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URGENT - Bahrain: Bahraini Human Rights Activists in the Hands of Authorities

Cairo in 13/9/2010

The Arab Program for Human Rights Activists follows with deep concern and disturbance the Bahraini authorities' torture of a number of activists, politicians, lawyers and some religious figures on the back drop of expressing their views, demanding for political reform and defending human rights. The human rights activists namely Abdul Galil Sincece, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Mekdad, Shaikh Saeed Noori, Abdul Ghani Al Haggar as well as Dr. Mohamed Saeed, a member of Bahrain Center, were subjected to very cruel and degrading physical and mental torture in violation with the provision of Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the right of integrated body. In addition to their placement in solitary confinement and their exposure to all forms of physical torture starting by beating, kicking, hanging by hands and feet to the deprivation of sleep, food and drink leaving clear signs of torture on their bodies which were neglected by the prosecution during the investigation. The security authorities tried to evade the crime of torture claiming that the activists had tried to flee and the security aborted the attempt!

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

Moreover, the authorities imposed the state of emergency in the country, which led to the arrest of over two hundred people whom places are still unknown and are deprived from contacting any of their relatives or lawyers, which is a violation of the provisions of Article 14 of the same Covenant on the right of the detainee who shall immediately inform his relatives and defenders.

The Program believes that the acts of the Bahraini authorities are flagrant violation of all international conventions and international legal norms that aim at muzzling and intimidating activists and preventing any advocacy of democratic reform or defense of human rights in Bahrain.

Besides, the Program emphasizes that the events in Bahrain, followed closely by coordinators and correspondents of APHRA, are a major rebound of the official political discourse in the Kingdom which is completely different from reality. Furthermore, we stresses the full solidarity with our fellow activists in Bahrain and we regard what happened as a great crime that should not remain covered or bypassed, and we as activists shall work with all peaceful means to solidify with the activists and to release them unconditionally.

The Program calls upon the Kingdom of Bahrain to:

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

Address the King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa - Kingdom of Bahrain: Fax: 0097358764176

Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa (Prime Minister) Fax: 0097328391753

Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (Minister of Foreign Affairs) Tel: 0097355527172 – Fax: 0097360312172

www.aphra.org

The Observatory: Attacks Against Civil Society Continue With The Suspension of the Bahrain Human Rights Society's Board

Paris-Geneva, September 10, 2010. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), denounces the suspension of the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society in the context of numerous attacks launched against human rights defenders in the run-up to the general elections. On September 6, 2010, the Bahraini authorities published a ministerial order announcing that it would dissolve the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, a FIDH member organisation, and appoint an employee of the Ministry of Social Affairs to administer the society until the holding of a general assembly, pursuant to Article 23 of the Law of Association No. 21 of 1989 [1]. The grounds provided were the organisation’s lack of neutrality towards all sections of Bahraini society, complaints sent to the Ministry of Social Development by the Bahrain Journalist Association and the publication of articles issued by illegal entities on its website. Today, BHRS was notified officially of the measure. BHRS intends to appeal the order before a court.

This order follows a statement published on September 2, 2010 in local newspapers, by the Ministry of Social Development in which it threatened to initiate legal and administrative action against human rights societies which, according to the Ministry, would defend a specific category of citizens and neglect the others. On August 28, BHRS organised a press conference together with 11 other NGOs and in the presence of family members of detainees including human rights defenders arrested in the context of the broad wave of arrests launched mid-August to allegedly dismantle a terrorist network. During the press conference, BHRS denounced the conditions of detention and the lack of access to the detainees by their lawyers and families and called for the respect of the right to due process and a fair trial. More generally, this measure takes place in a context of escalating threats and intimidation against civil society criticising the current administration, while general elections are scheduled for October 23. Indeed, the Observatory recalls that 11 Bahraini human rights defenders remain in detention since August 13. Finally, the Observatory recalls that six years ago, in September 2004, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs dissolved the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, which remains in operation though deprived of its legal status.

The Observatory condemns this serious attack against the independence of a human rights NGO and this further attempt to frighten human rights organisations in Bahrain for the mere exercise of legitimate human rights work. The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to repeal the order, refrain from interfering with the internal management of human rights NGOs as well as with activities of promotion and protection of human rights, amend Article 23 of the Law of Association which violates freedom of association and, more generally, comply with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Bahrain and to release all human rights defenders.

For further information, please contact:

· FIDH: Fabien Maitre, + 33 1 43 55 14 12

· OMCT: Seynabou Benga, + 41 22 809 49 39

--- Footnotes

[1] According to this provision, the Ministry of Social Development may suspend the board of directors of an association and appoint a temporary administrator if the association has committed minor violations that do not require the dissolution of the association.

www.fidh.org

Front Line: Bahrain: Effective take-over of Bahrain Human Rights Society by Ministry of Social Development

Posted on 2010/09/10

The Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) has learned that it has been made subject to an effective take-over by the Ministry of Social Development.

On 8 September 2010, the BHRS received a Ministerial Order demanding the dissolution of its Board of Directors and appointing a temporary administrator, who is an employee of the Ministry, with the mandate to manage BHRS' affairs, draw up financial and managerial reports, open membership to all categories of Bahraini society and call a General Assembly during which a new Board of Directors will be elected. The BHRS is an organisation licensed since August 2001 to promote human and civil rights in Bahrain. It was appointed by the government to monitor elections in 2006.

On 2 September 2010, the Ministry of Social Development published a statement in local newspapers listing an inventory of activities carried by human rights organisations, alleging breaches of legal and administrative provisions, which had been carried out by its Directorate of NGOs. The statement alleged that “the BHRS has failed to speak impartially on behalf of all components of the Bahraini society, prompting a lot complaints rapping the line adopted by its board members", and that investigations of BHRS' activities showed that it was contravening the activities it was licensed to carry out. It was reported that some of these complaints had been received from a group of journalists who had been “humiliated and insulted” by members of BHRS.

BHRS is accused of irregularities under the Societies Act No. 21 of 1989, in particular in relation to provisions requiring it to call a General Assembly and elect a Governing Council, and to notify its members and the concerned administrative authorities. In addition, the organisation allegedly coordinated with a number of illegal entities and reported these contacts on its website.

Front Line believes that the Ministerial Order to take over the Bahrain Human Rights Society is a direct result of its human rights activities, and in particular its current defence of the rights of recently imprisoned activists and human rights defenders who have been denied proper access to their attorneys and families. Front Line considers the take-over of BHRS as forming part of an ongoing crackdown against civil society in Bahrain, and is extremely concerned regarding recent harassment, intimidation and imprisonment of human rights defenders.

Front Line

Press Conference: Bahrain’s slide to the abyss and the need to defend its people

Political and human rights activists discussed the recent attacks by the Government of Bahrain on public liberties, the arrest of human rights activists, the resumption of torture at an unprecedented scale and the implementation of genocidal policies.

Video: PressTV Photos: bahrainrights.org/flickr

Bahrain press conference 11.00 Tuesday September 7, 10.30 at Abbey Gardens

Quick Links: - LORD AVEBURY Introductory remarks - SAEED SHEHABI: Bahrain Freedom Movement - MARYAM AL KHAWAJA, Bahrain Center for Human Rights - PETER WEATHERBY, Bar Human Rights Committee - HANEEFA SARWAR, Islamic Human Rights Commission

LORD AVEBURY, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group:

We’re holding this press conference to highlight the sharp deterioration in human rights that has occurred in recent weeks on Bahrain, and particularly the torture being inflicted on detainees when they are held incommunicado for 15 days before they are allowed to see a lawyer. Some have then managed to speak about their treatment and it appears that most of the estimated 200 detainees are being subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Dr Abduljalil al-Singace, head of human rights for the opposition Haq movement, was arrested on August 15 as he got off the plane from London where he had been speaking at a meeting chaired by my colleague Baroness Falkner. When he finally got to say what had been happening to him 12 days later, he told the attorney-general that he had been held in solitary confinement; he had been handcuffed and blindfolded for the whole time; extensively beaten on his fingers and slapped everywhere; refused access to the shower and the toilet, and deprived of sleep. His nipples and ears were pulled and twisted with tongs. Dr al-Singace is disabled, having suffered from polio. Officials took his crutches and wheelchair away at the moment of his arrest, and he was forced to crawl whenever he left his cell for any reason. He was forced to stand for long periods of time, and was compelled to sign documents without being given a chance to read them.

A day later, August 28, according to Human Rights Watch, three other well-known human rights activists, Abd-al Ghani al-Khanjar, Sheikh Said al-Nuri and Sheikh Muhammad Habib al-Moqdad related similar experiences, adding that they had been hung from their handcuffed wrists while being beaten, and witnesses confirmed that there were marks on their hands and feet that were consistent with their evidence. Abd-al Ghani al-Khanjar is spokesperson for the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture, and another regular and welcome contributor to the human rights seminars on Bahrain we hold in the House of Lords, including the one chaired by Baroness Falkner on August 5. It begins to look as though anybody who criticises the al-Khalifa regime or their human rights record at our seminars is treated automatically as attempting to overthrow the government, a charge now made against Mr al-Singace.

At the same time, huge advertisements have been appearing all over the capital saying that the detainees are guilty, obviously funded by the regime, in breach of Article 14 of the ICCPR, which provides that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”

The state-controlled media, including the radio and TV, are also campaigning to persuade the public that the detainees are guilty. The Minister of Justice, a member of the ruling family needless to say, is pressing leading political, religious and social figures including the heads of political societies, to come out with statements supporting the arrests. And of course, there is no way the opposition can express itself but on the streets. There are nightly demonstrations but as the Financial Times reported last Wednesday, anybody who takes part runs a high risk of a beating or disappearance.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on international human rights organisations to demand that systematic torture be ended and the National Security Apparatus be dissolved. Detainees should be allowed family visits, and private meeting with their lawyers. Human rights activists, who are only doing their job, should be released unconditionally. The Anti-Terrorist Law, which allows the arbitrary arrest and detention and unfair trials of peaceful political activists must be repealed. I would add to the BCHR list, that the UN Rapporteur on Torture should be invited to nominate an independent physician who would be allowed access to the detainees, to report on their allegations of torture, and if they are found to have substance, that there should be a further inquiry by an independent lawyer, to ascertain who was responsible.

None of the reforms that are necessary will happen unless Bahrain’s allies join the international human rights NGOs in expressing their concerns. The UK in particular has a role to play, because one of the torture victims, Jaffar al-Hasabi, is a British national. Like the four main activists, he was hung from his wrists, beaten all over, and deprived of sleep. We haven’t forgotten that under the previous Ruler, the torture machine was under the command of a Brit, Ian Henderson, who was never punished for his crimes against humanity. If he had ever been brought to trial, he might have been able to show that he was acting under orders from higher up, and the best way to demonstrate that what is happening in the torture chambers today is not authorised from the top would be to charge the torturers and release the victims. That is what the Foreign Secretary should be demanding in the case of our own citizen.

SAEED SHEHABI: Bahrain Freedom Movement:

I am speaking on my behalf and on behalf of Mr Hassan Mushama, the chairman of the Haq Movement. He is the second, number two defendant or accused, I am the third, Dr Al Singace who was here a month ago is the first accused. What for? What are we accused of? Of trying to overthrow the government, of planning secretly to overthrow the government.

I was implicated in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2007, 2009 and this time. So a person who has been working for the past 30 years, an opponent of the regime must not be called, or must not be accused of being secretly working to overthrow the government. I have called for an end to this era for the past 30 years, openly strongly, without hesitation without fear.

When you see a regime that is a military dictatorship, that destroys all the fabrics of society, that denies the people the right to all sorts of freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of ideology. This regime not suitable to remain. I have called for the removal of the regime.

I have to justify what I am saying. I am talking about the constitution. I am not talking about the royal family. I am calling for the constitution which is oppressive. The royal family’s role we can accommodate in accordance with a written and contractual constitution.

At the moment the regime as it stands is not worth keeping because it does not respect the basic values of international conventions and international ideologies or faiths. This time, prior to the latest attack on civil liberties, we know the regime has been planning it for some time, we know they have been recruiting agents inside and outside, some in this room.

For years we know that they are planning to undermine our cause. Lord Avebury has been a good friend of Bahrain for the past almost 20 years and we have been doing our activities openly, actively, directly without any clandestine operations and we will continue to challenge the government that there is clandestine work, or a terrorist network or any means of terror. When they arrest almost 200 people, they charge only 23 and they can’t produce one gun, where is the terrorism? If they can’t produce one explosive material where is the terrorism.

That is why the ruler said yesterday that there is something that could be viewed as a kind of terrorism, as if he is retracting from the accusation of terrorism - ‘what could be described as terrorism – because he know there is no terrorism. We have not killed a single member of the royal family for the past 200 years. So terrorism against whom? If we are not conducting terrorism against the royal family against whom?

We haven’t had any car bomb or shooting incident. The last one was in 1968 against three British by some leftist movement during the first days of Ian Henderson. Terrorism did not exist in Bahrain and it does not exist. It is only in the minds of the royal family because they believe that opposing the regime is terrorism. Terrorism is when you speak your mind and oppose the regime. According to an understanding between the people of Bahrain and royal family in 1971 following the withdrawal of the British from the Gulf we agreed that we would establish an independent Arab state based on understanding and a contractual constitution which we had in 1973. The royal family did not tolerate late and it lasted for only two years before they abandoned it. And 25 years we suffered immensely under the state security court and state security law. And in 2000 this man came and promised he would create a Plato’s republic in Bahrain and now we can only see a hell on earth, nothing to do with paradise.

Now the good thing this time is that they removed the Iranian element. For the past 30 years we have always been accused that Iran is pushing us. It is an Iranian plot to undermine and to overthrow the government. This time it was noted explicitly by the National Security Agency about then days ago. They said this latest secret organization does not have a link either with Iran or what they called the sleeping cells ready to attack the British and American interests in case Iran was attacked by Israel. So at least they said this time it is not linked to Iran so thanks God, it is bounty to them this time.

So where does that leave us if we are not linked to Iran and if we are not linked to Israel or to America or to Britain? They agreed that we are locally born, home grown opposition that has been there for the past 30 years – in fact since 1922 calling for the same thing. Since they didn’t produce the smoking gun it means that terrorism doesn’t exist and anyone who repeats it is only fooling himself.

We are, and Mr Mushaima has said it himself, that he is adopting a civil resistance movement. He said it openly in Bahrain and openly and outside. He has distributed books and delivered lectures on the tactics of civil resistance and disobedience. But civil resistance is not terrorism but because it undermines the status quo and the viability of the regime we will continue to be called and named terrorists. It is fashionable to call people terrorists. But I know for a fact that charges that have been made against those innocent people cannot stand in a court of law. It simply doesn’t stand.

Further more I hope that in the next few weeks, hopefully in the near future, we will turn the tables on the regime and start accusing them and with the help of good people we will bring them to justice in the international courts because they are torturers, they are criminals, they are adopting genocide against the natives of Bahrain. And we have a lot of evidence to support us. We have testimonies that can stand in a court of law against them as being war mongers and carrying out war against humanity because torture is bad, torture is illegal and the extent of torture this time has surpassed any level before when you have a crippled man like Dr Singace with his crutches removed for two weeks and made to crawl from his cell to the toilet that is a crime against humanity.

When you have a man like Jaffar Al Hasabi a UK national being hung from his hands and his feet in two separate ways that is a crime. When you leave Mr Al Hasabi blindfolded in his cell for two weeks with his hands handcuffed behind his back and deprived of sleep because they bring other detainees and torture them next door and make him hear the cries of these people all night, these are crimes.

Burning a tire in the street is not terrorism. There have been riots in every country, in France. Some years ago after a policeman was released after being accused of killing an Irish demonstrator he was released before he ended his term, there were major riots and 200 cars were burned in one night. We do not have that sort of thing in Bahrain. The most we have is a tire burned in the street. If that is terrorism I think we have to redefine international concepts and values.

Jaffar Al Hasabi is a British national, he deserves to be protected by the state. The British ambassador in Bahrain is urged to take action to bring him out. He is innocent. He has not carried out anything. Any activity he has carried out was here. He only goes to Bahrain for two or three weeks with his family and he comes back. And he has no activity whatsoever in Bahrain. He would be here with us today filming this event and just distributing leaflets like any ordinary young activist. If that makes him a criminal then we have to review the whole human values. Jaffar Al Hasabi is an innocent prisoner of conscience that deserves the help and support of everyone of you. If there is a degree of humanity inside us we have to do something. We have to call on the ambassador to intervene and to bring him out. I believe that if the British ambassador in Manama wants him released he can bring him out today. I know that. And if he doesn’t bring him out today we have to question how much defense we get for our people here when we get into trouble.

Just to show the extent of the inhumanity of our regime they have said that Hassan Mushaima has run away. He was sent by the Ministry of Health for cancer treatment two months ago. He came officially as a patient at the Royal Marsden. After three doses of chemotherapy - he had to six doses - he received a phone call from the Ministry of Health that they would not be paying his expenses and he has to return to Bahrain immediately. This morning he went to the hospital which showed him a letter which said that from tomorrow the payment to Mr Hassan Mushaima will cease. So for the past two weeks he has been here without being paid for treatment. He consulted the doctor about returning and the doctor said that he cannot fly. If he flies he will get a stroke. That is also documented. It is up to you to decide what sort of a regime you are talking about.

Hassan Mushaima:

When I came here the king himself sent me thousands of pounds just to stop my activities. I refused that money. So now I became a terrorist. When I came I was a citizen. Then I commented about what is happening in Bahrain on tv.

Saeed Shehabi:

So three weeks ago he deserved to be paid money and a month later he became a terrorist.

Lord Avebury:

In any country in the world which professes to be a democracy it is possible for the people to change their government. Bahrain is unique in the sense that although they have elections the government remains the same. You get the same Al Khalifa's in charge of the families. Something like two-thirds of them come from the royal family and are not elected in any way. The voters in the October elections which are coming up no will be able to alter that system. These people are appointed by the ruler. You can't call that a democracy. If you say furthermore that the people are not entitled to work for changing that system and if they do work for the change of that system they are terrorists then I despair of any progress in Bahrain. On one occasion when I went to see the king at his invitation I said to him democracy is not a static process where you reach a particular state of affairs and you say thank you very much it is all done. It is progressive and in any country in the world where you have a genuine democracy there are changes taking place all the time. Changes in the constitutional mechanisms, changes in the processes of elections as people refine and improve the system. Only in Bahrain do you have certain changes implemented following the access to power by this ruler and then no further progress has been made since then whatsoever. If you are trying to make progress and changes, like Dr Shehabi and Mr Mushaima then you are a terrorist. That is the system that you have in Bahrain.

MARYAM AL KHAWAJA, Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

I actually just flew into London last night. I am here representing the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. I want to talk about my personal experience having just come from Bahrain.

People in Bahrain, particularly human rights activists live in constant fear. Around 3.30am you will find that most activists are awake as they are waiting to see if its their turn to get arrested. When you are in the car you make sure you lock the car doors because if they come for you you will at least have time to make a final phone call. So there is a constant situation of fear that people are living under.

I have been working on the cases of the detainees and of course I also want to talk about the kidnappings. The kidnappings differ from the arrests. What happens is that someone will get picked up in the street by the security forces. They will disappear for two or three days and then they will be thrown on the curb somewhere after being abused and beaten.

I myself interviewed one of the victims of these kidnappings. He was even a Saudi national, he was not even a Bahraini. He was walking towards his car from a coffee shop and he was taken, blindfolded for the whole two days that he was kept. He was beaten severely, they kept threatening him with sexual abuse and made him listen to cries of other people being tortured and supposedly sexually abused as well. And he was thrown half naked in the street.

Part of the procedure, what they do is that they will take a person's clothes off completely, take pictures of him completely naked and threaten to publish these pictures all over the country.

As for the defendants that are being kept. According to Bahraini law people have to be charged with a crime or released. And you are also innocent until proven guilty. But according to the state security law or the counter terrorism law which was released in 2006 they can also keep someone incommunicado for 15 days before presenting them before the public prosecution. This gives way to torture and ill-treatment. After they are presented at the public prosecution which has been the case with the detainees now, they are allowed to extend that detention by another sixty days, which puts them right back in the hands of the torturers. This is exactly what his happening with the detainees today.

After the detainees went to the public prosecution and made all the complaints of torture and mistreatment they were actually placed right back to where they come from for another 60 days. And we fear for their lives, we fear for their well-being, they are not allowed to see any physicians or doctors.

According to different human rights organisations the government has to throw out any forced information for indictment in court. But in the public prosecution office when a detainee makes a statement he tries to tell the attorney general of the torture they will not allow that to be recorded in the papers describing what transpired during the meeting This is the opposite of what is supposed to happen. They are not even writing down the complaints of torture.

The charges that have been filed against these detainees, especially the one concerning over throwing the government, can lead to execution if they are convicted. There is also fear for the lives of these detainees and what might happen to them if they are convicted of these charges.

On August 26th there was an order issued by the public prosecutor which comes after the defamation campaign in the local media. You have the local media are writing articles about all these defendants who haven't even been to court. They are talking about how they are already criminals, or how they are already terrorists and how they are funding all the terrorist activities in Bahrain.

And the moment these so called terrorists are taken to the public prosecution office and make complaints about torture a gagging order is issued saying that no one is allowed to publish anything about the topic. The people who are working for human rights have access about information about what is happening to these detainees. But as soon as they have access to this information the gagging order is issued.

Of course we consider these detainees to be prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. We have reason to believe that a lot of them are being subjected to sexual assault. Of course these are not documented because the detainees have asked that this is not documented for personal reason. But we have reason to believe that most of them are being subjected to sexual assaults.

And there are almost daily statements issued by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights on our website. You are more than welcome to visit our website to get more information. We know that what we are is based on facts. There is no evidence to convict the defendants. We invite you all to visit Bahrain and see what is happening first had. Thank you very much.

LORD AVEBURY:

I would like to congratulate the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights on their website because it is a model of clarity. It does give all the information. They get details of all the human rights abuses and they put them up very promptly. If you want to know what is going on in Bahrain it is all there.

PETER WEATHERBY, Bar Human Rights Committee:

Thank you very much for the invitation for me to say a few words at this press conference. My name is Pete Weatherby. I am a barrister in independent practise. I specialise in human rights at Garden Court North Chambers in Manchester. I am a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee for England and Wales which is an independent arm of the Bar of England and Wales and in that guise I travelled to Manama in early July to observe a number of so-called special trials, trials of protesters that were taking place at that time to consider the application and adherence to human rights standards that the Bahrain government has signed up to. In particular I went to observe two trials.

Whilst I was there I was asked by a local human rights groups to meet with the relatives of ten of the men that were then on trial and to hear allegations of mistreatment of those detainees. I of course agreed to that and I asked that I see them serially, one at a time. I listened to and spoke with the mothers, the fathers, the wives, the relatives of several of the detainees for several hours.

And what I was told about the mistreatment of these detainees was truly shocking. Their accounts were consistent and their accounts were of severe beatings, hanging by the wrists by handcuffs, electric shocks, in some cases sexual abuse or certainly the threat of sexual abuse and other forms of mistreatment of the most serious nature.

I was also provided with photographs of some of the detainees which showed injuries which were consistent with some of the allegations being made. I had no method of verifying those claims and so I asked if I could see detainees who had been released to discuss with them the treatment they received previously and that I did. I found that their descriptions of treatment whilst they were in detention were similar to those which I had heard from the relatives of the detainees.

And I also spoke to the lawyers who represented detainees and again they could confirm from their knowledge of the detainees that these were allegations of systematic mistreatment which were bearing on each of these cases and that they had seen injuries which were consistent with the allegations that were made.

I then set about trying to speak to the public prosecutors and the Ministry of the Interior and I did so. I was able to speak to one of the senior prosecutors who told me a very different story and that no such mistreatment was taking place in Bahrain. I spoke to several officials from the Ministry of the Interior including Major General Tariq Bin Dena who is now the chief of public security and again there was a complete denial of mistreatment of detainees. And they went so far as to say that the allegations were made up for political gain.

The verification of the individual allegations that I heard was not straight forward but what is straight forward is that the detainees were regularly being held without access to lawyers, without access to doctors and the allegations that were being made were not simply persistent, they were pervasive. They were being made in just about all of the cases that I had gone to observe and of the cases that I had seen.

I discussed these allegations with officials from the Ministry of the Interior. I made a series of recommendations. I suggested they institute a truly independent inquiry into the allegations and a human rights complaints body which could investigate ongoing complaints and I discussed other measures which would make torture and mistreatment more difficult in the future.

I also met in Manama with representatives of the US and British embassies to inform them of the matters I had observed and heard about and I maintained that contact because of the current situation since I returned from Manama.

On August 5th as many of you know I was pleased to accept an invitation to speak at a seminar here. As we all know three people from that seminar have now been detained and there are serious allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture.

In particular Dr Al Singace has been held without access to a lawyer. Once again the same allegations being made – without access to his family and without access to an independent lawyer. I understand through his lawyers that there are serious allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture in his case. He has been charged with offences which amount to trying to overthrow the state. He is also charged with having contact with and working with international organisations. That you may think is a charge which falls entirely without any possible definition of a terrorist act and is an offence which is unknown in most countries.

It also emerged that the pro government newspapers in Manama, in particular Al Watan, that the arrest of Dr Al Singace was linked to his appearance at the August 5th seminar. That is a matter of public record which any of you can verify from an internet search.

One of the disturbing reports from Dr Al Singace case and no doubt that of the others, is that he has been forced to sign statements under mistreatment in detention. This was a consistent feature that I observed in the trials in July. In the main trial seven out of seven of the convicted defendants had made what were hotly disputed confessions allegedly under torture and that was the main evidence in those cases. A lack of access to lawyers, a lack of access to family members and independent doctors of the sort of obvious pointers to the allowing of that kind of activity to continue.

The Bahraini government may be facing widespread civil unrest but there are no excuses for flagrant abuses of human rights standards to which it has signed up. I note that prior to the coming into force of the 2006 anti terrorism legislation under which these detainees were apparently held and charged it was roundly criticised by the UN Human Rights Rapporteur on several grounds, chief of which was the broad definition which the legislation gave to terrorism involving under the definition of the legislation acts which did not endanger lives and did not intend to injure anybody. It gave an overtly broad definition of terrorism. It was criticised by the Special Rapporteur on the basis that the new law would restrict the right of association and assembly and it would criminalise peaceful protests and it would affect due process of law by giving the public prosecutor excessive powers to detain, effectively incommunicado without recourse to a court and without recourse to review by a judge or anybody else.

What is needed from the Bahraini government is a firm commitment to respect the human rights standards to which it has signed up. It has signed up to the main conventions against torture and for the protection and furtherance of human rights and it needs to respect that position.

It must institute a truly independent inquiry into the pervasive allegations of human rights abuses including torture. It must make a commitment to respect fundamental aspects of Bahraini law, never mind international human rights law to access to independent doctors and lawyers from an early stage of detention.

It must respect the right of citizens to peacefully oppose the government, to respect the right of political opponents, human rights defenders and lawyers and it must respect the right of the press to report what is or maybe going on in the kingdom free from arrest, detention and prosecution.

LORD AVEBURY:

Thank you very much. I think there is a movement in Geneva I think to institute a regular procedure of review a year after the universal periodic review. That would be particularly good in the case of Bahrain because many of the things were raised in the periodic review. There isn’t at the moment a fixed procedure for following those up. I believe that we should be calling for such a mechanism and that it would have a particular role in the case of Bahrain where all these things that we have been describing this morning have been happening very recently.

And you could get another three years to elapse before the next universal periodic review in which no one in Geneva would pay attention to these events accept of course of Bahrain was willing to invite the special rapporteur on torture to come back for another visit which I can’t see them doing at the moment. Thank you very much for your report Peter and lets see how we can take the recommendations that you have made and follow them up with our foreign office.

HANEEFA SARWAR, Islamic Human Rights Commission:

We from the Islamic Human Rights Commission are deeply concerned by the recent crackdown in Bahrain where according to reports in excess of 200 people have been arrested and detained under the 2006 anti terror law. As well as prominent activists, common people who are not politically active are also picked up, blindfolded, taken to unknown locations and brutally tortured and then thrown back on to the streets.

I’d like to bring your attention to two individuals in particular, the first being Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Haq Movement, who was arrested on 13 August, as he and his family returned to Bahrain after addressing a meeting at the House of Lords. Dr Al-Singace was permitted to meet his lawyers for the first time last week, which is how details of his treatment have been revealed.

Al-Singace has described to his lawyers the brutal torture he endured which included the following: • being kept in solitary confinement for a fortnight, his crutches and wheel chair were taken away from him and he was forced to stand for hours on one leg because of the paralysis in his other leg, • he was stripped naked and beaten repeatedly, • the masked torturers used electric shock devices and metal tongs which they attached to his ears and nipples, • he was repeatedly slapped across the face and ears till he partially lost his hearing, • he was forced to listen to the screaming of other prisoners who were being tortured • and he was forced to sign statements written by the authorities. Others who were arrested have subsequently been hospitalized as a result of their treatment in detention. These include Shaikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, a religious scholar, human rights activist and president of Al-Zahra charity; Abdulghani Khanjar, the official spokesperson for the Truth and Justice coalition; and Abdulhadi Alsaffer.

The second individual who’d I’d like to bring your attention to is Jafar Al Hisabi, a 39 year old British citizen with a wife and 5 children, the youngest of whom is 5 months old. Jafar sought asylum in the UK in 1995 after being imprisoned by the Bahraini authorities. In July of this year he went to Bahrain with his family, whilst his family was in Bahrain he went on a customary religious pilgrimage to Iran. Upon his return to Bahrain on the 16th of August he was arrested and is currently still in detention. After two weeks of detention he was taken to the public prosecution and then given access to a lawyer. Similar to Dr Al Singace, Jafar also endured horrendous torture which included: • He was tied in the Falaqa position, which is when the hands and feet are tied together to a wooden stick, and then the stick is raised so that the detainee is hanging, similar to an animal roasting on a spit fire during medieval times • Whilst in this position he was beaten repeatedly on his hands and feet • He was then hung from his hands, so that his whole body weight was held by his wrists • He was repeatedly beaten all over his body so that now his legs are completely black with bruises • He has lost feeling in both his hands and feet • He was made to listen to the cries of other detainees whilst they were being tortured.

According to the lawyers, prosecutors have charged the defendants with various crimes under the 2006 counter terrorism law and the penal code. The broad and ambiguous language of the 2006 counter terrorism law and the penal code allow the government to criminalize the basic rights to freedom of expression and association.

The use of such brutal torture by the Bahraini authorities clearly violates numerous articles within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a party. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that ‘anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him,’ and ‘shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power.’ This Article was clearly breached since these rules were not followed by the Bahraini authorities. Bahrain has also signed the Convention against Torture, which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment under all circumstances and prohibits the use of statements made as a result of torture as evidence in legal proceedings.

It’s also extremely alarming when a British citizen is brutally tortured and this government acts mutely and worse still according to news reports, the British ambassador to Bahrain who recently met with Bahraini officials, praised the security services for their actions during this recent crackdown. It is outrageous and unacceptable that Britain, a country which goes to war in order to bring ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to other lands, acts impotently when one of its own citizens is alleging torture and cruel treatment.

Violent measures to suppress the work of human rights defenders will be counter-productive and lead to increased violence and unrest. Until the key issues of civil and economic inequalities experienced by the Shia majority are addressed there will be no progression towards a harmonious society.

Bahraini authorities have an obligation to investigate the accusations of torture and prosecute the guilty parties responsible for the authorisation and act of torturing.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission calls for all allegations of torture to be independently investigated, and those found guilty of authorising and carrying out the act of torturing be brought to justice. We also demand the release of British citizen Jafar al Hisabi and his repatriation to Britain as soon as possible. The Islamic Human Rights Commission has written an open letter to : the UN Special Rapporteur on situation of HR defenders and Khalifa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, prime minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain Press releases and action alerts can also be found on our website www.ihrc.org.uk, I have also brought some of these with me today, which will be handed out. Thank you for your time and I hope that we can achieve our aims of ensuring freedom and equality to those who have been brutally deprived.

LORD AVEBURY:

Thank you very much. I wonder if it is possible that the work of the Islamic Human Rights Commission could be make known to the people of Bahrain via the BCHR website, especially human rights defenders. I think the people in Bahrain would like to know they are not by themselves. There are other people who are attempting to get something done about the situation. I am sure they would be very happy to learn that the Islamic Human Rights Commission is going all this work on their behalf.

PROFESSOR RODNEY SHAKESPEARE:

There is the diabolical behaviour of the Bahraini regime which is full of dirty medieval torture. But just as evil is the obvious complicity of the American and British governments. In the case of the British government the evidence is firstly the failure to follow up the attacks in London and a very serious case of arson.

And secondly the complete failure to issue any form of open, clear public statement to condemn the torture in Bahrain. We are in London, we have a government and our government must stand up and openly condemn the barbarous medieval torture going on in Bahrain.

KAREN DABROWSKA:

You have in front on you an envelope with press releases. And if you look at who has been issuing these press releases its like a who's who of international human rights organisation condemning what is going on in Bahrain.

It is very clear that despite all these press releases, despite the fact that everybody knows, and the Al Khalifas know that everybody knows what they are doing they keep on torturing people. And they don't care because they get away with it and we can sit here and make conferences and they do what they do.

The only way to stop the torture is to make them afraid. And how to make them afraid? The only way to make them afraid is to make them afraid for themselves because it is going to affect them.

So the idea now is to set up an International Committee to bring Bahraini torturers to justice. We hope very much that Lord Avebury will honour us with membership of this committee. And we have also spoken to some other people so slowly we are getting members. We want members especially from Canada, the USA, India, Britain, Asia, Africa to emphasise that it is not just something that Westerners have got bees in their bonnet about. It is something that concerns people all over the world.

So what are we going to do? Hopefully in the long term we can bring a case before the International Criminal Court against the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of the National Security Agency.

But closer to home is the ambassador. We actually have many testimonies from people for whose torture this ambassador was responsible and Redress if very keen to pursue this so we are going to start closer to home with the ambassador.

We also hope to write to the Foreign Secretary to make him aware of the kind of person that they have actually accredited as an ambassador to Britain. All ambassadors are vetted and I know that in the case of some ambassadors the British have said we don't want these people. They have asked some embassies like the Israeli embassy to remove certain individuals so we really want this guy gone very soon.

Also there is the genocide convention which talks about certain communities are targeted and under the genocide convention what has been happening to the Shia in Bahrain can certainly be raised.

And also there are prosecutions. We can inform the Crown Prosecution Service when members of the Bahraini regime visit London and we can lodge a case with them and they can be arrested.

So that is how we want to start because unless these people feel that they themselves are going to be affected we can issue hundreds of press statements and hold many conferences and they will continue doing what they are doing.

And finally with regard to Jaffar. I have actually worked with Jaffar on a website and he is the kindest most gentle man you could meet. If he were here today he would be welcoming all of you with his wonderful smile.

And just something to finish. We were working on the website of the Gulf Cultural Club and one day Jaffar called me and said you know Karen there is not enough bad news on this website. You didn't put a story about the violation of human rights for more than a week. And I said well okay Jaffar are we manufacturing news or are we presenting an objective picture of what is happening in the Gulf? No all that happens in the Gulf is bad so when something good happens in the Gulf we will put in on our website. And when there are human rights violations we will put that on the website as well. Jaffar said 'thank you very much' and he agreed. So his not someone who just yells and shrieks and says bad things about Bahrain. He is actually willing to admit that some good things happen in Bahrain. And because of his confidence, I don't know in whom, he actually went there because he wasn't doing anything wrong. And this how he was rewarded.

So we have all the emails of the people here. As our committee gets under way we really hope for your support. Thank you very much.

LORD AVEBURY:

I think it is a particularly good idea to have the ICC brought into the picture and in order to do that your new need the benefit of legal advice. I don't know whether the Bar Human Rights Committee would be able to look into whether we have the evidence....

PETER WEATHERBY:

The short answer is yes, Lord Avebury.

LORD AVEBURY:

Wonderful, there you have it. You have got the expert advise to judge which of the crimes committed by regime would come within the remit of the ICC and that would be an extremely good start.

HRW: Bahrain: Revoke Order Dissolving Rights Group's Board

Authorities Should Suspend Takeover of Bahrain Human Rights Society

September 9, 2010

(Washington, DC) - Bahrain should immediately revoke an order dissolving the Bahrain Human Rights Society's board of directors and assigning a government-appointed director to run the organization, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Development and Social Affairs Ministry order, issued on September 8, 2010, was accompanied by a statement criticizing the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) for "only serving one segment of society," suggesting that the group defends only the country's Shi'a population. The ministerial order follows arrests of hundreds of Shi'a opposition leaders and activists and credible allegations that many have been subjected to torture in detention.

"Taking over the Bahrain Human Rights Society is one more sign that the government intends to silence any and all criticism of its abusive human rights practices," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Bahraini authorities should immediately revoke its takeover order."

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the government issued the order at least in part because of actions the human rights society had taken on behalf of opposition activists detained in violation of their due process rights.

The ministry's order appointed a temporary administrator to manage the affairs of the society, an independent nongovernmental organization. In its statement justifying the government takeover, the ministry accused the human rights society of violating Bahrain's Civil Associations Law (Law 21/89). In addition to alleging that the society was not acting impartially, the ministry listed what it said were other administrative and legal "irregularities," including a failure to call a general assembly and to hold an election for the group's governing council as well as alleged cooperation with unspecified "illegal entities."

Abdulla al-Derazi, the society's general secretary, denied these allegations, and told Human Rights Watch that the organization has complied with all relevant administrative regulations.

A statement published by the official Bahrain News Agency said that, "The caretaker administrator ... will open the doors to all Bahrainis, from all walks of life, to become members of the BHRS."

"Taking over an independent rights organization and packing it with its supporters is not the behavior of a government that respects human rights," Stork said. "Bahrain's leaders have apparently concluded they prefer full-throated authoritarianism to the discomforts of free speech and democracy."

In recent weeks, the society has made several statements affirming the basic rights of detainees, including access to lawyers and family members and their right to a fair trial. On August 28, the society held a news conference with several other organizations criticizing the arrests.

On September 2, the ministry issued a statement warning that it would take action against organizations that violate the Civil Associations Law by engaging in "partisanship." Later that week, Fatima al-Balushi, the minister of development and social affairs, specifically mentioned the society in a televised interview as one of the groups that allegedly failed to retain its impartiality, al-Derazi said.

Al-Derazi wrote to the ministry requesting a meeting to discuss al-Balushi's comments. He told Human Rights Watch that he received no response until September 8, when a ministry official called to inform him that the government takeover was imminent. The society has not yet received an official order confirming the takeover, al-Derazi said.

Human Rights Watch has criticized provisions of Law 21/89 that violate Bahrain's international legal obligations under articles 19 (freedom of expression) and 20 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in September 2006. Any restriction on the right to free expression or association can only be for specific grounds, should be clearly set out in law and should be the least restrictive possible.

The government takeover of the society comes less than a week after the Bahrain News Agency and a pro-government newspaper alleged that Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was part of an alleged "terrorist network," and accused the group of dealing with international organizations and providing "false information." Rajab is also a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division. The BCHR is an independent group whose legal standing the government revoked in 2004.

On September 6, Salman Kamaleddin resigned as the head of the recently established official National Institution for Human Rights, apparently to protest recent government attacks on Bahrain's human rights community.

www.hrw.org

Amnesty: Bahraini government must end interference in human rights organization

9 September 2010

Amnesty International has called on the Bahraini government to reverse its decision to suspend the board of a prominent human rights organization, after it criticized alleged violations committed by the authorities against opposition and human rights activists within the Sh'ia community.

The Ministry of Social Development said on Wednesday that it had dismissed all members of the board of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) and appointed one of its own officials as the organization's "temporary administrator".

"By suspending the board of the BHRS and putting its own representative in charge, the government has effectively taken control of the organization with the apparent intent of closing it down," said Malcolm Smart of Amnesty International

"This undermines the basic rights to freedom of expression and association, and the government should rescind its decision immediately."

The move is part of an increased clampdown by the authorities on Shi'a opposition and human rights activists in the run-up to next month's parliamentary elections.

Leading activist and blogger Ali Abdulemam was arrested by the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA) on Sunday for allegedly spreading "false news" on the portal bahrainonline.org.

Last month, 21 prominent Shi'a political and human rights activists were detained and charged with terrorism and plotting to overthrow the government. Another two men who live in London were charged in their absence.

In Wednesday's statement, the Ministry accused the BHRS of committing "legal and administrative irregularities" and of cooperating with “illegal organizations”.

The Ministry also accused the BHRS of focusing on "one category of Bahrainis" rather than reporting impartially on all sections of Bahrain society.

The statement appears to relate to a BHRS press conference held on 28 August to voice its concern about those activists detained last month.

The organization called for the detainees' human rights to be respected and also drew attention to allegations that at least some of the 21 men held had been tortured or otherwise ill-treated after their arrest.

It also called for an independent investigation and condemned some local media who had denigrated the accused, portraying them as enemies of the state.

Another Bahraini human rights organization, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was banned by the government in 2004. Its director, Nabeel Rajab, has been subject to repeated harassment and media smear campaigns.

Independent human rights organizations and other NGOs must obtain official recognition from the Bahraini authorities if they are to operate legally.

However, the law gives the authorities the power to ban or suspend organizations, or to interfere in their internal operations by appointing a government official to administer them.

"The BHRS is an independent, legally registered NGO and as such, it should be allowed to continue its human rights work unhindered and without interference from the Bahraini government," said Malcolm Smart.

Read More

Bahrain: Detained Shi'a Muslims at risk (Urgent action, 7 September 2010) Bahrain activists must receive a fair trial (News, 6 September 2010) Bahrain: allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be independently investigated (Public statement, 3 September 2010) Bahrain intensifies crackdown on activists and clerics (News, 18 August 2010)

www.amnesty.org

English PEN: Bahrain: Activist arrested; fears of ill-treatment

Published: September 8, 2010

English PEN is seriously concerned by the arrest of academic and human rights activist Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, who has been held incommunicado since 13 August 2010. He is believed to be facing charges under national security and counter-terrorism laws, although it is widely believed that the charges are politically motivated and that he is targeted for his criticism of the Bahraini authorities. His arrest appears to be part of a crackdown on Shia activists in the run up to the forthcoming parliamentary elections. English PEN is alarmed at reports that he has been ill-treated and tortured in detention. Dr Alsingace is partially paralyzed from polio and requires assistance to walk, and there are mounting concerns for his well-being in detention. English PEN urges the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Dr Alsingace and all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful expression of their opinions.

According to PEN’s information, Dr Alsingace, head of the human rights office of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, was arrested at Bahrain International Airport on his return from London on 13 August, where he had been attending a conference at the House of Lords during which he had criticised Bahrain’s human rights practices. He was initially accused of ‘inciting violence and terrorist acts’, before being formally charged under national security and counter-terrorism legislation. According to a statement by a public prosecution official, Dr Alsingace is among four leading Bahraini Shia activists to be facing charges including ‘the planning and instigation of violence, conducting a wide-ranging propaganda campaign against the Kingdom and seeking to overthrow the regime by force’. The men are believed to be currently held on a sixty day detention order, and their whereabouts remain unknown.

Background In the run-up to the forthcoming parliamentary elections in October this year, there have been a series of violent protests in the Gulf state of Bahrain led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community, who have long complained of discrimination by the Sunni ruling elite. This has led to an unprecedented wave of repression in the country in which many have been targeted for peacefully expressing their views, including political, religious and human rights activists. Most have been released after a brief detention, but at least twenty-three have been charged and are currently still detained incommunicado.

Dr Alsingace teaches engineering at the University of Bahrain and authors his own blog (http://alsingace.blogspot.com/). He was previously detained in 2009 and held for several months on charges of plotting to overthrow the government before being given a royal pardon.

For further background go to:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11190726

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/07/bahrain-halt-threats-against-rights-defenders

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/09/01/bahrain-pursue-torture-allegations

RECOMMENDED ACTION

Please send appeals: • Expressing serious concern about the incommunicado detention of Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace, and seeking details of the charges against him; • Expressing mounting concern for his welfare, and calling for a full investigation into reports that he has been tortured and ill-treated in detention; • Urging the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Alsingace and all others currently detained solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions.

Send appeals to:

His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa King of Bahrain Office of His Majesty the King P.O.Box 555 Rifa’a Palace Kingdom of Bahrain. Fax: +973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs P.O.Box 450 Al-Manama Bahrain. Fax: +973 175 31 284

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in the UK:

30 BELGRAVE SQUARE LONDON, SW1X 8QB UNITED KINGDOM TEL: (+44) 0207 201 9170 Email:info@bahrainembassy.co.uk Web: www.bahrainembassy.co.uk

www.englishpen.org

UK – IHRC demands that FCO take up case of British citizen tortured in Bahrain

08 September 2010

PRESS RELEASE: UK – IHRC demands that Foreign Office take up case of British citizen arrested and tortured in Bahrain

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has written to Secretary of State William Hague demanding that the Foreign Office take up the case of Jafferl Hasabi, a 39-year-old British national arrested in Bahrain last month and held incommunicado for over two weeks before being charged with attempting to overthrow the government. Mr. Hasabi’s family have attempted to persuade the British Embassy in Bahrain to raise the case with the Bahraini government without success.

Jafferl Hasabi has lived in London for 15 years. On 24 July he travelled to Bahrain for a vacation with his family. From Bahrain, he took his mother and two daughters to Mashhad, a city in Iran, for a religious pilgrimage. He was arrested on 16 August when the family flew back into Bahrain International airport from Iran. For over two weeks after his arrest, his family were unable to establish why he was arrested or where he was being held.

The first word Mr. Hasabi’s family had of him was on 1 September, when he was presented to the public prosecutor and charged. His lawyer was able to speak with him and told the family that he had been subjected to numerous forms of abuse and torture, including being blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire period of his captivity, being hung by his hands for extended periods, being deprived of sleep for days on end, and being beaten by plastic rods. The public prosecutor ordered that he be detained for questioning for a further 60 days, raising fears that he may be subjected to further torture.

Mr. Hasabi is being held by the National Security agency which is notorious for the mistreatment of prisoners and not being accountable for its actions. The offence he is charged with is punishable by death under legislation which is notorious for the breadth of its definitions of sedition and terrorism, by which many normal civil society activities can be regarded as criminal. Bahrain is currently in the midst of a major crackdown on civil society and political activism pending elections due to take place next month.

The failure of the British Embassy to provide even basic consular services to Mr. Hasabi and his family is deeply worrying. The IHRC has, therefore, asked the Foreign Office to look into this case as a matter of urgency, and to seriously investigate both the allegations of torture by the Bahraini authorities and the failure of the British Embassy to respond to his plight.

www.ihrc.org.uk

13 NGOs: Bahrain: As Elections Approach, the Crackdown on the Opposition and Rights Advocates Reaches its Peak

08 September 2010

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on human and political rights defenders and Shiite clerics. The campaign of repression began on August 13, 2010, and reached its peak when 23 Bahraini citizens were charged with joining a terrorist organization seeking the overthrow of the regime.

Preliminary information about the list of defendants, which includes four rights activists as well as prominent Shiite religious and political leaders, indicates that they were charged under Law 58/2006 for the protection of society against terrorist actions. This notorious law has come in for broad criticism on rights grounds insofar as it provides legal cover for the Bahraini authorities to limit the activities of the opposition and rights organizations. The law’s definition of terrorism is vague, and it targets people on the charges of rebelling, violating the constitution, threatening national unity, and other such baseless accusations.

In the second week of August, the King of Bahrain issued a sternly worded threat to political activists who oppose hi and human rights defenders. Describing them as inciters against the nation abroad and accusing them of endangering civic peace, he advocated bringing the full force of the law to bear against them. This statement was later supported by both the prime minister and the interior minister on more than one occasion.

Pursuant to these royal directives, on August 13 the security apparatus launched an arrest campaign targeting opposition figures, some of whom were brutally tortured. This is the first time in two decades that prominent political, advocacy, or religious figures have been subject to such a harsh campaign of torture.

Abduljalil Alsingace, Sheikh Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, Sheikh Said al-Nuri, Abd al-Ghani al-Khanjar, and Mohammed Said were among those who were tortured. All of them were blindfolded, placed in isolation, and denied food and drink for extended periods. They were also suspended from their arms and legs and beaten on various parts of their bodies, causing swelling and bruising. As part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and coercion, the Bahraini authorities also initially charged Nabeel Rajab, the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights, and three others of involvement in the alleged terrorist organization, according to al-Watan, a paper close to the monarchy; their names were later dropped from the list. At a time when the Bahraini opposition and human rights defenders are in urgent need of support from the international community to stop the ongoing abuses against them, Adam Ereli, the US ambassador to Bahrain, criticized them in the pages of the Bahraini al-Wasat on August 10, questioning their appeals to London and the US and urging them to stop looking for a way to rectify the situation from abroad. At the same time, he praised the repressive Bahraini regime, describing the government as democratic, just and opining that no one in Bahrain is imprisoned as long as he respects the law. This statement only reinforced and aided the regime’s repressive tendencies. The undersigned organizations note that the Bahraini authorities’ brutal campaign against its opponents is a flagrant violation of international conventions to which Bahrain is a party. The measures taken by the authorities are also undermining the legitimacy of the impending elections. By harassing and intimidating the opposition and making groundless charges, the authorities are severely compromising the principle of equal opportunity in these elections.

Shiites constitute 70 percent of the Muslim population of Bahrain. A Shiite-majority parliament is thus highly likely if all political forces enjoy equal opportunities in the coming elections, something the Bahraini regime is keen to prevent. Among the methods used by the regime to undermine the Shiite majority is politicized naturalization. The authorities have granted citizenship to Sunni migrants in order to alter the country’s demographic structure, seeking to slant election results in favor of the Sunni population.

The undersigned organizations call on the King of Bahrain and the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all those detained, open an investigation into allegations of torture, and bring those responsible for such practices to a speedy trial. We also call for an immediate suspension of the organized press campaign paid for by the Bahrain regime that is seeking to smear political activists and rights advocates. The law for the protection of society against terrorist acts must also be abolished, as its provisions are essentially a weapon used to target rights and political activists.

The undersigned organizations reiterate the need for the US administration to withdraw its unconditional political support of the Bahraini regime. We also ask the UN special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, counterterrorism, and torture to undertake an urgent visit to Bahrain to determine the nature of the abuses perpetrated and work to stop them and prevent future abuses.

Signatories - Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support - Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies - Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights - Bahrain Center for Human Rights - Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies - Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies - Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement - Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights - Human Rights Legal Aid Group - Human Rights First-Saudi Arabia - Land Center for Human Rights - Moroccan Organization for Human Rights - Women’s Petition Committee-Bahrain

www.cihrs.org

Ban on audio programs on daily newspaper Al-Wasat’s website

In Sync with the campaign pursued by the security authorities of Bahrain

09 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights express its deep concern on the Authority continued policy to restrict freedom of opinion and expression and the imposition of further restrictions on medium of information publication and means of expression, which has emerged recently in the decision of the Information Affairs Authority to suspend the audio reports broadcasted by the daily newspaper Al-Wasat on its website.

The Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat published on August 16, that it has received a letter from the Information Affairs Authority, asking the newspaper to suspend broadcasting its audio reports, a modern press service provided by the newspaper to its online readers. The newspaper has been previously licensed to broadcast recorded audio reports on the Web in 2009, but this recent suspension of the service is based on the Authority's decision to stop this activity as of that date, pending the Council of Ministers approval on a resolution that regulates the work and conditions of this activity. "[ 1] This decision contradict with what Decreed Law No. (47) for the year 2002 approves on the regulation of the press, printing and publishing, which sets audio reports within the definition of the «Publications». This is not the first time in which the Information Affairs Authority (previously Ministry of Information) issues a ban on the techniques of modern journalism as it had previously prevented Alwasat newspaper last year from the use of video technology to broadcast visual reports.

The decision follows the broadcasting of some critical audio programs recently, which may have created discomfiture to the authority, one of them is the interview with the President of the oppositional National Democratic Action Society WAAD, during which he criticized the policy of the Authority. And the second is the first episode of the "Public Opinion Case" program that discussed the events of abuses of prisoners in the Jaw Central Prison and included recorded witness of the families of prisoners who expressed their concern and dismay by the degrading treatment of the prison authority to them, one of the issues that witnessed many abuses and the authority tried to obscure it.

Al-Wasat new spaper has begun to provide audio reports on its website in 2009, when it has transformed the traditional media through the use of modern technologies to keep up with events on the local scene through conducting audio interviews with different people and providing more space for the expression of opinion. The subjects of these reports varied between political, cultural, sports and social issues. And it has become very popular among the site visitors as noted through the reams of comments and page views.

The service has created the opportunity for groups from the community to express their opinions and views on cultural, political and social issues through audio interviews, when authority is controlling all visual and audio media channels and practicing an undeclared ban on critical subjects or hosting any of the victims or marginalized groups in the community. Although Bahrain is possessing the technical features to enhance what is known as the new media using new technologies and internet connection but its repressive policies have led to a decline in Bahrain rank on the international indicators on freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, according to reports by Reporters Without Borders[2], where Bahrain has dropped from rank 96 in 2008 to 120 in 2009 and the Freedom House[3], which ranked Bahrain as (not free) in the report of the Freedom of the Press in 2009.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the Information Affairs Authority prevention of this service is intended to restrict the media and the independent press and to retain authority traditional dominance on all media channels in the country. The Centre believes that the timing of this decision, which synchronizes with a security crackdown targeting human rights defenders is an attempt to undermine and limit any oppositional or critical voice to this campaign.

This decision is a clear violation of freedom of the press, opinion and expression as provided for in international conventions and in particular article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that " Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. "

In the light of the foregoing, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:

1 - Stop the continuous targeting of the media and independent local and international press and stop restricting them. 2 - Lift the ban on broadcasting services, visual and audio reports on the website of AlWasat newspaper and other news sites and stop the practice of dominating the visual and audio media industry 3 - Respect the rights of people to get news and information. And respect Bahrain's obligations as a member of the Human Rights Council. 4 - Reform of laws restricting freedom of opinion and expression, primarily the Press and Publications Law of 2002, to comply with the standards and international standards of human rights.

--- [1]www.alwasatnews.com [2]rsf.org [3]freedomhouse.org