Bahrain: SIGN ON -Open Letter to King of Bahrain re doctors and nurses facing unfair trial and risk of torture
If you are a Doctor, a Nurse or any Health Professional please read READ THIS NOW and sign this open letter to King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain
You will have been aware from reports in the media and the report of Physicians for Human Rights of the unprecedented and brutal action taken by the Government of Bahrain against 47 members of the medical profession who were arrested, several of them reportedly tortured, and all of whom are currently being subjected to an unfair trial before a military court. A number of those currently detained and on trial have completed part of their medical training in Ireland.
In no other country in the world have we witnessed doctors and nurses persecuted on such a scale as a result of their legitimate humanitarian actions. They feel abandoned by the international community and need your support.
Please - show your support for these brave men and women - add your name to the open letter to the King of Bahrain, published below, and which will be placed in The Guardian and The London Independent this Friday 08 July.
Front Line would also be very grateful if you could make a donation to help cover the cost of this Open Letter
Thank you for your support.
TEXT OF OPEN LETTER TO KING OF BAHRAIN HM King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa Office of the King Bahrain
We the undersigned submit this letter to highlight our concern at the recent arrest and unfair trial before a military court of 47 doctors and nurses in Bahrain. We are additionally concerned about serious and credible allegations of torture. In no other country in the world have we witnessed doctors and nurses persecuted on such a scale as a result of their legitimate humanitarian actions. Among the doctors and nurses currently on trial are three doctors who studied at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dr Ali Al Ekri, Dr Basim Daif and Dr Ghassan Daif. All three were arbitrarily detained, held in incommunicado detention, reportedly tortured, denied access to their families for 2 months and forced to confess under duress. These “confessions” were videotaped while they were blindfolded and are being used in evidence against them. Additionally, Dr Ghassan’s wife Dr Zahra Alsammak, who also studied in Dublin, was detained for 25 days and is also facing charges. In light of the serious allegations of torture and the failure to comply with international fair trial standards, the role of the Military Attorney General, Colonel Yusuf Rashed Felaifel should be reviewed. Dr Ali Al Ekri, an Orthopaedic surgeon at Salmaniya Hospital in Manama, was arrested on 17 March 2011. He was taken from the operating theatre, handcuffed, and held in incommunicado detention. Along with the others he was seen in detention, held crouching in a small space, blindfolded and handcuffed. On March 19th Dr Basim Daif and his brother Dr Ghassan Daif were arrested. When they were taken into custody, their homes were ransacked and their valuables and important documents were taken. Mrs Rula Al Saffar, Head of Bahrain Nursing Society, was arrested on April 4th. A cancer survivor herself, she became a board member of the Bahrain Cancer Society and remains in detention. The charges against them include “allowing media, that supported demonstrators and were in their service, to enter the hospital and take pictures and films inside”, “making erroneous statements that include bogus and inflated numbers about the number of the injured”, “embezzlement of money”, “assault resulting in death” and “unauthorised possession of weapons and ammunition.” Their real crimes were to treat injured demonstrators who were brought to the hospital and protesting to the Minister of Health at the refusal to send ambulances to collect the injured. On April 9th 2011, former Front Line Protection Coordinator Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was arrested and brutally beaten. His injuries were so severe that he had to have a four hour operation in a military hospital. After an unfair trial before a military court he was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial he repeatedly tried to raise serious allegations of torture but the court refused to address them. At the same time blogger and human rights defender Ali Abdulemam was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison. Your Majesty, we appeal to you as the person responsible for upholding the rights of all the people of Bahrain to:
-Release all human rights defenders currently in detention including Dr Ali Al Ekri, Dr Basim Daif, Dr Ghassan Daif and Mrs Rula Al Saffar. - Drop the charges against all 47 doctors, nurses and technicians, including Dr Zahra Alsammak. - Overturn the conviction of human rights defenders Ali Abdulemam and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja. - End the unfair trials. - Bring those responsible for torture to justice.
UN Secretary-General welcomes start of national dialogue in Bahrain
5 July 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the start of a process of national dialogue in Bahrain, taking note of Government steps to improve the political atmosphere by creating an investigations commission, transferring some trials to civilian courts and releasing detainees. He encouraged the Bahraini authorities to take further steps towards political, economic and social reforms in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.
“As the dialogue process gets under way, he urges the Government to do everything possible to ensure a genuine, all-inclusive and meaningful dialogue that will lead to tangible political, economic and social reforms which meet the legitimate aspirations of all Bahraini people,” according to a note released by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General.
Mr. Ban said the process is essential for healing social tensions and promoting greater national unity and stability.
Bahrain was recently hit by unrest similar to the popular protest movements in countries across North Africa and the Middle East this year, notably including Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
The Secretary-General had last month called for a process of political dialogue that would be “genuine, inclusive and lead to tangible outcomes which address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.”
Updates: Harsh sentences to 21 prominent oppositional leaders and Human Rights defenders
Update - 10 July 2011 The appeal case of 21 prominent opposition figures convicted on 22 June in Bahrain has been postponed until 11 September, when it will be heard before an ordinary criminal court , rather than a military court.
After the hearing some of the defendants claimed that they had been beaten in prison. At least two of them had alleged in previous hearings that they had been subjected to torture and threats in prison. On 29 June, the National Safety Court of Appeal decided to adjourn the appeal until 11 September. On the same day, the King of Bahrain issued a decree ordering that all trial cases before military courts should be transferred to ordinary civilian courts with immediate effect, meaning that the appeal case of the 21 opposition figures will now be heard by an ordinary criminal court. The National Safety Court ceased to exist after that decision.
Update - 22 June 2011
Today the martial court issues verdicts against 21 rights activists and political opposition leaders after months of detention.
Eight Bahraini rights activists have been given life sentences by a military court, which found them guilty of plotting a coup against the government during two months of unrest that rattled the country earlier this year.
Another 13 political and rights activists were given sentences of between two to 15 years, as the government attempts to crush dissent that has erupted in the tiny kingdom in February following popular uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.
The verdicts were immediately condemned by rights groups who said all those found guilty had been campaigning to end discrimination at the hands of the Sunni dynasty. Almost all activists who took to the streets of Manama in February and March were Shia Muslims, who make up 70% of Bahrain's population, but feel largely disenfranchised.
Rights groups have urged Bahrain to halt the special military court proceedings, with Human Rights Watch deeming them a violation of international law.
"Most defendants hauled before Bahrain's special military court are facing blatantly political charges, and trials are unfair," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
In a meeting earlier this month with U.S. President Barack Obama last week, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa pledged he is seeking national dialogue with the protesters. Bahrain's crackdown contradicts statements the prince made, Human Rights Watch said.
Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab also said he disapproved of the trials.
"This court does not meet international standards for human rights and for fair trials. The people were sentenced for expressing their opinion and for opposing the government," Rajab said. "This goes against the government saying it wants a dialogue."
Bahrain's ruling dynasty had instead claimed that the men were part of a "sedition ring", backed by Iran and Hezbollah, who were trying to topple the regime.Among those given life sentences were leading members of opposition political groups. Leading rights activist Adbul Hadi al-Khawaja, whose daughters Zainab and Maryam are prominent members of the Bahrainhuman rights movement, was one of those condemned to life in prison. Zainab was reportedly removed from the courtroom after protesting against the sentence
Among those who received lesser sentences was Ibrahim Sharif, a secular leftist Sunni, who was accused by a state-run newspaper of having links to "a foreign country" – a veiled reference to Iran.
The Guardian spoke to Sharif at the former focal point of the rights demonstrations in Manama in February where he said he was the only prominent member of the Sunni community to be campaigning more openly for equal rights for the kingdom's majority Shia base.
"Things have to change here, or else the country will suffer and the kingdom could be imperilled," he said at the time, standing in Pearl roundabout, a landmark in the central city that was later demolished under government orders.
As verdicts were read in a military court this morning, members of the public gallery chanted "solidarity, solidarity, we shall overthrow the regime". Bahraini security officers were congratulating each other inside the courthouse, according to bystanders present.
The trials were held despite the government pronouncing the end of three months of martial law earlier this month, which had given the exclusively Sunni security forces extra powers of detention and arrest.
Activists called for protesters to again take to the streets in Manama on Wednesday in defiance of the verdicts and the government, which has vowed to continue a crackdown on dissent. Up to 30 doctors and nurses from key city hospitals were last week also put on trial accused of subversion and if using government facilities for political purposes.
1- Abdulwahab Hussain Ali ( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 2- Hassan Ali Mushaima.( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 3- Mohammed Habib Al Safaf. ( Al Miqdad) ( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between Aug 2010- 28 Feb 2011] 4- Ebrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa ( 5 Years imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 5- Abduljalil Mansoor Makk. (Al Miqdad) ( life sentence imprisonment) arrested 27 Mar 2011 6- Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singace.( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between Aug 2010- 28 Feb 2011] 7- Saeed Mirza Ahmed. (AlNouri) ( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between Aug 2010- 28 Feb 2011] 8- Abdul Hadi Abdullah Mahdi Hassan (AlMukhodher) ( 15 years imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between 13 Aug 2010- 28 Feb 2011] 9- Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos.( 15 years imprisonment) - arrested 16 Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between Aug 2010-28 Feb 2011] 10- Abdulhadi Al Khawaja ( life sentence imprisonment) - arrested 9 April 2011 11-Salah Hubail Al Khawaj.( 5 years imprisonment) - arrested 21 Mar 2011 12- Mohammed Hassan Jawad.( 15 years imprisonment) - arrested Mar 2011 [was arrested for few weeks last year] 13- Mohammed Ali Ismael. ( 15 years imprisonment) - arrested Mar 2011 14- Al Hurr Yousif Mohammed.( 2 Years imprisonment) - arrested Mar 2011 [and was in prisone between Aug 2010- 28 Feb 2011]
Defendants Sentenced in absentia:
15- Aqeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh.( 15 years imprisonment) 16- Ali Hassan Abdullah( Ali Abdulemam) ( 15 years imprisonment) [was in prisone between Sep 2010- 28 Feb2011] 17- Abdulghani Ali Khanjar.( 15 years imprisonment) [and was in prisone between 13 Aug 2010-28 Feb 2011] 18- Saeed Abdulnabi Shehab.( life sentence imprisonment) 19- Abdulraoof Al Shayeb.( 15 years imprisonment) 20- Abbas Al Omran.( 15 years imprisonment) 21- Ali Hassan Mushaima.( 15 years imprisonment)
Abdulwahab Hussain Ali is the official spokesman of AlWafa' society. He is well known and respected in Bahrain as a philosopher and a writer. He spoke to international media about the situation in Bahrain.
Ibrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa is the president of the National Action Democrat Society (Waad). He is a liberal Sunni and Waad was the first society to be shut down by the government after the protests. He spoke to international media about the situation in Bahrain.
- Amnesty Bahrain: Further information: Bahraini opposition leader feared tortured, Ebrahim Sharif
- Free Sharif Blog
Hassan Ali Mushaima is the president of the Haq movement and is also a respected religious scholar. He was tried in absentia during the crackdown that started last August. Mushaima reported to the UN and also spoke at the House of Lords in the United Kingdom about violations in Bahrain. His son Mohammed Mushaima was sentenced during the August crackdown to one year imprisonment for taking pictures of unrest in Bahrain and broadcasting them internationally.
Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is an internationally prominent human rights defender. He was one of the founders of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and recently worked as the Middle East and North Africa Region regional director at Frontline Defenders. He has been arrested several times previously and beaten by security forces when participating in peaceful protests. He is also a Danish citizen. His two sons-in-law were arrested during the raid in which he was arrested. They remain in detention today.
Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singace is head of the human rights office at Haq movement. He was arrested in mid-august during the previous crackdown and released in late February after the mass protests. He has been a prominent figure in speaking internationally about human rights violations in Bahrain. He is also a blogger. He suffers from child's paralysis and relies on his wheelchair for movement. His eldest son Hussain Al Singace is in detention and his other son Hassan is in hiding as they are looking for him. His daughter Zahra was arrested and interrogated for several hours then released.
- Scholars At Risk http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/Education-Advocacy/Scholars-in-Prison-Profile.php?sch_uid=804
- His Blog: http://alsingace.blogspot.com/
Mohammed Habib Al Safaf (AlMuqdad) is a prominent religious figure in Bahrain, head AlZahraa Society for Orphans and is also an activist. He has been known to speak out and criticize the government on human rights violations. He was arrested during the crackdown last August, and when released in late February, the centre was able to document the severity of the torture he had been subjected to. He previously had filed a case against the Minister of Interior for the use of the illegal bird shotgun against civilians. He is also a Swedish citizen. AlMuqdad spoke at the House of Lords in the United Kingdom about violations in Bahrain.
Saeed Mirza Ahmed AlNouri is a prominent religious figure in Bahrain as well as an active member of AlWafa'. He has been known to speak out and criticize the government on human rights violations. He was arrested during the crackdown last August, and when released in late February, the centre was able to document the severity of the torture he had been subjected to. His brother was also arrested, Maytham AlNouri.
Abduljalil Mansoor Makki AlMuqdad: is a prominent religious figure and head of AlWafa'. He is known to speak about violations in Bahrain during Friday prayer sermons. He is Mohammed Habib AlMuqdad's cousin. His brother was also arrested, Ahmed Radhi AlMuqdad. He spoke in international media outlets about violations in Bahrain.
AlHurr Yousif Mohammed AlSumaikh is a member of the Haq movement. He was arrested during the crackdown last August and subjected to torture then released in late February.
Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos is a prominent religious figure in Bahrain. He is the vice president of the AlZahraa Scoeity for Orphans. He has been known to speak out and criticize the government on human rights violations. He was arrested during the crackdown last August, and when released in late February, the centre was able to document the severity of the torture he had been subjected to.
Salah Hubail Al Khawaja is a former member of the Amal Society. During the recent mass pro-democracy protests he documented human rights violations and reported them through the international media. He is also Abdulhadi's younger brother. His wife was subjected to sexual harassment during the arrest.
- Check the account of his wife about arrest of her husband and attack on her: youtube.com
Mohammed Hassan Jawad Parweez is a human rights defender who was also arrested then released during the crackdown last August. He is well known for speaking out against violations in Bahrain and he was the oldest detainee during the previous crackdown.
- Check BCHR article: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3688
Mohammed Ali Ismael is a political activist, connected with the the first man on the list Abdulwahab Hussain.
Being tried in absentia:
Aqeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh is an independent political activist. He was arrested during the crackdown in August and was subjected to the most severe forms of torture. He headed the media tent during the mass pro-democracy protests at the Pearl Roundabout and spoke to the international media about violations in Bahrain. His two sons, Ahmed AlMahfoodh and Mahmood AlMahfoodh, as well as his brother, Fadhel AlMahfoodh, were arrested to force him to hand himself in.
Ali Hassan Abdullah AbdulEmam is a prominent blogger and founder of popular BahrainOnline Forum. He was arrested during the previous crackdown in August and he spoke about the torture he had been subjected to after his release in late February. He did interviews with international media and participated in international conferences for bloggers.
See this video interview with Abdulemam after his release in Feb 2011 describing torturehttp://www.youtube.com
Campaign website to demand his release last year: http://freeabdulemam.wordpress.com/
His Blog: http://abdulemam.
Abdulghani Ali Khanjar is the head of the Anti-Torture committee and is an activist who was arrested during the crackdown in August and subjected to severe torture. AlKhanjar participated in public events internationally about the human rights violations in Bahrain. AlKhanjar spoke at the House of Lords and to international media about violations in Bahrain.
- Check his account of torture: storify.com/chanadbh/bahraini-human-rights
Saeed Abdulnabi AlShehabi is the president of the Bahrain Freedom Movement and has lived most of his life in the United Kingdom. He is known to be vocal about human rights abuses in Bahrain and was tried in absentia during the crackdown last August. His son-in-law , a businessman, Ghazi Farhan has been arrested and sentenced to 3 years in jail for charges related to peaceful protests.
Abdulraoof Al Shayeb is the head of AlKhalas Movement in the United Kingdom and he had moved to the UK to seek political asylum a few years back after being tortured by Bahraini authorities. He was also an active member of the Torture Victims Committee. Al Shayeb spoke to the international media about violations in Bahrain. Last night security forces raided his wife's kindergarten and vandalized it. They also arrested his son, Taleb AlShayeb, then released him a few hours later.
Abbas Al Omran is an active member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and moved to the United Kingdom seeking political asylum after he was arrested and tortured a few years back. AlOmran speaks to international media about violations in Bahrain. His wife who is living in Bahrain has been targeted with job lay-off, interrogation for several hours, house raid at dawn and travel ban.
Ali Hassan Mushaima is outspoken critic of the Bahraini government and a member of the Committee for the Unemployed. He sought political asylum in the United Kingdom after being arrested and tortured by the Bahraini Authorities. He is above mentioned Hassan Mushaima's son. He speaks to international media about violations in Bahrain.
Update - 22 May 2011
At the hearing of the prominent 21 activists, Lieutenant Isa Sultan was brought as a witness. Isa Sultan is the person in charge of the case and investigations. According to people present at the hearing, he was sweating and appeared very nervous. He said that the defendants were working in coordination with Iran as they all followed Velayat-Al-Faqih and wanted an Islamic Republic. He also said that they received payments of "Khums" which is Islamic taxation. The lawyer asked him how he knew this if there were checks or such, and he responded that they received it all in cash and then used it to buy gas and car tires for the youth to burn on the streets. He then said that the defendants were receiving directions from Hezbullah who told them they must achieve a constitutional monarchy.
Two other witnesses were then questioned who were in charge of the arrest of AbdulJalil AlMuqdad and Hassan Mushaima. The first person was Nawaf Aldoseri and another person who said that they conducted the arrests in a legal manner. When they were about to question Bader Ghaith (the person in charge of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's arrest and named as a top torturer by several victims during previous cases) the lawyer asked that the other 3 witnesses be brought for questioning. Salah Alkhawaja's wife immediately identified Bader AlGhaith as being the person who beat her when arresting her husband and sexually harassing her. The court was adjourned till Wednesday the 25th of this month.
During the last hearing the judge ordered that the detainees be taken out from solitary confinement, but many of them remain in solitary confinement. In the other cases, security personnel had brought a mattress into the cells of the detainees where they were held in solitary confinement and an Indian or Philipino prisoner who have criminal charges to stay in their cells with them. The detainees are not able to even communicate with them due to the language barrier.
When the hearing was over families were told that nobody would be given visitation rights today but were later on called back in. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and his younger brother Salah (accused in the same case) were seated together and the visit lasted for around 40 minutes. The information below was taken from Abdulhadi Alkhawaja.
- - He is still in solitary confinement and some of the detainees had Asian inmates brought into the cells with them which didn't really help with the solitary confinement problem since communication with them is impossible due to the language barrier.
- - In the hospital after his operation they had his eyes constantly covered, had chained his legs and one of his arms so that he couldn't move and had left only one arm free for the IV line. He remained like that for 6 days and they regularly came in to insult and threaten him while he was in this condition. They kept telling him that they had arrested his eldest daughter Zainab, had raped her and were keeping her in a prison in Saudi.
- - He had gone on hunger strike on three different occasions to demand the improvement of their treatment and of his condition in jail. He mentioned that after his surgery he had refused to take even his medicine and they had severely beaten him to stop the hunger strike and when he still refused they tied him in the "Faylaqa" method with one arm loose and forcibly inserted an IV line for him.
- - The doctor and nurse who were treating him always had their faces covered when they came to see him. At one point the doctor got really frustrated and started saying who did this to you, and when my father said he did it to himself, the doctor said there is no way a person can cause those types of injuries to himself.
- - Insults and dirty language is something the detainees have gotten used to by now, especially when it comes to the detained clerics. The prison guards do everything possible to degrade and insult the detainees and there is no doubt that psychological torture is implemented on all of them. He said that the worst psychological torture is when they in the middle of the night the guards start banging with metal rods on the cells, and shouting really loud then go into the cells and threaten the detainees. He said that many other prisoners were being subjected to torture much worse than what he had gone through and had been threatened not to speak up.
- - After the trial before last (in which he had told the judge that he'd been threatened) they had beaten him and left him outside in the sun for half an hour with a sack over his head. He also said that to and from the trials they were always transferred with their hands tied behind their backs and sacks over their heads. This made it difficult to breathe due to the heat and humidity in Bahrain.
- - They constantly talked about and insulted Maryam AlKhawaja and Nabeel Rajab. They gave him details about what they will do to his daughter Maryam in very vulgar language.
- - They're being kept in AlQurrain prison.
One of the women brought her 22 days old baby to the court as her husband who was detained and had not seen his baby girl yet. He was also previously arrested in the August crackdown. When she had gone into labour she had to convince the ambulance to come because he said he would not go to her area in Sitra. When he finally came he was accompanied by riot police who opened the ambulance door and interrogated her.
Update- 16 May 2011 Today was the third session in the trial of the 21 prominent Bahraini figures. The trial was adjourned until 22 May to give the defence a chance to examine the evidence presented by the prosecution.
The lawyers said today that this case being tried at court is unconstitutional as they are being tried on charges that occurred previous to when this court was instituted (by State of National Safety).
Mohammed Jawad Parweez's lawyer asked that he be released due to his age and health, but the judge refused. Parweez then took his shirt off to show the judge the torture marks on his body but he was forced to sit down by the security forces in the court room.
At the end of the trial, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja tried to address the court saying that security forces had tried to force him to make a videotaped apology to the king. He refused saying he would apologize if they can prove he did something illegal. As he tried to explain how they attempted to rape him, the security forces forcefully removed him from the court room. He later on told his wife about what happened. Please continue reading here.
Update-12 May 2011
At the trial today, and despite statements that the hearing would be open to international observers, Brian Dooley from Human Rights first and A lawyer from Frontline Defenders were not allowed into the hearing of the 21 detainees on trial for 10 different charges. The security personnel threatened the woman from Frontline that they would remove her forcefully if she did not leave.
At the hearing, the lawyers complained that they did not have enough time with their clients and that the prison conditions were very bad. They also demanded the detainees be given more time to use the bathroom. The government lawyer said that was not necessary and the prisons were just fine. One of the lawyers asked the judge to release the detainees and that they would attend the trial, but the judge refused saying that the sentence if they were found guilty would be either death or life imprisonment, so bail was out of the question. During the hearing, AbdulHadi Alkhawaja told the judge that he feared for his life as he had been threatened by his jailers that they would kill him. After the hearing, all the families were allowed to see the detainees except Alkhawaja's family, who were told they would only see him if the lawyer from Frontline left. She did, but they did not allow the family to see him anyway.
Human Rights First on Alkhawaja: "When he was recovering from the operation they tortured him again," Torture and Unfair Trial of Protesters in Bahrain http://goo.gl/9fcMq
Human Rights Watch: "Activist Bears signs of Abuse": http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/05/10/bahrain-activist-bears-signs-abuse
The security also threatened all the families that if they speak to the lawyer from Frontline they will not be allowed to see the detainees.
Mohammed Jawad Parweez told his family he had been tortured and showed them marks on his arms and legs from long periods of being hanged.
Update- 9 May 2011
Bahraini authorities have announced that 21 people are to be put on trial. First session was on 8 May. Lawyers were informed less than 12 hours before the trial. This is an urgent call to send international observers, lawyers and human rights defenders as well as country officials to attend the hearing on 12 May 2011.
The announcement of the trial on the Bahrain News Agency:
Twenty-one suspects referred to National Safety Court
Manama, May 7 (BNA) Military Public Prosecutor at the BDF stated that the military prosecution had referred 21 suspects to the National Safety Court involved in the case of the terrorist organization related to the attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country. The military public prosecutor had formed an investigation team for the case comprising several public prosecutors and 14 suspects were questioned.
Those questioned included Abdulwahab Hussain Ali, Ibrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa, Hassan Ali Mushaima, Abdulhadi Al Khawaj, Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singas, Mohammed Habib Al Safaf, Saeed Mirza Ahmed, Abduljalil Mansoor Makki, Al Hurra Yousif Mohammed, Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos, Salah Hubail Al Khawaj, Mohammed Hassan Jawad and Mohammed Ali Ismael.
Meanwhile, the rest of the suspects were referred to the court in the same case in absentia due to them not being arrested yet warrants were sent for their arrest via the Interpol for those abroad. These included Akeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh, Ali Hassan Abdullah, Abdulghani Ali Khanjar, Saeed Abdulnabi Shehab, Abdulraoof Al Shayeb, Abbas Al Umran and Ali Hassan Mushaima.
Meanwhile, the military public prosecutor affirmed that the suspects are accused of the following:
1. Organising and managing a terrorist group for the overthrow and the change of the country's constitution and the royal rule in accordance with article (1,6) of the law no. 58 for 2006 related to the protection of society against terrorist acts. 2. The seeking and correspondence with a terrorist organization abroad working for a foreign country to conduct heinous acts against the Kingdom of Bahrain in accordance with article (122) of the criminal law for the 1976. 3. An attempt to overthrow and change the country's constitution and Royal rule by force in accordance with article (148) of the criminal law for 1976. 4. An attempt to incite and solicit the overthrow and change the country's constitution and Royal rule by force in accordance with article (160) of the criminal law for 1976. 5. The collection and providing of money for the terrorist group with the knowledge of its practices and terrorist activities in accordance with law related to money laundering and financing terrorism for the year 2001. 6. The obtaining of publications that contain content inciting the overthrow of the governing law in the country by force in accordance with article (161) of the same law. 7. Insult the army according to the article (216) of the same law. 8. Inciting publicly towards the hatred of the governing law of the country in accordance to article no (165) of the same law. 9. Broadcasting false news and rumours that caused the threatening of public security and inflecting damage to public interest in accordance to article (168) of the same law. 10. Inciting the hatred of a certain sect of people in accordance to article (172) of the same law. 11. Inciting incompliance with the law that is considered a crime in accordance with article (173) of the same law. 12. Organising and participating in rallies without the permission of the specialized body according to article (1,2,3,9,13) of the law related to meetings and processions for 2006.
The military public prosecutor affirmed that the military prosecution had maintained all the judiciary assurances for suspects arrested in accordance to the laws especially that related to contacting their relatives and enabling their attorneys to attend the questioning sessions.
There are several things worth mentioning. The people going on trial are of very diverse backgrounds and from different political societies and/or organizations. Some of these detainees were in detention during the beginning of the mass pro-democracy protests after they were arrested during the previous crackdown in August and then released in late February with amnesty from the King.
The way in which these arrests and detentions have been carried out have lacked the most basic of legal and human rights. The detainees were not allowed conversations with their lawyers, and those allowed to call their families, were allowed one phone call which would always be less than a minute after approximately 10 days of arrest. During those 10 days they were not allowed any type of contact with anyone. None were allowed to meet their families. Most of the arrests took place in night raids between 1 and 4am. No warrants were provided at the time of the arrest, many were beaten during the arrest, and we have received information from reliable sources that many were subjected to severe torture during their detention. None of the detention locations of these detainees were known. While there is a gag order on reporting on detainees, billboards across Bahrain declare their guilt.
Sign read "You are responsible for what happened to our safe Bahrain"
Billboard in Muharraq, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders with their names written below, right to left: Hassan Meshaima, Abdel Wahab Hussein, Mohamed Muqdad, Ibrahim Sharif, Abdel Jalil Singace and a question mark over a blurred picture depicting a Shiite cleric that reads beneath it "And others." At top, the sign reads: "Disease must be excised from the body of the nation," and at bottom: "We won't keep quiet after today about any mistakes or excesses by those whom abuse Bahrain and its people." (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
In regards to the charges brought against the detainees that are based upon articles of Bahrain Penal Code 1976, the law no. 58 for 2006 related to the protection of society against terrorist acts, law related to money laundering and financing terrorism for the year 2001 and the law related to meetings and processions for 2006, all of the accusations are expressed in a very vague and imprecise manner. In fact, the law that the allegations derive from is of a very ambiguous nature itself. This in practice allows the prosecution to decide its extensive interpretation and application. In accordance with the international standards, the prosecution would have to provide a very strong and unequivocal evidence in order to be successful as most of the alleged charges carry the sentence of life imprisonment. Moreover, one of the allegations based upon article 122 of the Penal Code 1976, that alleges spying and communicating on behalf of a foreign country against the State of Bahrain, if proven, will mandate a penalty as extreme as capital punishment. The lightest possible sentence for the detainees in this case is a prison sentence of no less than five years. This can only be in the situation if the accused is proven to be only guilty of one of the twelve of the allegations; namely joining any society which actions are deemed to be of a „terrorist" nature as defined in Article 1 of the law no. 58 for 2006 related to the protection of society against terrorist acts.
Updates on the first session on 8 May 2011
The hearing was adjourned until Thursday, 12th May. The detainees were brought in all wearing the same outfit, grey clothes that covered the arms and legs despite the increasingly warm weather in Bahrain. They all appeared to have lost weight during their time in detention. Mr. Mohammed Hassan Jawad Parweez had lost all hearing ability. At the time of his detention he was hard of hearing and used a device to hear. At the hearing he could not hear at all and did not respond when his name was called by the judge until he was nudged by the detainee standing next to him. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja had the most obvious wounds and injuries on him. He had stitches under his left eye and the left side of his face was swollen. At the end of the hearing as the judge was bringing the hearing to a close the detainees demanded they be given a chance to speak as they said they were being kept in solitary confinement and wanted a guarantee that the ongoing and continuous torture would be stopped. The security forces started shouting at them and removed them from the court room.
The families of the detainees were able to speak to them for approximately 10 minutes. Some of the families were not present as they had not been informed of the hearing. Despite it being broadcasted in local newspapers that families had been informed of the trial, all families at the hearing confirmed they knew only because they were following the news the night before.
Ebrahim Sharif told his family that he was not aware of the charges against him until the time of the hearing.He seemed to have lost approximately 15 kilos due to ill treatment.
Mr. Alkhawaja's family were able to confirm today, after meeting with him briefly after the court session, that he had sustained 4 fractures to the left side of his face, including one in his jaw. He consequently had to undergo a major 4 hour surgery where they had to take bone from his skull to replace the broken bones in his face. He also had stitches above his left eye. They say that as a result of this he can barely eat and cannot smile due to the pain. The healing process has been slow because he had been on a hunger strike because he did not have a lawyer.Again, I urge all parties to send international observers to the next hearing on Thursday.
- HRW: Bahrain: Stop Military Court Travesty of Justice
- Amnesty International: Bahrain activists jailed following 'politically motivated' trials
- Amnesty - Bahrain: Harassment of human rights defenders must end
- Amnesty - Bahraini opposition figures face unfair trial
- Amnesty - Trial of Bahraini opposition activists adjourned as observers barred
- Amnesty - Bahrain: Further information: Further arrests of activists and doctors
- Amnesty - Bahrain: Eight activists detained in Bahrain
- HRW - Bahrain: Activist Bears Signs of Abuse
- HRW - Bahrain: Free Prominent Opposition Activist
- HRW - Bahrain: New Arrests Target Doctors, Rights Activists
- HRW - Bahrain: Protest Leaders Arbitrarily Detained
College of Surgeons accused of failing Bahraini doctors
ThePost.ie 03 July 2011 By Susan Mitchell
When the King of Bahrain made a speech last Thursday, some were hopeful that the doctors arrested in the Gulf nation would receive a royal pardon.
It was not to be. Instead they still stand accused of serious charges which could result in their being executed.
Their story has been followed by the world’s media, but has a particular resonance in Ireland, as three of the Bahraini doctors, who were arbitrarily detained, trained at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
The doctors were held incommunicado, reportedly tortured, denied access to their families for two months and forced to confess under duress. Front Line, a human rights defence organisation, said they had never before ‘‘witnessed doctors and nurses persecuted on such a scale as a result of their legitimate humanitarian actions’’.
In recent months, the RCSI, which has a €70 million college in Bahrain, has come in for sustained criticism over its failure to deliver a hard-hitting message to the ruling al-Khalifa family and vindicate the rights of fellow health professionals.
The RCSI generates annual revenues of €108 million, but its operations go much further than a medical school. It controls a substantial property portfolio in Dublin and has a significant overseas presence, particularly in the Middle East and Asia.
The college’s most significant overseas play has been in oil-rich Bahrain, where it runs the Medical University of Bahrain. In 2008, the college opened a university building on the Bahrain campus. It was reported that it spent €70 million, but the RCSI refused to verify this.
The RCSI also has the contract to manage the King Hamad General Hospital, but it refused to disclose what this contract was worth when contacted by this newspaper.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Finance in Bahrain and a Kuwaiti finance house, the Irish college is also a partner in the RCSI Bahrain health campus, a $500 million medical education and healthcare campus.
The RCSI’s detractors claim medical cowardice has been fuelled by the college’s financial concerns.
The college denied that financial concerns were behind its failure to speak out about the arrest of medics after pro-democracy demonstrations in March.
The RCSI refused to condemn the arrests for three months. In the meantime, medical organisations worldwide - including Physicians for Human Rights, the American College of Physicians, England’s Royal College of Surgeons, the National Arab American Medical Association and the American Medical Association - petitioned the Crown Prince of Bahrain to stop attacking hospitals, patients and doctors.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) came out with a hard-hitting statement, but other Irish medical organisations - including the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) were silent.
The RCSI has taken the most flak because of its particularly close links with, and strong presence in, Bahrain.
‘‘It is unprecedented in history to have so many doctors on trial. Human rights should not be up for debate.
The college’s behaviour has been quite inappropriate and it has shown no solidarity whatsoever with the families of these doctors," said Dublin-based orthopaedic surgeon Professor Damian McCormack, who trained a number of the detained Bahraini doctors.
McCormack believes the RCSI’s financial exposure in Bahrain and the write-down of its large property portfolio in Ireland are behind the college’s stance.
‘‘It is in Nama territory and, yes, pulling out of Bahrain may well bankrupt the college, but at least it would not be morally bankrupt," McCormack said.
McCormack has been agitating for the Bahraini doctors in the Irish media and said he had received good support from most of his colleagues.
He said responsibility for the RCSI’s position rested with the governing body of the RCSI - its council. That is composed of 21 surgeons and it is understood that some members are unhappy at the limp public response to date.
‘‘I think some of them are good guys, but are being used. Others are distracted by the glory of getting their pictures taken in gowns, first class flights to Bahrain, golf and the high-life with the ruling élite and the money they make over there, which is presumably tax free.
This is spoiling the party," he said.
He was particularly aggrieved at the RCSI’s decision to proceed with a conferring ceremony in Bahrain on June 13 to which the Bahraini prime minister - the longest-serving unelected head in the world - was invited.
Members of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) also attended.
‘‘They were sitting around with senior military figures while people demonstrating for democracy are having their heads blown off down the road," McCormack said.
It was an own goal.
Within days, Professor Eoin O’Brien wrote to the Irish Times to express his ‘‘sense of shame, indeed betrayal, at seeing the presidents of both these institutions’’ attend.
He also resigned as a fellow of the RCPI.
The criticism levelled at the RCSI and RCPI resulted in the colleges writing two letters that were published last weekend: some two months after the doctors were first arrested.
The position of the RCSI and RCPI
In his letter, RCSI chief executive Professor Cathal Kelly said the approach was ‘‘guided by what we have judged to be most effective in Bahrain. In support of this approach we have chosen to minimise public statements in Ireland’’.
The RCPI said it was clear there were ‘‘conflicting and trenchantly-held views on what actually happened in Salmaniya Hospital and the reasons for the arrest of the doctors in question’’.
While the RCPI stated that many respected international bodies, including the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, rejected claims the doctors had refused to care for patients because of their ethnicity, some felt the RCPI had tacitly implied there was some veracity to the claims made by Bahrain’s ruling elite.
The RCPI also said it was essential that the judicial process now underway was ‘‘unequivocally fair and just’’.
‘‘I did not think much of either of the letters, particularly the one from the RCPI," said Professor O’Brien last week.
‘‘The RCPI was almost supportive of the legal process.
We know the legal process there is corrupt.
They are kangaroo courts.
We need to tell the authorities that this is intolerable," he said.
A source familiar with the situation in Bahrain, said the picture that was being Painted was overly simplistic.
‘‘It is a complex issue and the situation is not as simple as it is being portrayed in the media. Condemning the regime would be naive.
The RCSI is genuinely trying to use its influence behind the scenes. Cathal Kelly has been meeting with all sorts of people. If the college were to come out in an aggressive way, it could place many more people in danger," he said.
The source said RCSI staff were mostly Shia (the country’s rulers are Sunni) and that the college wanted to keep the sectarian issues off campus. Both the RCSI and RCPI have Fellows in Bahrain who could also be endangered, he added.
He said the criticism levelled at the Irish medical schools was excessive.
‘‘Half the universities in Ireland - and the rest of the world - are trying to get into China, but there is no mention of there being a conflict in relation to China’s human rights atrocities.
The hypocrisy is beyond belief. It is all very well for the likes of Damian McCormack and Eoin O’Brien to say this that and the other. It is easy to say speak out or just walk away, but will that free the doctors?
No, it won’t."
Bahraini authorities for their part have alleged the doctors were part of a militant Shia clique that had taken control of the hospital and used it as abase to try to overthrow the royal government during the protest that rocked the Gulf island nation earlier this year.
They were alleged to have spread false rumours and used ambulances to transport weapons, including machine guns, to protesters.
They are also accused of refusing to treat patients from Bahrain’s Sunni minority and stealing blood from the blood bank.
A trawl through BBC and al-Jazeera footage from the time of the mass protests clearly shows doctors speaking out passionately as wounded protesters were rushed into hospital.
One, Ali alAkri, struggled to hold back tears as he pleaded with the government to stop the killings.
AlAkri was identified as the main ringleader of the doctors’ conspiracy by the Bahraini prosecutor.
The BBC’s correspondent on the ground at the time was one of only two reporters allowed into court to hear the charges.
‘‘He did not look like a ringleader tome. Passionate, angry, distraught, yes. The leader of an anti-government coup?
‘‘His real crime was to have spoken out to us, the foreign media, to have told the outside world what was going on inside his hospital. Of the effects of buckshot and tear gas.
To show X-rays of high-velocity bullets embedded in protesters’ bodies," he said.
Dr al Akri and surgeons Basim Daifand Ghassan Daif studied at the RCSI.
‘‘I trained them.
They are my guys." said Damian McCormack ‘‘While we are debating this at home the clock is ticking.
The Bahraini authorities are temporising and delaying. It is becoming more difficult to keep this in the news. I don’t believe the college has ever asked for them to be released."
Last week, the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, announced the setting up of an independent commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses during the protests.
In another landmark move, he announced that all military court trials connected with the February-March protests would be moved to civilian courts.
Most of the 48 doctors and nurses arrested have been released from custody, but charges against them remain.
Last Friday, Front Line had an open letter to the King of Bahrain published in the Irish Times.
This called for the immediate dropping of all charges.
The letter was signed by 45 healthcare professionals. More doctors are reported to be signing the protest every day. ‘‘Front Line’s experience is that you need a combination of private diplomacy and public statements to effect change - particularly when private diplomacy has not achieved any concrete results.
We fully accept that the primary role of the RCSI is to educate young people to become doctors - but sadly the situation in Bahrain blew up, so they have a duty of care to those who did part of their training with the RCSI," said Mary Lawlor, director of Front Line. She said the Ruse’s business relationship meant it was in a unique position to insist that nothing less than release of the doctors was acceptable.
‘‘The colleges are hoping this will go away. If anything happens to these doctors and nurses it would be appalling. It is indefensible for the colleges to behave like this. Moral ruin is irreparable. Financial ruin is not," said O’Brien.
IPI: In ‘Arab Spring’, Journalists Pay the Ultimate Price
IPI Report Highlights Violations of Press Freedom, Attacks and Harassment of Journalists in First Six Months of 2011
4 July 2011 By Naomi Hunt, Press Freedom Adviser
No region of the world saw as much upheaval or received as much international media attention in the first six months of 2011 as North Africa and the Middle East. [..] In Bahrain, where peaceful demonstrations by protestors demanding political reform were brutally suppressed with the help of Saudi troops in March, activists and bloggers have been targeted, arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even killed in the aftermath – prompting new demonstrations this week.
Mass protests have not ended in success for demonstrators in Bahrain, Syria or Libya. In the kingdom of Bahrain, ruled by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, journalists were among those targeted by security forces during the first days of protest. One particularly egregious early attack came on 18 February, when a helicopter fired on a crew from the New York Times. In March, the printer of the private daily Al‐Wasat was attacked and copies of that day’s paper ruined in the process, reports said. The persecution of activists and journalists worsened after the entry of Saudi troops in mid‐March. Reporters from Western media were interrogated and in some cases expelled. Less fortunate journalists were reportedly detained for days, beaten and tortured.
Opposition websites were blocked.
Alongside journalists and activists, hospital staff who aided victims and sent images of their torn bodies around the world have been accused of supporting the attempted overthrow of the king, jailed and allegedly tortured. It is believed that their real crime was speaking to international media about atrocities. A CNN crew was detained while interviewing the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) on 30 March, Nabeel Rajab; his home was later attacked with teargas grenades, and he was accused of fabricating photos of a tortured rights activist. In June, a founder of the same organization, Abdulhadi al‐Khawaja, was sentenced to life in prison by a military court for an attempted coup. Numerous bloggers and activists received long jail terms for their part in the demonstrations, sparking new protests in late June. Two reporters were killed for their work ‐ both under suspicious circumstances. Blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan al‐Ashiri and Al‐Wasat founder Karim Fakhrawi both died while in government custody in April; the regime claimed that they had died of illnesses, but their bodies showed signs of torture.
“Events in the Middle East have demonstrated that people want access to information and accountability from their leaders, and the lengths they will go to achieve these goals. A free media is integral to all of these, and to democracy as a whole ” said Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI Director. “However, these events have also demonstrated the lengths that governments will go to, to prevent damaging truths from emerging, and to clamp down on free speech. This report is proof that around the world, there remain many lessons to be learned about respecting free speech and defending a free media.”
Human Rights organizations call to put an end to human rights violations in Bahrain
A letter to the Prime Minister before heading to Bahrain, expressing concerns of Human Rights organizations to put an end to human rights violations in Bahrain
Paris- Cairo June 30th 2011 To the attention of H.E Essam Sharraf Prime Minister of Egypt
Excellency, In view of the official visit that you will pay to the Kingdom of Bahrain on July 4, 2011, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), together with its member organizations in Egypt, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) would like to bring to your attention their great concern about the current critical situation of human rights defenders and political opponents in Bahrain, in the aftermath of the violent and bloody repression of the popular upraising that erupted in February 2011.
On June 22nd 2011, 21 prominent Bahraini human rights activists and opponents to the regime were given harsh sentences by the special military court which was set up to prosecute those who have voiced their opinion and demanded their basic human rights. 8 of them were given life sentences while 13 were given two to fifteen years in prison. The charges given to the activists seem to be an attempt to punish them merely for their political activities.
FIDH, EOHR and CIHRS are deeply concerned by the reports of torture and ill-treatment of those arrested and detained. Our organizations have documented the case of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, former Director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who was beaten severely and had to undergo major surgery du to his injuries. Despite the heroic display of Mr. Al Khawaja during his hearing, the judges refused to acknowledge his claim of having been subjected to torture. These acts of torture and ill-treatment are not limited to detention centers, but have managed to infiltrate hospitals as well. According to the information we received, in Salamiya hospital, many of those wounded were beaten three times a day.
The Bahraini government did not stop at prosecutions and torture, but has extended its crackdown on its employees as well. There has been a mass firing campaign where 383 workers have been dismissed due to their participation in the protests.
Furthermore, FIDH and its member organizations condemn the ongoing harassment of journalists, doctors, lawyers, human rights defenders and their families, among which FIDH’s Secretary General Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who is currently prevented from leaving the country and remains under threat and harassment by the security forces.
Mister Prime Minister, considering Egypt’s influential position in the region, and the events of the 25-January Revolution, our organizations believe Egypt can set a model for the rest of the Arab countries to uphold international human rights standards. The Bahraini government has announced the opening of a probe into the events of the protests. It should be reminded that this investigation must be thorough, independent and impartial in order to insure that those responsible for the grave human rights violations perpetrated against the background of the protests are held accountable for their actions. At the same time, the Bahraini authorities must put an end to human rights abuses and release without delay all the political opponents arrested in the context of peaceful protests as well as human rights defenders wrongly accused of being terrorists and severely condemned after they organised peaceful awareness-raising and human rights education activities for protesters in the recent weeks.
These recommendations should be seen as a pre-requisite to any sustainable national dialogue between the Bahraini civil society and the authorities.
Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President Bahey Eddin Hassan, CIHRS Director Hafez Abu Seada, EOHR President
Bahrain: Front Line's Andrew Anderson highlights the denial of justice in the trial of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja
23 June 2011
Bahrain's rulers condemn themselves by sentencing my friend to life in prison
Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is a dear friend and former colleague who worked with us at Front Line up until February this year coordinating our work with human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa. Today a military court in Bahrain sentenced him to life imprisonment on 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”.
The Bahraini Government has been trying to repress the protests which broke out in February calling for democracy and human rights and an end to corruption. They have also repeatedly insisted they are in favour of dialogue and reform and that the evidence of the killings of peaceful protesters and the torture of detainees was fabricated. However, despite reportedly paying for expensive PR advisers in Washington and elsewhere to manage their message, they have been unable to silence the truth about what they have done and have failed utterly to make any kind of credible case against those they have charged and condemned.
Front Line has sent four missions to Bahrain in the last three months and has followed closely the trial of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and the 20 others charged with him. Two London based barristers were separately denied access to observe hearings but Front Line's Director Mary Lawlor did attend one session in June.
However, the reports of those who have had access to what have in effect been political show trials paint a sorry picture of Bahrain's attempt at “justice.”
Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was beaten when he was arrested, detained incommunicado and tortured so severely that he had to undergo an operation on his head in a military hospital. He has been denied access to his lawyer except for brief meetings when he has been brought to court. He and his lawyer have been silenced when they have sought to raise concerns about torture in the courtroom. No investigation has been made by the court in regard to the evidence of torture to Abdulhadi and others.
The case presented by the military prosecutor has lacked credibility or any substantive evidence. Two witnesses for the prosecution were identified by those present in court as security service employees, one of whom has reportedly been identified as having been directly involved in acts of torture. These unconvincing witnesses were unable to present anything other than outlandish allegations and were deemed too weak to be submitted to cross-examination. The defence were denied permission to bring witnesses. The date for sentencing was announced prior to the presentation of the defence lawyers' final statements.
It is clear that the Bahraini authorities hate and fear my friend Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, a distinguished human rights defender who is known and loved for his work in support of others across the Middle East. Since his arrest we have had a flood of messages of concern from across the region. One hundred and twenty human rights defenders from Morocco to Yemen signed a declaration of solidarity with him.
When I was in Bahrain in April to press for Abdulhadi to have access to his family and lawyer I was told by Bahraini diplomats, government lawyers and police representatives that he was guilty of terrible crimes, that he had duped the international community but that in reality he was a terrorist and religious extremist in the service of the Iranians. There was real anger in the voices of some of these men when they talked about my gentle friend who at that point had not officially been charged with anything.
But you can tell a lot about a man by his friends.
Suad Al-Gedsi a courageous women's rights defender from Yemen said, “I know Abdulhadi in person very well. He is an exceptional rights activist, working independent from any sect or political party.”
Abdulhadi had worked tirelessly for the release of the veteran human rights defender Haithem Al-Maleh in Syria who has now been forced into hiding but wanted to send this message:
“Sadly, all security apparatus in the Arab World have one thing in common; namely persecuting the thinkers and virtuous people based on their activism and work defending the rights of others. I hope that Mr. Al Khawaja will be released soon, and that the detention files in the Arab World will be closed.”
I have worked with Abdulhadi and socialised with him. I have met his fantastic family, I have eaten in his home. I have even played football with him. He is a good man, a gentle man.
President Obama said a few weeks ago, "mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens." It is time to bring an end to the madness of show trials and torture. Its time to free Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
Andrew Anderson is Deputy Director of Front Line, the Dublin based International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders www.frontlinedefenders.org
The Observatory: Continuing detention incommunicado and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer
1 July 2011
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing detention incommunicado and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, a prominent human rights lawyer.
According to the information received, on June 23, 2011, Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer appeared before the Lower National Safety Court in Manama for his second and last court hearing on four charges: “inciting others to develop hatred or hostility towards the system of Government” pursuant to Article 165 of the Bahraini Criminal Code; “deliberately releasing malicious news or rumours about (…) the State” pursuant to Article 168; “inciting others (…) to hate or show contempt for a certain faction (…) undermining the public peace” pursuant to Article 172; and “taking part in a demonstration (…) with the aim of committing crimes (…) aimed at undermining public security” pursuant to Article 178 punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years. Mr. Al Tajer is blamed for committing all those crimes because he has reportedly made a speech in which he addressed the public in the Pearl Roundabout’s last March to denounce Bahrain’s human rights record. In the charge sheet against him, it is stated by the prosecution that by making such speech he jeopardised the country stability and security and caused the public to reject the National Dialogue which was then called for by the Government. The verdict will be issued on July 5, 2011.
The Observatory recalls that since his arrest on April 15, 2011 (see Background information), Mr. Al Tajer is detained incommunicado and is being denied the access to his lawyer and family. Mr. Al Tajer appeared before the Lower National Safety Court on June 12, June 16 and June 23, 2011 and could only meet with his family and lawyer on these occasions. According to some information, Mr. Al Tajjer would be detained in Gurain military prison but, to date, the authorities have refused to confirm this information.
The Observatory firmly denounces the continued detention incommunicado and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities as a defence lawyer, and moreover condemns the lack of due process in his trial.
At around 11 pm on April 15, 2011, a group of more than 20 masked and armed plain-clothes men, belonging to security forces, entered without any warrant the house where Mr. Al Tajer was present with his wife and young children. At 00.30 am, after thoroughly searching the house and confiscating computers and mobile phones, the men arrested Mr. Al Tajer and took him to an unknown destination. After his arrest, Mr. Al Tajer was detained incommunicado for five weeks and was then allegedly transferred to the Gurain military prison where he would still be detained.
The judicial proceedings launched against Mr. Al Tajer are taking place within the context of an intensified crackdown against activists, including human rights defenders, who have supported or are alleged to have supported the protest movement which started in Bahrain in February 2011. The Observatory recalls that hundreds of individuals are still arbitrarily detained, and that access to the majority of these detainees, including by their lawyers, is not guaranteed. Concern about the physical integrity and life of those arrested are consequently high.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Disclose Mr. Al Mohamed Issa Al Tajer’s whereabouts and release him immediately and unconditionally, since his detention and subsequent sentencing seem to only aim at sanctioning his human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
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 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 9.3 which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, inter alia […] to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials so as to form an opinion on their compliance with national law and applicable international obligations and commitments; and to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms” ;
· 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”.
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
· 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.
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), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
Paris-Geneva, July 1, 2011
In divided Bahrain, students pay price for protests
By Erika Solomon MANAMA | Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:22am EDT reuters.com
(Reuters) - As the summer heat sets in, most university students in Bahrain are eagerly looking forward to getting out of class. But 19 year-old Mohammed and his friends are struggling to get back in.
Local rights groups say over 400 mostly Shi'ite students have been expelled from Bahraini universities in recent months, charged with participating in the "unauthorized protests" which shook the Gulf island kingdom earlier this year. Mohammed, a second year student at Bahrain University, described a string of student dismissals since March, in which officials used protesters' own Facebook postings and YouTube videos against them to identify students who joined demonstrations or criticized the government online.
"There is an aggressive with-us-or-against-us mentality," he said, declining to give his full name for fear of further government reprisals. "If you went out to the streets to ask for your rights, now you must be punished."
School officials say students crossed a red line by calling for the fall of the government on school grounds. Students insist many of them only protested off-campus, and warn the punishments have increased pent-up anger that could erupt again.
The Sunni rulers of Bahrain, home port to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, quashed weeks of protests led mostly by the country's Shi'ite majority during a March crackdown that also has seen up to 2,000 workers sacked and hundreds arrested.
Bahrain said the protests had a sectarian agenda with backing from Shi'ite power Iran, which the opposition denies.
The education ministry has said students can apply to other schools, but they have complained they were unable to get copies of their transcripts. They were also convinced no other local university would take on students expelled for protests.
Some, under a travel ban for political activities, cannot study abroad. Others are too afraid to leave.
"The situation is very bad. Some of us have parents who were sacked. What if the other parent gets sacked? We have to save everything we have," said 21-year-old Sayed.
Like other students, he met Reuters at a deserted shopping mall out of fear of speaking out. Sayed was less than a semester from graduating when he was dismissed in March.
Mohammed fears arrest if he applies for a job and is discovered to be an expelled student protester. Instead, he spends afternoons driving through Shi'ite villages looking for protests and networking with activists by mobile phone.
"I don't have class, I don't have work. So I work for the revolution. They stole my rights, my future, I will fight back," he said. "I have nothing to lose."
Tensions have been high since the crackdown and protests have occurred daily since the government lifted an emergency law on June 1. A national dialogue for reforms, planned to start on July 2, has fallen on deaf ears among younger and increasingly hardline Shi'ite youths.
Across town, 20 year-old Asma Darwish, one of some 40 students expelled from Bahrain Polytechnic last week, has devoted her time to looking for scholarships and activism.
"They have a bunch of smart young people sitting at home with nothing to do. It will ruin the country," said Darwish, her black veil and abaya hanging from a slim frame, frail from finishing a nine-day hunger strike over her brother's detention.
Days after police escorted her off campus, she was briefly arrested for staging a small sit-in at a United Nations office.
Some students face worse sanctions: One woman, who was afraid to give her name, said she was jailed for a month the night after she admitted at a school questioning that she was active at protests.
She said she was beaten with sticks and electric rods in detention, and threatened with rape. The government has denied systematic abuse and said any incidents will be investigated.
"I had never considered myself an activist, I just wanted a better life," she said. "I'm stronger now. I learned what politics are, that we have rights and should speak up for them."
The University of Bahrain's dean of student affairs defended the dismissals, saying students would be able to appeal, and that those punished clearly broke school rules.
"They disrupted the educational environment with unauthorized protests... if they raised slogans against the regime, that's an additional violation," said Adnan al-Tamimi.
The University of Bahrain now also requires its students to sign a loyalty pledge to Bahrain and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. The pledge says those who do not sign are giving up their right to university study, and those who break the pledge can be expelled.
University officials said the pledge was not new, but signatures are now required to ensure students know the rules.
One employee, who defended the dismissals, said even he was disturbed by the mood on campus in recent months, where white stickers with bold black letters have been plastered all over the walls: "God will not pardon what has passed."
Not only Bahraini, but Saudi and UAE flags flutter in doorways -- a tribute to the troops from neighboring Sunni Gulf countries that came in to back Bahrain's government during its crackdown.
"You can't say anything, or they will accuse you of being against the government," the employee whispered. "It worries me, they seem to forget: One day you are on top, the next on the bottom. No government lasts forever."
(Editing by Paul Casciato) Photo: Noor Alderazi
RSF: Disturbing Wave Of Prosecutions On Eve Of National Dialogue
30 JUNE 2011
Reporters Without Borders accuses the authorities of continuing to crack down on journalists and media freedom in violation of the spirit for the national dialogue that King Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa wants to begin tomorrow with the aim of relaunching political reforms after the unrest that began last March and the ensuing repression.
Journalists and media are still being prosecuted before military courts, although the state of emergency was lifted on 1 June. The authorities are also maintaining strict control over the circulation of news and information and are pumping out propaganda aimed at both Bahraini and foreign media.
Reporters Without Borders calls for a response from the international community that includes the dispatch of a United Nations special rapporteur to Bahrain.
Bahrain Society of Photography president Mohamed Salman Al-Sheikh, a freelance photographer who was arrested on 11 May, was brought before a military court in Riffa, the second largest city, on 28 June. His family was not told about at the hearing and therefore was unable to organize his defence. No information has been released about the charges being pressed against this journalist, who has won many international awards.
Abbas Al-Murshid, a freelance journalist and writer who was arrested on 16 May, was brought before a judge on 27 June and was told that he was charged with participating in illegal demonstrations, disseminating false information on online forums and inciting hatred against the government. His request to be freed on bail was denied. Security officers present in the courtroom refused to let his wife and lawyer talk to him although the judge had given his permission. He is to be tried by court martial on 7 July.
Abdullah Alawi and Jassem Al-Sabbagh, two journalists who were arrested after being forced to resign from the newspaper Al-Bilad, are being prosecuted on charges of publishing false information and photos, and participating in illegal demonstrations. The second hearing in their trial was held on 23 June.
As already reported, a military court imposed jail sentences on 22 June on 21 people accused of belonging to terrorist organizations and trying to overthrow the government. Eight of them, including the human rights activist and blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace, were given life sentences. The other 13 got sentences ranging from two to 15 years in prison. The blogger Ali Abdulemam, who was tried in absentia, got 15 years (< a href="http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-one-blogger-sentenced-to-life-22-06-2011,40507.html">http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-one-blogg...).
The authorities are keeping reporting about the ongoing trials under strict control, maintaining a ban on coverage of national security cases. The government news agency BNA publishes a daily summary of some of the ongoing trials, but trials involving any journalists other than those with Al-Wasat are usually ignored.
The authorities announced on 14 June that they were going to bring a lawsuit against British journalist Robert Fisk, the London-based Independent’s Middle East correspondent, in the United Kingdom for waging a “defamatory and premeditated media campaign” against Bahrain and for alleged bias and unprofessionalism in his coverage of recent events.
Fisk has repeatedly criticized the trials of doctors and nurses accused of supporting the anti-government protests. He also reported that Saudi military forces invaded Bahrain without waiting for an invitation from the Bahraini authorities.
Reporters Without Borders hails the release of Faysal Hayyat, a sports journalist who was arrested on 8 April, although he is still facing charges of “sports crimes.” A military prosecutor issued a statement saying he would be tried according to established legal procedures. No trial date has so far been announced.
The blogger Ali Omid has also been released but seven other netizens and eight journalists, including three photographers, continue to be detained.