13 Feb, 2008

Female Postal Unionist Suspended for Voicing out Official Harassments

Female Postal Unionist Suspended for Voicing out Official Harassments

Date: 13 February 2008

Person(s): Najeya Abdulghaffar Target(s): human rights worker(s) The latest episode of punishing unionists for expressing themselves was two days ago by the Bahraini Postal Directorate of the Ministry of Transport which suspended postal unionist Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar for ten days without pay, on the allegations that she disclosed "job secrets". Mrs Abdulghaffar, vice- president of the "unauthorized" Postal Union (PU), approached the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain (GFWTUB) and made an official complaint regarding "harassing her, marginalizing her duties and set-up plots to dismiss her on the grounds that she disclosed Governmental Secrets". The Postal Directorate considers the communication of Mrs Abdulghaffar with the media as being disclosure, without permission, of official secret information. This is not the first suspension for Mrs Abdulghaffar or other public sector unionists. In January 2007, she was suspended for similar charges. Mr Jamal Ateeq, President of PU, was suspended last December for five days, while in 2005, he was suspended for three days, for the same reason; communicating with media. Other unionists, Kathom Ebrahim Al-Mushkab and Juma Abdulla Abdul-latif, were exposed to similar treatment by the Postal Directorate Authorities in the past period. Making statements to media about violations of labour rights was considered defaming to the employer and its officials, as stated in the penalty measure statement issued by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) to Mr Ateeq. The punishment considered against Mrs Abdulghaffar is based on administrative order by the CSB banning the formation of Governmental unions, in direct violation to Decree Code no 33 of 2002, and thus considering PU unauthorized and illegal. The BCHR expresses its concern about the suspension of Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar which appears to be to silence her and daunt other unionist and rights activists. Penalizing Mrs Abdulghaffar and other unionists for expressing themselves violates Article 19 of ICCPR as well as to local legislatures, and affirms the systematic attack on all forms of expression in Bahrain. RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities: - calling for an end to Mrs Najeya Abdulghaffar's suspension - urging that no further measures be taken against her in reprisal for expressing her views - requesting legislative changes to guarantee the right of public employees to freely express their views APPEAL and TAKE ACTION TO: · His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa- King of Bahrain Riffa – Bahrain · His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Manama- Bahrain

Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363 Please copy appeals to the source if possible. MORE INFORMATION:

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

12 Feb, 2008

More reports of physical and sexual abuses against detained activists

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) – 12 February 2008

Three detainees held in the Criminal Investigation Bureau told family members who visited them yesterday that they had been subjected to beating on February 10, as a punishment for protesting against ill-treatment and prison conditions. These detainees were

Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Aged 40, the head of the Committee to Combat High Prices Naji Ali Hassan Fateel, aged 31, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Hassan Abdulnabi Hassan, aged 26, member of the Unemployment Committee The BCHR has no recent reports from Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, aged 28 who is the fourth detainee at the same detention centre.

The Bahrain Centre for Human rights was informed by Family members of Mohamed Alsingace, that they met him yesterday at 12:30pm local time. They reported that signs of fresh scars were visible on his head. He told his family (Mother, wife and two sisters) that on February 10, he was handcuffed form the back and dragged outside of his cell and was beaten using a metallic piece in the yard by a two security men called Moftah (a Bahraini) and Parvis (a non-Bahraini) in front of Sergrent Adnan Bahar. The more he screamed he was beaten more and verbally insulted. The two police figures further molested him sexually in front of Sergent Bahar.

Prior to this event, Mohamed Al-Singace was complaining of severe headache. The physician of the military hospital recommended that Mohamed is to be taken to psychiatric hospital for treatment. An appointment was set for the psychiatrist on 24th February, but later postponed to 28th because of the adjourned court session. Physically, he is suffering from backache due to earlier beating by the security members. Last Thursday, he was taken to Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for treatment. He had been kept hand-cuffed and left incommunicado in a dark filthy 1x2 meter room.

Both Naji Fateel and Hassan Abdelnabi told visiting family members yesterday that they were subjected to beating when they protested against what happened to Mohamed Al-Singace demanding that he should be transferred to the hospital.

On the other hand, Naji Al Fateel said that his suffering of ill-treatment had increased as he had been placed with arrestees charged with criminal offences who are infected with communicable diseases such as hepatitis. According to Mr. Fateel, the administration of the detention centre took that measure as a reaction against the detainees who complained to the judge at the court session on February 3, that they are in solitary cell.

Hassan Abdelnabi, told family members that he has been under pressure and threats of sexual abuse in order to use his wife as source of information about plans and future activities of the Detainees’ Committee in which his wife is involved.

Furthermore, the BCHR has been informed about sexual abuse against two more of the detainees namely Mahmood Hassan Saleh and Mohemmed Makki Ahmed. Both detainees are held in Dry-Dock detention centre together with Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh who had been subjected to sexual abuse according to earlier reports.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) urges all concerned to do what ever possible to secure the rights and safety of the aforementioned detainees.

3 Feb, 2008

AP: Bahrainis demonstrate in front of the Manama police headquarters,

Bahrainis demonstrate in front of the Manama police headquarters, Bahrain, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, for the release of detained activists they allege have been tortured. A new Human Rights Watch report puts Bahrain among nations getting away with human rights violations due to alleged manipulation of elections. The Bahraini government is to submit a human rights report to the U.N. in Geneva later this month.

, Bahrain, Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, for the release of detained activists they allege have been tortured. A new Human Rights Watch report puts Bahrain among nations getting away with human rights violations due to alleged manipulation of elections. The Bahraini government is to submit a human rights report to the U.N. in Geneva later this month.

29 Jan, 2008

BCHR: Labour Minister using migrant workers as scapegoat for government's economic failures

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns recent comments made by the Labour Minister(http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/gulfimmigrationlabour), in which he warns that Gulf countries face danger of an "Asian tsunami" because of the high numbers of migrant workers upon which Gulf countries are reliant. Minister Majid al-Alawi allegedly said the migrant workers presented "a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack". "It is an irresponsible statement to suggest that migrant workers, who leave their families and homes behind to work and provide us essential services, and build our countries, are a danger to the citizens here," BCHR vice president Nabeel Rajab said.

"This kind of statement promotes racial hatred - and puts the blame for the government's own failure to deal with unemployment on the shoulders of the most vulnerable community in our country.

"We call on the Minister to retract this statement. We would hope a member of a government which sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council would demonstrate greater respect towards the dignity and rights of migrant workers to live and work among us in peace."

26 Jan, 2008

BCHR-IFEX ALERT: Novel banned for allegedly defaming historic religious figure

23 January 2008

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR has recently learned that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA) has once again refused to approve distribution of the novel "Omar . . . A Martyr" by Bahraini novelist Abdulla Khalifa. Omar Ibn Al-Khattab was the second Islamic Caliph after the prophet Mohammed and is regarded by Muslims as one of the "four righteously guided Caliphs".

The Ministry of Information (MI) asked the MIA to evaluate the novel from a Sharia' (religious) point of view. MIA did not approve the novel, alleging that it defames a religious figure in a manner "fomenting sectarianism" in the society. This is very much disputed by those who have managed to read the novel.

BCHR's source indicated that the MIA's recommendation to ban distribution of the novel was based on a sentence reading that "Ibn Al-Khattab wobbled", which was considered libel to the second Caliph.

This is the second novel by Khalifa banned in Bahrain. His earlier novel, "Husain's Head", was put forward for publication inside Bahrain, but the MI responded by prohibiting its publication. This attitude has forced writers to seek publication outside Bahrain, as Khalifa did for his latest novel.

BCHR expresses concern over persistent censorship of all forms of freedom of expression in Bahrain, including the publication of books and novels. An earlier campaign by the international and local communities sought approval for publication of a history book, "Memory Exploitations: In a Pluralistic Society, Saddled with History", by Dr Nader Kathem. It is a collection of a series of historical articles published by the author in the local press.


Send appeals to authorities: - calling on them to lift restrictions on all forms of freedom of expression by academics, researchers, novelists and journalists - noting that this will require amendments to Press and Publication Decree code no 47 of 2002 to ensure its compliance with international declarations and covenants


His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa King of Bahrain Riffa, Bahrain

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of BCHR. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit BCHR.

26 Jan, 2008

BCHR: Activists Trial Set for 3rd February Amidst Allegations of Torture and Forced Confessions

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights 25th January, 2008

• Detention and Harassment of the Family of a Detained Activist for Enquiring about Sexual Assault and Torture

• Four detainees on their Third Day of Hunger strike due to being held in Isolation and Prevented from Basic Hygienic Needs

• Legal Defense File Claims of Torture in Court Session of “Attempted Murder Case”

The BCHR received a written testimony from Hani Al-Sheikh stating that after a visit to Maytham Al-Shiekh (activists reportedly subjected to sexual assault), on the 21st of January, 2008, the family were mistreated, threatened and detained for 2 hours for enquiring from Maytham about details relating to his sexual assault and torture at the Criminal Investigations Office (CIO). They were later released after lawyers’ intervention.

In relations to the sexual assault and the torture of his brother Hani states previously in a written testimony on the 21/1/08: “….After that I asked him about the timing of the torture and how it happened? He mentioned to me that following his arrest he was tortured on the same day 21/12/08 and at 8:30AM he was hung from his hands and the lower part of his body stripped naked and after he was beaten while he was blindfolded, one of the officers there ordered other policemen (Amongst them was an officer called Isa Awad Almajjali and another called Fahad Al-Fadalah) to insert a wooden stick in his rectum, he mentioned how agonizing it was and how he felt as if he was close to dying from the pain.”

In relations to the Interior Ministries allegations that the forensic physician report found no signs of sexual abuse, Hani states “my brother was very surprised at this and stated that he was sure that the physician would confirm the sexual abuse as he had asked me specific related questions such as how much bleeding occurred and for how long which made him sure that he would right a report in his favor.”

Hani Al-Skeikh, through his lawyer, later filed a report on their treatment and harassment at the Detention Centre to the Public Prosecutors office but it was rejected and the lawyer was informed, verbally, that this was not possible due to the fact that the incident happened in a police station so the report has to be filed with the Interior Ministry. He was also warned that this will lead to the Ministry filing a counter- claim against him on charges of insulting a public officer and would bring police officers to testify against him. After several legal consultations, Hani has decided to file a claim with the Civil Court and says that he is willing to take any reactions that may arise from the Ministry as a result.

The BCHR has, since then, learnt that following this visit, Maytham was once again transferred to the CIO after he had recently been moved to a detention centre where treatment and conditions are considerably better. The trial date of Maytham Al-Sheikh, as well as 14 other individuals including other activists such as Najji Fateel, Abdulla Mohsen, Ahmed Jaffer and Hassan Abdelnabi has been set for the 3rd of February, 2008.

Furthermore, family members who visited the detained activist Ahmed Jaffer today, informed the BCHR that himself and three other detainees who are still at the CIO are on a third day of hunger strike for being kept in isolation and prevented from their basic hygienic needs. They complained that Ahmad smelled as though he had not bathed in a long time. They also informed the BCHR that he was prevented from telephone calls for one week.

On a related matter, the trial of Hussain Abbas Hussain Mansoor commenced on the 23rd of January 2008. Hussain is being charged with the attempted murder of a security officer as well as assault on security officers. During the trial Hussain Abbas denied all charges against him and his lawyer, Mr. Adel Al-Matrook claimed that the defendant was subjected to torture and officially requested that the defendant be presented to the forensic physician for confirmation of these claims. The trial was postponed to the 17th February, 2008. After the trial Mr. Mohammed Al-Jishi, the BCHR Legal Coordinator who was present during the trial, stated that Hussain had red bruises under his right ankle and red marks on his wrists.

22 Jan, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists

Detainees, Families Report Sexual Assault, Electrocution, Beatings (New York, January 21, 2008) – Bahrain should investigate allegations that judicial interrogators tortured and in one case sexually assaulted opposition political activists detained after violent protests last month, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the Bahraini government to allow an independent physician to examine detainees who allege abuse and to discipline or prosecute security officials responsible for abusing detainees.

The abuse allegations center on several opposition political activists who were among dozens arrested following confrontations between protesters and security forces in and around the capital Manama in December 2007. The protests, which began on December 17 to mark abuses by security forces during political unrest in the 1990s, grew after the death of one demonstrator following a clash with security forces. In one subsequent incident, according to authorities, protestors set fire to a police vehicle. Several detainees face a range of charges including illegal possession of weapons allegedly stolen from the vehicle.

“Bahrain’s response to allegations of torture against dissidents will show whether it really respects basic human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Bahrain should launch an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into allegations of grave abuses in detention centers.”

A senior Interior Ministry official on January 17, 2008, denied there had been any mistreatment of detainees. He was quoted as saying that all those alleging abuse had been examined by a forensic physician and none showed any signs of torture. A lawyer representing several of the detainees told Human Rights Watch he had received no response to his request for a second examination by an outside physician.

Relatives of Maytham Badr al-Shaykh, one of the detainees charged in the protests, told Human Rights Watch during a brief visit to see him at the Adliyeh interrogation center in Manama on January 16, he told them that officials had abused him, including by sexual assault and with electricity.

“He said, ‘On New Year’s evening, they “celebrated” with me. They stripped me and gave me shocks and stuck something wooden up inside me,’” Al-Shaykh’s father, Badr al-Shaykh said. “He whispered it to me when the guards allowed me to embrace him.”

Maytham al-Shaykh’s brother, Hani, told Human Rights Watch that Maytham said his interrogators suspended him by his hands and feet and beat him. “He was weeping while we were talking, and he said, ‘They violated my manhood.’” Both men said Maytham Badr al-Shaykh had bruises they had not seen in an earlier visit and appeared disoriented.

Nader al-Salatna, like Maytham al-Shaykh a member of the opposition Committee of the Unemployed, told Human Rights Watch he had been held in the same facility before his release on January 10. He said he had been blindfolded and beaten during interrogations, and on several occasions had been partially stripped and left outdoors for hours while shackled. At least two detainees in the same facility told him they had been subject to electric shocks during interrogation, he said. Some recently released detainees report being pressured to confess to involvement in theft and possession of weapons in connection with the destruction of the police vehicle.

Unemployment is a major problem in Bahrain and a focus of opposition political organization, particularly among Shia activists who allege the country’s Sunni monarchy systematically discriminates against Bahrain’s Shia majority.

19 Jan, 2008

THE OBSERVATORY: Serious concern over acts of torture inflicted to human rights defenders in Bahrain


Bahraini Activists Maytham Alshaik who was tortured and sexually assaulted by the Bahraini police in January 2008

Geneva-Paris, January 18, 2008. 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), expresses its deepest concern following allegations of torture faced by human rights defenders in Bahrain.

According to the information received by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Messrs. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Al, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, members of the Unemployment Committee, who had been arrested between December 21 and 28, 2007 by the Special Security Forces in the framework of a violent wave of arrests[1], were released on January 10, 2008 and have since then reported that they had been submitted to acts of torture and ill-treatments (beatings, verbal abuse, threats sleep and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement and prolonged use of handcuffs and eye blindfolds). The three men were released with no explanation and they remain charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

Indeed, some of the detainees claimed that they were handcuffed for one or two weeks and beaten and kicked in order to prevent them from sleeping. They were also prevented to speak with each other, although being detained in the same room, and were blindfolded most of the time. Some detainees were forced to stand up for more than three days. They were submitted to psychological torture, being insulted verbally and threatened, in one case with a gun. Some of the detainees were taken out of their cell at night for interrogation ; meanwhile the other detainees could hear cries and screams.

Furthermore, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, also a member of the Unemployment Committee who is still detained, was visited by his father and told him that he had been subjected to sexual abuse, including rectal penetration with a stick.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society has written twice to the Public Prosecutor requesting authorisation to visit the detainees but so far they received only negative responses.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied by these allegations of torture, which seem to aim at muzzling civil society, and human rights defenders in particular. Additionally, it seriously fears the resurgence of a systematic practice of torture in Bahrain.

The Observatory will immediately submit theses cases to the relevant United Nations Special Procedures.

The Observatory recalls that twenty two persons remain in detention, including Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, Hassan Abdulnabi, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Mr. Naji Al Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mr. Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee. They have also been charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately, as their detention is arbitrary.

In addition, the Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

Furthermore, the Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, as well as to conform with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12.2, which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

For further information, please contact:

FIDH : Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18

OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39


[1] For more information see the Open letter addressed to Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, sent by the Observatory on January 10, 2008 as well as Observatory Urgent Appeal BHR 001 / 1207 / OBS 162 of December 11, 2007.

18 Jan, 2008

Front Line: Bahrain- Torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in detention

2008/01/18 Front Line is deeply concerned following reports received concerning the alleged torture and ill-treatment of a number of human rights defenders who are presently in detention or who have just been released. From reports received, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Naji Ali Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Hassan Abdulnabi, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab have all been victim of either ill-treatment or torture while being detained in the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB).

Further Information Posted 18/01/2007 The aforementioned human rights defenders were among eleven human rights defenders arrested by the Special Security Forces (SFF) between 21 and 28 December 2007, following demonstrations in Manama on 17 December 2007. Three of whom have been released are Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna.

Front Line has received reports that human rights defenders in detention have been subjected to physical and psychological ill-treatment and torture, including reports of sexually abusive torture. According to reports received, Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh has been the victim of rape, he was allegedly sodomised with a wooden stick. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh may have been subjected to a practice that is known as Falaqah in Bahrain, where the victim’s hands and feet are tied together, and the detainee is then lifted by a wooden bar. It is reported that a number of human rights defenders have been electrocuted, reportedly Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh has been subjected to electrocution, on different parts of his body including his genitals.

Further reports detail that human rights defenders have been and are subject to physical abuse, verbal abuse, sleep and food deprivation, and sensory deprivation with all the human rights defenders being detained for prolonged periods in solitary confinement, and prolonged use of handcuffs and blindfolds. There are reports that human rights defenders are being forced to sleep on a cold floor and were physically beaten when they fell asleep. There are reports that the human rights defenders are being interrogated after having been tortured or ill-treated, and that when they are not being interrogated they are able to hear other people being tortured or ill-treated, with the result that they are constantly fearful.

Human rights defenders have been deprived from using the toilet and have been prevented from showering for at least ten days. A number of human rights defenders have forced to remain naked, and a number have been interrogated while being naked. They have been forbidden to pray at times and speak to each other. A number of human rights defenders have been forced to stand without rest, sometimes for three days on end. The human rights defenders are reportedly subject to death threats and constant verbal threats as well as their family members. The human rights defenders are being forced to remain in inhuman and degrading treatment, as their detention facilities are reportedly dirty, insect-infested and over-crowded.

Front Line has previously written to on 5 January 2008, in regards to the reports received of alleged ill-treatment and or torture of Naji Ali Fateel who had been detained in handcuffs and blindfolds for two weeks; Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais who had been handcuffed and blindfolded for one week and he had been held in solitary confinement for approximately two weeks; that Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh who had been allegedly tortured, a witness reported that he had burn marks on his arms and on his stomach, as a result of having been electrocuted, he was also handcuffed for a period of time; Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali who had been handcuffed possibly for a number of days as he had marks on his wrists; that Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad had been physically assaulted, as a result he has a perforated ear drum, which he is receiving medical treatment for and he had a hand injury. It has been alleged that some of the human rights defenders may have been ill-treated or tortured while being questioned.

Front Line believes that Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Naji Ali Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Hassan Abdulnabi, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab have been detained and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of ill-treatment and torture as a result of their legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights.


Source URL: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1327

17 Jan, 2008


Human rights defenders in Bahrain have been subject to a fresh wave of arrests, abuse and possibly torture following protests last month in which an activist was killed, report the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo) and other rights groups.

Between 21 and 28 December, members of the special security forces arrested more than 50 people, including at least 11 human rights defenders who are still in detention, say the rights groups. According to 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), the 11 rights defenders were targeted for being involved in "illegal" public protests over the past few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms.

HRInfo and the Observatory say the prisoners may have been tortured while in custody, including by electrocution.

The arrests were triggered by demonstrations on 17 December in Sanabis, near the capital Manama, organised to pay tribute to victims of torture. Riot police and special security forces violently dispersed the protests. Ali Jassim Meki, an activist involved in the Movement of Liberties and Democracy (HAQ), was killed, allegedly from excessive use of force by the authorities.

Family members of the detainees who staged a sit-in on 25 December at the public prosecutor's office demanding permission to visit the detainees were verbally and physically abused - including a female reporter for Afaque website, Rabab Marhoon.

BCHR reports that journalists trying to cover the incident were harassed and had their mobile phones confiscated. The president of BCHR, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was himself verbally abused and assaulted while trying to gain access to the building.

BCHR, HRInfo, the Observatory and other rights groups have condemned the "arbitrary" arrests which appear to be aimed at muzzling civil society, and human rights defenders in particular, and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the detainees. The Observatory fears a resurgence of the systematic practice of torture in Bahrain.

Despite appeals to U.S. President George W. Bush, who visited Bahrain over the weekend, and the Bahraini government, the Bahraini authorities continue to prevent human rights defenders from accessing the media. The government suspended a live interview arranged by Egyptian News Satellite with al-Khawaja, who was due to cover Bush's visit on 12 January.

In another recent case, security forces trailed Abduljalil Alsingace, the director of HAQ and a well-known activist, academic and blogger, who was touring a delegation of visitors around Bahrain, and tapped his phone.

These acts "could only be understood as being part of the systematic media blockade imposed on human rights defenders who may portray an image about the situation in Bahrain, different than that broadcasted by the governmental media bodies to the regional and international communities," says BCHR.

Visit these links: - BCHR: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en - HRInfo: http://tinyurl.com/yp3b5m - The Observatory: http://tinyurl.com/ytjt8d - HAQ: http://www.haaq.org/ - Front Line Defenders: http://tinyurl.com/3996jl - Bahrain Eve blog: http://bahrain-eve.blogspot.com/

(15 January 2008)