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CIHRS Sets a Precedent, Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab Speak Via Skype at UN Side Event

21/09/2010

Today, September 21st, a Side Event entitled "Reprisals against persons that have cooperated with the UN and its mechanisms and procedures in the field of human rights: Effective responses by the Human Rights Council" was held at the UN Human Rights Council’s headquarters in Geneva. The event was organized by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) in partnership with Amnesty International, Conectas Direitos Humanos, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Federation for Human Rights, Forum Asia, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights House Foundation, and International Service for Human Rights.

During the event Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights joined the discussion via Skype, a first for the Human Rights Council. Mariam Al-Khawaja, also of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was present at the event. Both Rajab and Al-Khawaja presented evidence and testimonies on the recent crackdown in Bahrain against human rights defenders, specifically those who had been targeted for their participation in United Nations human rights mechanisms, including Laila Dashti, who was stopped at the airport on the 19th September and prevented from traveling to Geneva to speak at this side event.

View Photos of the event

cihrs.org

CIHRS Condemns Rising Human Rights Violations in Syria and Bahrain before the UN

20/09/2010

United Nations Human Rights Council: 15th Session Item 4: GD, Oral Intervention Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) 20 September, 2010 Delivered by: Ziad Abdel Tawab Watch Video

Thank you Mr. President

The CIHRS would like to bring to the attention of the council the dire human rights situation in both Syria and Bahrain.

This very statement was supposed to have been delivered today by one of two Bahraini human rights defenders. However, one has been unable to engage with this Council due to imminent threats of reprisals, after he has been labeled a terrorist for his engagement at UN human rights bodies, and the second was stopped at the airport yesterday on her way to Geneva to participate at this Session.

A full-fledged human rights crisis currently exists in Bahrain. During the past month alone approximately 250 political prisoners, including many well known human rights defenders, have been held in incommunicado detention, denied access to lawyers and families, and many have been subject to torture and ill-treatment. Bahrain’s vaguely worded counter-terrorism law (58/2006) is currently being used as a mean to dissolve or severely limit the activities of any and all political opposition and human rights organizations. CIHRS would like to thank the Bahrain government for sending an official response to human rights concerns we have been raising. Unfortunately, this response failed to acknowledge or address the particular violations of human rights documented by CIHRS

At this very moment, Syrian prisons are full of prisoners of conscience, individuals who have peacefully exercised their right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, or have fought the pervasive persecution and discrimination of the Kurdish population. These citizens are prosecuted regularly in unfair trials before State Security courts, military tribunals, and by the executive-controlled regular judiciary. Complaints of “disappearances” are routine while torture remains rampant in detention facilities.

Thus far this Council, and a majority of member states, have failed to mention the current crises in Bahrain and the perpetually deteriorating situation of human rights in Syria. How many victims must be imprisoned tortured, or murdered before this Council or your government will take the first step towards the improvement of these situations, and acknowledge the seriousness of the problem? The members of this Council have a duty to guarantee the safety of Human Rights Defenders that engage with it, we ask all member states of the UN to urge Bahrain to uphold this duty.

Thank you Mr. President

cihrs.org

ANHRI: Continued War on Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain

Cairo September 18th ,2010

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information denounced today the continued war waged by the Bahraini government on human rights defenders in the kingdom ,specifically defenders of Shiite’s rights. The minister of development and social solidarity issued a decree to dissolve the managing board of The Bahraini Association for Human Rights and replace the elected chairman by a government official alleging that the association serves one category of citizens in Bahrain. This incident comes in a crackdown launched by the Bahraini government against human rights activists where 240 bloggers , activists ,politicians and religious figures mostly Shiites. They were tortured, unfairly tried in a grave media blackout. The last victim was Ali Abdel Imam , manager of the site “National Bahraini Forum”, who was arrested on 5/9/2010. The crackdown also included blocking and closing many sites the last of was that of alWefaq National Islamic Society , one of the biggest political groups in Bahrain. The Arabic Network expresses deep worry at the continues violations committed by the Bahraini Government against human rights activists and the unfair discrimination against Shiites who represent a majority in Bahrain. The right to freedom of expression and forming organizations is provided for all citizens. The allegations of Fatma AlBelloushi , minister of development and social solidarity, that the dissolution of the association board was a result of siding to one category of citizens in Bahrain is unreasonable because even this claim were true, the government has no right to interfere in the association affairs and replace its management by another affiliate to the government. The Arabic Network said,” The decision to dissolve the association board is driven by the desire of the government to knock down defenders of human rights and to terminate the independence of human rights organizations; the Bahraini Association is one of few independent organizations that work inside Bahrain. This part of the oppression against rights activists and the unfair discrimination against Shiites and one of the endless attempts of the Bahraini government to silence all opposition voices and abolish public freedoms especially freedom of expression”. The Arabic Network warned the Bahraini government of carrying on these practices against human rights activists in order to stop them from exposing its crimes for the whole world. This represents a risk of the return of the British criminal Ian Henderson Chief of the Bahraini intelligence in the seventies and nineties whose practices , bearing resemblance to the current in Bahrain , led to charging him of committing crimes against humanity.

anhri.net

Dissolving the Admin Board of the Bahrain Human Rights Society after Holding a Meeting for the Families of Detainees

• The Society is added to the List of Banned Human Rights Societies and Committees: No Independent Human Rights Society Left in Bahrain • A Campaign of Arrests that Includes almost 240 People, Activists and Human Rights Defenders • The Bahrain Center for Human Right Runs its Work Temporarily from Europe

13th September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern about the action carried out by the Minister of Development and Social Affairs, Fatima Al-Balushi, to dissolve the admin board of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) and appoint a manager for the Society by the government. Dissolving the board comes after a series of continuous harassments to the Society since the beginning of the recent security campaign that targeted the religious and political figures and human rights defenders.

The Bahraini newspapers[1] published on September 9th an article stating that the Minister of Development and Social Affairs – concerned with monitoring political and human rights societies – dissolved the admin board of the Bahrain Human Rights Society and dismissed its elected president Dr. Abdullah Al-Dirazi and replaced him with an employee in the Ministry, justifying this with the fact that the Society committed a number of violations in which it “limited its activities to one type of citizens solely” in an indication to the Shiite sect which all the political detainees or the detainees of the recent security campaign belong to. This decision comes on the background of the increasing activity of the Society over the past period, in conjunction with the escalating human rights deterioration in the country, and during the threats to suppress liberties and targeting of human rights defenders, and through its independent or joint reports with the Bahrain Coalition for Truth and Justice – which includes 11 civil societies and committees from the civil society institutions, some of which are both registered and non-registered in the Law of Associations – and which the Ministry considered “coordinating with a number of illegitimate bodies”[2] . The last of these activities was holding a press conference in the same Society, called for by the Bahrain Coalition for Truth and Justice on August 28, 2010 about the recent security developments regarding the arrest and torture and with the presence of some of the families of the detainees who spoke about the violations that accompanied the arrests and about the kidnappings that targeted the activists by the militias that are believed to be affiliated with the National Security Apparatus, as well as the National Guard headed by the King’s brother.

A photo from the press conference with the families of the detainees

As a result of the conference, the Society was subjected to a strong media campaign, in which the Journalists Association[3] (governmental) released a report demanding the BHRS take responsibility of what it considered labeling and defamation of journalists in its head office, and this was followed with a statement from the Ministry of Interior that accused the Society of serving a certain group of citizens[4] and another statement later but in the same week from the Ministry of Development indicating that it detected violations in some of the human rights societies.

The Bahraini Authorities had, in the same month of 2004, dissolved the Bahrain Center for Human Rights as a result of its work in detecting human rights violations; however, the BCHR continued its proficient activity inside Bahrain and abroad, its reports have attracted a lot of attention from the international bodies, and the members of the Center have started occupying international ranks and posts due the to credibility built up by the Center through its work. The government also refrained from licensing the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and presented its president Mohammed Al-Maskati to trial, which is still ongoing, due to carrying out activities on behalf of the BYSHR without being authorized. The Authority also carried out a recurring security campaign against the members of the public committees concerned with the families of detainees and economic and social rights such as unemployment, housing and increase of prices. The Ministry of Development itself also dissolved the Bahrain Nursing Society after the Society’s board called for improving the conditions of the nurses, and the Ministry imposed a temporary manager for the Society, and then in last April it closed down the Society’s head office. The recent campaign of arrests targeted approximately 240 individuals who are activists and human rights defenders under the pretext of revealing a network that aims at destabilizing the country’s security and overthrowing the ruling regime.

The Ministry of Development is taking advantage of the liberty-restricting Law of Associations issued in 1989 to control the activities of the civil society institutes and to continuously interfere in their administration and work, as well as limiting their free area of work. The local and international organizations[5] had already criticized this law repeatedly because it violates the fundamental human rights in expression, publishing and assembling.

The BCHR believes that the decision to dissolve the Bahrain Human Rights Society is a message for all civil society institutes that the Authority no longer tolerates any criticism or a body that detects and documents human rights violations. The decision to dissolve the Society takes place at this time, and just a few weeks before the parliamentary elections in order to prevent this Society, which had announced that it would monitor the elections, from doing so, and under the presence of data and indicators that the Authority intends to forge the elections. On this occasion, Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR stated, “the decision of dissolving confirms that there is no place for human rights societies under this law which violates human rights, and under the mentality of security, monitoring and obstacles laid by the Minister of Social Affairs”. He added, “the human rights societies in Bahrain should seriously think of working outside the framework of this law until it is reformed, and to put a limit to the dominance of the government institute which is controlling the role of these societies with political motives and a security mentality, especially that human rights work today is no longer subject to the presence of a work location”.

As a result of the escalating security and media campaign that is targeting the human rights activists, the BCHR transferred administrating its work temporarily to Europe within new arrangements that will be announced soon by the Center. These new arrangements are a result of pressures the Center is facing and the due to the security targeting which the members and the rest of the human rights defenders are enduring.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands:

1- To immediately withdraw the decision of the Ministry of Social Development to dissolve the admin board of the Bahrain Human Rights Society;

2- To stop harassing human rights defenders and activists, to stop the media campaign of smearing their reputation and arresting and legally prosecuting them, and to immediately release all the detainees among them;

3- To allow independent human rights groups to operate freely; especially the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and the public committees concerned with the families of detainees and the economic and social rights;

4- To amend the law of civil societies and the other laws which restrict the work of human rights defenders who are in accordance with the international conventions, and in particular the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

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[1]www.alwasatnews.com www.alwasatnews.com[2] www.moheet.com[3] manamavoice.com[4] hrw.org[5]

Crackdown against Civil Rights and Free Expression Results in the blockage of the Website of the Largest Political Society

Sept 18, 2010

In an attempt to halt the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, coupled with practicing more media blackout and prevention of accurate information publicity, Bahrain Information authority has censored the website of Al-Wefaq Society, the largest political Society in the country. This comes just a few weeks before the Society was to launch its campaign to participate in the parliamentary elections and concurrently with the firm security and media crackdown set to arrest tens of political activists, clergymen, and human rights defenders coupled with an official and programmed campaign to distort their reputations and incite the public against them.

The website's surfers were surprised early in the morning on Friday, the 3rd of September 2010 to find a message indicating the website's blockage, a message Internet users in Bahrain are familiar with and see every now and then while exploring discussion and blog sites, religious forums, or even social and networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, where opinions slating the regime are posted. Eventually, the Information Affairs Authority[1] had justified its resolution to block the website stating that "The website does not comply with applicable rules and regulations pertaining to such activity and based on violating incidents recorded" without making any reference to such violations. The Authority has also relied on Decree Law no. 47 of 2002 pertaining to press regulation, print, and publications, and the Political Societies Law no. 26 of 2005, which are regarded jointly by international standards as laws restricting freedoms. There is a great deal of demand placed by many international human rights organizations like Freedom House[2] and the Committee to Protect Journalists[3] to either adjust or abandon such regulations.

In a move to clampdown on the freedom to publish, being independent or dissenting, the Information Affairs Authority informed Al-Wefaq[4] along with other political societies about its alleged claims of violations in their printed newsletters, which are being electronically uploaded on the societies' websites, . The Authority stated that "The authorization granted to the Society was to issue a newsletter. However, what the Society issues is not classified as such" without giving any justification of incidents of violation. Sources reported that the reason is due to an announcement made by Al-Wefaq Society about its intention to launch a visual and audio service on the website, which is one of the media means the Authority is striving to put its hand on as It had earlier banned Al-Wasat Newspaper[5] from broadcasting any audio or video reports on its website.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights believes that such censorship is a response by the government for what Al-Wefaq Newsletter publicizes weekly about the violations conducted by the regime against human rights, its condemnation on the regime of publishing the photos of the accused individuals in the media before being brought to a court of law, publishing the ongoing kidnappings carried out by mercenaries of a militia-like group that report to the National Security, and the statement made by the Society's Undersecretary who condemned the approach of the security forces in handling events that took place recently coupled with ongoing violations in Bahrain[6]. The Centre believes that such censorship aims to prevent the public from viewing thoughts and opinions different than or against the regime. The Information Authority imposes a ban on the publication or the exchange of information related to the detained activists, and the Authority also dictates that all civil society organizations have to be on the regime's side; otherwise they will be questioned and harassed[7]. The timing of this censorship has been set in the period prior to the election campaign to be conducted by the Society to participate in the parliamentary elections, to place hindrance on the Block not to benefit from its website to promote itself for such a campaign and thus minimizing its ability of reaching its constituents.

The website censorship is the second of its type faced by a political Society of this size, after the Information Affairs Authority (formerly known as the Ministry of Information and Culture) blocked on January 18, 2009 the website of Waad Political Society without prior notice. The Ministry of Information and Culture (before being restructured to become an authority) enforced a censorship campaign to close down many websites; a campaign that started at the wake of the year 2009 when the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority issued its directives to Internet providers in Bahrain to censor 1040 websites followed by further censorship. The censorship campaign has not stopped and is concurrent with the crackdown against political activists and human rights defenders with more and more websites on which the demos coverage and opposing statement are propagated[8].

This organized censorship campaign on websites and electronic forums is in conflict with the position of Bahrain as a member of the Human Rights Council and being that it alleges to respect and promote freedom of opinion and expression. Furthermore, the censorship campaign is not compliant with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Bahrain ratified and stipulates that "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Therefore, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights is appealing to the Government of Bahrain as represented by the Information Affairs Authority to:

• Remove the blockage affecting the websites as per the last crackdown and prior to it. • Abolish all measures oppressing and restricting freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and information exchange. • Show complete compliance with international obligations and to respect the forms of freedom of expression and freedom to publish as stipulated in international conventions and charters. • Amend the Press Law no. 47 from 2002 so that is in line with international standards of human rights.

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[1]alwasatnews.com/2920 [2]freedomhouse.org [3]cpj.org [4]alwasatnews.com/2918 [5]BCHR Statement [6]al-akhbar.com [7]alwasatnews.com/2916

World Movement for Democracy: Prominent Blogger and Activist Arrested in Bahrain

September 8, 2010

According to Reporters Without Borders, during the recent, systematic attacks on opposition activists in Bahrain, prominent blogger and activist Ali Abdulemam was arrested on the night of September 4th. Abdulemam received a summons to report to the national security department and was arrested on alleged charges of disseminating false information. Abdulemam created the democracy forum, BahrainOnline.org, which receives 100,000 visitors daily and is one of the first in Bahrain to use the Internet as a platform for activism. The website is blocked within Bahrain in violation of basic freedoms of expression.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Abdulemam has also been charged with suspicion of belonging to an alleged terrorist network. According to the Times report, the Gulf Daily News, a government-run news outlet, reported that the recent arrests were due to the government cracking down on a “sophisticated terrorist network operating with international support.” It is estimated that over 250 Shiites, most of whom are youth, have been arrested under this claim in an attempt to protect the Sunni control of Parliament in the upcoming election on October 23, according to the Times report.

Please send letters and call the Bahraini authorities to demand that they release Ali Abdulemam and all activists currently held on arbitrary charges, and that the government stop using fear tactics to intimidate dissidents, but allow freedom of expression and a democratic election to take place this October.

Contact:

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: +9 73 172 27 555; Fax: +9 73 172 12 6032 Cheikh Khaled Bin Ali Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +9 73 175 31 333; Fax: +9 73 175 31 284 Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the UN in Geneva: 1 Chemin Jacques-Attenville 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39 1292 Chambesy, Switzerland Fax: +41 22 758 96 50 Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please send letters to the Gulf Daily News demanding that they end the smear campaign against the opposition and report accurate news on the recent crackdown on activists.

Contact: Gulf Daily News PO Box 5300 Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain Tel: +9 73 17 620 222 Fax: + 9 73 17 622 141 Email: gdn1@batelco.com.bh

For more information, go to: http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=impression&id_article=38298 http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2010/09/05/bahrain-bahraini-blogger-arrested/ www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-bahrain-crackdown-20100907,0,41503,print.story

To read recent alerts on Bahrain, go to: www.wmd.org/alerts/arrest-abdeljalil-al-singace-and-opposition-leaders-bahrain

World Movement for Democracy

Info Alert: Bahrain Cracks Down on Peaceful Shias, Engages in Human Rights Violations

(WASHINGTON DC -- September 16, 2010) The Islamic Information Center joins the statement by the Arab Program for Human Rights, and reiterates its support for the innocent and peaceful people of Bahrain, who are victims of violent and radical oppression by the Bahraini government. IIC and the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists follows with deep concern and disturbance the Bahraini authorities' torture of a number of activists, politicians, lawyers and some religious figures, on the backdrop of expressing their views in demanding political reform and defending human rights.

The human rights activists, Abdul Galil Sincece, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Mekdad, Shaikh Saeed Noori, Abdul Ghani Al Haggar as well as Dr. Mohamed Saeed, a member of Bahrain Center, were subjected to very cruel and degrading physical and mental torture in violation with the provision of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the right of integrated body. In addition to their placement in solitary confinement and their exposure to all forms of physical torture, starting with beating, kicking, hanging by hands and feet, to the deprivation of sleep, food and drink, and leaving on their bodies clear signs of torture which were neglected by the prosecution during the investigation. The security authorities tried to evade the crime of torture, claiming that the activists had tried to flee and the security aborted the attempt.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain News Agency published on its website the name and picture of the activist Nabeel Ragab, Chairman of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, as a so called supporter of terrorism; shortly after, the Agency dropped the news from the site, thereby confirming the existence of an official policy to distort the image and reputation of activists, and an insistence on prosecuting and intimidating them to prevent them from practicing their peaceful activities, in violation of the terms and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.

Moreover, the authorities imposed the state of emergency, which led to the arrest of over 200 people whose whereabouts are still unknown and who are deprived of contacting their relatives or lawyers -- a violation of the provisions of Article 14 of the same Covenant on the rights of the detainees, who may immediately inform their relatives and defenders.

IIC and the Program believe that the acts of the Bahraini authorities are flagrant violations of all international conventions and international legal norms, and that they aim at muzzling and intimidating activists to prevent any advocacy of democratic reform or defense of human rights in Bahrain.

The Islamic Information Center emphasizes that the events in Bahrain, followed closely by coordinators and correspondents of APHRA, are a major rebound from the Kingdom's official political discourse, which is completely different from reality. Furthe, the Program stresses our full solidarity with our fellow activists in Bahrain; we regard what happened as a great crime that should not remain covered up or bypassed; we shall work by all peaceful means to back up the activists and to see that they are released them unconditionally.

The Program calls upon the Kingdom of Bahrain to:

1. Release all detainees and human rights defenders and to guarantee the practice of their fundamental rights and freedoms. 2. Immediately halt all security prosecution and stop the siege on the Shiite villages. 3. Immediately open an urgent investigation on the circumstances of these crimes and to hold accountability those responsible, regardless of their positions and responsibilities. 4. Submit the criminals to trial and hold them accountable for what they have done.

IIC has prepared a letter for you to automatically send to the embassy. Simply click the email address below and then click send - its that easy! ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org The Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain 3502 International Drive N.W. Washington, DC 20008 Phone: (202) 342-1111 Fax: (202) 362-2192

Further, the Islamic Information Center calls upon community members to contact their congressional AND senate representative to discuss this issue and express serious concern. It is only through your action that the suffering of the Bahraini people can be alleviated.

IIC

Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders in Egypt and Bahrain Denounced at the UN

14/09/2010 United Nations Human Rights Council: Session 15 Item 2: High Commissioner’s Update- Oral Intervention Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) 13 September, 2010 Delivered by: Laila Matar Recorded Video of the Speech

Thank you Mr. President,

CIHRS would like to express its sincere gratitude to the High Commissioner and her office for their dedicated and high-quality work on behalf of human rights.

As pointed out by the High Commissioner, attacks on human rights defenders is increasing in severity throughout the Arab region, including in Bahrain, Egypt and Sudan. In countries like Tunisia, Syria and Libya Human Rights Defenders have almost all been imprisoned, forcefully disappeared, expelled or killed.

A full-blown human rights crisis has developed over the past two months in Bahrain. On September 4, 2010 Bahrain Television (a government-led TV channel) aired a 31-minute broadcast during which the names of 22 Bahraini individuals, who had been added to a list of suspected terrorists and accused of being involved in an underground terrorist organization, were displayed. This list included the most prominent Bahraini human rights defenders, bloggers and activists. Many of these human rights defenders are now in prison and face charges of terrorism.

This aggressive crack down on human rights defenders began on August 3, 2010 with the arrest of Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace. He was arrested upon his return from London, after participating in a seminar in the British House of Lords about the deteriorating human rights situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain. In the proceeding days Abdul-Ghani Al-Khanjjar, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi, and Jaffar Al-Hisabi were also arrested. All are prominent human rights defenders.

The list of those who have been imprisoned or subject to forms of intimidation is too long to list here but have also included Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Mr. Rajab has been living in eminent threat of imprisonment and torture after being accused of terrorism for his engagement at UN human rights mechanisms including this Council in March of this year. . This Council, and its member states should no longer remain silent on the critical situation in Bahrain ahead of the upcoming parliamentarian elections in the kingdom.

Also, in Egypt, on the 9th of September a Human Rights Defender who is also a researcher at the Cairo Institute, Amr Salah, was beaten and abducted by state security forces. He was blindfolded, placed in chains and interrogated for almost 40 hours before being released. The same occurred to a friend of Amr few hours after the release of the latter. The reasons behind their arrest as well as the governmental body responsible for the abduction and intimidation remain unknown. CIHRS believes these types of enforced disappearance constitute a dangerous trend in Egypt ahead of the upcoming elections.

Thank you Mr. President

www.cihrs.org

Bahrain's Big Experiment With Democracy: The Missing Facts

In a letter sent to the Independent, a UK daily newspaper, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has expressed its great concerns over the omission of the current sever crackdown on the basic human rights by Bahrain’s government against its own citizens, from an article published in the newspaper on September 12, 2010 entitled "Bridging the Gulf: Bahrain's big experiment with democracy" by Joan Smith.

The article has not mentioned any reference to the crackdown which started on Aug 13 in Bahrain and has targeted political activists, religious figures, human rights defenders and more than 250 detainees who are held in incommunicado detention, denied access to lawyers and families, and reportedly suffering from constant torture, ill-treatment and sexual abuses. Local press was gagged, websites were blocked including the website of “Al-Wefaq”, the largest political society in Bahrain, and bloggers were arrested including Bahrain's most celebrated blogger and online journalist Ali Abdulemam.

This crackdown has been extensively documented and reported by recognized international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Frontline Defenders and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), which have urged government of Bahrain to bring these practices to an immediate halt and re-commit Bahrain to a path of respect for and protection of the human rights of all Bahrainis.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights in its letter has respectfully asked “The Independent” to update its mentioned story with the full context in order not to obscure those facts from its readers and also to maintain its newspapers journalistic integrity. This information is vital for readers to form an opinion on Bahrain's current conditions and will re-establish balance in the story.

References: ---------- [1] Human Rights Watch

"Bahrain: Revoke Order Dissolving Rights Group's Board", http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/09/bahrain-revoke-order-dissolving-rights-groups-board , Sep 9, 2010

"Bahrain: Halt Threats Against Rights Defenders", http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/07/bahrain-halt-threats-against-rights-defenders , Sep 7, 2010

"Bahrain: Pursue Torture Allegations" , http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/01/bahrain-pursue-torture-allegations , Sep 1, 2010

"Bahrain: Charge or Release Opposition Activists" , http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/08/17/bahrain-charge-or-release-opposition-activists , Aug 17, 2010

[2] Amnesty International "Bahraini government must end interference in human rights organization", http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/bahraini-government-must-end-interference-human-rights-organization-2010-09-09 , 9 September 2010

"Bahrain: Detained Shi'a Muslims at risk (Urgent action)", http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/005/2010/en , 7 September 2010

"Bahrain activists must receive a fair trial", http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/bahrain-activists-must-receive-fair-trial-2010-09-06 , 6 September 2010

"Bahrain: allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be independently investigated", http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/004/2010/en , 3 September 2010

"Bahrain intensifies crackdown on activists and clerics", http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/bahrain-intensifies-crackdown-activists-and-clerics-2010-08-18 , 18 August 2010

[3] The Committee to Protect Journalists "Prominent online journalist arrested in Bahrain", http://cpj.org/2010/09/prominent-online-journalist-arrested-in-bahrain.php , September 7, 2010

"Bahrain gags press as it cracks down on opposition", http://cpj.org/2010/08/bahrain-gags-press-as-it-cracks-down-on-opposition.php , August 31, 2010

"Bahrain detains blogger on 'national security concerns'", http://cpj.org/2010/08/bahrain-detains-bloggeractivist-on-national-securi.php , August 17, 2010

[4] The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders [International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) "Attacks Against Civil Society Continue With The Suspension of the Bahrain Human Rights Society's Board" , http://fidh.org/Attacks-against-civil-society-continue-with-the , 10 Sep 2010

"BAHRAIN: Violent crackdown continues to target human rights defenders" , http://fidh.org/Violent-crackdown-continues-to-target-human , 08 Sep 2010

"Acts of physical and psychological torture perpetrated against Messrs. Abduljalil Al-Sengais and Abdulghani Ali Issa Al-Khanjar while in detention" , http://fidh.org/Acts-of-physical-and-psychological-torture , 1 Sep 2010

"Bahrain: Arbitrary detention of Messrs. Abduljalil Al-Sengais, Abdulghani Ali Issa Al-Khanjar, Jaffar Al-Hessabi and Moahmmed Saeed", http://fidh.org/Arbitrary-arrest-and-detention-of-Messrs , 18 aug 2010

[5]Front Line "Bahrain: Effective take-over of Bahrain Human Rights Society by Ministry of Social Development", http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/13275 , 10 Sep 2010

"Bahrain: arrest of human rights defender and leading blogger Ali Abdulemam and ten other human rights defenders" , http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/13239 , 06 Sep 2010

"Bahrain: Update - Human rights defenders in Bahrain denied access to their families and lawyers", http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/13155 , 18 Aug 2010

"Bahrain: Human rights defenders Dr. Abduljalil Al Singace and Mr Abdul Ghani al-Kanjar arrested" , http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/12959 , 15 Aug 2010

[6]Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) "Bahrain: As Elections Approach, the Crackdown on the Opposition and Rights Advocates Reaches its Peak",http://www.cihrs.org/English/NewsSystem/Articles/2668.aspx, 08 Sep, 2010

"Royal sanction to crackdown on political opposition and human rights defenders in Bahrain", http://www.cihrs.org/English/NewsSystem/Articles/2662.aspx, 19 Aug, 2010

On the Threshold of the Parliamentary Elections: Bahrain Enters a Battle to Abolish the Work of Human Rights Defenders

• Bringing the Rest of the Defendants to the Public Prosecution without informing their Lawyers to Conceal Effects of Torture • Depriving Activists and Defenders from Jobs and Public Services • An Incitement Campaign against the Detainees and their Religious Beliefs

10 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its condemnation for the persistence of the constant campaign of suppressing public liberties, at a time where the country is living an undeclared state of emergency with the arrest of hundred of activists, human rights defenders and opposition religious figures, and the continuity of kidnappings of youth while physically abusing and sexually harassing them. The BCHR is continually receiving information about the increase of torture crimes and sexual harassment against detained Shiite clerics and stripping several detainees who are human right defenders off their clothes. The Authority is also carrying out collective punishment against the detainees and their families by announcing that they have been dismissed from their jobs and deprive them of the medical, educational and housing services provided by the State as part of its responsibility. The BCHR has also documented 240 arrests so far and it believes that there is approximately the same amount that have not yet been documented due to the suppressive campaign that targets anyone engaged in documenting these inhumane conditions. Many other dozens have been arrested and then released in a short period.

Torture

New information was received about the detainees being subjected to further torture and mutilating and humiliating them – The BCHR was informed that some of the detainees and among them Shiite clerics were sexually harassed and abused inside their cells; however, the BCHR does not intend to publish the names of those victims or the details of what they were subjected to due to the viciousness of those crimes and the effect they will have on the people's feelings in the conservative community of Bahrain. However, the BCHR will inform any local or international investigation of these crimes.

Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi

Some of the detainees were left nude the entire time of their arrest while being cuffed by the legs and blindfolded. Among those is the dentist and member of the BCHR, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi who stayed the entire time of his arrest nude, whilst being tortured the whole time and undressed just to humiliate him. The BCHR takes pride honoring its members on the international level for their proficiency at work where they have become esteemed human rights figures in the Arab world and globally, regrets that these members are being stripped off their clothes and tortured nude in front of the torturers in solitary cells. The fate of Hasan Al-Haddad, the detainee who is an activist in the Committee of the Unemployed, is so far unknown; he was last seen in the emergency section of the Military Hospital a few days ago while being under strict security. The BCHR could not obtain any information on his health condition to date. The families of detainees and their lawyers remain deprived from visiting them[1] after more than 25 days while being in their solitary cells handcuffed and blindfolded.

Mr. Aqeel Al-Sari, a Shiite cleric, was taken to an interrogation room while being almost carried due to his inability to depend on himself because of a fracture in his right leg and swelling, bump and blackness in his left leg due to excessive torture such as being hanged by his legs (Falaqa), and his hands were also blackened while he complained from losing his ability to use them or feel with them. Another deep wound was seen in the back of his head, as well as bruises and swellings in many parts of his body. Al-Sari also complained to the Chief Prosecutor that he had difficulty breathing, and was taken to the Military Hospital three times due to his critical health condition.

The Moment Mr. Al-Sari was arrested in his pajamas

Ambiguity in the Fate of Some of the Detainees

The reasons to worry are increasing for the BCHR due to the ambiguity behind some of the detainees who have not been brought to the Public Prosecution until now, although 15 days have elapsed which is the maximum period permitted by the Bahraini Anti-Terrorism Law before bringing them to the Public Prosecution. They might have been brought and interrogated confidentially away from their lawyers, and among those detainees are Suhail Al-Dirazi, Al-Hur Yousif Al-Qameesh, Ahmed Jamsheer, Fairoz and Abdul-Ameer Mall-Allah, Ebrahim Taher, Hasan Al-Haddad and Sayed Kadhim. In both cases, the BCHR believes that this is an attempt to conceal torture marks and physical wounds from their lawyers who are their only connection with the outside world, especially since the Authority is disturbed from the many international reports that are condemning their crimes. The BCHR also believes that the decision to arrest the detainees for two months by the Public Prosecution and keeping them away from their families and lawyers is a deliberate was of concealing the crime to ensure that the effects have faded away from the bodies of detainees. International law describes torture as one of the crimes against humanity. Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

The Pre-Conviction of the Defendants

In an obvious violation of international standards and conventions concerned with fair trials and in contradiction to what was even stated in the Bahraini Constitution that, "the defendant is innocent until proven guilty", the government-owned Bahraini Radio and Television Cooperation conspired with the National Security Apparatus by broadcasting the photographs of the defendants in the case of the alleged network organization in a half-an-hour film that was produced with the intention of attempting to influence local and international public opinion and to portray the defendants as terrorists at a time where they are isolated from the outside world and forbidden from defending themselves or even meeting their lawyers, and interrogation proceedings with them have not been completed as they have not been presented to the courts. That report, including the names and photos, was later published in the majority of local newspapers and on the website of the Bahrain News Agency[2] . This publishing also breaches Article 246 of the Penal Code[3] , which criminates publishing the photos of defendants before issuing a final sentence from the specialized court. This crime holds a punishment of a jail term. This occurs at a time where the Public Prosecution completely bans publishing anything about this case, and only allows publishing anything that is issued from the Public Prosecution itself which shows that it is a prior conviction of the defendants before being presented to court. This is an apparent violation of the defendants or their lawyers' right to defend themselves or express their opinion in the accusations charged against them. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense". This film also included personal details that are humiliating to the State more than them being humiliating to the defendants regarding the services and aids the defendants, their relatives and families benefited from ("on the expense of the State"), which should be considered to be their right and part of the State's responsibility, such as housing loans, educational and training scholarships, in a manner that was intended to degrade the defendants and their families.

Targeting the opposition and human rights defenders in their sources of living and from the state services in an organized campaign to smear their reputation

In a new revengeful approach that aims at doubling-up and intensifying the penalties against the detainees who are activists, human rights defenders and opposition cleric men, the Authority is tending towards depriving them from housing, educational and health services[4] and dismissing those who work in the public sector from work, without them being presented to court or even having convicting sentences issued against them. This happened with an order from the Council of Ministers, headed by the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, who is a member of the ruling family. The stages to deprive them of the services and civil rights started by the Ministry of Health issuing an order to stop the healthcare of Mr. Hasan Al-Meshemea, head of Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy from cancer treatment, which he is receiving in a hospital in the British capital. As well as dismissing Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Sangaece from his work at the University of Bahrain, and withdrawing the house from the family of human rights defender Ahmed Jawad Al-Fardan who had received his house several weeks earlier after a wait that lasted 14 years. The local newspapers also published a story that the Civil Services Bureau dismissed all the defendants from their work in the State ministries[5] , and it also published a news piece that confirms the State's approach to deprive them from the State services and its aids, through a statement revealed by the acting head of civil services court Sheikh Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa (member of the ruling family) that the concerned body in the court was ordered to coordinate with the following ministries: Education, Health and Municipal and Agricultural Affairs, to carry out the necessary measures to dismiss "those involved in the terrorist network organization" from work and to implement all the strict legal measures against them.

On the other hand, the media campaign to condemn the human rights defenders, political activists and the clerics opposing the government continued, as well as smearing their reputation on all levels in order to form a hostile public opinion towards them and to the activities they are engaged in, and among those activities is documenting human rights violations and submitting them to the State institutes. Al-Watan newspaper[6] , affiliated with the King's Court, published on September 1 what it named the "incitement to terrorism" plot which included photos of opposition MPs, lawyers defending the detainees, as well as photos of human rights activists, unionists and clerics, accusing them of supporting terrorism. Among those photos were the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab and the former president of the BCHR and the Middle East and North Africa Coordinator in the Frontline Organization, Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, who the newspaper accused of "publishing misinformation and smearing the image of Bahrain on the human rights level".

The photos that were published on Bahrain News Agency (BNA) and Al-Watan newspaper of the current and former presidents of the BCHR among the alleged terrorist cell - click to enlarge image

The newspaper continued to slander the human rights activists with the same accusations along with publishing their photos on September 3, 2010 even though this was banned from the Public Prosecution, who prohibited local newspapers from publishing anything on the abovementioned case. The photos of Nabeel Rajab and Sheikh Abdul-Jalil Al-Muqdad and Fakhriya Al-Sangaece were also published on BNA on September 4, 2010, at a time where they were not officially charged with anything and not even summoned for interrogation. The BCHR believes that publishing two different sets of photos of members of the alleged plot confirms the frailty of this badly directed ‘play’ with regards to the alleged ‘network’. This appears in the difference between the producers of the scenario in the type of activists and defenders whose names were supposed to be dragged into this campaign until the last moment before publishing them, when finally two lists with different or undecided names were published by the producers of this play. In equivalence to this, the Bahraini press, Radio and Television who are affiliated with the State are witnessing a campaign of sectarian incitement and incitement to hatred. The level of this sectarian hatred against Shiite increased through the electronic forums that are supported by the Authority, and through sham names that are active on social networks such as Twitter.

Severe Deterioration in the Liberties of Civil Society

In the same tone of this security and media attack carried out by the Authority, the harassments of the Authority against civil society institutes who criticized this attack and called for dialogue and conciliation continued, as well as the institutes who refused to yield to the Authority's pressures to support the official position of the Authority and to condemn the detainees before their trial. Four political societies faced harassments regarding their printed publications and they are: Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Democratic National Assemblage, Democratic National Action (Wa'ad), Islamic Action (Amal), as the Department of Press and Publications claimed that there were violations in their periodical publications[7], in what is believed to target restricting their freedom in expression and publication in violation to the essence of liberties granted by the Constitution, and which is a conspicuous attack against the freedom of expression and publication, this was directly followed with closing down the electronic website of Al-Wefaq National Society and the Islamic Action Society, the two largest opposition and officially authorized political groups in Bahrain.

The Bahrain Society for Human Rights was also exposed to targeting, starting with the Minister of Development and Social Affairs accusation that it is limiting its services to a certain type of citizen, and then it was followed by a decision to freeze the activities of the Society and dissolve the administrative board to remove its president Abdullah Al-Dirazi[8] and appoint a temporary manager by the Ministry. This follows a press conference held by the Society for the families of detainees in the recent security campaign where they spoke about their sufferings and depriving them from knowing their children's fate and preventing them and their lawyers as well from visiting the detainees, in addition to defaming their detained children in both the government and pro-government media.

Based on the above, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls upon all the concerned bodies including the local and international societies and organizations to demand the Bahraini Authorities the following:

1. Immediately stop the mental and physical torture against the detainees, and to run an unbiased, public and impartial investigation in the torture allegations and to present its committers to justice; 2. present all the detainees immediately to an independent medical committee to reveal the torture marks and happenings; 3. allow the detainees to contact and meet their families and lawyers regularly, which guarantees their fundamental rights and limits their presence in circumstances that facilitate torture; 4. release all the detainees, including the activists and human rights defenders because they have been arrested for reasons relating to them practicing their basic rights of expression, organization and peaceful assembling which are guaranteed by international laws; 5. immediately stop implementing the Anti-Terrorism Law; 6. stop the media campaign that incites hatred and draws the country towards sectarian clashes; 7. stop publishing the names and photos of the detainees in the Bahraini newspapers, considering that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty; 8. initiate a genuine and sincere political reform to the outstanding human rights cases related to civil and political rights or the economic, social and cultural rights.

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[1]alwasatnews.com [2]Terrorism Plan posted on bna.bh [3]alwasatnews.com [4]alwasatnews.com [5]alwasatnews.com [6]Terrorism Plan posted on Alwatan newspaper [7]alwasatnews.com [8]bbc.co.uk