International Commission of Jurists , Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organizations.

The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, are further concerned for the escalation of violations post the detention of the three activists. On the early morning of January 26, 2008, the Security Special Forces was reported to have physically assaulted relatives, mostly women, of the three detained activists who gathered near the General Prosecution Office to inquire about the whereabouts of the three detainees. Mr. Mohammed Mushima, 21 years, Ms. Fatima Altaitoon, Miss Najat Alsingace and Ms Zainab Alghaffas, were forcibly pushed and beaten by batons on the face and body.

Furthermore, the arrest of the three activists sparked a wave of unrest in many of the predominantly Shia villages. In the last two days, heavily armed Special Forces have been deployed to besiege villages and showered them with chemical tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress angry demonstrators who responded by hurling stones on Security Forces, blocking roads by bricks and setting blaze to rubber tires and garbage canisters. Abbas Mirza Al-Murshed, 35 years, columnist, was hit by a rubber bullet in the right eye (Photos Attached). The BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR fear more casualties and new wave of arbitrary arrests.

Conclusion and recommendations:

Based on many previous cases, the escalating hostile attitude of the authorities against dissidents and human rights defenders and by examining the nature of work and speeches of the three activists, the BHRS, the BCHR and the BYSHR, have strong grounds to believe that the detention as well as the charges against the three activist are related to their performance of legitimate peaceful activities related to democratic reforms, promotion of human rights, and the practice of basic rights specially freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Therefore, The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BHRS) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), call upon the Bahrain Authorities and all concerned actors to do what ever required to;

1. secure the immediate release of Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad. 2. Drop the charges, and any reprisals related to their legitimate and peaceful activities, against the three activists which include lifting the travel ban against Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, 3. secure the rights of Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad while in detention, including the instant rights to family call and visits, legal counseling and proper health care, 4. abolish the 2006 Counter Terrorism Law and to amend the 1976 Penal Cod to be in conformity with international human rights conventions specially in relation to the practice of basic human rights and freedoms, 5. put an end to the use of excessive force, arbitrary detention and unfair trials, and 6. put an end to targeting human rights defenders and provide a legalized protection for them.

27 Jan, 2009

Bahrain adopts a wholesale of negative positions towards the promotion of human rights at the international level

In an International Study to evaluate the performance of the State members in the UN’s Human Rights Council:

Bahrain adopts a wholesale of negative positions towards the promotion of human rights at the international level

Bahrain displayed negative results in its positions in human rights issues at the international level. Bahrain, as a member State in the UN’s Human Rights Council, took an opposing position towards 9 of 11 key issues regarding the promotion of human rights at the international level. While it declined taking a positive position in the remaining two issues.

The results were among the worst in the group of countries who took negative positions in those issues, and they were governments of countries that belonged to the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African Union, and other countries such as China, Russia, Cuba and India. On the other hand, seven countries representing the EU displayed positive positions in all those issues, and other countries were close to doing so such as Finland, Canada, and South American countries, Japan, Switzerland, Ukraine and South Korea.

Those results were among lists that were included in an analytical study issued by an international organization called the “Democratic Alliance project”, which is concerned with the evaluation of the performance of member States at the UN’s Human Rights Council during its first year of establishment. The study was based on the proceedings of the Council’s meeting in Geneva, and on the official statements issued by those countries or by the coalition it belongs to. Indicators related to the positions of all countries were used in 11 issues divided into four parts, as following:

Finding a credible mechanism to review the record of each country in human rights To protect the independency of the UN’s mechanisms that are related to monitoring human rights situations around the world, or what is known as special procedures To deal directly with the human rights situations in certain countries or what is called country-specific mechanisms The Darfur issue

In the first part of the indicators, Bahrain was among the countries who opposed to having the non-governmental organizations and the independent experts a main role as a key and direct source of information when reviewing governments’ record in relation to human rights. On the other hand, it supported relying on the government itself. Bahrain also refused to have the process of reviewing State records be run by independent experts, but rather keeping it in the hands of government representatives. Bahrain also opposed to adopting the final recommendations by a vote between government representatives, but rather have it done unanimously, and that those positions of the process of reviewing State records will be emptied of its impact and content.

In the second part of indicators, Bahrain refused that appointing officials for the UN’s mechanisms who monitor human rights be through the Council’s presidency from a list proposed by the other concerned governments and parties, but that the selection should rather be through the governments’ representatives only.

Bahrain’s government supported the decision of creating a code of conduct, decided by the governments and committed to by those responsible for the UN’s mechanisms. Bahrain did not support a decision that the UN’s committee in Darfur be made of independent experts instead of political representatives.

As to the third and fourth part of indicators, Bahrain did not support the decision of keeping the UN’s mechanisms, which are related to the situations of human rights in certain countries. Accordingly, it was among the ones opposing the continue of examining human rights situations in the countries that had Special Rapporteurs appointed for, for examining human rights situations. Bahrain also declined to support a proposal of holding a special session to evaluate the situation in Darfur, and declined to support a decision of adopting the outcome of the UN’s mission report in relation to human rights in that area.

The international organization, which issued the study, recommended the need to develop regional alliances in order to build UN human rights mechanisms, in which they become more credible and more efficient. The study, which will be issued regularly, aims at reforming the methods of selecting member states at the Human Rights Council based on its actual positions towards human rights issues, and not based on political alliances and interests.

More information can be found in the charts related to the aforementioned study in the following links:

http://www.demcoalition.org/2005_html/undem_offic.html#Report2007

http://www.demcoalition.org/pdf/HRC%20Table%20of%20Indicators%20for%20Year%20One%20-%20Full%20Chart.pdf

25 Jan, 2009

Granting the National Security Apparatus the power of General Attorney and immunity from prosecution before Civil Courts

Bahrain: Strengthening the Security Apparatus Warns of further Repression; Granting the National Security Apparatus the authority of public security, the power of General Attorney and immunity from prosecution before Civil Courts Ignoring the legislative and judiciary and taking advantage of the Lawyers Association Targeting human rights defenders Campaign of raids and arrests continues in three Shiite villages The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights express their deep concern for the Bahraini authorities' direction towards further strengthening the role and powers of the National Security Apparatus (NSA) which, since its establishment in 2002, has been carrying out the ever-increasing role of targeting human rights defenders and the political opponents and infiltrating their organizations. The National Security Apparatus (NSA) controls the Special Security Forces - estimated to be approximately 15 to 20 thousand, most of who are non-Bahraini mercenaries - which began in mid 2005 and in escalating manner to use excessive force in suppressing peaceful gatherings and protests. Since December 2007, this NSA has waged escalating waves of raids and arrests which have affected hundreds of citizens among them dozens of human rights defenders. As well as waging media campaigns to fabricate false or exaggerated security issues to stigmatize the opponents and human rights defenders of the use of violence. The Service used systematic torture and restrictive laws to bring dozens of those to trials that lack the minimal standards of fair trial which are required by the international conventions to which Bahrain has adhered to. The new decree: Completes the security-control system, and strengthens the power of the Security Apparatus: Rather than responding to the appeals of national and international organizations of putting a end to the serious and escalating violations that the National Security Apparatus is practicing, the King issues decree number (117) for the year 2008 to amend some of the provisions of the decree of establishing the National Security Apparatus number (14) for the year 2002. The new amendments states that:  Members of the National Security Apparatus are considered as officers and non-commissioned officers and in equivalence to the Public Security Forces.  The legal Affairs of the National Security Apparatus and its members have the same functions and powers as the Public Security Forces.  The officers, non-commissioned officers, and other member's of the National Service have the same judicial functions as the public attorney in regards to the crimes which falls in the field of work of the National Security Apparatus. Thus, the National Security Apparatus became a security institution which is entirely independent of the Public Security and Defense. However, it has the benefit of double jurisdictions; those that join the functions of both the Public Security Forces and the judicial authority. Furthermore, the members cannot be prosecuted by neither the criminal nor the civil court, but only by the military court which lacks transparency and independence. This deprives persons affected from the Service's actions from their right to justice before court, and provides the suitable grounds for the members of the National Security Apparatus to commit violations and have impunity. All this explicitly contradicts the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several International conventions, among them are: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention Against Torture which the Bahrain has acceded to and should abide by. In the course of his comment, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Mr. Nabeel Rajab stated, "What adds to the seriousness of strengthening the role of the powers and influence of the National Security Apparatus is that it is consistent with the group of laws that restrict public liberties and punishes those who practice them. Such as, State security articles from the 1976 Penal Law, the 1989 Law on Associations, the 2006 laws on Gatherings and Demonstration and the Anti-Terrorism Law. On the other hand, the political system in Bahrain strips the legislative and judicial authorities off its independence and its efficiency in monitoring and questioning the formation and practices of such institutions that play a critical role, or reforming rigid laws. In addition to, and as a result of, all this civil society institutions, human rights organizations and the press are deprived of efficiency in monitoring and influence. Consequently, the authority is creating a new repressive reality more organized and dangerous than the measures that were taken during the past state security era." Mr. Rajab adds, "While the decree number 10 for the year 2002 grants impunity to the violators of human rights; employees of the State Security Service in the previous era, the new decree grants impunity to the employees of the National Security Apparatus, contributes in setting off their violations and protects them from accountability and punishment in the present and future." Marginalizing the National Council and judiciary, and taking advantage of the Lawyers Association to support new procedures: The aforementioned decree was issued in neglect of the legislative authority represented in the National Council which in session but is subject to the dominance of the authority in terms of structure and work system. The decree also overlooked the jurisdictions and role of the judiciary authority, which in turn lacks it independence as well. However, the authority, on the other hand, was keen on securing moral support to the new decree by instructing the head of the Lawyers Association to issue a supporting legal opinion to it. The government, in the last few years, was able to dominate the Lawyers Association and end its role in support of human rights issues, especially after electing the current board of administration which is headed by the wife of one of the senior officials at the Ministry of the Interior. That reveals the gravity of the government plans in infiltrating and dominating civil society institutions. The National Security Service maintains its raids and arrests: A new wave of raids and arrests has continued; on January 12, 2009 Sami Ahmed Meftah (30 years) from Tubli area was arrested. At dawn on 18 January, houses were raided and the following arrested: Sayed Ali Sayed Shubar (30 years) from Jidhafs area, Ali Abdulhadi Meshemea (19 years) from Daih area, Abbas Jameel Taher Al-Samea (19 years) from Sanabis area, Hussein Ali Jum'a (15 years) from Hamad Town. At dawn and on the same day, the houses of the two following were raided: Mohammed Abdul-Kareem and Abdulredha Taher Samea (26 years) from Jidhafs area with the plea of being "wanted for arrest". The new wave of arrests was begun by the National Security Apparatus on the December 17, 2008 anticipating the events of the Martyrs and Torture Victims Day udder the pretext of the uncovering a "terror plot". The arrests so far have reached dozens of citizens who were detained for long periods in solitary confinement, without contact with the outside world, which easily subjects them to torture and extracting "confessions" from them which could be used to convict them through government media, and to accuse them later in court. Normally in previous such case, the National Security Apparatus was basing its actions and charges against arrestees on the state security articles from the 1976 Penal Code. While, as to the recent arrests, they are based on a more restrictive law which is the anti-terrorism law for the year 2006, and which was condemned by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Terrorism and many international nongovernmental organizations concerned with human rights. Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Center for Human Rights demand the following: 1. To put an end to the current policy of supporting laws, institutions and practices that restrict and suppress public liberties, and instead guarantee civil and political rights, and to set off public freedoms, especially the ones related to expression, gatherings and association, 2. To adopt dialogue with, and participation of, the various civil institution and groups in order to lay down practical solutions for unsettled issues, whether they are related to civil or political rights, or economic, social and cultural rights, 3. To put an end to the continuous violations and targeting human rights defenders and political opponents, and to secure a healthy and suitable environment for the work of human rights organizations and civil society institutions away from; restrictive laws and interferences and threats of the National Security Apparatus, 4. To guarantee the independence of the judiciary, and to secure the citizens right in prosecuting public officials of all specializations or levels, and to end any form of immunity and impunity, especially the ones related to arbitrary arrest, torture, unfair trials and targeting human rights defenders, 5. To refer to the legislative authority - that needs to be independent and representing public will - when issuing and mending laws, and to monitor and guarantee its efficient role in calling the executive authority to account, including the security services, 6. To reform laws related to liberties and repeal the anti-terrorism law, 7. To dissolve the National Security Apparatus and the Special Security Forces and to return their powers to the regular security services, 8. To end the policy of recruiting and using non-Bahraini mercenaries to work for the security apparatus and within the special security forces, who are being used to deal violently with peaceful gatherings and public protests, 9. To stop the systematic discrimination, isolation and marginalization policy against the Shiite community practiced by the authority in all fields.

22 Jan, 2009

Reporters Without Borders: More human rights websites blocked on information ministry’s orders

Bahrain | 22.01.2009

Reporters Without Borders deplores the directive which the information ministry sent to Internet Service Providers on 14 January ordering them to block access to certain political and commercial websites and warning that only the information ministry could take the decision to unblock a website. At least 25 sites have been blocked since the directive was issued.

“Even if the blocking of a political website is nothing new in Bahrain, this directive confirms that the government wants to retain its power to censor the Internet,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The fact that the Internet filtering is also targeting human rights websites indicates that this order is a first step in the reinforcement of online surveillance. We urge the information ministry so rescind this order and lift the blocking.”

Proxy websites, which enable Internet users to sidestep censorship, have also been blocked since 14 January.

When Internet users try to connect to one the sites, they find a message saying: “Site Blocked: This website has been blocked by the order of the Ministry of Culture and Information based on Article 19 of decree Law No. 47, 2002 regarding the organisation of the press, printing and publishing in the Kingdom of Bahrain, due to the publication of prohibited content on the aforementioned site.”

The websites of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Hrinfo) have been blocked for more than two years. A total of 69 news websites are currently blocked in Bahrain.

Law No. 47 of 2002 empowers the government to close a publication or website that is deemed to have attacked the government, the official state religion, public decency or other religions in a manner likely to disturb the peace. Officials can order the closure without referring to a court first.

Article 5 of a new media law that is currently before parliament would protect Internet publications from summary closure by the government. Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities and parliament to allow online media to benefit from this provision.