15 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 Calls for the End of the Harassment of Ghada Jamsheer

ARTICLE 19 has written to Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, asking him to ensure that women’s rights activist, Ghada Jamsheer, is protected from harassment and guaranteed her right to free expression.

Jamsheer is leader of the Women’s Petition Committee which works to protect women and advocate for improved women’s rights in the country’s sharia courts. She has been repeatedly harassed in the course of her work and has been effectively banned from the country’s media since 2007.

In November 2008, while attending the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) Conference in South Africa, Jamsheer’s home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken of her residence. Her house phone, mobile phone and email account were also reportedly put under surveillance.

After reporting this incident to the police, Ms Jamsheer’s 74-year-old mother and sister were then accused by the police of attacking the state security agent. They are now facing court proceedings. Rather than the legitimate process of justice, this appears to be another attempt to intimidate Ms Jamsheer.

Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threatening text messages and have allegedly been followed by a car.

Jamsheer is unable to publish any articles or obtain any media coverage under a reported media ban issued by His Excellency Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of the Royal Court.

“The harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of women’s rights in Bahrain and is a clear violation of her right to freedom of expression and of the freedom of the press in Bahrain,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. “It undermines much needed debate in Bahrain and, in particular, silences women’s voices and discourages their participation in civil society.”

In the letter to the Bahraini monarch, ARTICLE 19 expressed its concerns about the physical and psychological welfare of Ghada Jamsheer and her family, and urged the authorities to restore freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, by lifting the ban and putting a stop to all intimidation of human rights defenders in Bahrain.


• For more information, please contact Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer at hoda@article19.org or +44 20 7278 9292 .


ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org

6-8 Amwell Street London EC1R 1UQ United Kingdom Tel: +44 2... - Fax: +44 20 7278 7660 - info@article19.org - www.article19.org

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13 Feb, 2009

Activist Abduljalil Alsingace's blog blocked by authorities

Date: 12 February 2009 Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) confirms that the authorities have taken measures to effectively block local access to the electronic blog of Abduljalil Alsingace, ( http://alsingace.katib.org ). This is the first blog, a personal homepage, to be blocked by an administrative ministerial order, as part of a censorship campaign initiated over a month ago by the newly appointed Minister of Information, Mai Al-Khalifa, a member of the ruling family.

Alsingace's blog, "Al-Faseelah", which is named after a young palm tree, is posted on Katib "Writer in Arabic", a program aimed at "providing an opportunity for intellectuals, rights activists, young people and the Arab world to publish on the web without restrictions except for hate speech" (see http://www.katib.org ). Katib is sponsored and maintained by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information ( http://www.anhri.org ), a non-Bahraini site also blocked by the authorities.

Alsingace uses the "Al-Faseelah" blog to post news, human rights reports, poems, advertisements, videos, portraits as well as articles, published by him and others. "Al-Faseelah" contains links to human rights organizations, questionnaires about the role of non-governmental organizations, and adverts calling for the prosecution of torturers.

On 27 January 2009, Alsingace was officially banned from traveling and leaving Bahrain after bogus allegations were issued against him, accusing him of being involved in a "terror" plot, being a member of the HAQ movement for Liberty and Democracy, and suggesting that his articles were provocative and had "incited hatred against the regime". Alsingace, as well as other activists, are facing charges based on the Barhaini Terrorism law of 2006 and the Penal Code of 1976, a punishment which could amount to life imprisonment.

BCHR president Nabeel Rajab stated: "This is a red blink signal marking an ominous deterioration in human rights in Bahrain, particularly in the level of freedom of expression by activists and dissidents". He added: "The authorities, launching many electronic projects, should realize by now that people can easily circumvent any blocked site, and further censorship on site of dissident voices will do nothing but tarnish its image".

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the authorities: - asking them to respect freedom of expression, particularly for human rights defenders, whose views are important for the maintenance and protection of general rights and liberties - calling on them to stop preventing human rights defenders from accessing the media and blocking their means of communications to the public.

APPEALS TO: His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa King of Bahrain Riffa, Bahrain Fax: +97 31 766 4587

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 31 721 1363

Mrs Mai Al-Khalifa Minister of Information

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

For further information on the travel ban issued against Alsingace, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100645


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.bwhrainrights.org; Facebook: English Group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=44138766349, Arabic group, http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=50727622539

13 Feb, 2009

Menassat: Bahrain hit by mass web censorship campaign

BEIRUT, February 2, 2009 (MENASSAT) - On January 14 this year, local newspapers in Bahrain made public a ministerial order by Bahrain’s new Minister of Media & Culture, Shiekha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa that called on telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to tighten their measures on preventing access to web sites previously banned by the ministry.

According to rights groups like the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), whose web site has been blocked, “This was the first resolution issued by the minister this year…..to give sharp and clear instructions to telecommunications companies and Internet service providers” to prevent “all the customary ways to access blocked sites," whether through Internet addresses or through the use of alternative servers (proxies) or any other way.

The text of the minister's resolution read, “Lifting the block on any site should only be on the instructions of the minister herself."

BCHR claims that the former Bahraini Minister of Information, Jihad Bu-Kamal, was replaced by Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, after a television talk-show program criticized the ruling elite of corruption.

Bu-Kamal’s “crime” was allowing for the program to air on TV.

Al-Khalifa's crusade

Al-Khalifa's renewed vigilance against formerly banned sites is being billed as an action against "pornographic websites and public morality,” but activists cite several examples of censored or banned web sites belonging to human rights organizations, religious and non-religious groups, and political groups which clearly fall outside Al-Khalifa's edict.

Nabeel Rajab of BCHR told MENASSAT in an email conversation that the majority of the blocked sites in Bahrain are in fact web sites dealing with human rights and political issues in the country and “village chat forums”.

Some of the sites now inaccessible in Bahrain reportedly include independent newspaper Bahrain Times, the online current events forum Montadayat, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

Even the party Al-Demokrati, a legally registered party, has now had its site blocked, sources tell MENASSAT.

While the exact number of sites blocked in the most recent wave of Internet censorship remains unknown, some put the number as high as 100 while other sources quote between 40-60 sites.

Ali Abdulemam is the administrator of a news engine for political and social affairs in Bahrain - Bahrainonline. He told MENASSAT that the authorities have been playing a censorship "cat and mouse game" with his web site for the past seven years.

Abdulemam claims Al-Khalifa's campaign to censor and ban sites is more aggressive than before, pointing to the fact that ministry has even blocked Google Translation because it can be use as proxy to surf his site.

New forms of government intimidation

Several online sources are also accusing Al-Khalifa of using strong-arm tactics to shut down activists like Abdulemam including arrest, physical intimidation and the threat of potential legal actions.

“Whenever we open a new URL (for the site) they (the government) close it once they discover it. But this time it has been a very concerted war against all of the opposition web sites. Three activists who support of Bahrainonline - including me - were arrested for two weeks this year. And we all face charges of insulting the king and his family, which could mean 10 years in jail,” Ali told MENASSAT.

Abdulemam said Bahrain’s web censorship has reached new dimensions of sophistication, and that the authorities have started to block access to certain search words.

“There is censorship for words like 'proxy.' So if you type in proxy in Google and try to visit any link from the result you will face the 'site blocked' message,” Abdulemam told MENASSAT.

That “message” is a pop-up alert from the Ministry of Culture and Information apologizing to the visitor that the site he or she is attempting to visit “has been blocked by ministerial order."

At first the ministry provided a contact number in case the surfer felt that “the requested page should not be blocked” out of courtesy.

That phone number, says Abdulemam, has now been removed from the ministry’s revised message.

But the question remains whether the work of Bahrain’s censorship committees is actually helping to increase traffic on the offending sites

According to Rajab, BCHR’s site has even become more popular after its blocking.

Banning sites, nothing new

Rajab has also diverted what he calls his “electronic resistance and struggle” onto the popular social networking site Facebook where he has set up a group for his organization where one can access statements and reports from the BCHR.

BCHR argues that the recent actions taken by the Bahraini authorities violate freedom of expression as stipulated in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Bahrain in September 2006.

This does not, however, mark the first time the Bahraini authorities have practiced web censorship.

In 2004, Bahraini activists protested in front of the Bahraini Communications Company (Betelco) -which has a monopoly over Internet connection service in Bahrain-to express their opposition to Internet censorship by then Bahraini Minister of Media, Nabil Jacob Al-Hamra.

Al-Hamra was quoted at the time as saying the Bahraini government banned and blocked access to those web pages it found “dissatisfactory” because the government was the country’s “defender of morality” and claimed “that certain websites are responsible for creating "domestic turmoil.”

In 2006, the Financial Times reported the Bahrain government blocked Google Earth as means of limiting the actions of opposition cyber-activists who were using Google Earth views of estates and private islands belonging to the ruling al-Khalifa family as a means of highlighting the inequity of land distribution in the tiny Gulf kingdom before November parliamentary elections that year.


Source URL: http://www.menassat.com/?q=en/news-articles/5904-bahrain-hit-mass-web-censorship-activists-say

12 Feb, 2009


Feb 2009 Bahrain's fraught sectarian divide Bahrain flag As Bahrain prepares for the trial of alleged militant plotters, ISN Security Watch's Dominic Moran speaks to government opponents concerning recent unrest and sectarian relations.

By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch

Sectarian violence has again flared in Bahrain following a wave of arrests associated with an alleged plot to attack national day celebrations.

Described as a fraud by government opponents - who allege the strengthening of repressive mechanisms and measures and moves to promote discrimination in recent years - the alleged terrorist conspiracy and rioting in predominantly Shia areas underlines the fraught nature of sectarian relations in the Gulf kingdom.

The ongoing crisis has raised questions about the civil and democratic reform process enshrined in the National Action Charter, which won almost unanimous popular support in a 2001 referendum for a shift from absolutism to a constitutional monarchy and establishment of representational government through a bicameral legislature.

A series of ancillary reforms promoted by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa included important moves to ease related inter-communal tensions through the return of exiles, freeing of political prisoners and allowing the formation of political movements. The enfranchisement of women and moves to ease press restrictions and security strictures followed.

Government opponents charge that the impact and implementation of reforms has been limited and that a regression has in fact occurred in recent years, in particular through the re-imposition and extension of security restrictions and discriminatory measures targeting the Shia majority.

While they have succeeded in drawing most opposition groups into the political process, the reforms have had little impact on the overall authority of the monarchy. The monarchy is guaranteed through the royal appointment of members of the upper house of the legislature, selection of judges and appointment of the prime minister and his cabinet.


Hundreds of rioters clashed with police in the capital Manama on 30 January in the wake of a 12,000-strong peaceful demonstration, called to protest alleged discrimination against Shia.

According to AP, the motivations of the rioters were unclear, though some carried posters referring to the arrest of three prominent members of the predominantly Shia opposition Haq political society, including leader Hassan Mesheima.

Police arrested Mesheima, al-Haq spokesperson Dr Abduljalil Alsingace and cleric Mohammed al-Moqdad on 26 January after they refused to respond to Public Prosecution summons.

The highest Shia authority in the kingdom, The Islamic Council of Ulemas, responded to the detentions by calling for the trio's immediate and unconditional release, warning of a "grave escalation which will aggravate [sectarian] tensions."

Speaking to ISN Security Watch by phone, Alsingace described his arrest last month. Police raided his home in the early hours of the morning, taking him to a detention center where he was held in solitary confinement before being moved to the Public Prosecution service later that day.

"The Public Prosecution interrogated me on my writings; use of the internet; the addresses of people; what I believe [concerning] the 2002 constitution; involvement in […] the Haq movement; my travel to Washington DC, London and other cities; my activities abroad; and my participation in public demonstrations, etc. and then decided to release me but banned me from travel."

The Haq trio are accused of promoting a coup "through terrorism" and are to appear in court on 23 February.

The Manama violence came after rioting in Shia villages outside the capital earlier in the week.

"In the villages you can see almost an uprising going on," Bahrain Human Rights Center Nabeel Rajab claimed in an 11 February interview with ISN Security Watch. "If you go to the roads and streets outside Manama […] you see government militias which have been brought from outside, from Jordan and Syria and Yemen and Balochistan in Pakistan," he said. ISN Security Watch was unable to verify this claim.

The alleged plot

The detention of the three Haq activists came in the wake of the16 December arrest of 14 Bahrainis in connection with a purported conspiracy to launch a series of militant attacks.

The plot allegedly involved the ambush of police and attacks on shopping malls, markets and hotels with homemade explosives. The suspects' confessions were subsequently aired on national television.

According to Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, the militants in custody received training in bomb-making and the booby-trapping of cars in July-August 2008 from two British-based Bahrainis, having traveled to the Baathist state on the pretext of a Shia religious pilgrimage.

"If you see the confessions you will learn there are many basic contradictions that tell you this is all bogus," Alsingace said. "There are contradictions on the dates; some of them have not been to Syria."

Torture claims

According to Alsingace, "This time they used electrocution to not only have a quick extraction of confessions but also not to leave any future trace of torture." He alleged. that "some of them were even electrocuted on their genitals."

Referring to the torture claims, Rajab said, "I'm afraid if this does not stop in the coming weeks and months the situation is going to deteriorate more and more," he said.

The Public Prosecution strongly denies allegations of prisoner mistreatment and that confessions were extracted under duress.

Diverging Shia trends

October 2006 elections to the lower house of the bicameral national legislature saw the emergence of a strong Islamic bloc led by the Shia Islamic al-Wefaq party.

The party, which boycotted the previous parliamentary poll in 2002, won 17 of the 20 seats in which it stood candidates in 2006, emerging as by far the largest political group in the kingdom, but falling short of an overall majority in the 40-member Chamber of Deputies. With the 12 deputies of the pro-government Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist, el-Wefaq has promoted socially conservative legislation, sometimes at odds with the palace's promotion of women's rights and the stances of liberal legislators.

Haq broke away from al-Wefaq in 2005 over the latter's decision to participate in the political system and, with a Sunni Salafi splinter, led calls to boycott the 2006 elections. A leading figure in the movement at the time, Abdulwahab Hussain, reportedly called on Bahrainis in July 2006 to draw arms against the government should peaceful measures fail to bring reforms.

Alsingace avers: "What we did in Haq is to peacefully demand a democratic constitution to be drafted by the people of Bahrain."

He said this was "looked at by the authorities to be a true challenge to their legitimacy because what they did in 2002 was to nullify the only socially binding constitution in Bahrain and unilaterally replace it with a constitution which was drafted by a secret committee."

In a second referendum, the group called "for the resignation of the prime minister allowing for the peaceful exchange of power through the people and ensuring that none of the al-Khalifa [are] in executive power as per the […] National Charter."

"In Haq we have Sunni people. The vice-president is a Sunni sheikh. He was leading a press conference last week and […] he was not mentioned in the press." That "just gives you an idea of how they want to present us; that "It is all Shia and nobody else.""


The focus of many of the banners carried in the 30 January demonstration in Manama was reportedly on the controversial bestowal of Bahraini citizenship on Sunni immigrants - a move that opponents charge is designed to tip the demographic balance against the 60-50 percent Shia majority.

Najab accuses the government "of sectarian apartheid where they are separating Shia and Sunni cities and towns," adding "they are playing with the demography of the country by naturalizing tens of thousands of tribal Arabs from other countries to make sure that the number of Sunnis becomes more than the indigenous Shia."

To Alsingace, discrimination "used to be in jobs, higher jobs; then it went more to the exercise of political rights. They [Shia] were marginalized, misrepresented using gerrymandering; the use of the politically naturalized to undermine their power."

Now the discrimination is becoming more "focused" he claims, impinging particularly on the rights of Shia to formal religious education and institutions. "Their children are forced to be educated in jurisprudence other than Shia theology, which is really against basic religious rights," he alleged.

The government strongly denies systematic discrimination, pointing to such measures as the creation of a 500-strong Shia police force to work in Shia areas.

The kingdom has appeared to move towards the extension of security force prerogatives in recent years, through such measures as the August 2006 Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts bill. The bill was criticized at the time by a UN special rapporteur as containing too wide a definition of terrorism and terror-related activities.

Article 1 of the act prohibits acts that "damage national unity" or "obstruct public authorities from performing their duties," while the law also allows for extended detentions without judicial review, Human Rights Watch notes.

Najab explained that in 2004 the number of Shia in high-ranking public sector positions "had reached 18 percent. We revised that report again in 2008, two months ago, and that 18 percent has [been reduced to] 13 percent."

Outside influences

The Bahraini government is deeply concerned at the extension of Iranian influence in the Gulf and wider region, with crown prince Sheikh Salman ibn Hamad Al-Khalifa the first prominent member of a gulf royal family to openly accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon.

As the only Shia-majority Gulf state, Bahraini concerns have been further piqued by the rise to power of Shia parties in nearby Iraq, though relations with the Nouri al-Maliki government do appear to have improved in recent months with Bahrain naming its first ambassador to Baghdad since the US-led invasion in July 2008.

Bahrain is a key US ally in the region and hosts the US Fifth Fleet - facts that opponents of the al-Khalifa point to as preventing the effective imposition of significant US pressure for further reform and the politicization of human rights concerns recognized by the US State Department in its annual reports.

"The United States government is quiet so far as they see their interests maybe lie with the ruling elite," Najab said, adding that annual US government reports criticizing the Bahraini human and civil rights record were probably raised in private meetings. "It doesn't seem that they [US] want to anger them."

Asked to directly address government claims of Iranian influence amongst the Shia opposition, Alsingace argued that the government was "using the Iran phobia; the West considering Iran a threat; and making a correlation which is not substantiated."


With sporadic clashes continuing and genuine progress towards a full constitutional monarchy in question, there appears a real danger that the important moves by the monarchy to promote representational government and the involvement of Shia in decision-making processes could founder.

A regression towards the imposition of tighter security strictures and a seeming failure to systematically address the perceived sectarian structuring of access to land, state resources and jobs lie at the heart of decades-old tensions.

A failure to further promote sectarian harmony could ultimately have wider repercussions, Najab believes:

"The situation is deteriorating and we are afraid to see violence spreading in this country," he said. "It is not only Bahrain and the Bahrain government that is going to lose but [also] those countries that have interests in this country."


Dr Dominic Moran, based in Tel Aviv, is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East and the Director of Operations of ISA Consulting.


Publisher International Relations and Security Network (ISN)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Creative Commons "Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

10 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: Arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, Mr Ali Hassan Salman and Mr Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim

Published on Front Line (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org)

Front Line is concerned following reports that human rights defenders, Mr Ali Hassan Salman and Mr Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim, were arbitrarily arrested on 4 February 2009. Both human rights defenders have worked for the Committee of Activists and Prisoners of Conscience since December 2007 and have helped to organise peaceful marches and protests for the rights of detainees. During an Amnesty International visit to Bahrain in 2008, Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim coordinated meetings between families of detainees and Amnesty International. Further Information On 4 February 2009, at approximately 2.45 a.m., the houses of both Ali Hassan Salman and Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim were raided by security forces. Ali Hassan Salman was arrested and beaten in front of his family during the raid, causing his mother to faint. His glasses were also broken. Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim, who lives in the same area, was arrested within 15 minutes. No arrest warrant was shown and no reasons were given for either of the arrests. Since their arrests, Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim have not been allowed to communicate with their families and lawyers.

Front Line believes that Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim have been arrested because of their legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights, in particular their work to coordinate meetings between Amnesty Intenational and families of detainees. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim while in detention.


Source URL: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1791

10 Feb, 2009

ARTICLE 19 Condemns the Targeting of Human Rights Activists and Calls for the Reform of Laws Aimed at Silencing Dissenting Voice

ARTICLE 19 Condemns the Targeting of Human Rights Activists and Calls for the Reform of Laws Aimed at Silencing Dissenting Voice 9 February 2009

On 26 January 2009, three prominent Bahraini human rights activists Mr Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ); Mr Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad, a scholar and social activist; and Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, Head of Human Rights Unit at HAQ, were arrested. Following almost nine hours of interrogation, Mr Mushaima and Mr Al-Muqdad were held in custody for further interrogation, while Dr Alsingace was released on bail and officially banned from travel out of Bahrain. The Public Prosecutor declared that he would take the necessary measures to pursue cases against them in the courts and prosecute them on charges related to the national security of Bahrain. All three activists are heavily involved in promoting human rights in Bahrain and in documenting cases of abuse. During the interrogation they were questioned about their human rights activism including publishing electronic articles and conducting speeches, seminars and presentations about human right abuses in Bahrain. They were also questioned about their involvement in HAQ, an unregistered grassroots organisation that campaigns for genuine democratic reforms, human rights and civil liberties. The activists were charged of “forming an organisation, outside the provisions of the law, which disrupts the Constitution or prevents any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty”, “provoking hatred of the regime” and “inciting violence and the overthrow of the political system”.

The first charge is referenced in Article 6 of Bahrain’s anti-terrorism law (Protecting Society from Terror Acts no. 58 of 2006) which states that those who establish an illegal organisation likely to disrupt the Constitution and laws, or prevent any State apparatus from performing its duties, are punishable by life imprisonment. The other two charges are based on the Bahrain Penal Code; promoting the overthrow of the regime by force punishable by five years imprisonment (Article 160) as well as instigating hatred against the regime, punishable by imprisonment of up to three years as per Article 165. The three activists deny all these allegations and consider their arrest and the charges to be politically motivated.

In addition to recent interrogation, Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, a prominent Bahrani blogger and critic of the Bahraini regime, has also been subject to a defamation media campaign, lead by state guided media and aimed at human rights defenders. This was following his participation in a debate on religious freedom in Bahrain in the US Congress in October, 2008.

“The apparent arrest of three human rights activists for legitimate and peaceful human rights activities is highly deplorable. It is an attempt to silence opposition voices and signals further deterioration for freedom of Expression in Bahrain. ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about articles in the Bahraini Penal Code and anti terrorism legislation that are used to deprive Bahrainis of the right to freedom of expression and calls for urgent legal reform” said Dr. Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Bahraini authorities to reverse this alarming trend of harassment against human rights activists. We call upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohammed Habib Almuqdad, withdraw all the charges related to their legitimate and peaceful activities and lift the travel ban against Dr. Abdul-Jalil Alsingace.

ARTICLE 19 reminds the authorities that Bahrain acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2006 and calls upon the government of Bahrain to reform those provisions in the Penal Code and anti-terrorism legislation that flagrantly violate Bahrain’s international human rights commitments on freedom of expression.


• For more information: please contact Hoda Rouhana, Programme Officer for Middle East and North Africa, hoda@article19.org,+44 20 7278 9292


ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org

6-8 Amwell Street London EC1R 1UQ United Kingdom Tel: +44 20 7278 9292 - Fax: +44 20 7278 7660 - info@article19.org - www.article19.org

9 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: Travel Ban on Prominent Human Rights Activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja faces 10 years imprisonment for delivering a speech

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja faces 10 years imprisonment for delivering a speech

February 9, 2009

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights is highly alerted after learning of a travel ban against its former president Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and the unjustifiable charges and unfair trial against him for delivering a speech highlighting human rights issues and expressing his opinion on the political situation in Bahrain.

Today, February 9, 2009, at 9:00 am, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was prevented from leaving Bahrain Airport. According to Mr. Alkhawaja, the officer at the passport point told him that there is an official order from the General Prosecution Office to prevent him from leaving the country. As the Middle-East Coordinator for Front Line (The International Foundation to Protect Human Rights Defenders) Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was leaving for a field visit to Iraq.

Yesterday, February 8, 2009, was the first session of trial against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja at the High Criminal Court. He faces charges related specifically to a speech he delivered on January 7, 2009. The Charges were: 1. instigating hatred and disrespect against the ruling regime, 2. broadcasting false and malicious statements, and 3. spreading provocative propaganda related to the internal affairs that could cause damage to the public interest. According to the related article of the 1976 Penal Code, Mr. Alkhawaja could be sentenced for up to 10 years imprisonment. The Head Judge adjourned the case until March 11, 2009.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights considers the travel ban and the unfair trial against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja as an escalation in the ongoing orchestrated campaign by the authorities to hinder the work of human rights defenders in Bahrain and to further restrict the right to freedom of opinion. Hence, BCHR calls upon all concerned to do whatever possible to:

Remove the travel ban and drop all charges against Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, Put an end to targeting human rights defenders and restricting freedom of opinion, Amend the 1976 Penal Code which allows for punishing individuals for practicing there basic rights, including the right to freedom of opinion, and Securing the independence and impartiality of the judiciary system in Bahrain.

Kindly, find attached the following documents:

Comments and Background on Alkhawaja case (English)

Prosecution Order to put Alkhawaja on Trial (Arabic text and translation to English) Articles of the Penal Code related to Alkhawaja's Case (Arabic text and translation toEnglish) Alkhwaja's Speach based on which he faces trial (summery in English) The full text of the speech (Arabic)

For more information, please contact:

Nabeel Rajab,

Mobile: +973 39633399

Email: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org

8 Feb, 2009

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY: Incomunicado detention and Harassment of Activists

Bahrain February 6, 2009 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory was informed by reliable sources about the incommunicado detention of Mr. Abduljalil Alsingace, Head of the Human Rights Unit of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy in Bahrain, Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, and Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, a Shia religious scholar.

According to the information received, on January 26, 2009, Messrs. Abduljalil Alsingace, Hasan Mushaima and Mohamed Habib Al Meqdad were arrested by elements of the intelligence police and subsequently detained incommunicado. The former was released the following day from the Dry Dock detention centre while Messrs. Mushaima and Al Meqdad remain in solitary confinement, with no access to legal aid and without any explicit legal justification for their detention.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about Messrs. Hasan Mushaima and Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad’s incommunicado detention, and fears that they might be accused of charges indicated in the 2006 Counter Terrorism Law and the 1976 Penal Code, including “joining a group and supporting it financially to prevent authorities from implementing laws” as well as “abusing personal freedom of citizens through acts of terror”. The Observatory recalls indeed that seven human rights defenders, including the three above-mentioned, had already been arrested in December amid allegations of “Terror Plot” (see background information).

The Observatory warns that some tenets of the 2006 Counter-Terrorism Law nurture an environment in which impunity and violation of basic human rights is allowed to propagate, such as Article 6 of the said Law, which provides life imprisonment in case of “establishment of an illegal association which opposes Bahrain’s constitution and which uses terrorism as a mean to achieve its goals”, an article that can be abusively used to sanction and silence all dissenting voices in the country. Given the prominent leadership roles of all detainees in their respective organisations, there is a real threat that they might be charged on the basis of the 2006 Law, and sentenced to imprisonment.

The Observatory fears that the mentioned defenders have been targeted to deter them from pursuing their human rights activities, and urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against them, in line with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

Background information:

On December 15, 2008, the authorities staged a wave of arrests to later announce uncovering an alleged “Terror Plot”. Approximately twenty youths involved in social protest movements were arrested and detained incommunicado until December 28, 2008. According to the detainees’ lawyers, the detainees showed signs of ill-treatment and torture during interrogation.

On December 28, 2008, a Government-owned and run TV “Bahrain Satellite” channel broadcast a pre-recorded video displaying unrelated images of violence amidst confessions of some of the detainees. The second day, daily newspapers showed publication of these confessions, names and pictures of thirteen of the youths, among them those shown in the TV broadcast.

One of the detainees, Mr. Hasan Ali Fateel - a former member of the Unemployed Committee - stated in his confession that Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Protection Coordinator at Frontline, had encouraged the unemployed in 2006 to organize a series of sit-ins near the Royal Court and the House of Representatives, without making any relevant connection with the alleged terrorist scheme. He also mentioned the names of Mr. Hasan Mushaima and Dr. Alsingace as being instigators for demonstrations and public protests. Other detainees stated in their broadcast “confessions” that they had been instigated and instructed by Messrs. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, Ali Ahmed, Ali Mushaima, a former leading member of the Unemployed Committee living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, and Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb, former President of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, to carry out planned acts of terror. All are well known, outspoken and leading participants in activities involving the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular the question of the equality in the enjoyment of economic, political and social rights in Bahrain, particularly in relation to the Shi’a minority.

Messrs. Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Alshayeb are now UK residents as they enjoy political asylum status after fleeing repression of the local authorities due to their human rights activities. Before and after the announcement of the alleged “Terror Plot” in December, the Bahrain authorities have been unsuccessfully exerting diplomatic pressure on the British authorities to have their political refugees status nullified in the UK.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Ensure that the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Alsingace, Mushaima and Al Meqdad be guaranteed in all circumstances;

ii. Disclose the whereabouts of, and immediately release Messrs. Mushaima and Al Meqdad, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and Article 12(2) (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”);

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


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

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

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

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


Paris-Geneva, February 6, 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

7 Feb, 2009

JOINT ACTION: Twenty IFEX members around the globe denounce jailing of activists for expressing their views

Alert PRINT PAGE JOINT ACTION: Twenty IFEX members around the globe denounce jailing of activists for expressing their views

(BCHR/IFEX) - The following is a joint action by 20 IFEX members:

We, the undersigned freedom of expression organisations, are gravely concerned for the deterioration of human rights exemplified by the aggressive measures taken by the Bahraini authorities to silence three well-known activists from expressing their views and addressing public issues.

Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ), Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad, a scholar and social activist, and Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace, head of HAQ's human rights unit, were arrested around 2:30 a.m. (local time) on Monday 26 January 2009 and were kept in solitary confinement for three hours until they were transferred to the Public Prosecution (PP). Following almost nine hours of interrogation, Mr. Mushaima and Mr. Al-Muqdad were held in custody for further interrogation, while Dr. Alsingace was released on bail and officially banned from travel out of Bahrain. The PP declared that it will take the necessary measures to pursue cases against the human rights defenders in the courts.

During the interrogations, the three activists were questioned about their speeches and articles concerning public issues, which authorities considered to be "provoking hatred of the regime" and "inciting violence and the overthrow of the political system". These two charges are referenced in the Bahrain Penal code of 1976 and are punishable by imprisonment of up to eight years. This penal code does not meet international standards of human rights and has been denounced in the past by human rights organisations around the globe.

The activists also received a third charge under the Bahraini counter terrorism law, which has also been condemned by many international organisations, including the UN. Under this law, the activists face possible life imprisonment for "forming an organisation, outside the provisions of the law, which disrupts the provisions of the Constitution or prevents any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty."

The three activists categorically deny all these allegations and consider their arrest and the charges brought against them to be malicious and politically motivated.

Based on the hostile attitude of the authorities toward the three well-known activists, it is believed that their arrest and detention are related to the practice of their right to free expression, namely by carrying out legitimate and peaceful public activities such as publishing electronic articles and conducting speeches, seminars and presentations. The atrocious charges brought against them are baseless and meant to silence and prevent Mr. Mushaima, Mr. Al-Muqdad and Dr. Alsingace from expressing their thoughts and performing any activity related to democratic reforms and promotion of human rights and civil liberties, particularly freedom of expression and the right to free assembly and association.

The undersigned organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to:

- immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad - quash all the charges related to their legitimate and peaceful activities - lift the travel ban against Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace - abolish the Bahraini Counter Terrorism Law, which curtails freedom of expression and allows for criminal prosecution on the basis of intentions and, amend the Penal Code so that it conforms to international human rights conventions - cease all measures targeting political and human rights defenders

Signed: Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP), Algeria Arab Archives Institute (AAI), Jordan Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt ARTICLE 19, U.K. Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Serbia Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRNI), U.S.A. Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Freedom House, U.S.A. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria Media Watch, Bangladesh Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation (OLPEC), Tunisia


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.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=44138766349

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