facebook twitter youtube blogger flickr rss Previous Next Left Arrow Right Arrow alert

Amnesty Internationl: Urgent Action Two Men at Imminent Risk Of Execution

23 May 2011

Two men are at imminent risk of being executed, after the National Safety Court of Appeal in Bahrain upheld their death sentences on 22 May. They were convicted with three other men of killing two policemen during anti-government demonstrations in March. Their trial was unfair. The two men could be executed within days if the sentences are upheld by the Court of Cassation and ratified by the King.

The death sentences imposed on ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis and ‘Adbulaziz ‘Abdulridha Ibrahim Hussain were upheld by the National Safety Court of Appeal, a military court, on 22 May. The same court commuted the death sentences of Qassim Hassan Matar and Sa’eed ‘Abduljalil Sa’eed to life in prison, and upheld the life imprisonment sentence of the fifth defendant, ‘Issa ‘Abdullah Kadhem ‘Ali. The five men were sentenced on 28 April. They were accused of killing two policemen during anti-government protests in March.

Bahrain’s Court of Cassation will review the two death sentences. If the sentences are upheld, and then ratified by the king, the two men could be executed within days.

No international observers have been permitted by the Bahraini authorities to attend any trials before military courts established under the state of emergency, termed the State of National Safety, which was declared by the King of Bahrain on 15 March. Amnesty International opposes trials of civilians before military courts.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic or English:

- Expressing grave concern at the confirmation of the death sentences on ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis and ‘Adbulaziz ‘Abdulridha Ibrahim Hussain; - Acknowledging the Bahraini government’s responsibility to protect the public and bring to justice those responsible for committing crimes, but insisting that this should always be done in accordance with international law and Bahrain’s international human rights obligations; - Urging His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa to immediately commute the death sentences imposed on the two men and order their re-trial before ordinary criminal courts.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND BEFORE 4 JULY 2011 TO:

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

Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1753 3033 Salutation: Your Highness

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

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 122/11. Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/023/2011/en

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Protesters in Bahrain are currently facing trials under the National Safety Court of First Instance and the National Safety Court of Appeal. Both of them were established under the State of National Safety (SNS), a national state of emergency declared by the King of Bahrain on 15 March. The provisions of the SNS are broadly drawn and vague, and contain no explicit human rights guarantees. The SNS stipulates that Bahrain’s ordinary courts may not hear appeals from these special courts, whose verdicts are final.

Further information on UA: 122/11 Index: MDE 11/027/2011 Issue Date: 23 May 2011

amnesty.org

Home of the Bahraini activist and President of BCHR Nabeel Rajab is attacked, again

Photos of the damage made by the attack on Rajab's House

By the CNN Wire Staff May 22, 2011 -- Updated 0156 GMT (0956 HKT)

(CNN) -- The home of prominent Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was attacked Saturday, the rights group he heads said. The attack took place early Saturday morning while Rajab and his family were sleeping, said the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Assailants launched teargas grenades into the house, breaking the window of Rajab's brother, the group said.

"We had very frightening moments rescuing my brother, his wife and his daughter as they were close to serious suffocation. This is an attempt to murder a member of my family to pressure me to stop my human rights activities," said Rajab, president of the Center.

"Thank God the teargas bombs fell on the tile and not the carpet, which could have caused a fire and could have killed the whole family while they were asleep," he said. "Please do whatever you can to stop the government from attacking me and my family who have nothing to do with my human rights work."

Saturday marked the second attack on Rajab's home in about a month. In April, assailants lobbed teargas over a high wall surrounding his and his mother's houses, Human Rights Watch reported. After that attack, the New York-based rights group called on the government of Bahrain to investigate, saying the attack appeared to target Rajab for his advocacy work. Human Rights Watch said then that it knew of no entity other than Bahrain's security forces that would have access to the kind of grenades used in the April attack.

There was no immediate response to the Human Right Watch statement by the Bahraini government.

The country is ruled by the Al-Khalifa family, which has been in power since the 18th century. Many protesters are calling for the removal of the royal family, whom they blame for the country's high unemployment rate and for running a corrupt government that relies on torture and other harsh measures to clamp down on dissent.

On March 20, about 25 people in about a dozen cars pulled up to Rajab's house and took him to the offices of the Interior Ministry's investigative department. There, according to Rajab, he was beaten, blindfolded and interrogated about an armed suspect they believed he knew.

The government confirmed the arrest but provided no other details.

Rajab is one of hundreds of Bahrainis to be detained by security forces in recent months. The arrests, according to human rights activists, have often been violent and have taken place at night. Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy anchors its Fifth Fleet, is a small, predominantly Shiite country governed by a Sunni royal family.

See Photos of the damage made by the attack on Rajab's House

cnn.com

Bahrain: After destruction of the actual protesting site at "the Pearl", the government shifts to eliminate virtual protests

Information community on the internet faces the danger of disappearance due to the brutal crackdown on freedom of expression

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

17th May 2011

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern regarding the continuous crackdown on the freedom of individuals to express their views and the suppression of Bahraini authorities to freedom of expression in various ways. This report focuses on the repression of freedom of expression through the web space that targeted activists and bloggers on the internet through killing threats and detention leading to a state of extreme self-censorship. Many websites that discuss the local affairs and political events, including discussion forums and blogging pages of Bahraini activists, have been blocked or closed by authorities in Bahrain. The diversity of electronic contents on the web is compromised as more bloggers are disappearing everyday along with the closure of their websites and pages.

Since the public protests last February –started after calls spread through Facebook (1)-, Bahraini activists and bloggers – like others worldwide- made use of the readily available cyberspace and social networking sites such as forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to broadcast what’s happening in Bahrain(2), spread the details of public protests and document it with articles, pictures and videos. They also started to share their thoughts and opinions about what’s happening on these sites; which was their only channel to express their opinions and spread the news to the world as the official media refrained from presenting any anti-government view and only broadcasted the news of protests after distortion (3) and adapting it to serve the government objectives, while the other media channels kept silence. (4)

Restrictions on internet activity since the beginning of public protests:

From the beginning, the authorities feared the success of activist on the internet to raise the public and therefore they blocked the pages that called for demonstrations.(5) After the protests started, the authorities slowed down the internet speed to prevent activists from broadcasting what happening, as that meant obstructing the upload of videos, live broadcast of demonstration and surfing the net. It also blocked bambuser.com website, which allow members to exchange videos taken by mobile phones directly. Pages from YouTube containing videos of the demonstrations were also blocked.(6) And while the government used American-made weapons to crackdown protesters in the street, American programs were also used to block the websites.(7) According to Arbor Networks(8)-an American company for information security- internet trafficking from and to Bahrain was reduced by 20% after the first crackdown on the Pearl Roundabout on the 17th Feb, which prove that the authorities have tightened their control on the internet in response to the growing unrest.

Thugs of the social network pages(9):

Besides filling the social networks (especially Twitter) with hundreds of accounts of government’s representatives and supporters to broadcast a lot of massages that misrepresent the protests(10) by calling it sectarian and broadcasting violent videos and attributing them to February peaceful uprising, these thugs also played important role in spreading hate and sectarian thoughts through the social networks pages.(11) What confirms that these accounts belong to a well-organized system is that they all appeared at the same time on Twitter network to broadcast false information about the protesters just before the crackdown on 17th Feb, all disappeared during the crackdown, and then re-appear all at once after hours to continue their work(12). Programs that monitor Twitter density(13) showed that many massages are originating from the area of Ministry of the Interior, which prove that these accounts are related to it. The report published by former chancellor of the minister’s council Dr Salah Al-Bander already documented that the government is funding groups for sectarian writings on the internet(14). Observers believe that the goal of the campaign of misinformation waged by the government’s thugs is to break the confidence of followers in social networks in it as a source of independent information as a result of flow of false information send by pro-government people against advocates of the protests. Observers believe that the campaigns of cyber thugs who appeared in Bahrain pose a serious threat to the future of democratic movements and the fair and equitable use of social networks and a clear violation of the laws of these sites.(15)

Map showing high density of tweets coming from the area of minster of interior in Manama.

This did not stop at broadcasting false information and incitement to hatred, but also extended by these government internet soldiers to attack active bloggers by accusations and threats(16) to push them into silence and stopping their electronic activity, which did not succeed at that time.

The hatred and arrest campaigns against bloggers:

However, the government’s ferocity in the suppressing the internet activists escalated after the entry of the Peninsula Shield forces, imposition of emergency law and crackdown of protesters in the Pearls Roundabout. It started an organized operation to chase and arrest active bloggers on the internet. BCHR documented till the writing of this report that up to 20 blogger and internet activist had been arrested, including at least 10 who remained in detention. One blogger was also killed under torture in the detention center. List of detainees from internet activists

The campaign of arrests started in 17th March 2011 when 40 insurgents raided the house of the sister of Ali Abdelemam - Bahraini prominent blogger-(17) where he lives to arrest him again despite his release in February 23, 2011 after his imprisonment for more than 6 months(18). The security force did not succeed in his arrest and his fate became unknown after his disappearance. It’s worth mentioning that Abdelemam is the founder of the bahrainonline.org site, which is a popular forum known for publishing news about the ongoing human right violations and articles of government’s opposition for years. Dr Abdul Jalil AlSingace - a blogger and official spokesman and director of the Office of Human Rights of the Movement of Liberties and Democratic "Haq"- was also arrested 17th March. He was held previously with Ali Abdulemam and 21 other activists from August 2010 until February 2011, and he condemned on his blog http://alsingace.katib.org discriminations against Shi'a community and criticized the continued encroachment on civil liberties in Bahrain. Both detainees have stated to the court last October that they have been tortured and severely miss-treated during detention(19), and also talked about it to the media in their brief release period(20). The government announced subsequently that both bloggers will be tried in a military court as a part of a group of 21 activists on charges of connection with a terrorist organization aiming to overthrow the regime.(21) On 19th March 2011, there was a raid on the house of Said Yousif Almuhafdah –blogger and human right activists- to arrest him. His family was threatened that the security forces will come back every night if he does not surrender to authorities.

On Facebook and Twitter, appeared pages(22) that called a group bloggers, known by their real names, traitors and accused them of conspiring against the government. Some of these bloggers stood out on Twitter to broadcast their opinions - which were not necessarily in favor of the protests - and to send live coverage of the protests with attached pictures. Among those targeted in the campaign, the “god father” of Bahraini bloggers Mahmood Al Yousif(23) and the founder of "No Sunni no Shiite, just Bahraini" campaign, which calls for breaking the sectarianism and for unity of Bahrainis. The campaign was popular among the citizens but was not well received by the authority, which blocked the website of the campaign(24) before closing it eventually and those with campaign’s logo were exposed to insult and threats at the checkpoints(25). Also among those targeted, the blogger "Redbelt", the founder of “#UniteBahrain” on Twitter(26), which received great popularity on social networks and it aimed to resist the campaigns of hatred and discrimination on social networks.

The blogger Mohammed Al-Masqati was one of many who received direct threats from loyal members to the authorities, as he received threats from a members of the royal family called Mohammed Al-Khalifa(27), telling him that he "will make his family search for him."

A few days after these campaigns of hatred, a campaign of arrests started and targeted some of these bloggers. Mahmoud Al-Yousef, "Redbelt" and Mohammed Al-Maskati were arrested (28) during night raids on their homes on 30th March 2011. The first two (29) were released the next day after more than 24 hours of detention, after an international campaign on Twitter and press and a statement from the US department of State (30) pointing to the need for the release of Al-Youssef and the other bloggers. Al-Maskati was also released a week after his arrest.

Threats to prevent solidarity with detained bloggers continued especially from Mohammed Al-Kalifa as he stated in several occasions that “anyone that’s living in Bahrain and is supporting the terrorist emoodz (Al-Maskati), will have his IP address taken and will get arrested”. Targeting these voices by the government confirms its goal of preventing electronic networks from becoming a means of creating a united community, as it is easier for its internet thugs to spread the hatred messages in the absence of voices calling for unity, which enables it to tighten its grip on the freedom of expression on the web indirectly. Prior to this, the government had blocked one of the platforms of communication between the Bahraini bloggers bahrainblogs.org.

Death of a blogger in detention:

On 9th April 2011, the internet activist Zakaria Rashed Hassan Al-Ashiri was announced dead. He was responsible for the affairs of the village at the site of Dair.net (32), which published news of the Dair village and was closed after his arrest. Zakaria was arrested a week earlier on 2nd April 2011 with charges of "incitement to hatred", "spreading false news", "promoting sectarianism" and "call to overthrow the regime in electronic forums". His death was attributed by the Ministry of Interior to sickle cell anemia. However, his family refused to sign the death certificate and demanded an autopsy, as evidence of torture was apparent all over his body.

Marks of torture visible on the body of Zakaryia

Ahmad Yousif Al-Dairi is also among the detained internet activists. He is the director of the Dair Net website and has been detained along with his sons on 1st April 2011. It seems that he does not receive necessary medical treatment for his diabetes. His family fears that he might have similar fate to his colleague.

The government also detained some photographers with internet activity, such as Mujtaba Salmat and Hussain Abbas Salim (known as Hussain Al-Khal) on 17th and 28th March, respectively. Both were members of Bahrain Society for Photography and were covering the protests in Pearls Square. Mujtaba Salmat has published hundreds of photos on his Facebook page (33). He was released after one month of detention.

Bahrain News Agency also published an announcement (34) on 10th April stating that human rights activist Nabeel Rajab will be referred to the military prosecutor because of publishing false pictures through his Twitter page. Nabeel Rajab had published pictures of the detained "Ali Isa Saqer", who died in prison. Those pictures showed signs of torture that led to the death of the latter (Mr Saqar). This is the first time in the Arab world that a person might be tried because of a “tweet”. What raises more concerns about torture of activists is that they are not allowed to meet their families and lawyers throughout the period of detention.

Campaigns of incitement and threatening of activists escalated to include Maryam Al-Khawajah - head of foreign relation office of BCHR and twitter activist- as she received many threats on twitter including threats of murder because of her international human right activity, especially after her testimony in a hearing at United States Congress held this month about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Message reads:"Special Forces of Riffa Announces wasting the blood of Mariam AlKhawaja and with help of honorable people of Muharraq, and as soon as she returns to Bahrain we will take our actions."

Following the arrests and electronic threats, dozens of bloggers resorted to hiding to avoid arrest, and most of those who had been released had almost stopped writing. It was noted that the activity of many people stopped totally and their fate is unknown. It is not clear if they are actually arrested or hiding because of fear of arrest.(35)

Investigations because of Facebook and mass withdrawals from social networks:

Threats did not stop at active bloggers, as every user of social networks is now at risk, if he has put on anything on his page that indicates his affiliation with or support for the protesters. After the social network was the final outlet for people to express their opinion, it became a source of threat to the protesters. Pages that called the protesters and participants in strikes traitors spread on Facebook (36). Hundreds of their pictures were published and lists of their names spread on social networks and forums accompanied by calls demanding their arrest and punishment. A photo of the physician Khulood Al-Sayyad emerged on one of these pages immediately before her arrest.

Some government institutions also held their workers accountable for what they wrote on the pages of these social networks. The private Facebook page of an employee of Labour Market Regulatory Authority was shown in a television program broadcasted by the governmental Bahrain Television channel(37), in a public and direct trial to the views of this employee, and a flagrant violation of his privacy. Ali Ahmed – member of the parliament- stated that any individual, that "his offense of authorities" on the pages of Facebook is proven, should be hold accountable and administrative actions must be taken against him mounting up to firing him from work. The Chief Executive of Labour Market Regulatory Authority Ahmed Ali, who was present in the studio, pledged to do so.

University of Bahrain formed committees to investigate into the events of the university(38) that took place on 13th March 2011 and newspapers reported that this committee is seeking information through videos, photos, Facebook pages, Twitter and witnesses,‬ noting ‮ ‬that the information will cover ‮days of the events as well as preceding days(39). ‬ Some of the university students who have been interrogated said that their writings, photographs and comments on the pages of Facebook were used as evidence condemning them with offence to the authorities and they were dismissed from the university despite their high grades, in total disregard of their right to express their views freely in their personal pages. The head of the university in an earlier statement said that a number of students on overseas scholarships from the University of Bahrain to gain further advanced degrees might be subjected to deprivation of their scholarships because of their participations on the internet.(40)

Others who were summoned for interrogation at the center of criminal investigations said that they have been forced to open their private Facebook pages to make sure of their contents as part of the investigation. Investigations included even girls who are fifteen years old or less because of their writings on the Facebook page. Eman Al-Aswami (15 years) was detained on 12th May for 11 hours to question her about her participation on Facebook pages. As a result of these implications, many Bahraini members closed their pages on Facebook permanently to avoid arrest and prosecution because of expressing their opinions or participating in pictures or links related to the public protests.

After the block: closing websites and loss of information:

The authorities continued to block websites and pages. However, there was a new phase of withholding information on the internet in the past months, as people started to face more websites that are fully closed and all the information that they contained cannot be accessed. While some sites show a message stating that the site is temporary stopped, others show a message stating that the site has been stopped by the hosting company.

BCHR kept a record of the closed websites, which are mostly public sites, specialized in publishing news of local villages and contain heritage and historic information regarding those villages, some of which might not be documented by any other source similar to the documentation by the people of these villages and internet users have done. Some of these closed websites also documents human rights violations with pictures and details and these websites were an important channel of communication between individuals and the exchange and dissemination of information. While some sites were closed due to the fear of their managers from detention after the escalation of the arrest campaign that included many of the managers of websites, others were closed after the arrest of their managers.

List of the websites that have been closed recently

It was also noted that many of the protests videos(41) uploaded on YouTube disappeared, as a message stating that the videos were deleted due to notifications of copy-right infringements appeal, although these videos were taken by individuals from site of the protest.

The government also closed the official website of the Jaffaria Waqf (Endowments) Directorate jwd.gov.bh on 29th April 2011 and replaced its main page by an official block-page.(42) This happened after activists resorted to the information listed on the site to reach licenses of the ancient mosques, which the authorities has demolished, with the excuse that they are not registered, although they appear to be officially registered based on the documents on the website.

Manama Voice Newspaper website manamavoice.com was forcefully stopped after several hacking attempts and the news paper continued to report news through their Facebook page.

The authorities also blocked the website of Al-Wasat Newspaper on 3rd April 2011 after accusing it of spreading false and misleading news that distort the picture and reputation of the kingdom outside and they decided to close it. After forcing 3 of its main journalists, including its chief editor, to resign, the newspaper was re-opened and its website was un-blocked on 4th April 2011.

Extreme self-censorship: closing electronic accounts:

Many of the internet users in Bahrain started to exercise high degrees of self-censorship that reached to the complete cessation of writing and closing pages and personal sites to avoid prosecution, but the authorities continued to send messages and guidance for more control. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority issued a bulletin urging social networks users to "refrain from publishing, sending or forwarding incorrect or extremist messages and images of extreme violence or pornography." Referring to the materials that protester circulated during the past two months, which exposed the violence of authorities in dealing with the protesters and killing them. While the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority continues issuing laws and regulations that increase the restrictions on freedom of expression and publication, it has not taken any action against the continuing threats to network users, which amounted to death threats, and resulted in the arrest of some of them, in the absence of law to protect the citizen and internet activist from bullying. There is a discussion about a law draft in this regard since 2005 but it never saw the light.(43)

Although Bahraini protests took place in the streets and Pearls Square, the internet and social networks played a vital role in communication and transferring people into effective working groups especially regarding documenting and exposing the human right violations along with the frightening silence of the international world media.

BCHR feels extreme worry from restrictions on protesters to express their views in their last outlet and pushing them to exercise a high degree of self-censorship that reached up to the full withdrawal from the network and the closure of their websites and personal pages. This threatens of a sharp deterioration in personal freedom and also places the local electronic information content in danger of losing a large amount of information that documented the important aspects of Bahrain history, especially in the public websites of the villages, and also documented the human rights violations that have been taking place in Bahrain for years and increased recently.

In the opinion of BCHR, the government's determination to ignore the international agreements and commitments that it made to respect the freedom of expression only enhances its position in the black lists of authoritarian and undemocratic countries. Reporters Without Borders has already included Bahrain in the category of (under surveillance) in its report on the enemies of the internet. Freedom House has included Bahrain in the “not free country” category in its report on internet freedom in the world in 2011.

Based on all of the above information, BCHR requests the following from the Bahraini government:

- Immediate cession of the prosecution of all internet activists and bloggers and the release of all those detained immediately. - Immediate and impartial investigation in the case of torture and death of an internet activist in prison. - Stop chasing and punishing individuals for exercising their legitimate right to express their opinion through electronic pages. - Abolition of all sanctions implemented on individuals for exercising their legitimate right of freedom of expression, including students who have been dismissed or lost their scholarship because of their writing on the web pages. - Lifting the ban on all public forums and cultural, social, human rights, political and religious discussion sites. - Cancel all measures that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information. - Take firm actions to stop the activity of electronic bullying and threats that affect internet activists and bloggers. - Achievement of its international obligations and respect for all forms of freedom of expression as enshrined by international covenants and treaties. - Amendment of the press law No. 47 of 2002 in line with international standards of human rights.

References:

[1]http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=276676751317 [2]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/search/label/Bahrain [3]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB_1kx5mwMQ www.youtube.com/watchwatch?v=VZRVXkwvzKQ [4]http://washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=3355 http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/04/bahrain-revolt-ignored-by-much-of-world.html [5]http://www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/3720 [6]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJWmc0Y4mZ0&feature=youtu.be [7]http://online.wsj.com [8]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/18/world/middleeast/18manama.html [9]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/02/structure-nature-of-troll-bomb.html http://www.marcowenjones.byethost2.com/?p=176 [10]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-bahrain-both-pro-government-and-anti.html http://chanad.posterous.com/myths-and-lies-in-bahrain [11]https://twitter.com/#!/MDaaysi/statuses/42631278155145217 [12]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/02/brahrain-troll-soldier.html [13]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/03/continued-high-tweeting-in-this-part-of.html [14]http://www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/1756 [15]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/02/bahrains-troll-army.html?spref=tw [16] twitter.com/BahrainRights/status/60345342532665344 [17]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12796892 [18]http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/ar/node/3293 [19]http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2010/12/101216_bahrain_blogger.shtml http://www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/3541 [20]http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/335408 Ali Abdulemam describes the way he was tortured (minute 09:37) [21]http://www.bna.bh/portal/news/455656 [22]http://wlcentral.org/sites/default/files/imagepicker/1998/@bloggers-targetd-on-facebook.jpg https://www.facebook.com http://www.itechbahrain.com/2011/03/bahrains-social-media-thugs-revised.html [23]http://mahmood.tv/2011/02/14/i-believe-in-a-better-bahrain/ [24]http://justbahraini.org/ [25]http://mahmood.tv/2011/03/19/just-bahraini-not-welcome-at-checkpoints/ [26]http://www.facebook.com/pages/UniteBH/149124465148260 [27]https://twitter.com/MohdSAlkhalifa [28]http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/31/bahraini-police-arrested-brother-blogging [29]http://mahmood.tv/2011/04/01/im-back [30]http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp [31]https://twitter.com/#!/MohdSAlkhalifa/status/54630188465655808 [32]http://www.aldair.net/forum [33]https://www.facebook.com/mujtaba.salmat?sk=photos [34]http://www.bna.bh/portal/news/452324?date=2011-04-11 [35]http://web3lab.blogspot.com/2011/03/disturbing-drop-in-tweeting-in-bahrain.html [36]http://www.facebook.com/AL5wanah http://www.facebook.com/AL5wana [37]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzG0K0kbBEc [38]http://bahraincenter.blogspot.com/2011/05/events-of-university-of-bahrain-and.html [39]http://www.alwatannews.net/ http://callcenterinfo.tmcnet.com/news/2011/03/27/5405005.htm [40]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3125/news/read/534562/1.html [41]https://twitter.com/#!/BahrainRights/status/38490898039836672 https://twitter.com/#!/justamira/statuses/38494203398852608 http://twitter.com/#!/BahrainRights/status/38491214567325696 [42]http://opennet.net/blog/2011/05/threats-opennet-may-6-2011 [43]http://www.alayam.com/Articles.aspx?aid=17707

Bahrain workers are facing a tyrannical dismissal and penal prosecution as punishment for exercising their legitimate rights

Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) dismissed hundreds of its employees in retaliation for their political views

19 May 2011

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights are deeply concerned by Bahrain’s Government persistence in taking arbitrary actions and punishments against the citizens who believes they participated or supported the peaceful protests in February and March. The authorities are targeting the workers in particular; hundreds were tyrannically dismissed from their jobs. As well as prosecuting them criminally as a punishment for exercising their legitimate rights that is guaranteed by the international instruments and ratified by Bahrain.

May 10th 2011, Dr Abdul Hussain Ali Mirza , Bahrain’s Energy Minister announced that Bahrain Petroleum Company "BAPCO” has dissolved the company workers’ union and separated its Chairman -Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain-, as well as 11 members of the directors of the syndicate board and referred them to prosecution to apply penalties. Also, 293 employees were dismissed, 50 others are under investigation, 17 had final warning, and a written warning for four [1]. Nowadays, the company is investigating the workers per day through the commissions of inquiry which was established in April to prelude their dismissal; it is expected to separates another 150 workers in the coming days.

This comes after the workers response of the Union calls for a general strike twice in February 20 and March 13 remonstrating on the human rights violations and attacks on the peaceful protests in the Pearl Roundabout and in all Bahrain's streets, this reached the extent of the descent of the army into the streets and killing the protesters. Seven citizens died after the second call for a general strike on 13th March 2011. 20th February, the first strike was suspended after withdrawing the army from the Pearl Roundabout. Again, 13th March 2011, The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain called for a second open- ended strike in solidarity with the protesters, who were violently suppressed from the Pearl Roundabout and the surrounding areas of Bahrain Financial Harbor the same day the government called the Saudi military to intervene and impose a state of martial law, impose checkpoints in many commotion areas, and deploy security and military patrolling in Shiite villages. However, The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain called off the strike on 22th March after the government guarantees the Union not to harassment the workers in the workplace and reduce the checkpoints that were insulting and attacking citizens by beating or arresting.

Nevertheless, the Authority has began an open retaliation campaign against anyone participated in the protest or supported it, especially the working class workers ,engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, athletes, journalists and unionists. About 2000 workers from several ministries, governmental bodies and private companies controlled by the State were dismissed from their jobs. Causing a living damages in equivalent to 12 000 citizens when the average number of family members is six. [2]

"BAPCO" is wholly owned by the Government of Bahrain, operating in the oil industry and it has approximately 3200 employees, the company management proceeded to dismiss up to 300 employees in batches. At first, separated the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company's sole Union Mr. Abdel Ghaffar Abdel Hussein on April 2, 2011, then separated 11-Members out of 14-Members on 5 April 2011. Another 200 employees were dismissed through the telephone as without an administrative investigation or warning them in advance by gradient in internal procedures. Moreover, 50 more were dismissed, and then approximately 100 additional staff was separated in batches after investigation into administrative commissions of inquiry established by the company. Each commissions of inquiry have an employee from the human resources department and lawyer from the law firm, the company's lawyer investigates with the employee and the human resources employee writes the investigation record. furthermore, the inquiry lifts its report to the higher Committee consisting of the Director of the company as well as a member of the law firm, after which the Committee recommendations to higher Committee consisting of two directors and the national body responsible for oil and gas to ratify the recommendations, the Committee finally lifts its report to the CEO of the company for the final approval.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has received several testimonies from BAPCO's employees who have been interrogated. Their statements were identical to their interrogation that included questions about whether they participated in the peaceful marches asking for democracy and political rights in February and March 2011. In addition to the political affiliation of the employee, the commissions of inquiry fronted some of the employees with their pictures while participating in the marches. Also, it focused on the employee’s response on the strike announced by the Union of workers of the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) and the General Federation of Bahrain trade unions on the 20th of February 2011 and from 13 to 22 March 2011.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has received a lot of investigation records by "BAPCO" Bahrain oil company, which included questions about the employee participation in the sit-ins and marches held last December and February [3]. Also, the Center and the Assembly received dozens of the documents showing a summary of the recommendations of the commissions of inquiry, these documents clearly reveal that many staff were dismissed for taking part in marches or sit-ins [4], among the documents are samples of images that were shown to certain employees during the investigation, which appears a certain staff member in the march with a framework on the employee and the employee's place of work [5].

These arbitrary retaliatory procedures the authorities applies contravenes the local law , reprisals the employees political views , exercises their rights which is guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions and contrary to Bahrain labour law of 1976 and in particular article no. 110, the worker should be receiving a notice of dismissal from the employer by a registered letter having been dispatched by the employer to the worker or by any communication proving the delivery thereof. Contrary to article (113.4) An employer shall not dismiss a worker without payment of indemnity allowance, notice or compensation [6]. It is violation of rights and freedoms of the trade union, making unions within the company without any cover trade union to defend their rights and maintain their earnings. Also, all of these actions, both against trade unionists and workers as a serious violations of all international charters and conventions that guarantees freedom of trade union such as the Convention ILO No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation- Article 1 (any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation). The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, expressed his concern about the declaration of the state of emergency in Bahrain, saying that this step constitutes a serious setback to the civil liberties including the right to exercise trade union activities [7].

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expressed their deep concern at Bahrain Petroleum Company "BAPCO" procedures for dismissal, due the fact that the investigation procedures and the questions directed to the staff were based on their political and personal views, and failed to abide the company local laws and internal regulations. The Assembly expresses grave concern that all the separated were Shiites, as a percentage of nearly 30%. As well as, the Assembly was informed that the commission of inquiry has a new list of more than 150 Shiite that intends to dismiss them in the coming days, but still waiting for the Executive Chairman to approve it.

The Center and the BYSHR calls upon the Bahraini authorities:

1. Stop the unfair dismissal at BAPCO and other premises and returns all separated to their work. 2. Stop the criminal prosecution of trade unionists and workers, which came as an impact to their political positions and defend their fundamental rights of the protesters in peaceful protests. 3. Establish an independent Commission of inquiry to investigate the dismissal procedures to find out whether it is politically or sectarian motivated. 4. Demanding an urgent intervention from the International Labour Organization to conduct an impartial investigation into the reasons of the separation of workers, stop the arbitrary dismissals, reinstating their work and ensure their legitimate rights. 5. Demanding an immediate intervention from the International Federation of Trade Unions to stop the demobilization of trade unionists, to ensure their legitimate rights in work and to exercise the union activity. 6. Demanding the U.S. administration to stop the free trade agreement with Bahrain unless it recants the violation of the article relating to the guarantee of labor rights and trade union required by the convention of the labour side.

---

[1] bna.bh alwasatnews.com [2] [3] Samples of the records of the investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

[4] Sample of documents showing summary of the recommendations of the commissions of investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

[5]Sample of images showing the staff during their participation in the marches brought to the staff during the investigation.

[6]gcclsa.org [7] bahrainrights.org

ekuriren.se: Swedish Foreign minister Carl Bildt condemns the regime in Bahrain

Unofficial translation - BCHR

20 May 2011 Stockholm / TT Military Trials in Bahrain, including the conviction of a Swedish, are unfair and politically motivated, says human rights group Amnesty International in a statement. Swedish Foreign minister Carl Bildt agrees: Unacceptable, and we are very concerned about the situation, "he says.

Carl Bildt said that the Swedish Foreign Ministry continues to seek access to the Swede, but that to date have not succeeded. - It is customary difficulties we sometimes have with dual citizenship and various countries that do not recognize dual citizenship. We do, however, so we are working intensively with the issue.

Bildt could not confirm reports that the Swede have been tortured or whether he risks the death penalty. He also wants to inform themselves about the court, he says: - It is clear that the military courts under martial law is something that we do not accept. We are also concerned about four death sentences have been imposed, in a different case, and we have every reason to condemn.

TT: What do you think of what the regime in Bahrain is doing right now? - Unacceptable, and we are very concerned about the situation, which we will express when we meet EU foreign ministers on Monday.

TT: It is expected to discuss the decision on sanctions against the Syrian leader. Is there a similar discussion about Bahrain? - For the moment, no. Although the situation in Bahrain is very serious. We have a situation in Syria where we consider that thousands of people are killed and many, many, many thousands are imprisoned, so that we may see some differences between countries as well.

Amnesty saw court action and requires that the offender is released - the organization says that the condemned do not seem to have done nothing but peacefully demonstrate.

Trials in the Bahraini military tribunal is unfair, including the offender against the Swede, "says Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Bahrain-researcher in London. - These people are civilians and the prosecution should take place before a civilian court, not military.

He says that the accused does not have to see their family, and that contact with the lawyers have been very short, for example, when being interviewed.

In addition, the Act marked by violence and arrests have testified torturous prison conditions. - There are reports of torture and at least four people have died in prison under very suspicious circumstances, "says Said Boumedouha.

Bahraini authorities have suspended all international observers to attend the trial and lawyers are the subject of media gag. Therefore can not comment on the Amnesty proof mode, but the organization still judge the trials.

The Swede is facing yet another trial, and Amnesty International fears that he could get the death penalty, although the allegations are vague and sweeping. - Yes, there is a very high risk for it, "says Said Boumedouha. - Several accusations of those, in other countries would fall under freedom of speech.

ekuriren.se

Testimony from Richard Sollom, MPH, Deputy Director, Physicians for Human Rights

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) Hearing on Human Rights in Bahrain Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Chairman, in the interest of time, I’d like to summarize my remarks and ask that my full statement be made part of the record. In addition, I’d like to submit for the record our full report as well as a list of Bahraini doctors, whose whereabouts remain unknown in the wake of the government crackdown against medical personnel. In previous statements, we heard that thousands of protesters took to the streets in Bahrain calling for government reform earlier this year. The government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence. On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had firsthand knowledge of these abuses.

The assault on healthcare workers and their patients violates the principle of medical neutrality as well as international law.

As part of a Physicians for Human Rights investigation in Bahrain in April of this year, my colleague, Dr. Nizam Peerwani and I conducted in-depth interviews with 47 medical workers, patients, and other eyewitnesses to human rights violations. We corroborated these testimonies by conducting physical examinations of beaten and tortured protesters. In addition, we examined their medical records and Xrays, and also investigated 4 suspicious deaths in custody.

Our investigation produced strong evidence that the Government of Bahrain has systematically targeted medical personnel as a result of their efforts to provide ethical and unbiased care for wounded protestors. These systematic attacks include abductions of physicians, some of whom were taken from their homes in the middle of the night, handcuffed and blindfolded, by masked security forces. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated.

In conflict situations around the world, there is a unique and highly qualified community of professionals who bring comfort and compassion to those in need. Medical workers in all countries are bound by their professional ethics to provide care without consideration of religion, ethnicity, or other status. Because doctors are trained to apply their skills without discrimination, they glean first-hand knowledge of types of injury and numbers of deaths during a conflict. And importantly, they can discern the cause of injury and death. That expertise and knowledge make doctors important witnesses to government abuses and, in the case of Bahrain, make them targets themselves.

During our investigation, we gathered evidence about these and other egregious abuses against patients and detainees including torture, beating, humiliation, and threats of rape and killing. Our documentation and forensic evidence enable us to conclude the following:

1. Government authorities used excessive force, including high-velocity weapons and shotguns – often fired at a close range aiming at the face and head of protesters. 2. Security forces used unidentified chemical agents, which cause disorientation, aphasia, and convulsions. 3. Perhaps most alarming during my investigation was listening to several patients describe similar accounts of being tortured by security forces on the 6th floor of Salmaniya Hospital – supposedly a refuge for the sick and injured.

Regarding issues of medical neutrality, I gathered corroborated evidence that Bahraini authorities:

1. physically attacked 6 physicians who were on-call the night of April 3rd at Salmaniya Hospital 2. used ambulances for military purposes and stole uniforms to pose as medics apparently to get closer to the protesters; and 3. militarized hospitals and clinics, which continue to obstruct patients from seeking urgent medical care.

The assault on healthcare workers and their patients constitutes extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law.

In conclusion, I propose the following actions on the part of the US government:

1. The Administration’s “mild” approach toward Bahrain as characterized in a May 9th Washington Post Editorial has failed to curb government abuses, and doctors are still being disappeared. Senior members of the Administration, including the President, should instead speak out publicly – and in no uncertain terms – against ongoing human rights abuses by government authorities. The Administration should also demand the immediate and unconditional release of all detained medical personnel. 2. Members of Congress and the Administration should visit Salmaniya Hospital and meet with representatives of the medical community in Bahrain. 3. The United States should spearhead an international effort to create a new mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Violations of Medical Neutrality through the United Nations Human Rights Council. 4. PHR would like to thank Representative McDermott for his leadership on issues of medical neutrality and for introducing a bill dedicated to protecting and promoting medical neutrality through US foreign policy. We encourage all Members to support passage of this bill, which would: a. Suspend non-humanitarian foreign assistance to countries violating medical neutrality b. Support a UN mandate for a Special Rapporteur on violations of medical neutrality; and c. Add the reporting of violations of medical neutrality to the annual State Department human rights country reports.

I am confident that through these efforts, the US government can become an international leader in the protection and promotion of medical neutrality. I thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today, and I am ready to answer any questions you may have.

physiciansforhumanrights.org

Front Line: Bahrain:Unfair trial & refusal to investigate alleged torture and attempted sexual assault of Mr Abdulhadi Alkhawaja

19 May 2011

Following reports of torture including an attempted rape against former Front Line Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Alkhawaja there are grave concerns that his health and even his life may be in danger. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is currently on trial as part of a group of 21 individuals facing a variety of charges including ”organising and managing a terrorist organisation” and “attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country”. Front Line considers his trial proceedings to fall grossly short of international fair trial standards.

Further Information

On 16 May 2011, during a session of his ongoing trial before a military court, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja alleged that he had been tortured but was silenced by the Judges who refused to order any investigation of the allegation. The Judges have also failed to listen to or investigate claims about torture made by Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and other defendants at previous hearings.

In a brief meeting with his family on the same day, 16 May, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja reportedly stated that the security forces had attempted to force him to record on videotape an apology to the King of Bahrain. He said he told them that he had nothing to apologise for. The security forces then reportedly tried to forcibly remove his clothes and sexually assault him to force him to make such an apology. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja told his family that he was handcuffed at the time and fell to the ground as he attempted to defend himself against the attackers suffering further injuries to his head, falling briefly unconscious.

Witnesses to a previous court appearance have reported that Abdulhadi Alkhawaja bears the scars of having been beaten and a resulting operation on his head at a military hospital. There are reports of at least four deaths in custody in the last six weeks amongst those detained by the Bahraini security forces.

Front Line sent two English-based barristers to Bahrain in the last three weeks to seek access to Abdulhadi Alkhawaja for his family and lawyer and to seek to observe the proceedings in the military court. The barrister was denied entry to observe the proceedings on 12 May contrary to a previous unequivocal pledge made by the Bahraini authorities in which they stated that “attending trials is permitted for all civil society institutions, human rights organisations and media representatives to reflect the Kingdom's keenness to respect its international commitments in the field of human rights.” On the basis of analysis of the proceedings so far, Front Line has concluded that the trial falls grossly short of international fair trial standards. The following are some of the main concerns as emerged so far:

1. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was severely beaten when he was detained from his daughter's home on 9 April 2011. He was held incommunicado and reported that he was tortured.

2. He was denied access to his lawyer during his initial 20 days in detention. He has subsequently only had brief access to his lawyer at the time of his appearances before the military court. This constitutes a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is party, namely its Article 14 which requires States to ensure access to full access to legal representation and adequate time to prepare the defence.

3. He is being tried before a military court which describes itself as the “Bahraini Lower National Safety Court”. There are reportedly three judges, one military and two civilian, but the trial is taking place in the military court, the military judge is reportedly in charge of proceedings and the prosecutor is also from the military. Front Line is concerned about the bringing of civilians to trial before a military court, in open contradiction of established international jurisprudence.It is also of dubious legality under Bahraini law and the Bahraini Constitution, and defendants tried under this Court have attempted to challenge Its constitutionality. However, an appeal to the Constitutional Court in this regard was refused by the National Safety Court.

4. The sitting of the Bahraini Lower National Safety Court in Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's trial also appears to be unconstitutional on the basis that, inter alia, some of the charges brought against the defendant had been made before this court was established in accordance with a State of National Safety declared by the King of Bahrain on 15 March 2011.

5. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja attempted to speak at each of his trial hearings on the 9th, 12th and 16th of May and make complaints about the torture he claims to have endured. On each occasion he was silenced by the judges who refused to investigate the claims of torture. This constitutes a violation of Bahrain international obligations under Article 12 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which it acceded to on 6 March 1998. CAT Article 12 requires States to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed. The visible signs on Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's face, as detailed above, do provide strong indication that an act of torture was committed.

6. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and his family were intimidated by court officials who seemed to consider them responsible for the presence of international trial observers. During the hearing of 12 May, the Alkhawaja family was eventually not allowed to see him in apparent retaliation for the presence of trial observers in the court building.

7. He is a former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and was until February 2011 employed by Front Line as its Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator. He stepped down from this international role with Front Line to engage with the peaceful protests in Bahrain. On 21 April 2011 human rights defenders from across the Middle East and North Africa region who have direct experience of his support for them as part of his work to protect human rights defenders in the region issued a statement in his support

frontlinedefenders.org

IFJ Calls for End to Intimidation Campaign against Journalists in Bahrain

18 May 2011

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the widespread intimidation campaign targeting journalists who work for newspapers which are critical of the Bahraini government. The IFJ accuses the authorities of systematic harassment of media in the wake of recent anti-government protests and says that at least 68 journalists working for two leading Bahraini newspapers, Al Wasat and Al Bilad, have been singled out for sacking, arrests and charges for treason. Others were forced into exile to escape arrest in the on-going clampdown. "There is an appalling campaign to silence dissent in Bahrain and journalists have become the prime targets," said Jim Boumelha. "The authorities are resorting to interference in media affairs and blatant intimidation to control information and stifle independent reporting. This must be exposed and resisted."

Reports say that the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a hunt fdr the government's critics and arrested several journalists, on allegations of betraying the country. One report on the media crackdown in Bahrain entitled ‘ Journalists in Bahrain: The murder of Free Speech and the Siege of Freedom' says that those arrested include the Al Wasat reporter Haidar Mohammad and blogger Zakariya Al Oushayri who is reported to be one of the two journalists who died while in detention.

More journalists were sacked from their jobs after management of public and private media in Bahrain, particularly Al Wasat and Al Bilad newspapers, came under severe political pressure, including banning advertising in Al Wasat, to get rid of staff members who opposed political interference. Senior journalist Mansour Al Jamry, editor -in-chief of Al Wasat and his colleagues Walid Nuwayhid, the paper's editing manager and Akil Mirza, member of the Bahraini Journalists Association (BJA), an IFJ affiliate, lost their jobs in this campaign which affected at least 68 media staff, according to the report.

Mansour will go on trial this week along with three other senior staff charged with publishing false information about the police crackdown, a charge which carries a one-year prison sentence, media reports say.

The IFJ is deeply concerned by the situation of the Bahraini journalists who have been caught up in this crackdown, whether they are in detention, awaiting trial or on the run in exile and calls on the government to rescind all measures which violate the rights and the independence of media.

"We urge the authorities to re-establish the climate of respect for press freedom which the right of the public to accurate information requires, "added Boumelha. "This won't happen unless and until all detained journalists are set free, outstanding warrants of arrest and charges cancelled, the ban on advertising in Al Wasat lifted, journalists who have been unfairly dismissed reinstated and an independent commission of inquiry set up to investigate reports of journalists' deaths in detention."

In the meantime, the massive dismissals of workers suspected of involvement in the anti-government protests have prompted the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to warn the Bahraini government that these measures threaten to tarnish the country's record of "progressive policies towards labour in the Gulf region". The organisation has, however, welcomed the decision to establish a joint committee to review all dismissals.

"Bahrain stands out as a country with an independent trade union movement," ILO Deputy Director General Guy Ryder told Al-Jazeera. "The ILO is doing whatever it can with the government and other social partners to find a way forward so that people can return to their jobs."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 131 countries

www.ifj.org

Amnesty International: Bahrain activists jailed following 'politically motivated' trials

18 May 2011

The trials of 15 activists convicted over their involvement in pro-reform protests in Bahrain that began in February, were politically motivated and unfair, Amnesty International said today.

A military court in Bahrain’s capital city Manama has over the last few days sentenced the 15 activists, in two separate cases, to between one and four years imprisonment for “participating in illegal demonstrations and inciting hatred against the regime” during popular protests in February and March. One of the activists, Fadhila Mubarak Ahmad, is the first woman protester to be convicted as a result of the recent unrest in Bahrain. She was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

“These trials and convictions represent yet further evidence of the extent to which the rights to freedom of speech and assembly are now being denied in Bahrain,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for Middle East and North Africa.

“These 15 activists appear to have been sentenced to jail terms for doing no more than exercizing their legitimate right to demonstrate against the government. If this is correct and they have been convicted solely because of their peaceful anti-government activities, they are prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally,” he added.

The 15 people were detained without arrest warrants, were not allowed visits from their families while in detention and were permitted only very limited access to lawyers.

“The manner in which these trials were conducted - with civilian defendants brought before a secretive military court from which international observers have been barred - – is highly alarming. It is indicative of the diminishing space for human rights in Bahrain right now, “Malcolm Smart added.

Another Bahraini protester and leading human rights activist, ‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, told a military court in another trial in Manama that he was threatened with rape by police while being held in incommunicado detention. He was immediately removed from the courtroom after making the allegations.

‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is among a group of 21 Bahraini opposition figures currently on trial for leading and taking part in the demonstrations in February and March. Seven of the 21 men are being tried in their absence.

While in detention ‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is said to have been told to record a videotaped apology to the King of Bahrain and to have been threatened with rape by four police officers when he refused.

‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and the other 13 opposition members have been denied visits from their families in prison. Lawyers have been granted very limited access to them.

“The Bahraini authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into ‘Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s torture allegations and bring to justice any officials responsible for torture or other ill-treatment,” .said Malcolm Smart. “The government must uphold its obligation to protect detainees from such abuse.”

Read More:

Bahrain urged to release former military officer (News, 13 May 2011) Trial of Bahraini opposition activists adjourned as observers barred (News, 12 May 2011) Fair trial urged for Bahraini opposition activists (News, 11 May 2011) Bahrain renews emergency law as repression persists (News, 4 May 2011) Demanding change in the Middle East and North Africa (Multimedia microsite)

www.amnesty.org

CPJ: Five Bahraini journalists detained

New York, May 17, 2011--Bahrain's crackdown against journalists continues unabated with five new detentions in less than a week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. [..]

In Bahrain, freelance journalist and commentator Abbas al-Murshid was summoned to appear at a police station on Sunday, according to Arabic-language blogs, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and a Facebook page calling for his release. Al-Murshid is a frequent contributor to the Bahraini daily Al-Waqt as well as numerous online publications, where he has written about Bahrain's social unrest, corruption, institutional discrimination and other topics considered sensitive by the government. On Monday, al-Murshid called his family to tell them that he has been placed under arrest and then the line was disconnected, BCHR said.

At least four photographers have also been detained in Bahrain in recent days, CPJ research shows. Mohamed al-Sheikh, a freelance photographer and president of the Bahrain Society of Photographers, was arrested in his home on Wednesday, regional online media and blogs report. On Sunday, photographers Ali al-Kufi, Saeed Dhahi, and Hassan al-Nasheet were also taken into custody and had their footage and equipment confiscated, according to BCHR. A human rights campaigner in Bahrain told CPJ that all four photographers had taken pictures of civil unrest in Bahrain and of the government's violent crackdown, while BCHR said that the confiscations were likely an effort to prevent revealing photographs from reaching a mass audience.

[..]

cpj.org