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Open letter to Hillary Clinton on eve of political dialogue in Bahrain

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton US Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington DC USA

Manama, 30 November 2010

Dear Secretary of State Clinton,

“No nation, no group, no individual should stay buried in the rubble of oppression” Hillary Clinton, January 21 2010

When the United States participates in the Bahraini government’s initiative, Manama Dialogues this week we would like you to use the opportunity to press for freedom of speech, the protection of human rights, greater freedom and democracy in Bahrain. In particular, we would like you to advice the authorities to end its routine practice of torture and ensure fair and independent trials for all detainees. Furthermore, in your historic speech of 21 January, you clearly affirmed your country’s support for online free speech and freedom of opinion, making it a cornerstone of US diplomacy. We now urge you to defend these principles in your relations with Bahrain, which has developed an elaborate mechanisms for controlling the Internet.

Ten years after King Hamad’s accession to the throne in 1999, his record on democracy and human rights is very uneven to the say the least. There were promises of political reform at the start of his reign and Bahrain was hailed as a model democracy in the region by George W Bush, but this was soon reversed and tensions continue to escalate. In August 2010, the Bahraini authorities launched one of its heaviest security crackdowns in over a decade. Currently over 350 people have been arrested including, 23 activists accused of belonging to a ‘terrorist cell’. These include academics, doctors, teachers, clerics and bloggers.

According to independent observers, the entire case of the 23 detainees rests on confessions which appear to have been coerced through physical violence (torture) or at the very least threats of violence and are therefore not credible. We urge you to call for the fair and independent trial of these activists or to release them. The plight of the blogger and cyber dissident, Ali Abdulemam in particular would be of concern to you as you have stated that you are a champion of freedom of speech and information. He has been targeted and accused of ‘spreading false information’ simply for using the tools available on the internet. The Bahraini government should not use the accusation of ‘terrorism’ as a pretext to systematically violate the rights of political activists and those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes. Thousands of websites have been blocked, including facebook pages and those of political societies.

Specifically, the detainees defense lawyers have made five requests which have not been upheld: 1. An investigation into numerous and consistent allegations of torture by all 23 detainees. 2. The formation of an independent medical committee to examine the detainees. 3. An improvement in the conditions for the detainees in prison. 4. To allow local media to report on the trial. 5. To release the detainees.

We plead with the U.S. government to secure the release all political prisoners and to ensure that they receive just trials and welfare, to end censorship and to introduce genuine democratic reforms. We also urge the U.S. government to pressure e Bahraini government to honor their commitment to the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture, to which they are a signatory. As the US spokesman recently stated “you don’t have to make a choice between democracy and security”. Based on this, Bahrain should cease the practice of torture that has been investigated by many human rights organisations such as HRW and Amnesty and end the censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

Every effort must be made in this dialogue to avoid the outcome seen so often in the past, an outcome marked by vague statements of praise for so-called ‘reforms’ , while being used by the Bahraini authorities to claim that they are making progress on the democratic and human rights front. The opposite is the case – repression has been stepped up in recent months.

We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our requests and hope you can wield positive influence to resolve the situation.

Sincerely,

Abdul Nabi Al-Ekri President Bahrain Transparency Society anhalekry@yahoo.com +973 39222412

Essa AlGhayeb Deputy Secretary General Bahrain Human Rights Society alghayeb@gmail.com +973 39668024

Mohammed Al-Maskati President Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights mohdmaskati@byshr.org +973 36437088

Nabeel Rajab President Bahrain Center for Human Rights Nabeel.rajab7@gmail.com +97339633399

Ghada Jamshir President Women's Petition Committee ghadajamsheer@hotmail.com +973 39680807

CC: Embassy of the United States, Bahrain

Under the pretext of "inciting hatred against the regime": The criminalization of freedom of opinion & expression continues

Activists on trial for holding up pictures of detainees

2 December 2010

The BCHR expresses concern for the continued targeting of public freedoms by the authorities especially the freedom of opinion and expression and their criminalization by making them into security cases or linking them to terrorism. The BCHR has received information that four young men are on trial for carrying a banner, in the capital Manama, with pictures of some of the detainees who are also political activists and human rights defenders. The authorities claim that carrying such banners is an act of inciting hatred against the regime, which raises the number of those on trial in cases related to freedom of expression to 19 people in the last three months.

On September, Hassan Abdullah Al-Qassim (20yrs old) and Ahmed Ali Yousef (20yrs old) were arrested. At the same time the authorities are trying to arrest two other young men, the brothers Ahmed Radhi amd Hasan Radhi, for hanging a banner at the end of August with pictures of some of the detainees, they have been charged with “publicly inciting hatred against the ruling regime”. Their trial started in October but has been adjourned until the 5th of December. It should be noted that the first defendant Hassan Abdulla has previously been convicted in another case related to freedom of expression, in which he was also charged with “inciting hatred against the regime” after he distributed leaflets which revealed violations committed by the authorities and the torture of citizens, he was sentenced to one year imprisonment on the 27th of October. This trial is one of 5 cases in court, which includes at least 19 people, in a series of trials which target the freedom of opinion and expression since the beginning of the security campaign 3 months ago:

1- 11 activists among the defendants are accused of being part of the so-called “organized network”[1] and they are being charged with “inciting hatred against the regime” and “distribution of false information and possession of publications containing rumours”. Amongst these defendants is the activist and blogger, Ali Abdulemam, who is also the founder of Bahrain Online, the popular site which has been publishing news of arrests and ongoing violations in the country especially since the start of the crackdown, and which the authorities have been trying to block by all means possible[2].

2- Mohammed Mshaime’ and Hussain Aldurazi are on trial for “propagating negative images to foreign news agencies and channels”, this came after the BBC (Arabic) broadcast films which show riot police attacking civilians during a peaceful gathering[3].

3- The activist Hassan Abdullah has been sentenced to one year imprisonment for distributing leaflets revealing government violations and torture of citizens under the pretext of “inciting hatred against the regime”[4].

4- Mrs Fakhriya Al-Singaice still faces the same charge of “inciting hatred against the regime” after she was arrested for a day last august for holding up a banner which stated Article 9 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in one of the shopping malls.[5]

According to the penal code the defendants in these cases face upto 2 years imprisonment, however sentencing them under the terrorism act which is condemned by international organizations could raise the sentence to life imprisonment.

The BCHR sees that referring such cases related to freedom of expression to the special tribunals which were formed a few weeks before the security crackdown reveals the existence of legal gaps in the vague and unclear legal articles which allow the criminalization of citizens basic rights like the freedom of opinion and expression. This also reveals a sharp decline in these freedoms in a country where even the possession or hanging of pictures of the detainees is considered a crime, namely the crime of inciting hatred against the regime. These trials are a grave violation of international charters and covenants related to human rights, specifically Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Based on all this, the BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to:

- Immediately release all the prisoners and detainees who are on trial in cases related to the freedom of opinion and expression. - Immediately stop using the terrorism law which is internationally condemned for its lack of guarantees for a fair trial. - Stop all measures that restrict freedom of opinion and expression or prevent the transmission of information. - Stop the special tribunals which were formed to look into cases of a political nature, and return the jurisdiction power to the normal judiciary.

---

[1] According to the list related to the “Organized Network” these 11 defendants are charged with “inciting hatred against the regime by distribution of false information and possession of publications containing rumours”: 1. AbdulJalil Abdulla Yousif AlSingaise, 48yrs 2. Shaikh Mohammed Habeeb AlSaffaf (Almuqdad), 48yrs 3. Hassan Ali Hassan Mshaime’, 62yrs 4. Saeed Abdulnabi Mohammed Alshehabi (residing in London), 56yrs 5. Shaikh Saeed Mirza Ahmed Ali (Alnouri), 37yrs 6. Mohammed Saeed Moosa AlSahlawi, 37yrs 7. Shaikh Abdulhadi Abdulla Mahdi Hassan Juma Almkhouder, 42yrs 8. AbdulGhani Isa Ali Isa AlKhanjar, 38yrs 9. Shaikh Abdulla (Mirza) Isa AlMahrous, 45yrs 10. Jaffer Ahmed Jassim AlHesabi, 38yrs 11. Ali Hassan Abdullah AbdulImam (blogger), 32yrs

[2]Prominent Bahraini Blogger and Online Activist Under Arrest [3]Arresting and Torturing Activists due to Transmitting Photos & Info about the Incidents in Bahrain to News Channels & Agencies [4]A Year’s Imprisonment for a Citizen on the Charge of Distributing Information that Reveals the Violations Practiced by the Security Apparatuses [5]manamavoice.com Article 9 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

RSF: Hillary Clinton urged to press for release of detained netizens during visit

2 December 2010

Reporters Without Borders wrote to U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton ahead of her upcoming visit to Bahrain voicing deep concern about the situation of freedom of expression and human rights in the Gulf state.

The trial of 25 human rights activists and opposition supporters who were arrested in August and September began on 28 October. Two follow-up hearings have since been held, on 11 and 25 November. The defendants include Adeljalil Al-Singace, a blogger and academic who heads the civil liberties and pro-democracy movement Al Haq, and Ali Abdulemam, a blogger regarded as one of Bahrain’s Internet pioneers, who is an active member of the Bahrainonline.org forum. All of the defendants, who pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges brought against them, have complained of being the victims of violence and mistreatment while detained.

The letter urged Clinton to do everything possible to have such practices stopped and to support the cause of the country’s human rights defenders in her conversations with the Bahraini authorities. Reporters Without Borders, which is especially concerned about the right to a fair trial and respect for defence rights, called on Clinton to press for the release of the detained cyber-dissidents, and to raise the cases of Abdeljalil Al-Singace and Ali Abdulemam in particular.

Bahrain was ranked 144th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, a fall of 25 places from its ranking last year. The fall was due above all to serious cases of imprisonment and prosecution, especially those involving bloggers and other netizens, and to the government’s repressive attitudes.

Access to thousands of websites is currently blocked in Bahrain. Culture minister Sheikha Mai Bent Mohammed Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, launched a campaign against online porn in early 2009 that led to the closure of 1,040 websites. A radical content filtering policy is applied to the Internet that affects all content of a political or religious nature regarded as obscene or damaging to the royal family’s dignity. Opposition leader AbdulWahab Hossein recently found that his Facebook page had been blocked as a result of this censorship.

During her historic address last January, Clinton very clearly affirmed U.S. support for freedom of expression and opinion on the Internet, saying the United States had a “duty” to defend “this tool of economic and social development.” Reporters Without Borders hopes she will now defend these principles with the authorities in Bahrain.

en.rsf.org

Continuing its Policy of Blocking Websites: Bahrain Blocks Opposition Leaders Page on Facebook

27 November 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its concern at the continuous policy in the fight against freedom of opinion and expression by blocking websites and other forms of new media including specific pages on social networking websites such as Facebook where the Information Affairs Authority has blocked the page of the prominent political opposition leader AbdulWahab Hussain.

Since the 9th of October 2010, members of Facebook trying to access the page[1] of AbdulWahab Hussain were greeted with the now very common ‘This Website is Blocked’ page. On his page, AbdulWahab Hussain has regular updates of his activities, the most notable of which was the sit-in demonstration in solidarity with those detained in August 2010, whilst also regularly expressing his political views and opinions on current affairs in Bahrain. This move followed the decision made by the Information Affairs Authority last September to block the website ‘www.alostad.net’ in a campaign which affected several websites[2] in a sweeping crackdown against freedom of opinion and expression.

It is worth noting that many Bahraini bloggers now feel obliged to use pseudonyms on local discussion forums, and due to their websites being blocked have transferred their activities to social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter in order to continue the electronic activism under a situation of extreme repression on all the means of opinion expression. Several pages within Facebook have been created for this purpose; Political Prisoners which updates its members on latest news regarding detainees in Bahrain, Freedom For Moh'd Saeed Al-Sahlawi a page dedicated to providing the latest news regarding the Bahrain Center for Human Rights member Dr Mohamed Saeed Al-Sahlawi, Stop Shooting Protesters in Bahrain a page dedicated to protest against the use of shotguns against Bahraini citizens, whilst coherently the page for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has encountered a record number of visitors during this time.

This is not the first time in which the Information Affairs Authority has blocked pages on social networks. Previously, a page of a human rights activist on Twitter who updated her followers via links and articles from human rights organizations (including BCHR) had been blocked[3]. Her Youtube page was also blocked[4].

Amira Al Hussaini, a Bahraini Blogger and editor of Middle Eastern and North African affairs on the Global Voices website expressed her concerns regarding the blocking of websites and the crackdown against Bahraini bloggers by stating, ‘Being outspoken has a price tag, not everybody is willing to do it’, she then went on to add, ‘People have given up, there is a sense of failure, it's a depressed mood amongst bloggers.’. [5]

In a period in which the authorities claim they only censor pornographic websites and those which incite violence and provoke sectarian tension, this is far from the case, rather censorship is primarily aimed to suppress so called ‘dissenting’ voices and opinions or those that fight for human rights against the oppression endured by the people of Bahrain.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned by the way the government of Bahrain is dealing with the online community of activists and bloggers which is one of the most active communities in the region, and rather than encouraging these cadres and the energies, the authorities are working to suppress them and to block their sites or even to arrest them. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that, in light of the accelerated evolution of technology, it has become difficult for governments to block all Websites completely, but by insisting on the policy of blocking, it strengthens its position in the black lists of authoritarian and undemocratic countries. In fact, Reporters Without Borders has already included Bahrain in the category ( under surveillance) in its report "enemies of the Internet".

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the Bahraini government to:

- Lift the ban on all public sites which encourage cultural dialogue, social and human rights, as well as social and religious expression. - Cancel all actions restricting freedom of opinion and expression, or preventing the transmission of information. - Fulfill its international commitments and respect all forms of freedom of expression which are a part of international covenants and treaties. - Amend the Press Law No. 47 of 2002 to ensure it is in line with international standards of human rights.

-- [1]facebook.com [2]New Web crackdown Blocks dozens of websites and electronic forums in Bahrain [3]bahrainrights.hopto.org [4]Minister blocks YouTube channel [5]Lively Bahrain social media face government pressure

Report On Front Line Hearing Observation: Human Rights Defenders In Bahrain

A report of the hearing of:


· Ali Abdulemam (blogger and owner of bahrainonline.org);

· Dr. Abduljalil Al-Sengai (spokesman and Director of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy);

· Abdul-Ghani Khanjar(spokesperson for the Bahraini National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture);

· Suhail Al-Shehabi (Committee of the Relatives of Detainees and the Committee of the Unemployed);

· Ahmed Jawad Al-Fardan (Committee of the Relatives of Detainees in Karzakan);

· Ali Jawad Al-Fardan (Committee of the Relatives of Detainees in Karzakan);

· Salman Naji (Committee of the Unemployed);

· AbdulHadi Al-Saffar (chairman of the Committee Against High Prices);

· Hassan Al-Haddad (member of the Committee of the Unemployed);

· Mr Jaffar Al-Hessabi (dual British-Bahraini national, independent human rights defender supporting the rights of detainees in Bahrain);

· Dr Mohammed Saeed (board member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights),


High Criminal Court, Manama, Bahrain – 11 November 2010


INTRODUCTION

Front Line works worldwide for the protection of human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Front Line publicly reported on numerous occasions on the trial against a number of human rights defenders facing charges of “terrorist” activities in Bahrain, and repeatedly called for their release and for the charges to be dropped as they appeared to be motivated by their legitimate human rights work.

Front Line commissioned Ms Charlotte Peevers, an English qualified Barrister, to conduct a visit to Bahrain in early November 2010 to observe the proceedings. Ms Peevers attended the session of the trial held on 11 November 2010 before the High Criminal Court.

Ms Peevers sought to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Public Prosecutor's Office. Ministry of Justice Officials indicated they were unwilling to discuss the case as both the Minister of Justice and his Deputy were out of the country at the time.Unfortunately, although the PPO did appear willing to discuss the trial there were apparently bureaucratic difficulties that prevented a meeting. It was, however, possible to meet with lawyers of the detainees, human rights activists, and family members of the detainees.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN BAHRAIN: THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

Under Bahraini law, trial proceedings are more akin to a inquisitorial system, and therefore closer to the civil law than common law system. The Public Prosecutor’s Offce (PPO), a branch of the judiciary, is charged with investigating all criminal matters brought before it by the police or national security. Following interrogation by the PPO, trial proceedings may or may not be launched depending on the evidence.

Bahraini Law

Bahrain’s penal code criminalises the use of “torture, force or threats, either personally or through a third party, against an accused person, witness or expert” in order to induce a person to confess to an offence or to offer statements or related information[1] It also provides that civil servants (and any other persons) who engage in torture shall be subjected to a term of imprisonment.

The code of criminal procedure provides that anyone arrested or detained must be treated “in such a manner as to maintain his human dignity and shall not be subjected to any bodily or psychological harm.”[2] Further, the law requires that interrogations of those detained be conducted by the Public Prosecution Office in the presence of the accused person’s lawyer.[3] As a remedy for violations of these provisions, Bahrain’s constitution provides that any “statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”[4]

Bahraini law requires that suspects be presented to the Public Prosecution Office within 48 hours of arrest.[5] When the Public Prosecution Office issues a summons or an arrest warrant, the arresting authority must present the suspect to them “immediately” or, if not feasible, within 24 hours.[6] The Public Prosecution Office must decide whether to charge the suspect with a criminal offence and, if the individual is charged, whether to continue his detention or order his release.[7] A person may be held for up to seven days in pretrial detention, after which a court may authorise additional pretrial detention of up to six months.[8] The Public Prosecution Office, however, has the power to extend pretrial detention for up to a total of 45 days for offences found in the special section of the penal code involving national security crimes.[9] The High Criminal Court must approve any pretrial detention exceeding 45 days in the context of national security crimes.[10]

The Public Prosecution Office is charged with investigating and prosecuting all crimes, which would include torture.[11] The Public Prosecution Office can also demand that law enforcement agencies investigate and punish breaches of duty by their officers.[12] Civil servants, medical professionals, and other civilians are required to report crimes to the Public Prosecution Office or other relevant authorities.[13]

Under Bahraini law victims of torture can also seek redress through a civil action.[14] However, Decree 56/2002 confers immunity from investigation or prosecution on government officials alleged to be responsible for torture or other serious human rights abuses committed prior to 2001. These provisions, on their face, appear to violate the Convention against Torture (on which see below).

Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain

Article 19 – Prohibition against Torture

“d. No person shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, or inducement, or undignified treatment, and the penalty for so doing shall be specified by law. Any statement or confession proved to have been made under torture, inducement, or such treatment, or the threat thereof, shall be null and void.”

Article 20 - Criminal Trials

“c. An accused person is innocent until proved guilty in a legal trial in which he is assured of the necessary guarantees to exercise the right of defence at all stages of the investigation and trial in accordance with the law.

d. It is forbidden to harm an accused person physically or mentally.

e. Every person accused of an offence must have a lawyer to defend him with his consent.

f. The right to litigate is guaranteed under the law.”

Relevant provisions in international law

Bahrain has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT). A number of their provisions are relevant to the hearing, including:

· ICCPR Article 7 (Prohibition of Torture), Article 9 (Right to Liberty and Security of Persons), Article 14 (Right to a Fair Trial), Article 19 (Right to Freedom of Expression), Article 22 (Right to Freedom of Association);

· CAT Article 1 (Definition of Torture), Article 4 (Criminalisation of Torture), Article 11 (Prohibition of Torture for those in Custody), Article 12 (Investigation of Acts of Torture), Article 13 (Right of Complaint to the Competent Authorities), Article 14 (Right of Redress), Article 15 (Prohibition against Evidence obtained under Torture).

Relevant are also the provisions included in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.[15]


THE HEARING

Background

On 28 October 2010 the opening session of the trial began before the High Criminal Court in Manama of 23 members of the Shi’a community who were arrested in August and September and who face charges of setting up, joining and financing a group which aims to overthrow the government and cancel the constitution and which uses “terrorism” as one of the methods to achieve these goals. Two other men, charged in the same case and who reside outside Bahrain, are being tried in their absence.

The trial was observed by the French, British and American Embassies and by Amnesty International. The Amnesty International report noted that the trial was taking place at a time of national elections, held on 23 October, and against a background of recent unrest and clashes between the security forces and protestors, mostly youth from within the Shi’a community, who complain that they are discriminated against by the government. This sparked a rise in tension that threatens the significant improvements in human rights made in the years immediately following King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa’s accession to the throne in 1999. Amnesty noted that in recent months, scores of people have been arrested and prosecuted for participating in violent protests, though most have then been pardoned and released. Others currently remain in prison and are on trial or awaiting trial.[16]


History of Proceedings

On 28 October human rights defender Ali Abdulemam and 10 other defenders were put on trial in Manama, Bahrain charged with being part of an alleged “terrorist network”. All of the defendants denied such charges. All but one of the defendants claimed that they had been tortured during their period in detention.

Prior to the commencement of the trial, lawyer Hassan Radhi spoke on behalf of all the defendants’ lawyers stating that they had not been allowed access to their clients since their arrest, a breach of both Bahraini and international law.

Mr Radhi requested time to consult with the clients before the beginning of the trial. The judge then ordered that the courtroom be cleared of everyone except the lawyers and the detainees, and permitted the lawyers 30 minutes to converse with their clients before the proceedings commenced. During the trial each of the detainees addressed the court and denied all charges filed against them. All but one of the detainees alleged that they had been tortured while in detention. A number of the detainees revealed marks on their bodies to the court to demonstrate that they had been subjected to beatings and torture.

The defence made further submissions. First, they argued that in light of the allegations of torture and coerced confessions, the public prosecutor’s investigation should be conducted again, in accordance with article 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The defence further requested that the proceedings be halted until the detainees could be medical assessed by a specialist medical committee, independent of the public prosecutor’s office.

The defence also requested the release of all the detainees and that if they are not released, that they be removed from National Security Apparatus (NSA) detention to a different facility where they are not be held in solitary confinement and are provided access to their lawyers and families.

The judge ordered that the detainees be removed from the National Security Apparatus and be placed in a different detention facility. He also stated that five of the detainees should be seen by a physician. The judge also granted the detainees access to their lawyers and instructed that they be allowed visits from their families. The judge ordered that all the case documents be made available to the defence which, up until that time, had not bee seen by the defence. The trial was adjourned until 11 November.

Although these appeared to be positive steps taken by the court, it transpired that the detainees were not in fact moved from NSA detention until a week later, and one day before their access to lawyers. In the interim they remained in solitary confinement. A number of the detainees reported being subjected to further torture and beatings following the hearing on 28 October.[17]


Trial Observation – 11 November

The second session of the trial took place on 11 November 2010 at the High Criminal Court, Bahrain and was observed by representatives of the French, American and British Embassies as well as by Front Line. The defence team, consisting of 22 lawyers all acting pro bono and representing the defendants as a whole rather than individuals, made the following submissions:

1. The defence had been prevented by the public prosecutor from meeting their clients until ten days after the court order was promulgated. This, the defence alleged, was a clear violation of the judge’s ruling.

2. A number of detainees had just disclosed to the defence that they had been tortured and beaten since the lawyer’s visit, and in any event, subsequent to the previous session. In the circumstances, the defence sought a short adjournment to take instructions on these allegations. The defence also requested that the individuals be permitted to address the court to give evidence of their treatment.

3. The defence were not in a position to proceed to trial today. Not only did these allegations raise further concerns about the detainees’ treatment, they also confirmed the need to halt proceedings until a thorough investigation could be carried out. Further, the defence had been provided with only one copy of the court file and it had proved impossible to prepare for trial in those circumstances.

4. The defendants had been defamed in the media despite the reporting restrictions imposed by the judge. The defence argued that these media reports had been at the behest or at least acquiescence of the public prosecutor’s office and had not only attacked the defendants but, worryingly, the integrity of the defence lawyers. In one publication Mohammed Al Tajer had been named and photographed under the caption “terrorist”. Fellow defence lawyer Mohammed Ahmed made a direct allegation against the public prosecutor that his office had been behind the media attacks.

5. The defence repeated the defendants’ allegations that during the public prosecutor’s interrogation a number of them had not been given the opportunity to have recorded the extent of their injuries and whether they appeared to be marks consistent with the allegations of torture.

The judge refused the application for a short adjournment on the basis that he had previously ordered that detainees could have access to their lawyers and that any issues ought to have been discussed at these meetings.

The defence then demanded that the court investigate the veracity of the defendants’ torture allegations and listen to them to allow them the opportunity to recount what they have suffered since the last hearing. This was essential because the entire case rests on confession which appear to have been coerced through physical violence or at the very least threats of violence and are therefore not credible.

The defence provided a list of names of those detainees who still bore marks of torture and beatings. The court had not entered on the court record the injuries that defendants had shown them on the last occasion: the judge only indicated that the “defendants are showing me their legs”. The defence submitted that this was insufficient in terms of investigation of the alleged torture and also prejudiced the defendants in seeking to prove that they had been tortured because with the passage of time that evidence would eventually disappear.

The judge refused the application for the defendants to address the court, stating that they had previously had an opportunity to address the court and had done so. The judge then asked why the detainees had not been subjected to medical examination.

The defence indicated that this was opposed because the medical examination office was within the public prosecutor’s office. Detainees had provided evidence to them of one medical examination taking place whereby the doctor sat behind his desk through the entire medical examination and never got up to inspect the detainee’s injuries (this account was given by Dr Saeed, a trained dentist, to his legal team). His report concluded that his injuries were consistent with self-harm, though it appeared that there had been no psychiatric report (or expertise on behalf of the medical examiner).

The Public Prosecutor objected to the defence on the following:

1. The PP denied that there was any need for a further investigation to be conducted by the PP in light of the torture allegations. He stated that it was for the court to act as the final investigator and to determine the truth.

2. In respect of the medical examiner, although dependent on the public prosecutor’s office, he had specialist knowledge about conditioning injuries which were not available to a regular doctor.

3. The defendants have failed to establish the PP’s violation of the law and have not proved injuries to the defendants. For example at page 55 of the PPO records of investigation injuries were mentioned by a detainee in the presence of his lawyer at the PPO investigation. The PPO ordered a forensic medical examination to determine if the injuries were consistent with the allegation of torture and this came back as negative. This demonstrated that the PPO had ensured that such allegations are properly investigated.

The defence responded that the PPO’s position was unequal with the defence. The PPO stated that they had seen marks. When a subsequent medical examiner from the PPO office made his report, he concluded that there were no signs of torture. This was inconsistent and demonstrates the need for impartiality. Far from absolving the PPO, it merely confirmed the absence of neutrality and independence in investigating the allegations.

The defence demand the lifting of the reporting restriction. Wrongful publication was due to the PPO’s office. This demonstrates that there is no independence in relation to the PPO role.

In rebuttal, the PPO appeared to single out Mohammed Ahmed and stated that he was making false allegations against the PPO.

The defence concluded by stating that there were clear breaches of procedural law and inherent contradictions between the constitution and international standards.

The judge ruled as follows:

1. The lawyers to be given daily access if they so desire;

2. 22 copies to be made of the court file and distributed to the defence team;

3. No short adjournment to speak with clients;

The judge made no comment on the issue of reporting restrictions, nor in relation to the defence requests about the torture allegations.

The case was adjourned to 25 November 2010.


CONCLUSIONS

It is clear that a number of extremely serious allegations of mistreatment and torture have been made against the Bahraini authorities, in particular during the course of interrogations by the National Security Apparatus. The detainees further allege that this torture led to the signing of confessions, both at this early stage and in many cases at the PPO stage of investigation. If true, such coerced confessions represent not only a fundamental breach of Bahraini criminal and civil law, procedural law and constitutional rights, but also breach of Bahrain’s obligations under the ICCPR and CAT.

Under Article 15 of the CAT, the Kingdom of Bahrain is prohibited from admitting in proceedings any evidence or statements extracted through torture. A similar obligation exists in Article 13 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and Article 19 of the Bahrain Constitution. The alleged mistreatment clearly reaches the threshold required for torture as it includes allegations of hanging (falaka), beating of the soles of feet, sleep deprivation, and threats of sexual assault.

In the absence of a thorough and impartial investigation of the evidence, the confessions should not be admissible. Further, it is incumbent on the PPO and judge to thoroughly and impartially investigate allegations of torture. Under the Bahrain Constitution both the judiciary and the public prosecutor have a positive obligation to investigate such claims. It appears that in this case, such investigations have either not taken place or have been compromised by an apparent, or appearance of bias in terms of medical investigation. Given these circumstances, and in the absence of sufficient investigation, the defendants confessions ought not to form the basis of the evidence against them at trial. The court may wish either to exclude such evidence and proceed to trial without it, or more appropriately should stay the criminal proceedings pending the outcome of such investigation. Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, it would appear appropriate for the PPO to conduct their preliminary investigation of each defendant for a second time, in order to ensure fairness of the trial proceedings and approach to the building of the prosecution case.

The fact that confessions are relied upon in so many of these defendant’s cases is unusual to say the least. It is extremely disturbing that these confessions constitute the main direct evidence against the defendants and that the allegations of torture are consistent and unwavering. The following is an extract from the July 2010 Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) Report into the Adary Park and Ma’ameer cases[18]. It is clear from the 11 November trial observation report that many of the same serious concerns are again at issue:

“It is disappointing that the issues raised by our Bahrain trial observation report of 2009 are of concern in the present hearings: admissibility of coerced confessions and alleged torture/cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The allegations of mistreatment and torture of detainees are not simply persistent; they are pervasive. In virtually all the cases of convictions in ‘special’ cases investigated by BHRC, those convictions were founded on disputed confessions, all alleged to have been made under duress and torture. It is not credible to blame this on defence lawyers or the political situation. Moreover, despite clear provisions for legal advice and representation in Bahraini law, these confessions invariably occurred prior to any access to lawyers. It may be that there are some detainees who have declined legal assistance, and there may have been difficulties with availability of lawyers on some occasions, but it offends common sense to suppose that all of these detainees were afforded their proper rights under the law. If they were not, this alone must support their contentions of mistreatment. BHRC was repeatedly told that detainees were taken before the Public Prosecutor in the early hours of the morning when access to defence lawyers would be most difficult. In the Ma’ameer case all 7 convicted men confessed to the killing and then tried to retract their admissions. Seven separate disputed confessions in a murder case is an extremely irregular phenomenon yet is a pattern in cases of this type in Bahrain.”[19]

Confessions were the sole or main evidence against the accused in both cases observed on the BHRC July 2010 visit. Unfortunately, again, confessions appear to be the sole or main evidence against the defendants in this “terrorist network” case. It is not sufficient or credible for the Kingdom of Bahrain to claim that defence lawyers are making false accusations relating to torture/ill-treatment. Given the widespread reports of such claims, Bahrain should investigate all cases of alleged torture and prosecute those responsible, in compliance with its obligations under the CAT and the Bahrain Constitution.

In relation to access, it is encouraging that the trial judge has ordered greater visitation rights but it appears that his orders have been delayed and obstructed in early stages of proceedings. This raises concerns about the role of the PPO in carrying out the judge’s orders. It is also disappointing that the judge did not rule publicly on whether the defendants could address the court as to the extent of their injuries, nor on whether independent medical examiners be permitted to assess their injuries.

Finally, it is of great concern that media reporting of the proceedings has gone unpunished by the court. Given the judge’s ruling, the publication of “terrorist” identities and defamatory claims against defence lawyers amounted not only to defamation but more importantly to a contempt of court. It is not clear whether such media reporting is connected to the authorities in any way, but it has created the appearance of bias in the media. It is extremely disturbing that defence lawyers should be targeted by such elements of the press and suggestions made about their own “terrorist” links. This presents a very dangerous situation to lawyers acting pro bono in defence of human rights activists and such media actions ought to be condemned and punished appropriately.

[1] Bahrain Penal Code, arts. 208, 232.

[2] Bahrain Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 61.

[3] Ibid., arts. 133-35.

[4] Bahrain Constitution, art. 19(d).

[5] Bahrain Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 57.

[6] Ibid., art. 141.

[7] Ibid., arts. 57, 141-142.

[8] Ibid., arts. 147-148.

[9] Ibid., art. 147, and Bahrain penal code, arts. 112-177.

[10] Bahrain code of criminal procedure, art. 148.

[11] Ibid., arts. 5, 8 and 81.

[12] Ibid., art. 44.

[13] Bahrain code of criminal procedure, arts. 47-48.

[14] Ibid. art. 22, and Bahrain civil law, art. 158.

[15] Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Though not binding on Member States, due to its status as a General Assembly Declaration, it is nevertheless an important confirmation of principle and it authoritatively specifies how rights included in binding treaties are applicable to human rights defenders.

[16] Amnesty: Bahrain: Fair trial and freedom of expression must be guaranteed AI Index: MDE 11/009/2010

[17] See below observation of proceedings on 11 November 2010.

[18] The Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) is the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales. It is an independent body primarily concerned with the protection of the rights of advocates and judges around the world. It is also concerned with defending the rule of law and internationally recognised legal standards relating to the right to a fair trial.

[19] Bar Human Rights Committee Report of Trial Observation, Bahrain, July 2010

--
Khalid Ibrahim

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

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The Proceedings of the third session in the trial of the so-called “Terrorist Network” – 25th Nov 2010

Out of court: Most of the detainees relatives were not allowed to enter court and some of them were even banned from coming near the court or it area. Only one member of each family was allowed in, meanwhile women who were able to reach the building remained outside the court under sever custody from private forces, one of the ladies was temporarily arrested by police forces because of her insistence to enter the court. Private forces closed the area with metal barriers and surrounded it with uniformed police and disabled human right activists and reporters from entering. Among these were: • British reporters from the BBC. • Mr. Mohammed AlMaskati (chairman of the Bahrain Youth for Human Rights Society and representative of the Arabic European Human Right organization- Norway ) • Women human right activist Ms. Ghada Jamsheer • Mr. Abdul Nabi Al Ekri – head of Bahrain Transparency Society • Mr. Nabeel Rajab Head of Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the appointed representative of the human rights watch to observe the trail. Police forces have closed Starbucks café in which theses activists were in and forced them out to deprive them from being close to the court and spreading news about the trail through facebook, twitter and Blackberry Messenger. Although Bahraini Government had announced that the trail is to be public, the ban on the local press is still in effect. The BBC team faced difficulties while trying to interview families of the detainees who were out of court because of the forces interactions. The security forces have also tried to get the recorded videos from the BBC reporters. Bahrain Center for Human rights will write a report about this issue later. Inside the Court: The detainee Hasan al Haddad (30 years old) was seen entering the court with crouches which he didn’t use before or during the previous trail on the 11th of November. Al Haddad has spent some time in the military Hospital because of his torture injuries. Several embassy representatives have attended the trail some of them from; the American, British, United European and French embassies. Not to mention the representative of the Universal federal organization for human rights. All phones and cameras were not allowed in court.

The trail started around 10am and took around 45 minutes , it can be summarized with these points: The Public Prosecutor Wael Bu Alay started with appointing: • That the court had allowed lawyers to visit the detainees but some of them didn’t. • That the court has done the procedures to investigate the torture claimed, and the detainees have been observed by the appointed doctor and they have created a file of this according to the law. • Each lawyer had received a copy of the case file and has become acknowledged with their detainee files. • He started with a request to start the case, but the team of lawyers requested to comment on what he had said. • He objected to the repeated requests of the lawyers in the previous three trails and demanded to start the trail.

The main points that the defending team raised were: • That they cannot present a proper defense if the court does not issue an order to investigate the torture allegations. • They requested stopping the trail until the torture issue has been observed according to chapter (185) and (186) from the law. Chapter (185) says: " Criminal Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate in all matters on which the ruling in the proceedings before it depends on, unless the law provides otherwise ". And chapter (186) says: " If the verdict in the criminal case depends on the ruling in a second criminal proceeding, the first one shall be suspended until the the second is adjudicated in. ". • They repeated their requeste that the detainees should be observed by an independent medical committee , as they have reasons to believe the forensic physician was not neutral. . • At the time that the detainees had been transferred to Dry Dock prison on the 5th of November, the doctor's report shows that the obvious torture marks on the body of Ebrahim Taher were caused by his try to run away from prison on the 7th of September. • Protest over the delay in implementing the court order to change the detainee's prison which was issued on the 28th of October, but was not activated before the 5th of November. • The reason why the lawyers have been repeating their requests is that the court is not taking any action about them so it is very normal that they would hold on to the same requests. • The lawyers have also repeatedly requested to remove the ban of publishing anything about the case especially that it is a public trail. • Although detainees have been transferred to another block in Dry Dock, the same torturers were transferred with them, contradicting with the fact that the main reason of transferring them is to take them to safer place. • They appointed some examples of ill treatment of the detainees: - Restriction when wanting to use the bathroom. - Forcedly shaving their heads and beards, although it contradicts with some of their beliefs. - Forcing them to stand and sit using a timed bell. - Making the visits uncomfortable for them and their families by placing forces with them in the visiting room, which makes freely talking impossible and they can only say hi and bye. - Taking all holy Quraan from their cells and keeping only one copy for all of them.

One of the detainees talked about: - Being tortured and using electrical shocks with them before court, and marks of that are still on their bodies. - After the second trail, the transfer took a lot of time and it is still the same for the forces have not changed and they are still treated inhumanly. - An example of that is: " the continues entry of officer Yousif al Manaay to beat the detainees on our faces and chests and curses us and calls us names. Another officer Bader al Ghaith does the same to all of us" . A summary of the lawyers team requests: 1- Investigating torture claims and stopping the trail until the investigation is over. 2- Assigning a new independent medical committee to check the detainees. 3- Removing the ban on publishing the case news and updates especially that it is a public trail. 4- Investigating the bad conditions of the detainees even after they have been transferred to another prison. 5- Releasing the detainees under any guarantee the court demands. The judge's dictions: The trail has been suspended to the 9th of December to listen to the witnesses, the detainees will remain imprisoned and non of the lawyers requests were obeyed.

Interviews with the detainees families: The Bahraini human right center has interviewed the families of the detainees who were able to attend the court. Among them was Mr. Hussain Abdul emam the brother of Ali AbduleImam the blogger, who said: "I asked my brother if he was being tortured, he hesitated and I couldn’t take any answer out of him. He may have been tortured again" .

Check the video interview with Mr Husain Abdulemam

Watch more video interviews

View the photos of the trial day

The indictment in the case of the detained activists in the so-called "Terrorist Network"

Previous court sessions The Observatory observation statement of the 3rd session Front Line observation report of the 2nd session BCHR report on the 2nd session Amnesty International observation statement of the 1st session BCHR report on the 1st session

Bahrain – Third session in the trial of eleven human rights defenders, including blogger Mr Ali Abdulemam, on 25 November 2010

On 25 November 2010, the trial of human rights defender and blogger Mr Ali Abdulemam, and ten other human rights defenders, will resume in Manama.

They have been charged with being part of an alleged “terrorist network”. All of the defendants deny the charges, and most claim that they have been subjected to torture during their detention. The second session of this trial was held on 11 November 2010, and was attended by a British barrister, on behalf of Front Line. The observer concluded that a number of extremely serious allegations of mistreatment and torture have been made against the Bahraini authorities, and that coerced confessions would represent a fundamental breach of Bahraini criminal and civil law, procedural law and constitutional rights.

The eleven human rights defenders are:

1.Mr Ali Abdulemam, arrested on 4 September 2010, owner of bahrainonline.org;

2.Dr Abduljalil Al-Sengais,arrested on 13 August 2010, spokesman and Director of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy;

3.Mr Abdul-Ghani Khanjar,arrested on 15 August 2010, spokesperson for the Bahraini National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture;

4.Mr Suhail Al-Shehabi,arrested on 19 August 2010. He is active in a number of associations including the Committee of the Relatives of Detainees and the Committee of the Unemployed;

5.Mr Ahmed Jawad Al-Fardan,arrested on 19 August 2010, member of the Committee of the Relatives of Detainees in Karzakan;

6.Mr Ali Jawad Al-Fardan,arrested on 20 August 2010, member of the Committee of the relatives of Detainees in Karzakan;

7.Mr Salman Naji,arrested on 21 August 2010, a member of the Committee of the Unemployed;

8.Mr AbdulHadi Al-Saffar,arrested on 22 August 2010, chairman of the Committee Against High Prices, actively involved in other associations including the Committee of the Relatives of Detainees;

9.Mr Hassan Al-Haddad,arrested on 23 August 2010, member of the Committee of the Unemployed;

10.Mr Jaffar Al-Hessabi, arrested on 16 August 2010, independent human rights defender supporting the rights of detainees in Bahrain;

11.Dr Mohammed Saeed,arrested on 17 August, board member of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

The Front Line observer attended the second trial session on 11 November 2010. She concludes in her report that a number of extremely serious allegations of mistreatment and torture during the course of interrogations have been made against the Bahraini authorities, in particular the National Security Apparatus.

The detainees further allege that this torture led to the signing of confessions. If true, such coerced confessions represent not only a fundamental breach of Bahraini criminal and civil law, procedural law and constitutional rights, but also breach of Bahrain’s obligations under the /International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (/ICCPR) and the Convention against Tortture (CAT). Under Article 15 of the CAT, the Kingdom of Bahrain is prohibited from admitting in proceedings any evidence or statements extracted through torture. A similar obligation exists in Article 13 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and Article 19 of the Bahrain Constitution.

The alleged mistreatment clearly reaches the threshold required for torture as it includes allegations of hanging (falaka), beating of the soles of feet, sleep deprivation, and threats of sexual assault.

Front Line trial observer finds it extremely disturbing that these confessions constitute the main direct evidence against the defendants while the allegations of torture are consistent and unwavering.

Also, she points out that media reporting of the proceedings has gone unpunished by the court. Given the judge’s ruling, the publication of “terrorist” identities and defamatory claims against defence lawyers amount not only to defamation but more importantly to a contempt of court.

It is not clear whether such media reporting is connected to the authorities in any way, but it has created the appearance of bias in the media. Front Line observer underlines that suggestions made by such elements of the press about “terrorist” links of defence lawyers presents a very dangerous situation to lawyers acting /pro bono/in the defence of human rights defenders, and that such media actions ought to be condemned and punished appropriately.

Front Line is deeply concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ali Abdulemam and the other ten human rights defenders, considering the serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment during detention. Front Line also fears that the aforementioned human rights defenders may not be allowed access to a fair trial.

frontlinedefenders.org

Amnesty International: Bahrain activists make new torture allegations

16 November 2010

Amnesty International has called on the Bahraini authorities to investigate fresh allegations of torture made by some of the 23 detained opposition activists accused of terrorism and plotting to overthrow the government.

According to their lawyers the activists said they had been beaten in prison, deprived of sleep and forced to remain standing for long periods following the first session of their trial on 28 October.

The abuses are said to have been committed to punish the defendants for telling the trial court at its first session that they had been tortured in pre-trial detention following their arrests in August and September.

"The Bahraini authorities must conduct a prompt and independent investigation into both these allegations of torture," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"They must also now take steps to protect the 23 defendants from possible further retaliation, following their new allegations."

All 23 men are charged with "forming an illegal organization" aiming to "overthrow the government and dissolve the constitution", inciting people to "overthrow and change the political system of the country", fundraising and planning terrorist acts, and other offences under Bahrain’s 2006 anti-terrorism law. They all deny the charges.

The activists include Dr Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, a leading member of the unauthorized opposition political group al-Haq, and others associated with al-Haq, including religious clerics and civil servants.

Two other opposition activists - Hassain Meshaima', al-Haq's secretary general, and Sa'eed Al-Shehabi, secretary general of the Bahrain Freedom Islamic Movement, who live in London - have been jointly charged with the 23 and are being tried in their absence.

The trial began at the High Criminal Court in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on 28 October. At the first session all of the defendants entered not guilty pleas, and most told the court that they had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in pre-trial incommunicado detention.

Some of the accused also said that security officials had threatened them the day before, warning them that they could expose themselves to further torture or abuses if they complained to the court about their torture and other ill-treatment after arrest.

The judge refused to release any of the defendants on bail but agreed to move them all from Dry-Dock Prison in Manama, to protect them against possible abuses by security officials.

However, they all continue to be held at Dry Dock Prison, though in a different section of the prison and no longer in solitary confinement.

The 23 have had very little access to their lawyers. They were only allowed to see them when they were brought before the Public Prosecutor about two weeks after their arrest and again during the first trial session.

At the second session of the court on 11 November, defence lawyers said that some of the defendants alleged that they were subjected to further torture or other ill-treatment after the court's first session.

Lawyers requested fresh questioning of the defendants and the referral of some defendants for independent medical examination, but both requests were rejected.

Only two of the detainees have been referred to doctors outside the prison for an independent medical examination following their allegations of torture.

Two others were referred to the same forensic doctors within the Public Prosecutor's Office who had examined some of the detainees before the trial.

According to lawyers, the medical reports were inconclusive.

A delegation of Amnesty International was present during the first session of the trial. The session was also attended by diplomatic representatives from the embassies of the UK, the USA and France, as well as the media and members of the defendants' families.

Amnesty International observers had the chance to meet lawyers and family members of the detainees in the days before the session.

The third session of the trial will take place on 25 November.

"The authorities must refer all 23 detainees for independent medical examination. They must also grant the detainees regular access to their lawyers and to their families," said Malcolm Smart. Read More

Bahrain: Further information: Political activists on trial allege torture (Urgent action, 15 November 2010) Bahrain: Fair trial and freedom of expression must be guaranteed (Public statement, 9 November 2010) Bahrain activists must receive a fair trial (News, 5 September 2010) Bahrain: allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be independently investigated (Public statement, 2 September 2010) Bahrain intensifies crackdown on activists and clerics (News, 17 August 2010)

amnesty.org

Children in Bahrain: Victims of physical & sexual abuse, abduction, arbitrary detention and unfair trial

76 children between the prisoners in the latest security crackdown, making them 21% of the total detainees, whose numbers swelled to 355
Special Forces attack random people, especially children who are at risk of excessive use of force, rubber bullets and tear gas. Many obtained serious injuries as a result.

November 20, 2010 - on the occasion of Universal Children's Day
“A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child” Article I of the International Convention for the Rights of the Child
Names of children and minors detained, the charges against them, and their ages (a full list of names at the bottom of the page) Click to View Larger

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is following with grave concern the serious deterioration of security that comes within the framework of the ongoing crackdown launched by the authority against political activists and human rights defenders as well as all the Shiite villages and areas. The Center is also concerned about its impact and reflection on the human rights situation in the country, particularly in relevance to children. Children were part of the victims of this campaign which included the widespread waves of arbitrary arrests, continuous kidnappings, enforced disappearances, torture which is physical, psychological and sexual. It is believed that the National Security Apparatus is responsible for most of these cases, as well as the continuous physical assaults on the children of Bahraini villages by the Special Forces that are made up of foreign mercenaries. There are 76 children among the detainees from the latest security crackdown, which puts them at 21% of the total detainees, whose numbers swelled to 355. This raises concerns about the fate and future of these children who as a result of these conditions are deprived of their education, and an uncertain future which awaits them just like the hundreds of children, who were deprived from schooling and university education during the period of events prompted the dissolving of parliament in the nineties of the last century. While Bahraini law prohibits those who are less than twenty-one years of the right to participate in the election on grounds of how young they are, which limits their ability to make sound and correct decisions. At the same time, the authorities hold children, who have reached the age of fifteen, full criminal responsibility and like adults they take full responsibility.

Children are the victims of arbitrary attacks on villages and the policy of collective punishment:

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received many complaints from families of victims of the attacks and the policy of collective punishment of the villages of Bahrain during the latest security campaign. The Special Forces attack random people, especially children, many of were seriously injured due to excessive use of force, rubber bullets and tear gas,. The latest report of these cases was the abuse by those forces in the November 3, 2010 on the child, Ali Abbas Radhi (14 years) from the AlDaih village[1]. The father of the child informed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights that he had sent his son to buy some necessities, only to be surprised when he returned after minutes; his pale face stained with blood, his clothes dusty, and a wound in his head. He also had fractures in his leg and injuries in different parts of his body. The child victim, Ali Abbas, told the center that "the riot police asked me to stop so I obeyed their orders, but a group of them pointed their weapons towards me which made me panic and try to flee in fear of getting killed. The riot police chased me until they caught me, and they assaulted by beating me and kicking me with their boots or with the butts of their guns to my head and all over my body as well as cursing and insulting the members of my family dirty words." There were no confrontations or security disturbances at time of the attack which required the presence of these forces in that area. It is believed that this attack is one of the many random attacks carried out by these forces to spread panic and fear among the villages of Bahrain and especially among children and youth in order to intimidate them from participating in any acts of protest.

Marks of beating on Abbas AlFuraikh’s head and body

In another incident that took place on Friday evening, October 29, 2010, three Bahraini children [2], two of them 9-year-olds and a 6 year old girl, were wounded with several shrapnel injuries due to the firing of the weapon hunting (shotgun) as well as rubber bullets fired at them by members of the riot police while they were playing in the garden near their house. This took place at the time when there were some protests in the village, and the children had to be taken to the Salmaniya Medical Center for treatment.

 

The shotgun injuries on one of the children

On the 3rd of January, 2010, there was an attack on the child Fatima Mirza (13 years) [3] when the Special Forces surrounded AlDair village, south of Bahrain International Airport and entered the village with the excessive use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Fatima Mirza was subjected to severe wounds to the face, chest and feet as a result of shattered glass in the house due to rubber bullets and sound bombs shot by the security forces directly at the window of the room she was in.

 

 

Pictures of Fatima before and after the incident

 

 

Children vulnerable to abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual abuse

“For the purposes of this Convention, "enforced disappearance" is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.” - Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Since the beginning of the crackdown last August which was led by the National Security Apparatus, many children have been subjected to abduction, enforced disappearance, torture and sexual harassment. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights received a number of complaints on cases of abductions and enforced disappearance of children which were carried through by groups of armed militia wearing civilian clothes who roam Shiite villages which witness unrests. These militias kidnap children from the streets, most of who are then subjected to enforced disappearance for periods ranging from several hours to several days in secret centers. They are taken to these centers after they are blindfolded, and during which they are tortured, severely beaten, and stripped naked, sexually harassed and photographed naked. They are then thrown wearing only their underwear in areas far from where they live. Among the victims of these abductions [4] of children are Ahmed Ibrahim (15 years), Ali Jaffer Aradi (15 years), Jasim Ahmed Habib (16 years), and Ali Ibrahim (17 years) who were all abducted on the 15th of last August from the village of Arad. They were tortured and then dumped naked in the dawn of the next day at one of the country's coasts. A video[5] was delivered to the center which shows the children walking half naked towards their families’ car who came to pick them up after the children contacted them informing them of what had happened to them and where they were. The child Mustafa Ahmed (16 years) was abducted on the 26th of August from Al Nuwaidrat when he was leaving the mosque on his way to his grandfather's house. He was tortured using a blunt instrument before he managed to escape from his kidnappers [6].

 

 

Pictures of victims of kidnappings

Most of these families have filed complaints to the relevant police centers [7] demanding an investigation in the attacks against their children and that those responsible be held accountable. There have not been any actual actions implemented to detect the perpetrators and hold them accountable, despite the fact that there have been several complaints of similar previous incidents. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has reason to believe that this targeting of children through kidnapping and torture in this brutal way aims to scare parents and the resident of the villages. This also aims to force activists in those areas to stop their continuous activism through demonstrations and protests in Shiite villages which have been ongoing for several years due to the systematic marginalization and isolation carried out by the Bahraini authorities on all levels of political, social, cultural, educational and housing. Article I of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance states that: “1. No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance. 2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance”.

 

Children are victims of arbitrary arrests and unfair trials and torture in places of detention:

States must ensure that "No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time". - Paragraph b of Article 37, Convention on the Rights of the Child Since the security crackdown began last August and following the increase in human rights violations resulting from this campaign, several children were arbitrarily arrested, and some underwent unfair trials. Until now, the number of detained children has reached 76, whom are under the age of eighteen years. They account for up to 21% of the total number of detainees in the recent security events. This rate far exceeds those of the prisons in countries suffering from disturbances such as occupied Palestine (children make up 3.7% of total prisoners) [8] and Iraq (children make up 3% of the total detainees) [9]. This reflects the severity of the latest security crackdown and arbitrary arrests against the most vulnerable group of people in society. Many of these children are still in detention charged with issues mostly related to protests, demonstrations and burning tires which the authorities claim these children were involved in implementing. Amongst the youngest of the children detained are Mohamed Ali Hassan and Ayman Jaffar (both 12 years old) who are accused of manufacturing and possession of explosive flammables, a charge that is not compatible these children’s abilities and age.

The children Mohammed Ali Hassan and Ayman Jaffar during the court session

The youngest child arrested is Jihad Aqeel AlSari (10 years), who was arrested on the eve of the Universal Children's Day, November 19, 2010. This came after the family had received a call that Jihad was to go to the Police Ceter, which he refused to do fearing for his life. His family believes that the reason for his arrest is to put pressure on his father, the Shiite cleric Mr. Aqeel AlSari who is a detainee accused of participating in what is known as the “terrorism network”, especially after speaking before the Court on October 28th about how he was tortured in detention.

 

The child Jihad Aqeel AlSari (10 years old), youngest detainee

Parents are usually not officially informed of the reason for the arrest of their child, as the arrest is often denied for several days after disappearance. Parents of detained children have also suffered from the prevention of visiting their children and their inability to check on their safety [10]. Parents attempted to provide assurances and guarantees for the release of their children in order for them to complete their studies and exams, and guaranteed to bring them to court on the assigned hearing dates. In addition, there were requests from the lawyers [11] to release these children under any guarantees required because they are young, especially as some of them have already spent more than two months in detention until now. None of these attempts or requests have had any results. Tens of children between the age of 15 and 18 are being held in criminal detention centers [12] with adult prisoners accused of criminal offenses like drug trafficking. This contrasts with the international standards as recommended by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in the report issued in 2001 after his visit to Bahrain concerning the need to separate juveniles from adults in detention. This recommendation has not been implemented so far. As a result to the length of the period of detention in detention centers, some of these children are suffering from serious psychological trauma and have stopped eating [13]. Despite that some of these detained children have been subjected to serious wounds and injuries due to being targeted by the riot police by use of the bird shotgun; they are usually transferred to detention centers before the completion of treatment in the hospital, one of these children is Ali Abbas Ali (17 years) from the AlDair village [14]. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited Bahrain in a fact-finding mission in 2001 and recommended the transfer of detention centers for children to the Ministry of Social Development, and a decision was issued by the Council of Ministers on December 4th, 2005 for the transfer to the Ministry of Social Development, but that this UN recommendation and the Council of Ministers decision have yet to be implemented even after several years of their issuance. All juvenile detention centers are run by the Ministry of Interior rather than the Ministry of Social Development.

 

Torture of children in Bahrain prisons

It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that "No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" - paragraph (A) of Article 37, Convention on the Rights of the Child The lawyer Balqis AlManami informed the Bahrain Center for Human Rights that the two children, Jaafar Ali Ashour (12 years) and Faisal Hassan Isa (14 years) both told the judge that they were tortured to coerce confessions to charges they did not commit. They stated that the women police in the juvenile prison cursed them and insulted their beliefs. They also beat them and poured cold water on their bodies, which sparked panic in them. Among these children were Mohamed Ahmed Salman Aljubailat (16 years), Mohamed Ali Hassan (12), and Mahmood Abbas AlAradi (17 years), who suffers from a mental disorder but is still being held despite the presence of a medical certificate certifying his disorder.

Medical certificate clarifying Mahmood AlAradi’s mental condition, yet he stays in detention. - Click on picture to view bigger.

The lawyer Mohamed AlTajer [15] confirmed that he and that some members of the families of these children have seen the marks of beatings and torture suffered by their children during the sessions of their trials. He indicated that this has caused more concern amongst the parents of children on the status of their children.

 

Marks of torture on the body of Ali Jassim Isa Sarhan (17 years old), sentenced to life imprisonment

 

 

Juveniles tried in criminal court instead of juvenile court, with life imprisonment sentences

"Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age" - Article 37, paragraph (A), Convention on the Rights of the Child While the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates in article 40 that "States Parties recognize the right of every child, if considered to have infringed the penal law, to have this decision and any measures imposed in consequence thereof reviewed by a higher competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body according to law," and despite the presence of a competent court to hear cases of juveniles in Bahrain, juveniles older than 15 are being brought before a criminal court rather than the juvenile court [16 ] which is only for those under fifteen years of age. This is incompatible with that article of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was joined and signed by Bahrain, and this is also inconsistent with the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who recommended in its report in 2001 to expand the scope of the juvenile court to include minors who are over 15 years but have not yet attained the age of 18 years. This recommendation comes in accordance to international law, which considers anyone under 18 as juvenile. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits imposing a the sentence of life imprisonment on children, the High Criminal Court ruled July 5th, 2010, Isa Ali Isa Sarhan (17 years) to life imprisonment after being convicted with a group of 9 defendants on charges of causing the death of a policeman. There were many doubts in regards to the fairness of this trial, especially considering that the court relied primarily on coerced confessions obtained under torture, in which Isa was one of the victims. The UN Commission on Rights of the Child expressed their regret in 2002 the report of the Government of Bahrain did not refer to any information about the serious claims stated in the reports of other human rights organizations about the use of torture and arbitrary arrest on children under the age of 18. The Commission later recommended that there be an effective investigation in all cases of torture and cruel or inhuman and degrading treatment by police officers and to bring the perpetrators of such violations to justice, in addition to providing full care for the victims of those violations, and to give them adequate compensation and rehabilitation.

 

Based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights recommends the following:

1. The release of all detainees under the age of 18 immediately. Should there be evidence against them of committing any crimes, then they should be prosecuted in accordance to international standards, which provides for a fair trial by international standards, including taking into account that they are children and minors. 2. The prompt investigation, impartially and effectively, in all cases of abductions, enforced disappearances and torture; especially against children and minors, and to bring the perpetrators, those in charge and the implementers of such crimes to justice. 3. To provide full care for the victims of those violations, especially the children and minors, and to give them adequate compensation and necessary rehabilitation. 4. In the case of the necessary detention of persons under the age of eighteen, within the necessary requirements that do not conflict with international standards, this must be done in places of juvenile detention, and should fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and not the Ministry of the Interior or any other security body. 5. To immediately stop the repeated attacks on the villages of Bahrain, especially those involving children and minors. 6. To put the International Convention for the Rights of the Child into practice and implement all the recommendations of the Commission on the Rights of the Child in 2002, which requires amendments to legislation, laws and institutions. 7. To deal with political and social problems through dialogue and through studying the roots of these problems. To deal with these problems within the laws and procedures which comply with the international standards of human rights. 8. Take all necessary measures to ensure that children and minors at risk of detention or trial are not deprived of their right to education and to complete their education so as to ensure a decent future for them away from the deprivation and loss.

Supplement list of names of detained children:

List (English) can be downloaded as an Excel document by clicking here 1 Jihad Aqeel AlSari ( 10 years ) Date of Arrest 19/08/2010 2 Ayman Jaffar ( 12 years ) Date of Arrest 13/08/2010 3 Mohammed Ali ( 12 years ) Date of Arrest 31/08/2010 4 Munther Ahmed Mahdi ( 11 years ) Date of Arrest 02/11/2010 5 Ahmed AbdelMahdi Hassan ( 13 years ) Date of Arrest 25/05/2010 6 Mohammed Ameen AbdulHakeem ( 13 years ) Date of Arrest 25/05/2010 7 Mohammed Ahmed AlJubailat ( 13 years ) Date of Arrest 27/08/2010 8 Sayed Mohammed Sayed Jaffar ( 13 years ) Date of Arrest 15/10/2010 9 Ali Juma’a Ebrahim Salman ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 14/05/2010 10 Abdulla Altaranha ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 17/05/2010 11 Kumail AlHalwachi ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 19/05/2010 12 Sadiq Ahmed AlSaeed ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 18/06/2010 13 Sayed Nuri ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 27/08/2010 14 Ali Badah ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 30/08/2010 15 Sayed Hussain Sayed Mustafa ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 10/10/2010 16 Ammar Hassan Ali AlSitri ( 14 years ) Date of Arrest 20/10/2010 17 Sayed Ali Hadi AlAbbar ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 15/04/2010 18 Sayed Hussain Sayed Haidar ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 20/05/2010 19 Ali Mohammed Jaffar ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 18/06/2010 20 Taleb Ahmed Mahdi ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 04/09/2010 21 Sayed Yasser Sayed Khalil ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 19/09/2010 22 Mahmood Radhi Marhoon ( 15 years ) Date of Arrest 17/10/2010 23 Ebrahim Ahmed Ebrahim ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 17/03/2010 24 Mun’em Ahmed AlSadadi ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 17/05/2010 25 Ali Abbas Zuhair ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 17/05/2010 26 Hassan Ali Alshaikh ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 03/06/2010 27 Mohammed Ali Abdullah ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 18/06/2010 28 Sayed Mohammed Sayed Juma’a ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 18/07/2010 29 Mohammed Ali Yousif ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 18/07/2010 30 Hussain Ali Nusaif ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 19/07/2010 31 Mahmood Abdullah Jaffar ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 21/07/2010 32 Hassan Aqeel AlMajed ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 25/08/2010 33 Jassim Abdullah Yousif ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 27/08/2010 34 Mohammed Ali Mahdi Ramadhan ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 29/08/2010 35 Alaa AbdulElah Kamal Marhoon ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 02/09/2010 36 Adel Faisal ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 07/09/2010 37 Mohammed Ashour Altaqi ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 16/09/2010 38 Ali Saad Mohammed ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 01/10/2010 39 Sadiq Khalil AlHaiki ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 04/10/2010 40 Hussain Ebrahim Almuqdad ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 04/10/2010 41 Abdullah Ali Salman ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 08/10/2010 42 Mujtaba ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 08/10/2010 43 Karar Nabeel AlHaiki ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 10/10/2010 44 Sayed Qasim Sayed Mustafa ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 10/10/2010 45 Hussain Alqattan ( 16 years ) Date of Arrest 13/10/2010 46 Isa Ali Isa Sarhan ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 16/03/2009 47 Sayed Sadiq Sayed Ali ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 23/11/2009 48 Maytham Ahmed Abdullah ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 08/05/2010 49 Ali Abbas Ali ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 26/05/2010 50 Abdulla AbdulMahdi Hassan ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 22/07/2010 51 Sayed Mohammed Sayed Ebrahim ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 22/08/2010 52 Abdullah Abdulkareem Milad ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 23/08/2010 53 Sadiq Abdulla AlAlwani ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 29/08/2010 54 Mohammed Alsakran ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 29/08/2010 55 Ammar Abdulghani ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 04/09/2010 56 Mohammed Radhi ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 04/09/2010 57 Mohammed Hameed ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 05/09/2010 58 Mohammed Adel AlHamar ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 07/09/2010 59 Mustafa Alghunami ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 07/09/2010 60 Ali Jassim Ahmed ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 08/09/2010 61 Isa Mohammed Isa ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 09/09/2010 62 Mahmood Abdulmohsen ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 11/09/2010 63 Ali Jaffar Ashour ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 16/09/2010 64 Mahmood Abbas AlAradi ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 16/09/2010 65 Mohammed Jaffar Yahya ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 17/09/2010 66 Ahmed Ali AlOnaisi ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 18/09/2010 67 Mahmood Fadhel AlOraibi ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 21/09/2010 68 Mohammed Fadhel Juma’a ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 21/09/2010 69 Hassan AbdulGhani ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 26/09/2010 70 Hakeem AlOraibi ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 30/09/2010 71 Mohammed Khalil Alhamad ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 04/10/2010 72 Ali Hassan AlSaeed ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 10/10/2010 73 Ali Jawad ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 15/10/2010 74 Hussain Khalil Marhoon ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 18/10/2010 75 Mahmood Mohammed Hassan ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 18/10/2010 76 Ahmed Abdulaziz ( 17 years ) Date of Arrest 15/11/2010 -- [1]Child subjected to fractures and head wound at the hands of the security forces [2]3 children under 10 years of age injured from shotgun shrapnel and rubber bullets in AlSamaheej [3]Little girl sustains injury in AlDair due to violent attack by security forces on her home alwasatnews.com [4]Urgent Plea: Dr. AbdulJalil Al Singace alleges torture to Public Prosecution [5]Video of kidnapping victims [6]See source Nr. 4 [7]See source Nr. 2 [8]Documented study regarding hostages and detainees in jails of the occupation [9]Urgent Appeal for releasing the prisoners detained in Iraq prisons [10]Mothers of detainees plead with officials to disclose place of their sons’ detention [11]Several requests came from lawyers, including lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer [12]manamavoice.com [13]alwasatnews.com/2947 [14]alwasatnews.com/2825 [15]See source Nr. 12 [16]alwasatnews.com/2834

International Religious Freedom Report 2010 - Bahrain

November 17, 2010

The constitution states that Islam is the official religion and that Islamic law is a principal source for legislation. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion, freedom of conscience, the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings, in accordance with the customs observed in the country. However, the government placed some limitations on the exercise of these rights.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period. The government continued to exert a level of control and monitoring over both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. International and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) asserted that Shi'a citizens, as a whole, faced discrimination as evidenced by lower socio-economic indicators than the Sunni minority.

Regional Sunni-Shi'a tensions and historical political divisions continued to affect intra-Muslim relations.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 231 square miles and a population of 1.05 million, of whom 51 percent are Bahraini nationals. The Bahraini population is 99 percent Muslim; Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Baha'is constitute the remaining 1 percent. Muslims belong to the Shi'a and Sunni branches of Islam, with Shi'a constituting between 60 and 70 percent of the citizen Muslim population.

Foreigners, mostly from South Asia and from other Arab countries, constitute an estimated 49 percent of the population. Approximately half of resident foreigners are non-Muslim, including Christians (primarily Roman Catholic, Protestant, Syrian Orthodox, and Mar Thoma from South India), Hindus, Baha'is, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

Much of the tension between Shi'a and Sunni Bahrainis stems from social and economic factors. Shi'a Muslims compose the majority of the low socio-economic status citizen population, and have a higher unemployment rate than Sunni Muslims, although many exceptions can be found, especially in several Shi'a merchant and scholarly families, and in older Sunni areas.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, there were limits on this right.

The constitution imposes no restrictions on the right to choose, change, or practice one's religion of choice, including the study, discussion, and promulgation of those beliefs. The government generally observed these provisions. The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or creed, including by private actors; however, there was no further law to prevent discrimination, nor was there a procedure to file a grievance.

The constitution states that Islam is the state religion, and Islamic law is a principal source for legislation. The civil and criminal legal systems consist of a complex mix of courts based on diverse legal sources, including both the Ja'afari (Shi'a) and Maliki (Sunni) schools of Islamic jurisprudence, tribal law, and other civil codes and regulations.

Shari'a (Islamic law) governs personal status, and a person's rights can vary according to Shi'a or Sunni interpretation, as determined by the individual's faith or by the courts. In May 2009 the government adopted the country's first personal status law which regulates family matters such as inheritance, child custody, marriage, and divorce. The law was only applicable to the Sunni population as Shi'a clerics and lawmakers opposed legislation that would have applied to the Ja'afari courts. The passage of this law institutionalized protections for women such as requiring consent for marriage and permitting a woman to include conditions in the marriage contract.

No civil laws specifically targeting blasphemy, apostasy, or proselytizing.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Islamic New Year, and Ashura.

The law prohibits anti-Islamic media, but it imposes no other restrictions on religious expression or speech. The law allows production and distribution for religious media and publications. The law does not prohibit, restrict, or punish the importation, possession, or distribution of religious literature, clothing, or symbols. The law does not impose a religious dress code.

Construction of places of worship required approvals from a number of national-level entities, as well as municipal entities. The government's budget for constructing mosques was split evenly between Shi'a and Sunni projects. In newer developments such as Hamad Town and Isa Town, which often have mixed Shi'a and Sunni populations, there tended to be a disproportionate number of Sunni mosques.

Islamic studies were a part of the curriculum in government schools and mandatory for all public school students. The Maliki school of Sunni jurisprudence formed the basis for the 17-year-old curriculum, which does not include the Ja'afari traditions of Shi'a Islam.

The government does not designate religion or sect on national identity documents. While the birth certificate application recorded the child's religion, it did not record the sect. The actual birth certificate does not include the child's religion.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice; however, the government placed limits on this right. The government continued to exert a level of control and to monitor both Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. Members of other religious groups that practiced their faith privately did so without government interference and were permitted to maintain places of worship and display symbols of their religion.

Every Muslim religious group must obtain a license from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs (MOJIA) to operate. Non-Muslim religious groups must register with the Ministry of Social Development (MOSD) to operate. Religious groups may also need approvals from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, the Information Authority, or the Ministry of Interior, depending on the nature of the group's intended activities. No religious groups submitted registration applications with the MOSD during the reporting period. Altogether, 13 non-Muslim religious groups were registered with the MOSD, including Christian churches and a Hindu temple. In May 2010 several Christian churches reported that the MOSD instructed them to reregister, although the MOSD did not provide a reason for its directive.

The government did not punish links with co-religionists in other countries, although some government officials expressed concern about Iran's influence on the Shi'a population.

Holding a religious meeting without a permit was illegal; however, during the reporting period there were no reports of the government denying religious groups a permit to gather.

There were credible reports that naturalization and citizenship processes often favored Sunni applicants over Shi'a applicants.

The government funded, monitored, and exercised control over official Muslim religious institutions, including Shi'a and Sunni mosques; religious community centers; Shi'a and Sunni religious endowments; and the religious courts, which represent both the Shi'a and Sunni affiliated schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs reviewed and approved clerical appointments within both the Sunni and Shi'a communities. The government rarely interfered with what it considered legitimate religious observances. The government permitted public religious events, most notably the large, annual commemorative march by Shi'a Muslims during the Islamic months of Ramadan and Muharram.

The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs maintained program oversight on all citizens studying religion abroad. The government monitored travel to Iran and scrutinized carefully those who chose to pursue religious study there.

Citizens of Sanad, a predominantly Shi'a town in the eastern part of the country, protested after police forces removed black flags and other religious symbols related to an important Shi'a commemoration ' from the town's streets. The protests were led by senior Shi'a clerics, politicians, and activists.

According to several non-Muslim religious groups, MOSD's restrictions on contact with "foreign" entities caused significant operational difficulties for some churches and other groups. These groups relied on guidance and funding from umbrella organizations based overseas for their operations. The groups reported that the MOSD often did not respond to their requests for permission to interact with their umbrella organizations.

Although there were exceptions, the Sunni Muslim citizen minority enjoyed favored status. Sunni citizens often received preference for employment in sensitive government positions, in the managerial ranks of the civil service, and in the military. Shi'a politicians and activists asserted that the government and certain business elites discriminated against Shi'a citizens in employment and promotions. Senior civil service recruitment and promotion processes often favored Sunni candidates. Educational, social, and municipal services in most Shi'a neighborhoods were inferior to those in Sunni communities.

Only a few Shi'a citizens held significant posts in the defense and internal security forces, although more were found in the enlisted ranks. The police force reported it did not record or consider religious belief when hiring employees, although Shi'a continued to assert that they were unable to obtain government positions, especially in the security services, because of their religious affiliation. Shi'a were employed in some branches of the police, such as the traffic police and the fledgling community police.

Shi'a were underrepresented in the Ministry of Education in both the leadership and the ranks of head teachers who teach Islamic studies and supervise and mentor other teachers. Although there were many Shi'a Islamic studies teachers, school authorities discouraged them from introducing content about Shi'a traditions and practices and instructed them to follow the curriculum.

Curriculum specialists in the Islamic Studies Department at the Ministry of Education's Curriculum Directorate were all Sunni. The curriculum directorate formed a separate committee of Shi'a teachers and clerics, along with members of the curriculum directorate, to develop the Islamic studies curriculum for the Ja'afari Institute, which is the only publicly funded institution in which teachers can legally discuss Shi'a beliefs and traditions. There were five registered Ja'afari Hawzas (Shi'a religious schools) and five registered Sunni religious schools.

According to a senior MOJIA official, there were 750 Shi'a mosques and 460 Sunni mosques, and the government's budget for constructing mosques is split evenly between Shi'a and Sunni projects. In newer developments such as Hamad Town and Isa Town, which often have mixed Shi'a and Sunni populations, there tended to be a disproportionate number of Sunni mosques. There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The MOJIA organized a series of conferences and seminars on interfaith dialogue, inviting clerics and scholars from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Regional Sunni-Shi'a tensions and historical political divisions continued to affect intra-Muslim relations.

Weekly rioting continued in several predominantly Shi'a villages. Shi'a youth routinely burned tires on roads and occasionally attacked police with Molotov cocktails. The rioting stemmed partly from some Shi'a communities' perception of unequal treatment by the government and partly a result of encouragement by some Shi'a radicals.

Some anti-Jewish political commentary and editorial cartoons appeared, usually linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without government response.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

U.S. government officials continued to meet regularly with representatives of human rights NGOs to discuss matters of religious freedom among other human rights-related topics.

The U.S. government sponsored the visit of a prominent Sunni cleric, Sheikh Salah Al-Jowder, to the United States for a three-week interfaith dialogue program in several cities. Another sponsored visit consisted of a 10-day exchange program including two imams and a staff member from the MOJIA. This visit focused on promotion of religious freedom and protection of civil and religious rights in the United States; interfaith dialogue; and NGOs' role in interfaith dialogue, religious organization work, and social issues, among other topics. The embassy hosted a visiting American imam for a three-day program, during which he led prayers for over 500 worshipers, gave a presentation on interfaith issues to Sunni and Shi'a religious leaders, and spoke to youth on religious tolerance. The embassy's public affairs officer gave a presentation to 50 Bahrain University Model United Nations students about religious understanding and Muslim life in the United States.

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