6 Feb, 2009

The French President Shares the Responsibility for Training the Brutal SSF in Bahrain

Issued by: the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, January 2009

On the occasion of French President, Nichola Sarkozy’s visit Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is obliged to raise the issue of the gross violations of human rights by the Special Security Force (SSF). The SSF is trained by the French Ministry of interior, and was being trained by them when Mr. Sarkozy himself was the Minister of Interior. The BCHR also raises the issue of lack of action by the French government to protect human right defenders in Bahrain in accordance with the relevant UN conventions and European Union Guidelines. The Special Security Force (SSF) has grown in size from about 3,000 to 10,000 during the last seven years. 90% of the SSF are non-Bahrainis recruited from specific Sunni tribes in Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and recently former Sunni Ba’thists from Iraq. The SSF is also used as armed “Militia” dressed in civilian clothes wearing black head masks invading villages to chase protesters, beating them aggressively and sometimes arresting them[1].

They SSF recruits are offered special salaries and accommodation in the small isolated Safra city in northern Riffa. Most of them have been granted Bahrain citizenship in violation of the Bahrain law which requires 15 years of residency. Besides their main mission to suppress the majority Shia in Bahrain, there votes were used effectively to marginalize the Shia and the opposition in the last election of Council of Representatives in 2006.

The Special Security Force (SSF) has been widely used, especially in the past three years, as a mean to spread fear in Bahraini society. Hundreds of people, most of whom are human rights activists, have been injured. Moreover, a young activist lost his life on December 17th, 2007 while participating in a demonstration calling for justice for victims of torture[2].

The (SSF) was used effectively in surrounding villages and areas inhabited by Shia majority, storming them with tear gas and rubber bullets, as a result of which hundreds of people, including elderly, women and children have been injured or suffocated. Many properties, houses and mosques were damaged. The most recent of such events was reported during the period 17th – 22nd December 2007.

During 2005-2008 the SSF has used excessive force against many peaceful gatherings and public seminars organized by human rights or political activists under the pretext that these gatherings had not been unauthorized by the government. This force has targeted human rights defenders including senior members from the BCHR and the Committee for the Unemployed. Amongst those attacks are the physical assaults in June and July 2005 against 96 activists and protestors, and physical assaults on December 26, 2007 against women and BCHR’s president Abdulhadi Alkhawaja who were gathered peacefully in the Prosecution Office to call for visits to the detainees, out of which eleven were human rights defenders[3].

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls upon all who are concerned to:

Hold the French government responsible for its role in training the SSF, Call on the French government to carry out its duties according to the relative International norms and the EU guidelines related to the protection of human rights defenders, Call for opening an urgent, thorough, impartial and neutral investigation on the violations of the SSF, and to bring whoever responsible to justice, Call for demobilizing the SSF, dismissing and deporting all persons used as mercenaries to suppress people and re-establishing a national security force in compliance with international standards.

Attached Photoes:

Pic. 1: Victim of police brutality

Pic. 2: Rubber bullet wound

Pic. 3: SSF police in a village

Pic. 4: SSF police beating a human rights activist, Ali Al-Haddad, in the street

Pic. 5: Signs of beating, on Abdulhadi ALkhawaja President of BCHR, after an attack on a peaceful demonstration

Pic. 6: SSF in Shia village

-----------------

[1] See the following photos and Video-films: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrEBnOp-Dqg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPWeu38q0rA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU3hQQ9_vaU

[2] For further details, see the Observatory Press Release of December 21, 2007 (a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5069 [3] For further details, see the Observatory Press Release of January 9, 2008 http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article5078

5 Feb, 2009

Three prominent human rights activists from the opposition have been arrested in the early hours of the morning of 26 January

URGENT ALERT: Bahrain – Haq Movement representative Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace arrested

27 January 2009 Islamic Human Rights Commission URGENT ALERT: Bahrain – Haq Movement representative Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace arrested

Contents 1. Summary 2. Background 3. Action required 4. Sample letters

1. Summary

Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace and two prominent leaders of Haq movement, including Secretary General, Hassna Mushaime\', were arrested on 26 January 2009. They have been charged with conspiring to overthrow the regime.

These political activists are law-abiding citizens, actively promoting human rights in Bahrain. IHRC has close links with Dr Al-Singace and Haq Movement and is involved in their campaigns against injustice in Bahrain. IHRC urges all campaigners to write to the authorities mentioned in this alert and appeal for the immediate release of Dr Al-Singace and the other representatives of Haq Movement.

2. Background

Three prominent human rights activists from the opposition have been arrested in the early hours of the morning of 26 January 2009. Mr Hassna Mushaime\', the Secretary General of Haq Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al Miqdad, a prominent religious figure and public orator and Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, a university lecturer were taken into custody after their houses were raided around 3:00 am (local time) by police forces. The main doors were smashed open and women were reportedly attacked and children were terrorized.

These Haq movement representatives were reportedly arrested after they refused a summons for investigation by the Public Prosecution on Sunday, 25 January 2009. Reports state that the three men did not appear before investigators because the prosecution order failed to specify the reasons for the summons or charges against them.

After arrest, Mushaime was questioned for eight hours whereas Al-Miqdad and Al-Singace were questioned for three hours, in the presence of their legal representatives. Reports state that, according to their lawyers, the questions focussed on their link to an alleged terror plot and on their speeches against the regime and its policies.

According to reports, early today, 27 January 2009, Bahraini authorities charged these political activists with conspiring to overthrow the regime.

In view of the ever-increasing reports about Bahraini authorities torturing political detainees, IHRC fears that Al-Singace and others will face physical abuse at the hands of the police as well.

These serious developments in Bahrain have plunged the country further in political turmoil, as widespread clashes are reported between supporters and police forces following the arrests. Over the past few years as Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, ruler of Bahrain since 1971, insists on his autocratic policies in the country, public discontentment with the regime has rapidly increased.

IHRC has close links with Dr Al-Singace and the Haq Movement and is actively working with them to eradicate human rights violations in Bahrain. IHRC urges all campaigners to write to the following authorities and appeal for the immediate release of Dr Al-Singace and the other representatives of Haq Movement.

3. Action required a) Write to the minister of foreign affairs in your country, urging him/her to raise this issue with his/her Bahraini counterpart.

UK campaigners can write to:

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP Foreign & Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH

Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk

b) Write to the Bahraini ambassador in your country.

UK campaigners can write to:

HE Shaikh Khalifa bin Ali Al Khalifa 30 Belgrave Square London, SW1X 8QB

Fax: +44 020 7201 9183 Email: information@bahrainembassy.co.uk

4. Sample letters ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sample letter to minister for foreign affairs in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)

[Your name] [Your address]

[Date]

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP Foreign & Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH

Dear Mr. Miliband,

Re: Bahrain - Human rights activists belonging to Haq movement arrested

I am deeply worried at the recent news about the arrest of three prominent political figures in Bahrain, belonging to the opposition, who were arrested in pre-dawn raids on 26 January 2009.

Mr Hassna Mushaime\', Secretary General of the Haq Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al Miqdad, a prominent religious figure and public orator and Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, a university lecturer were taken into custody after police forces broke into their houses, smashing the main doors. Reports state that the police attacked their women and terrorised their children.

On 27 January 2009, Bahraini authorities charged these political activists with conspiring to overthrow the regime.

In view of the ever-increasing reports about Bahraini authorities torturing political detainees, I fear that Dr Al-Singace and others will face physical abuse at the hands of the police as well.

Dr Al-Singace and his detained colleagues are well-known political activists, diligently promoting human rights in their country and working with international human rights organisations to battle injustice in Bahrain.

I urge you to pressurise the Bahraini authorities to immediately release them and to allow citizens their right to freedom of expression and association in the country.

I look forward to your response on this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature] [Your name]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sample letter to Bahraini ambassador in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)

[Your name] [Your address]

[Date]

HE Shaikh Khalifa bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Khalifa 30 Belgrave Square London, SW1X 8QB

Your Excellency,

Re: Bahrain - Human rights activists belonging to Haq movement arrested

I am deeply worried at the recent news about the arrest of three prominent political figures in Bahrain, belonging to the opposition, who were arrested in pre-dawn raids on 26 January 2009.

Mr Hassna Mushaime\', Secretary General of the Haq Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al Miqdad, a prominent religious figure and public orator and Dr Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, a university lecturer were taken into custody after police forces broke into their houses, smashing the main doors. Reports state that the police attacked their women and terrorised their children.

On 27 January 2009, Bahraini authorities charged these political activists with conspiring to overthrow the regime.

In view of the ever-increasing reports about political detainees being tortured in Bahrain, I fear that Dr Al-Singace and others will face physical abuse at the hands of the police as well.

Dr Al-Singace and his detained colleagues are well-known political activists, diligently promoting human rights in Bahrain and working with international human rights organisations to battle injustice in country.

I urge you to immediately release them and to allow the political opposition their right to freedom of expression and association in the country.

I look forward to your response on this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Your signature] [Your name]

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For more information, please contact the office on the numbers or email below:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Please help IHRC by visiting http://www.ihrc.org.uk/catalog and making a donation or buying an item from our on-line store.

If you want to subscribe to the IHRC list please send an email to subscribe@ihrc.org

If you want to unsubscribe from the IHRC list please send an email from your subscribed email address to unsubscribe@ihrc.org

If you are reusing this alert, please cite the source.

For more information, please contact the office on the numbers or email below.

“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.” Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

Join the Struggle for Justice. Join IHRC.

Islamic Human Rights Commission PO Box 598 Wembley HA9 7XH United Kingdom

Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222 Fax (+44) 20 8904 5183 Email: info@ihrc.org Web: www.ihrc.org

4 Feb, 2009

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

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

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

January 28, 2009

Your Majesty:

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

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

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

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

We urge the authorities in Bahrain to:

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

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

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

We appreciate your attention to this serious matter.

Sincerely yours,

Women Living Under Muslim Laws

International Solidarity Network

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

Human Rights First

Center for Women’s Global Leadership

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Forward – Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development

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

BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights

Forum-Asia

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

4 Feb, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

The NGOs that have been threatened by the Government are :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: An Oppressive Campaign Against Shia

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

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

31 Jan, 2009

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

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

30 January 2009

AI Index: MDE 11/001/2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Document

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

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

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

29 Jan, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

MORE INFORMATION:

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

29 Jan, 2009

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

25 January 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 Jan, 2009

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

Bahrain: Alarming Deterioration in Human Rights Situation:

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

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

January 28, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion and recommendations:

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

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

27 Jan, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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