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AIPS: Bahraini sports journalist among hundreds arrested in government crackdown

MANAMA, April 15, 2011 - The human rights organisation, The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has reported the arrest of a local sports journalist to AIPS.

An email received today says Faisal Hayat, a journalist who worked for the local newspaper Albilad and who was "known for analysing football matches on popular sport shows on Arabic satellite channels" was detained on April 8 for participating in the Athletes' and Journalists' March during the protests on February 14.

The communique states that Faisal Hayat's photograph appeared on a show on the official Bahrain television station which attacked public figures who had participated in the protest.

The email further stated that "On 4 April Nasser Al-Khalifa, a son of the king of Bahrain and the head of Bahrain Olympic Committee, made an oral intervention on that show stating that restrictive measures will be taken against everybody who participated in anti-government protests during the last two months. Naser Al-Khalifa said: “..Bahrain is an island with no escape passage, everybody who interfered in these issues will be punished and everybody who took a stand (supporting the regime) will be awarded. The people who stood with or against the king are well-known to us ”.

AIPS President Gianni Merlo has urged Bahraini authorities to release Faisal Hayat. "We will always be on the side of journalists who are fighting to defend their rights and freedom," Merlo said.

"Our association will make an official complaint to the National Olympic Committee of Bahrain," Merlo added.

A number of sportsmen and athletes were detained for protesting against the Bahrain royal family. Local football star Al'a Hubail who became the first Bahraini player to win the prestigious Golden Boot Award along with his brother Mohammed was expelled from the national squad and arrested.

Meanwhile Al Jazeera reports that 200 athletes have been indefinitely suspended on charges of "supporting the popular revolution in the country".

Among them are nationally known basketball, volleyball, and handball players.

"All 200 have also been banned from any international play. All 200, like the overwhelming majority of demonstrators, are part of the country's oppressed Shi'a Muslim majority," the Al Jazeera report said, adding that "Shamefully, yet completely unsurprisingly, the Bahrain Football Association backed the move, saying "The suspension falls under misconduct, and the breaching of the rules and regulations of sporting clubs...not to engage in political affairs". More than 400 citizens are estimated to have been arrested, while reports say hundreds have been fired for participating in the anti-government protests.

www.aipsmedia.com

The Observatory: Urgent Appeal: Crackdown On The Trade Union Movement

14 April 2011

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the harassment against trade-union leaders and trade-unionists who called for strikes to protest violent repression led by security forces against peaceful protesters demanding human rights and democracy in the country, or who provided help to the victims of this repression.

In the wake of the wave of peaceful demonstrations which started in February 2011 and which have been met by the Bahraini authorities with excessive use of force, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) - to which more than 60 trade-unions are affiliated – first announced a nationwide strike to denounce the killing on February 14 and 15, 2011 by the military and security forces of peaceful protestors calling for reforms. This strike was called off on February 20, after the military first withdrew from the Pearl Roundabout on February 19. On March 13, 2011, the GFBTU called for the launch of an indefinite strike, in solidarity with protesters who had been violently evicted from the area adjacent to the Bahrain Financial Harbor on the same day. The strike was called off on March 22, 2011, when the Government assured the GFBTU that workers would not be harassed on the way to work.

Following these events, on April 5, 2011, the Parliament called on the Government to take immediate legal measures against the heads of organisations that supported the strikes, and to refer them to the Public Prosecution Office.

To date, the GFBTU registered 603 workers who have been dismissed by private employers for participating in the strikes.

The Observatory was further informed that on March 29 and 30, 2011, five members of the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Teachers’ Society (BTS), Ms. Jaleela Al-Salman, Mr. Anwar Abdul-Aziz Akbar, Ms. Salah Al-Bari, Ms. Afrah Al-Asfour, Ms. Sana Abdul-Razak, were arrested without warrant by security forces and individuals in civilian clothes at their places of residence. All still remain reportedly detained incommunicado to date. Furthermore, on April 6, the Social Development Ministry issued a statement dissolving the BTS. The same day, security forces stormed the house of Mr. Mahdi Abu-Deeb, President of the BTS, and then arrested him in another house and took him to an unknown location. He also reportedly remains detained incommunicado to date. The Observatory fears that the six were arrested for their support to the call for the strikes mentioned-above.

On April 4, 2011, Mrs. Rulla El Saffar, President of the Bahrain Nursing Society (BNS), was summoned by phone to the Adlia Criminal Investigation Building and taken away from there by security forces to an unknown location. She had been active in providing help to injured victims of the demonstrations.

In addition, on April 6, 2011, the Social Development Minister issued an edict suspending the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS), and the Ministry of Health suspended 30 doctors and nurses whose cases was referred to an “investigation committee” created by the Ministry, which mandate is to investigate the medical personnel who treated injured victims of demonstrations.

The Observatory was also informed that on April 11, 2011, Dr. Nabeel Tamman, an Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) specialist, member of Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) and the former president of the Medical Committee, was arrested and taken by security forces to an unknown location. Dr. Tamman is under treatment for cancer, and needs constant medical care and medication.

Furthermore, Mr. Abdul Ghaffar Abdullah Hussein, one of the founding leaders of the Bahraini labour movement and Chairman of the trade-union of Bahrain Petroleum Company was fired on March 31, 2011 for having "called on workers to take part in the general strike». The management of the Bahrain Petroleum Company threatened to undertake a legal action against him and other members of the union.

The Observatory condemns the crackdown against trade-union leaders and trade-unionists, which merely seems to aim at sanctioning the exercise of their human rights activities. The Observatory is concerned about the arrests and intimidations against supporters of peaceful demontrations and professionals providing injured demonstrators with medical assistance.

The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to take the necessary measures to guarantee the protection of all human rights defenders in Bahrain and, more generally, to comply with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Bahrain, including the International International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned trade-union leaders and trade-unionists and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative level, against trade-unions, human rights organisations and their members, and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the independence of human rights organisations and prevent any interference in their activities, such as suspension of their board or dissolution;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular :

its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

its Article 5 (a) and (b) which provides “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully; (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;

its Article 6 (c) which states that: everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters;

its Article 10 which provides that “No one shall participate, by act or by failure to act where required, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms and no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing to do so”;

and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

fidh.org

HRW: Bahrain: Investigate New Death in Custody

Thorough, Prompt, and Impartial Inquiries Needed April 13, 2011

(Manama) - The death of businessman and activist Kareem Fakhrawi on April 12, 2011, shows the urgent need for thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of torture, Human Rights Watch said today. It was the fourth detainee death reported by the Bahrain government in nine days.

--Click on the photo to view a large version on Facebook--

At Fakhrawi's funeral on April 13 in Manama's Hoora district, a crowd of mourners demanded to see his corpse because of concerns he had been tortured. They wrestled the shrouded body from pallbearers on the way to the cemetery, and took videos and photographs of the body.

"Four detainee deaths in nine days is a crime, not a coincidence," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The government tells families of detainees nothing about their whereabouts or well-being while they are alive or about the circumstances of their deaths."

Fakhrawi, 49, had been detained since April 3, after he went to the Exhibition Centre police station to complain about a predawn police raid on the house of a relative, one of two nephews who were being sought by the police. The photos of Fakhrawi's body show a red area on each of his upper arms to his shoulders, similarly discolored areas on his legs, and what appears to be blood on the right side of his neck. Human Rights Watch did not see the body. The Bahrain News Agency, in a Tweet, said an official at the military's Bahrain Defense Force Hospital "confirmed the death of Kareem Fakhrawi was from kidney failure."

The government has provided no information whatsoever about the numbers of detainees since the beginning of anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain on February 14 or the reasons for their detention, Human Rights Watch said.

As of April 6, the Wifaq National Islamic Society, an opposition political group, had gathered the names of 430 detainees from families who reported the detentions. Fakhrawi was a founding member of Wifaq, society officials said.

"Bahrain is flagrantly violating the most basic human rights by arbitrarily detaining hundreds, keeping their whereabouts secret, and covering up the reasons for deaths in custody," Stork said.

In the case of Isa Ibrahim Ali Saqer, 31, a "Cause of Death" notification issued on April 9 from the Bahrain Defense Force hospital said he died of "hypovolemic shock," usually caused by excess loss of blood, after "multiple trauma." He had turned himself in to the police in Hamad Town on April 3 after the police came looking for him at his home. Human Rights Watch viewed Saqer's body and saw bluish patches on the left side of the head, blackened tops of feet, lacerations on the arms and legs, and what appeared to be lash marks all over his back.

On April 3, the government announced the death of Hassan Jassim Mohammed Maki, 39, officially attributing it to complications from sickle cell anemia. Masked police had arrested him at his home in Karzakan on March 28. On April 9, the government said that Zakaria Rashid Hassan al-Asherri, 40, had also died of sickle cell anemia. Police had arrested him at his home in Dair on April 2.

The families of both Maki and al-Asherri told Human Rights Watch they doubted the official diagnoses. Both men were carriers of sickle cell, but had never displayed symptoms. None of the four families had been able to get any information about the detainees following their arrests and detention by the authorities.

At the ritual cleansing before Fakhrawi's burial at the cemetery in Hoora on April 13, male relatives told mourners not to photograph the body. Family members said that officials at Salmaniya Hospital, where they retrieved the body, told them neither to allow the body to be viewed nor to permit photographs to be taken of the dead man. Female relatives protested the prohibition because they suspected Fakhrawi's body had signs of physical abuse. Eventually, the women were let into the cleansing area and allowed briefly to see the corpse.

Since March 15, at least three other people connected to the anti-government protests have died in custody under suspicious circumstances.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 1998, requires that anyone arrested shall be promptly informed of any charges and brought before a judge or other judicial authority. The refusal of the authorities to acknowledge a person's detention or provide information on their fate or whereabouts is an enforced disappearance, a violation of several international standards.

In accordance with the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, all suspected cases of unlawful killings, including in response to complaints by relatives and reliable reports, should have a "thorough, prompt and impartial investigation." This investigation should "determine the cause, manner and time of death, the person responsible, and any pattern or practice which may have brought about that death." The investigation should result in a publicly available written report.

Since March 15, Bahrain has operated under martial law, officially labeled a "State of National Safety," that gave authorities wide powers of arrest, censorship, and prohibitions on freedom of movement and association. Even during a state of emergency, certain fundamental rights - such as the right to life and the right to be secure from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment - must always be respected, Human Rights Watch said.

hrw.org

Concerned at violence in Bahrain, Ban calls for restraint and dialogue

13 April 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his concern to Bahrain’s Foreign Minister about the violence in the country in which demonstrators have been killed or injured, and called for maximum restraint and caution.

During their meeting in Doha, Qatar, on the margins of the Libya Contact Group meeting, Mr. Ban was briefed by Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa on recent developments in Bahrain. The country is one of several in the Middle East and North Africa that has been rocked this year by protests calling for increased freedoms and democratic reforms. The Government’s crackdown on protesters has draw criticism from UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Secretary-General said he hoped the situation would calm down and that serious, inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders could start as soon as possible, according to his spokesperson.

In this context, he urged all the parties to respond constructively to the call for a dialogue, stating that it was important to accommodate the aspirations of the people.

www.un.org

IFEX defends member BCHR in light of free expression abuses

13 April 2011

Last week, the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab, made history as the first person prosecuted in the Arab world for a tweet, reports the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). He was accused of alerting readers through Twitter to "fabricated" pictures of the tortured body of Ali Isa Saqer, who Rajab alleged died at the hands of security forces in a Bahraini prison. While Bahrain is quickly turning into a police state, IFEX has expressed concern for Rajab and the sudden escalation of arrests and threats against other free expression advocates in Bahrain.

On 10 April, Bahrain's Interior Ministry issued a statement accusing Rajab of distributing fabricated images of Saqer and declared that he will be prosecuted by the military.

"Persecution for publishing images on Twitter demonstrates the increasing contempt by the Bahraini authorities towards freedom of expression and Internet freedom," said IFEX in an open statement defending BCHR.

Other BCHR members have also been targeted. On 9 April, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former president of BCHR and director of Front Line, was beaten unconscious when 15 masked men raided his daughter Zainab's home. She was also beaten. Alkhawaja was dragged away bleeding and barefoot by authorities, along with two of his sons-in-law. The whereabouts of the three men remains unknown. Zainab has since started a hunger strike. (Follow her on Twitter at Angry Arabiya.)

Mohammad Al-Maskati, Alkhawaja's other son-in-law and the president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), has been documenting violations since the protests began and was also beaten at the house but not arrested.

With Saudi troops now in the country to support King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the attack on BCHR is emblematic of repression elsewhere in the tiny kingdom.

In the past couple of months, euphoric crowds filled Pearl Square in Manama, the capital, to listen to speeches calling for freedom and to celebrate the release of political prisoners. But with the pro-democracy movement showing no signs of abating, troops cleared the square on 16 March using tear gas and bullets and then bulldozed the area.

Detentions and pre-dawn raids have intensified even as mass demonstrations have virtually ceased. As many as 800 workers have been fired from the government and arms-length companies, apparently on the suspicion that they had attended the rallies. There have been reports of torture, beatings at checkpoints, even the forcible removal from hospitals of badly injured patients who appear to have sustained injuries from police.

Since pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in mid-February, BCHR counts more than 460 people who have been jailed or have gone missing. In the past 10 days alone, four have died in custody, says BCHR.

Last week, blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri died under mysterious circumstances while in government custody. He had been charged with disseminating false news and inciting hatred. Government claims that al-Ashiri died from complications of sickle cell anaemia were vigorously denied by his family, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports.

The government has provided no registry of detainees. According to Human Rights Watch, detainees are held virtually incommunicado, with at most one or two brief phone calls allowed from places of detention to ask for fresh clothing. Families of the detainees say they are not permitted to see their relatives or lawyers. Those who have been freed told BYSHR that detainees have been tortured with electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse.

A "state of national safety", in place since 15 March, gives the security forces the right to arrest anyone suspected of threatening "the safety of citizens", search houses at will without a warrant, censor the press, and dissolve any organisation, including legal political parties, deemed a danger to the state.

For instance, after a one-day shutdown, Mansoor al-Jamri, the editor of Bahrain's leading independent daily, "Al-Wasat", along with two other editors, was forced to quit last weekend to keep the paper open. He was accused of publishing false stories to incite Shiites to rise up against the government. Al-Jamri says the false stories were planted. Two Iraqi nationals who were appointed to replace him were then deported. "Al Wasat" has since emerged as a mouthpiece for the government, says Human Rights Watch.

Prominent Bahraini bloggers Mahmood al-Yousif and Mohammed al-Maskati were also temporarily detained, reports BCHR.

In a joint statement, BCHR, ANHRI and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), along with 15 other groups in the region, are calling for the suspension of Bahrain's membership in the UN Human Rights Council. "Failure to act in face of the gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the government of Bahrain is believed to highly undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the Council as a whole," they said.

They also point to the "complicity and lack of political will" from international actors, particularly the U.S. and EU. The Obama administration, which considers Bahrain a crucial ally, has issued tempered criticisms of the crackdown but has not pressed for a change in government. Bahrain hosts the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, and its monarchy is strongly backed by Saudi Arabia, reports Human Rights Watch.

ifex.org

Freedom House Alarmed by Suspicious Prison Deaths in Bahrain

Washington April 13, 2011

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the deaths of four detainees in Bahrain in recent days and urges the government to investigate torture allegations and to cease its campaign of repression against Shiites and other dissenting voices. Yesterday, protester Karim Fakhrawi died in prison under suspicious circumstances, raising fears of torture and mistreatment of political opponents while they are in police custody. Fakhrawi was arrested on April 4 after participating in a street protest seeking political reforms in Bahrain. The state-run news agency reported that Fakhrawi died from kidney failure, but his family says that his body shows unequivocal signs of torture. Fakhrawi is the fourth protester to die while in custody in the past tendays. In all cases, families of the victims have reported that the bodies were returned to them with clear signs of physical abuse.

“What appears to be the widespread abuse of prisoners in detention centers, as well as the lack of information on the whereabouts of those arrested, is deeply alarming,” said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “Freedom House calls on Bahraini authorities to take immediate steps to adhere to international standards for due process and the treatment of prisoners.”

Opposition party Al Wefaq reports over 400 arrests since the protests began in mid-February, while some groups estimate as many as 600 people are currently detained. At least 30 people are reported to have died. Abdulhabi Alkhawaja, former regional coordinator at FrontLine and former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested on April 9 and his current whereabouts are unknown. Freedom House is concerned about his safety as well as that of Nabeel Rajab, who is at high risk of arrest after publishing photos of Ali Issa Saqr, who died in custody on April 9.

“Large scale lay-offs of citizens participating in demonstrations, arbitrary arrests, and now the suspicious deaths of four detainees show an outright disregard on the part of the Bahraini government to ensure the welfare of its citizens,” continued Schriefer.

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.

For more information on Bahrain, visit:

Freedom in the World 2011: Bahrain Freedom of the Press 2010: Bahrain Countries at the Crossroads 2010: Bahrain

freedomhouse.org

HRW: Bahrain: Suspicious Deaths in Custody

April 13, 2011

(Manama) - Bahrain's public prosecutor should investigate three deaths in custody reported since April 3, 2011, and hold accountable anyone found responsible for torture, ill-treatment, or denial of medical care, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch observed the body of one of the three men, Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer, which bore signs of horrific abuse.

--Photos collected by BCHR--

Human Rights Watch also called on the government to disclose the whereabouts of detainees, permit them to contact their families and lawyers, and open detention centers to independent inspection. As of April 6, the opposition Wifaq National Islamic Society had collected names of 430 people who relatives say have been arrested since demonstrations began on February 14.

"It's outrageous and cruel that people are taken off to detention and the families hear nothing until the body shows up with signs of abuse," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities need to explain why this is happening, put a stop to it, and hold anyone responsible to account."

Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer, 31, turned himself in to police in Hamad Town on April 3, his family told Human Rights Watch. Police had been looking for him in connection with an incident during anti-government demonstrations in which the authorities alleged that he tried to run over a policeman with his car but hit a protester. Police had visited relatives at least three times, saying that if Saqer did not turn himself in, they would detain the relatives instead, family members said.

After Saqer surrendered, his family heard nothing more about him until April 9, when the interior Ministry announced that he had died in custody. The Interior Ministry issued a statement published in Bahrain newspapers that he had "created chaos" in a detention center, "which led security forces to bring the situation under control," resulting in his death.

Human Rights Watch viewed Saqer's remains during the ritual body washing before he was buried in his home village of Sehla on April 10. His body showed signs of severe physical abuse. The left side of his face showed a large patch of bluish skin with a reddish-purple area near his left temple and a two-inch cut to the left of his eye. Lash marks crisscrossed his back, some reaching to his front right side. Blue bruises covered much of the back of his calves, thighs, and buttocks, as well as his right elbow and hip. The tops of his feet were blackened, and lacerations marked his ankles and wrists.

Family members showed Human Rights Watch a document entitled "Medical Notification of Cause of Death," issued by the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Hospital on April 9. It listed the cause of death as "hypovolemic shock," a condition usually brought on by extreme loss of blood. The cause, the document stated, was "multiple trauma." The interval between the onset of the condition and death was simply given as "some time." The notification stated that Saqer arrived at BDF hospital "collapsed."

Relatives who retrieved the body at Salmaniya hospital on April 9 said that they did not ask for an autopsy, saying that they wanted to bury Saqer as soon as possible.

On April 10, the Interior Ministry announced that it had opened an investigation against Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, for allegedly circulating on his Twitter account "a fabricated image of Ali Isa Saqer."

"We viewed Ali Saqer's body just prior to his burial, and its condition was exactly as shown in the photo that Nabeel Rajab circulated," Stork said. "It's a sign of how bad things have gotten in Bahrain that the authorities are investigating human rights activists for exposing what happened to Saqer instead of investigating those responsible for his violent death."

In the second case, masked uniformed police arrested Zakaria Rashid Hassan al-Asherri, 40, at about 2 a.m. on April 2, at his home in the village of Dair, his brother, Ali al-Asherri, told Human Rights Watch. Ali al-Asherri is a former parliament member from the opposition Wifaq National Islamic Society. Zakaria al-Asherri administered a blog, www.aldair.net/forum, which carried critical commentary about government policies and which has been blocked in Bahrain. The next day, relatives searched for al-Asherri at the Muharraq police station, but officers there provided no information about him. On April 9, the Interior Ministry announced that al-Asherri had died in detention, attributing his death to complications from sickle cell anemia.

On April 11, at Zakaria al-Asherri's funeral, Ali al-Asherri told Human Rights Watch that his brother was a carrier of the disease, but had never suffered ill-effects from it. Authorities provided the family with a death certificate saying Zakaria died of shock, Ali said. A photograph that Ali said he took by mobile phone during the April 11 pre-burial body cleansing showed a wound on Zakaria's right shoulder, a gash on his nose and some blood that had issued from his ears and lips. Human Rights Watch did not see Zakaria's body.

Al-Asherri's family asked officials at Salmaniya Hospital, where they retrieved his body, to perform an autopsy, which was carried out. Officials told the family that authorities at the Interior Ministry would make the results available to them later, Ali said. Stitches down Zakaria's chest from the autopsy were visible on Ali's photograph of his body.

In the third case, the government announced on April 3 that Hassan Jassim Mohammed Maki, a 39-year-old laborer, had died in police custody. The statement also attributed his death to complications from sickle cell anemia. Police had arrested Maki in a predawn raid at his home in Karzakan March 28.

Human Rights Watch viewed photos the family said they took during the pre-burial cleansing of Maki's body. The photos showed bruises on the back and front of his upper body as well as his ankles, and a pair of small, round wounds the size of small coins on the back of his head. His family did not ask for an autopsy.

"We now have, in the space of just a week, three highly suspicious deaths in detention, and Bahrain has an obligation to conduct transparent and thorough investigations into each one and make the results public," Stork said. "Bahraini authorities have detained hundreds of people and refused to divulge any information about their whereabouts or well-being - precisely the circumstances in which detainees are at grave risk of torture."

On April 12, the opposition group Wifaq National Islamic Society announced that one of its members, a businessman named Kareem Fakhrawi, had died in custody. He reportedly was last seen at the Exhibition Centre Police Station on April 3. Human Rights Watch has not been able to investigate the report directly.

Since Bahraini military and security forces violently dispersed pro-democracy protests on March 15 and 16, at least three other civilians have died in custody under suspicious circumstances. In all of these cases the people were apparently taken into custody alive but later died at the BDF hospital, in the village of A'ali south of Manama. Some had serious injuries before they were detained. One of them, Isa al-Radhi, 45, had been missing since March 15, when security forces attacked the village of Sitra. On March 19, officials from the BDF hospital called his family and told them to collect his body. Pictures taken of al-Radhi's body prior to burial showed severe bruising. A forensic expert who reviewed the pictures told Human Rights Watch that "assaultive injuries cannot be ruled out."

The Convention against Torture, which Bahrain ratified in 1998, prohibits torture and ill-treatment under all circumstances. In a February 2010 report, Human Rights Watch concluded that security officials repeatedly used torture for the apparent purpose of securing confessions from security suspects. Bahrain officials claimed in response that torture was neither routine nor systematic, and that anyone found to be responsible would be punished. To Human Rights Watch's knowledge, there have been no independent investigations or prosecutions concerning cases documented in its report.

Bahrain is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 9 states that "anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him," and "shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power."

The United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment specifies that "medical care and treatment shall be provided whenever necessary."

Since March 15, Bahrain has operated under martial law, officially labeled a "State of National Safety," which gave authorities wide powers of arrest, censorship, and prohibitions on freedom of movement and association.

"Emergency laws should not be used as a cover for brutality," Stork said.

hrw.org

Council Of The European Union Conclusions On Bahrain

and Remarks by the High Representative Catherine Ashton at the end of the Foreign Affairs Council,

Council conclusions on Bahrain

3082nd FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting Luxembourg, 12 April 2011

The Council adopted the following conclusions: "The Council reiterates its serious concern at the situation in Bahrain, and the lack of any tangible progress towards dialogue which should address the legitimate concerns of all Bahraini people.

The Council is equally concerned at the arrest of those who exercise their legitimate right to freedom of expression. Persons who have been detained for peacefully expressing themselves should be released immediately. The Government and security forces have a clear duty to respect fully the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, without discrimination, as well as upholding international standards in this regard. The Council encourages the authorities to further investigate all recent events which have resulted in loss of life and injuries.

The Council calls on all parties rapidly to take concrete and meaningful steps enabling the start of a constructive dialogue that will lead to real reforms."

Remarks by the High Representative Catherine Ashton at the end of the Foreign Affairs Council

12 April 2011, Luxembourg

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, made today the following remarks:

Syria, Bahrain and Yemen Council has also adopted strong conclusions on Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.

The situation in each of these countries is of course different, but in all three, we have seen the use of violence by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators, which has resulted in several deaths.

The authorities must exercise restraint.

Those arrested in connection with peaceful demonstrations must be released immediately.

The authorities should investigate the deaths of protestors and bring those responsible to account.

We call on the Syrian authorities to lift the state of emergency without delay.

There has to be a clear and credible programme of political reform and a concrete timetable for its introduction.

In Bahrain, we all remain concerned at the lack of any tangible progress towards real dialogue.

In Yemen, we urge President Saleh to take concrete steps to allow a credible and peaceful political transition.

Sources: Council conclusions on Bahrain Remarks by the High Representative Catherine Ashton at the end of the Foreign Affairs Council

The President of the European Parliament on the death of civic activists in Bahrain prison

Brussels - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, made the following statement on the reported death of two civic activists in Bahraini police custody:

"The death of Ali Issa Saqer and Zakaraya Rashed Hassan in the hands of the Bahraini police is unacceptable. I am deeply concerned by concurrent reports of several human rights organisations that both activists had been tortured in prison and might have been killed.

These massive abuses appear to be not the only case. The whereabouts of several other public figures are still unknown, as in the case of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Their well-being is of great concern to the EU.

I firmly condemn these abuses against peaceful protesters. The detention of more than 400 human rights activists, bloggers and opposition supporters in Bahrain does nothing to pacify the situation. To the contrary, such reactions will further alienate the authorities from the people.

Violence against your own people will play into the hands of those that want to seed division and unrest. The heavy hand of the government undermines all hopes for national dialogue.

I call for a credible investigation into the recent deaths and all violations of human rights. Those who were responsible for any abuses must face justice. Those who were arbitrarily arrested must be released. This is the only way forward on the path towards national reconciliation, democracy and stability."

Note to editors:

The European Parliament debated and voted a resolution on the situation in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen on 7 April 2011. The full text of the resolution is available here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0148+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

www.europarl.europa.eu

19 Human Rights Organizations Severely Condemn The Continuous Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain

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

12 April 2011 Joint press release

The 19 undersigned human rights organizations severely condemn the authorities’ crackdown on prominent human rights defenders Abdulhadi AlKhawaja and Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain. We are gravely concerned for the safety and well-being of both human rights defenders who are being targeted for their human rights work.

On April 9, 2011, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, former protection coordinator at Front Line Defenders and former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested by masked police officers from his daughter’s house in Al Manama. Police had been seeking to arrest AlKhawaja for several hours, during which they searched his house and the house of his cousin, Habib Alhalwachi, whom they also arrested and subsequently released.

According to testimonies provided by his eldest daughter, AlKhawaja was attacked, brutally beaten until he lost consciousness, and then arrested and taken to an unidentified location along with two of his sons-in-law, Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed. AlKhawaja’s third son-in-law Mohamed Almaskati, president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, was left behind after being subjected to severe beatings along with AlKhawaja’s eldest daughter, who attempted to intervene to protect her father.

The whereabouts of AlKhawaja and his two sons-in-law remain unknown; there is grave concern for his well-being as he is at great risk of being subjected to additional torture and ill-treatment while being detained incommunicado. Furthermore, he was prevented from taking his medication with him, which adds to the concerns for his wellbeing.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has posted on his account on Twitter that AlKhawaja was arrested and will be legally charged, adding that "he (AlKhawaja) is not a reformer… he called for the overthrow of the legitimate regime." The undersigned organizations note that such expressions are usually used by authorities as a form of intimidation against activists in Bahrain, as trumped-up charges under the emergency law and other exceptional laws are frequently brought against them for their work.

The undersigned organizations are also concerned for the safety and well-being of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who is believed to be at high risk of arrest. On April 10, the Ministry of Interior stated on its website that Rajab was to be referred to the Military Public Prosecutor for publishing fabricated images of Ali Issa Saqr, who died on April 9 while in detention. Rajab had refuted the officially stated cause of death, suggesting that Saqr had died as a result of torture in prison.

One month ago, Rajab was briefly detained and subjected to severe beatings before being released a few hours later without being given a reason for his arrest and detention.

The harassments that AlKhawaja and Rajab face are part of an ongoing crackdown on dissenting voices and human rights defenders that have escalated since the beginning of the wide pro-democracy popular protests in March. Human rights organizations estimate that over 600 individuals (amongst whom are human rights defenders and political opponents of the regime) remain in Bahraini prisons at high risk of torture and ill-treatment. It is a particularly alarming situation given that torture is a virtually systematic practice that has been used against activists increasingly since last year.

The undersigned organizations call on the government of Bahrain to immediately stop the crackdown on human rights defenders and political opponents in Bahrain. We further hold the authorities accountable for any harm that may be inflicted on them and demand that AlKhawaja be released immediately and the harassments against Ragab halted.

In this context, we firmly believe that that Bahrain’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council ought to be suspended. Failure to act in face of the gross and systematic human rights violations committed by the government of Bahrain is believed to highly undermine the credibility and effectives of the Council as a whole.

Furthermore, the undersigned organizations stress that the continuation of the despotic campaign against human rights defenders and political groups that are calling for profound democratic reforms reflect complicity and lack of political will from international actors, particularly the US and EU. These actors remain to prefer securing their strategic interests in the Gulf region by choosing to sustain the political stability of repressive regimes, turn a blind eye to the people’s aspirations for democracy, and remain silent on massive and systematic human rights violations in this region of the world.

1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies 2. Arab Organization for Human Rights - Syria 3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Egypt 4. Bahrain Center for Human Rights 5. Bahrain Youth Society foe Human Rights 6. Center for Trade Unions and Worker’s Services, Egypt 7. Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights, Syria 8. Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies 9. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement 10. Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt 11. Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia 12. Human Rights Organization in Syria – MAF 13. Iraqi Human Right Association in Denmark 14. Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria al-Rased 15. Kurdish organization for the defense of human rights and public freedoms in Syria – DAD 16. National Organization for Human Right in Syria 17. New Woman Research Center, Egypt 18. The Egyptian Imitative for Personal Rights 19. Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms

www.cihrs.org