7 Jan, 2009

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY :Slandering campaign , Arbitrary detention & Torture

Bahrain January 7, 2009

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) about a slandering media campaign against Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President of the BCHR and Protection Coordinator at Frontline, Mr. Ali Mushaima, a former leading member of the Unemployed Committee living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, Mr. Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb, former President of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture living in the United Kingdom as political refugee, Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the political party Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace, Head of the Human Rights Unit of Haq Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, a religious scholar, and Mr. Ali Ahmed, an activist. All are well known, outspoken and leading participants in activities involving the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular the question of the equality in the enjoyment of economic, political and social rights in Bahrain, particularly in relation to the Shi’a minority.

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

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

One of the detainees, Mr. Hasan Ali Fateel - a former member of the Unemployed Committee - stated in his confession that Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja had encouraged the unemployed in 2006 to organize a series of sit-ins near the Royal Court and the House of Representatives, without making any relevant connection with the alleged terrorist scheme. He also mentioned the names of Mr. Hasan Mushaima and Dr. Alsingace as being instigators for demonstrations and public protests. Other detainees stated in their broadcast “confessions” that they had been instigated and instructed by Messrs. Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, Ali Ahmed, Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb to carry out planned acts of terror.

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

The Observatory was also informed that Mr. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, a human rights defender, well-known for his role in organizing peaceful sit-ins in collaboration with the families of detainees and the Unemployed Committee, was also arrested by heavily armed forces dressed with military and civilian outfits led by officers of State Security Bureau in the early morning of December 21, 2008 from his residence in Mahooz village. On January 5, 2008, a lawyer known to the BCHR, met him in the public prosecution and reported that Mr. Al-Saffar was subjected to severe torture using electrocution in different parts of the body and in particular the genitals.

The Observatory fears that the mentioned defenders have been targeted to deter them from pursuing their human rights activities for the defence of the Shi’a minority rights, and urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against them, in line with Article 12.2 of the of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which provides 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”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Ensure that the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Abduljalil Alsingace, Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Meqdad, Ali Ahmed, Ali Mushaima and Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb be guaranteed in all circumstances;

ii. Immediately release Mr. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar, since his detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment in order to identify those responsible, bring them before a competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the criminal sanction provided by the law;

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

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, and Article 12(2) mentioned above;

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

Addresses:

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

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

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

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

***

Paris-Geneva, January 7, 2009

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

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

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

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

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

3 Jan, 2009

Deploying foreign mercenaries to hinder religious practices, close a Shiite mosque, and prevent prayers

Bahraini Authorities stepping up in targeting Shiite citizens

Bahrain- 2009-01-03

In an escalation undermining the right to practice religious freedoms of Shiites in Bahrain, a large number of the Special Security Force, overwhelmingly staffed with non-Bahraini tribal Sunnis, besieged yesterday evening Al-Sadiq mosque in Al-Ghofool area in the capital, Manama, preventing Shiite citizens from praying behind Hasan Mushaima - the default Imam of the mosque for evening prayers every Saturday. The security Special Force prevented the mosque care-taker from opening the mosque for the evening prayers, and warned people from coming close the mosque or stay in the area.

This escalation coincided with other security measures constraining the exercise of Shiite their annual rituals in the occasion of Muharram. This include the use of Special Forces to remove black cloths and fabrics, containing slogans and condolences of Shiite figures attributing Imam Husain Bin Ali Bin Abi Taleb, Shiite used to hang on walls of houses and buildings. Al-Hussein Bin Ali, the third Shiite Imam, was killed in Karbala more than 1350 years and since then they commemorate his and his family death. These forces recently triggered a campaign to tear these fabrics, in very antagonistic manner, and confiscate others in of Shiite villages such as Al-Dair, Karzakan, Al-Mussala and Bilad Al-Qadeem.

Nabeel Rajab - President of BCHR – who was near Al-Sadeq mosque witnessing the heavy security presence to prevent Shiite citizens from praying in their mosque, stated that: "The action of the security services, under no justification, in closing the mosque and the preventing Shiite worshipers from performing their prayers is a flagrant violation of basic religious freedom of those citizens". He continued: "Targeting Shiite worship places and Matams in this way is a dangerous escalation signaling a potential and rapid deterioration of the overall security and stability in Bahrain". On the evening Friday January 1, 2009, the authorities used the Security Special Force to attack tens of citizens who went to Bahrain Airport to meet Mr Hasan Mushaima- the Secretary General of HAQ Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy - on arrival from the United Kingdom following a participation in an annual activity in the House of Lords concerned with the political and human rights situation in Bahrain.

In this regard, Mr. Rajab said: "I was monitoring the event at the airport at that instance. There was no reason what so ever to justify the attack of Special Forces on the innocent people and those around Mr. Mushaima on their way towards the car park." He continued: "It was a horrible and terrifying sight when those forces used utmost ferocity and brutality on those present at that time, without distinction between a young or elderly of men and women". The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely alarmed over the escalation of the use of excessive force in dealing with popular gatherings and fears that the persistent policy of suppressing religious freedoms and detaining and torturing Shiite citizens, under the context of “uncovering a terror plot”, could spark a popular anger, with unaccounted consequences. Therefore, the BCHR calls upon the following:

1 - Cease all provocative practices and programs to suppress Shiite citizens and respect their right in exercising religious freedoms in accordance to international norms. 2 - Terminate the implementation of the secret plot, revealed by Dr Salah al-Bandar - a former adviser to the Government of Bahrain - designed to contain and control Shiite religious institutions in Bahrain, including mosques and community centers (Matams) and interfere in its affairs. This includes bring all the perpetrators to justice. 3 - Respect and maintain freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance to international norms and amend all relevant laws. 4 – Launch a serious dialogue to prevent further deterioration of the security situation and the adoption of practical programs to resolve the outstanding issues, primarily the political naturalization and the marginalization of Shiites at all levels.

2 Jan, 2009

Bahrain: A New Wave of Arrests Justified By The Uncovering A “Terror Plot”

Bahrain: A New Wave of Arrests Justified By The Uncovering A “Terror Plot” Broadcasting “Confessions” on Government TV-Cannel before Legal Charging or Trial Defaming Campaign against Activists and Leading Human Rights Defenders Detention of Human Rights Defender Abdul-Redha Al-Saffar

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expresses its deep concerns on the well being and safety of more than 14 Bahraini nationals who have been detained by the National Security Apparatus since December 15th, 2008, in relation to the alleged uncover of a “terror plot”. The BCHR is concerned of the use of such events in the ongoing campaign against activists and human rights defenders . New wave of arrests and Arbitrary Detention: A new wave of arrest started on December 15, 2008. All of the detainees were from Shia villeges in the outskirts of the capital Manama. Relatives reported that the arrests took place at dawn without proper legal procedures. The where about of the detainees was not known until the evening of 28th December when a government run TV channel broadcasted a video clip of “confessions” of some of the detainees accusing themselves as being part of an alleged “terrorism plot”. Prior to the TV broadcast and up to this moment, the detainees have been held incommunicado and were neither allowed to seek legal counseling nor to meet with their families, a practice which could facilitate the use of torture and ill-treatment in order to coerce confessions as in many documented cases since December 2007. Lawyers who attended interrogation meetings by public attorney with some of the detainees reported signs of torture on the bodies of the detainees. Names and photos of thirteen of the detainees were published in the daily press on December 29 as “the accused of the terror plot”. The published names were: from Sanabis village; Ahmed Yousef Al-Same’a (26 years), Mohammed Jamil Taher Al-Same’a (22 years) and Ali Jamil Taher Al-Same’a (28 years). From Jidahfs village: Mohamed Abdullah Abdulhusain Al-Shargi, (32 years) Mohamed Ja’afar Isa Ebrahim, (32 years), Hassan Jassim Mohammed and Fathi Jassim Makki Jassim. From Daih village: Yaseen Ali Mushaima (21). From Sar village: Hasan Ali Fateel (27 years). From Jeblat Hebshi village: Mohammad Khalil Ibrahim Al-Medawob (28 years). From Karranah village: Mohammed Hassan Saleh Al-Jazeeri (20years). In addition to: Mohsen Ahmed Al-Gassab (31 years) and Mohamed Salaman Abdul-Rasool. It is worth noting that Hassan Jassim Mohammed, was arrested on December 18th, 2008 while preparing for a gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of his brother, Ali Jassim Mohammad (31 years), who was allegedly killed by the Security Special Force on December 17, 2007 while participating in a demonstration calling for truth and Justice for the victims of torture. The death case has not been investigated despite the wide unrest that took place after the death incident and despite the many public promises by government officials.

Detention of a human rights defender: Apart from the published names, the fate of a detained human rights defender Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar (36 years)- is not yet known. He was arrested in the early morning of Sunday 21st December 2008 from his residence in Mahooz village. Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar is well known for his role in organizing peaceful sit-ins in collaboration with the families of detainees and the unemployed committee. Defaming Leading Human Rights Defenders and Activists: One of the detainees, Hasan Ali Fateel- a former member of the Unemployed Committee- stated in his broadcasted “confession” that Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the former president of BCHR, had encouraged the unemployed in 2006 to organize a series of sit-ins near the Royal Court and the House of Representatives. However, the broadcasted video clip failed to make any relevant connection with the alleged “terror Plot” which was to be carried out in December 2008. Other detainees stated in their broadcasted “confessions” that they were instigated and instructed by Mr. Ali Mushaima, a former leading member of the Unemployed Committee, and Mr. Abdulraoof Al-Shayeb, the former president of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture. Both activists have been living in exile and were granted political asylum during 2008 in the United Kingdom. Before the announcement of the alleged “terror Plot” last month, the Bahrain authorities had been unsuccessfully trying to influence the UK to restrict the activities of Bahrainis living in London. Other well-known activists mentioned as instigators were; Mr Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of HAQ Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy, Dr Abduljalil Alsingace, the head of Human Rights office at the same group and Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Meqdad, a Shia’ religious scholar who is well known of his public speeches criticizing the government for corruption and violations of basic freedoms and rights. Despite the allegations against the aforementioned figures, and the defaming campaign staged against them in the government TV and government controlled daily newspapers, none of them has been arrested or legally charged. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urges all concerned to share its call to the authorities in Bahrain: 1. To ensure the physical and psychological safety of the detainees and secure their rights of prevention from torture and ill-treatment, access to proper legal counseling, meet with their families, be treated as innocent until proven guilty and to have the right of fair public trial in accordance with international norms. 2. To immediately release human rights defender Abdul-redha Hassan Al-Saffar 3. To release of all detainees based on the lack of arrest and interrogation due procedures and the unlawful practice of condemning them as guilty in a public which reduces their chance of a fair trial 4. Stop harassing, defaming and detaining human rights defenders for their legitimate work in promoting and protection of human rights, 5. Conduct a thorough and impartial investigation in the reported violations and bring those responsible to justice.

More details and Background information Broadcasting confession-video-clip before trial: On the evening of 28th December 2008, the government run TV satellite channel broadcasted a video clip titled "Lost Deal with Terrorism: Diffusing a terror plot in the Kingdom of Bahrain". The video-clip started with emotional introduction with musical background describing the detainees in the so-called “terror plot” as criminals and terrorists while glorifying the "dedicated security forces of distinguished capacities who discovered the grave terror plot before being curried out”. This was followed by a pre-recorded video clip of “interviews” with six of those arrested since 15th December 2008, denouncing themselves for participation in the "terror plot". They blamed well known human rights defenders, political opposition and religious figures for inciting them. Although Shia’ themselves, they, strangely, stigmatized Shia’ religious institutions as places for inciting violence and terrorism. The recorded “confessions” were accompanied by special music effects, similar to that used in horror movies. The recorded “confessions”, focused on intended “bombings and serious terror acts”, while the broadcasted photos only presented a small quantity of nails, a number of tiny iron balls, and three metallic boxes said to be used in the manufacture of explosives. During the broadcast of the recorded “confessions”, video clips of riots and clashes, of no relevance to the defendants or the case, were shown. Some of the scenes shown were extracted from 2001 New Year riots which occurred at the Exhibition Road in the Capital by a group of hooligans. Other extracts were footage of events during popular protests in front of the American Embassy in 2002, aftermath the killing of Mohammed Al-Durrah, a Palestinian child, at the hands of Israeli forces. In addition to protests and unrest during last few years in deferent Shia’ Villages as a result of employment and lack of adequate housing as well as denouncing Government's policy of arbitrary detention, torture and sectarian discrimination against Shiite citizens. In that TV recording, the detainees “confessed” that while in Syria last summer, they were taken for few hours in three days to a farm in which they participated in “training to induce violence”. They also stated that they were instructed by a Bahraini young colleague who was recently granted political asylum status in the United Kingdom. Many relatives of the detainees told the press next day that their children have not travelled to Syria last summer. Many of the detainees, who participated in the "confessions" replay, were arrested as teenagers during the nineties unrests. It is to be mentioned that they all come from the three neighboring village which showed relentless protests in the past period. The Legal stance: The Department of Public Prosecutions (PP) had warned the lawyers to refrain from distributing any information on the progress of investigation in this case. Hence, the lawyers were surprised when they heard about the televised confessions few hours before broadcasting. They made attempts to stop it through the Judge of the urgent cases court, but he was not reachable. They were more astonished to learn later by an official statement that broadcast of the TV confession episode was granted the blessings and permission by the PP. Mr. Mohammed Ahmed, a member of the defense team, commented on the issue of broadcasting: “The State behavior of televising the confessions of the accused, is the conduct of disrespect to its judicial system, the Constitution and the principles contained therein”. He added: “It suggests that the State neither respects nor appreciates any of its enacted laws. My reference is the text of Article 245 of the Penal Code which states that: Punishable by imprisonment, for a term not exceeding one year, or a by fine, not exceeding 100 Bahraini Dinars, who publishes, using any publication means, of things which could affect those entrusted to decide in any case brought before the judiciary or in charge of investigation or experts duties, or influence the witnesses who may be required to perform testimony in that case or investigation, or matters that would prevent the individual from disclosure of information to people of jurisdiction, or influence public opinion in favor of a party to the case or the investigation or against him. If the publication was in order to influence the said or proven false, it was counted as an aggravating circumstance”. Background: For the past two years, the Government of Bahrain has been trying to convince the British authorities to refrain from granting asylum to Bahraini dissidents and activists, in the pretext that they were involved in inciting violence. The attempts of the Bahrainis went further to ask the British for the nullification of the status granted to few of well known former activists in the Unemployed Committee and the Committee of Victims of Torture, when they were in Bahrain. It seems that broadcasting such "confessions" serves that purpose and introduces more pressure on the British Authorities to contain those activists. The BCHR envisages that the recent campaign of detentions is part of a series of arrests targeting and containing human rights defenders and activists of popular committees in Shi'ite areas, whose youths exhibited relentless and spontaneous demonstrations and protests because of unemployment, low income and policies of sectarian discrimination they have been exposed to. It is widely known that Shiites youths are banned to join or recruited by some of the State institutions, effectively marginalized in all political and economic aspects of life, in addition to the systematic suppression of peaceful protests using foreign mercenaries. As a comment on bringing the recently detained youth in the televised confessions, Mr Nabeel Rajab, the president of BCHR, stated that “The Bahraini authorities had seriously violated the defendant's right of innocence until proven guilty, and grossly interfered in the function of the judiciary”. He added: “This is a preempt measure to secure a local public opinion and international condemnation to the detainees before bringing them to trial”. It is feared that fabricating confessions and bringing up names of well known human rights defenders and dissidents may have been to set the stage for their arrest. More over, BCHR foresees that framing Shiite worship centers (or Matams) as nests of provocation may be a prelude to attack any public activities by the opposition in the coming days of Ashura. Until recently, the security bodies in Bahrain have been known for fabrication of bogus security incidents and/or exaggerate signs of protest in the background of the security and political tensions in the country resulting from pending and unsolved public concerned issues. For several times and in order to cause a public diversion, the Government of Bahrain had portrayed many protests as acts of violence and terror plans. It even produced and broadcasted video films to support its allegations, the last of which is that submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2005, a copy of which was received by BCHR and was later exposed to the public. The Government of Bahrain, spoke also about terror cells and camps for inducing terrorism, but failed to provide any evidence in support of these claims and allegations. In 2006, it had claimed that it discovered a terror plot and a training camp for terrorists in the village of Bani Jamra. It was later found that it was bogus, and remained the focus of sarcastic comments in the press and the streets of Bahrain.

31 Dec, 2008

Authorities prevent direct access to online forums

Date: 30 December 2008 (BCHR/IFEX) - The http://bahrainonline.org and http://shaheed-bh.org websites are well known state-targeted public forums in Bahrain. Recently, for more than the tenth time since their launch, the authorities have prevented direct access to these public sites inside Bahrain. The administration teams of the websites have had to resort to providing different addresses for the public to access the sites.

Bahrainonline is one of the oldest and largest public forums in Bahrain, as well as the earliest to be targeted by the local authorities. It is an independent electronic forum and an easily accessible source of information and news exchange in Bahrain, as well as a host for articles and reports considered subversive by the authorities. During the first quarter of 2005, it was banned and its administrators were incarcerated and prosecuted by the authorities on charges of inciting hatred. After international and local protests, they were later released on bail, but were banned from traveling.

The Shaheed-bh ("Marytr") forum is dedicated to martyrs and victims of torture in Bahrain, and contains language considered to be offensive by the local authorities. As such, its administrators have sought anonymity. In addition to news and other information, the site contains archives of those killed during protests in the nineties, as well as a record of those detained and imprisoned in incidents that have taken place since December 2007.

Electronic sites, among them these leading forums, are used by opposition and human rights groups, as well as social organisations, to publicise their positions and advertise events. They are also considered an arena through which public views are influenced.

There are over 535 electronic sites in Bahrain, on 25 different themes, of which 111 are public forums, 60 are allocated to villages and towns and 59 belong to government organisations. There are about 200 blogs. Most of the bloggers operate anonymously for fear of attacks by the authorities. In 2007, blogger Mahmood Den was taken to court by the municipalities' minister on defamation charges.

BCHR expresses its concerns over the persistent measures undertaken by the Bahraini authorities to block the flow of information by preventing access to electronic sites and popular forums. The authorities' actions violate Article 19 of the ICCPR ratified by Bahrain on 20 September 2006.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to authorities: - calling on them to lift the ban on all electronic sites carrying information relating to public, cultural and human rights affairs in Bahrain and elsewhere - urging them to amend the Press Decree Code no. 47 of 2002 to bring it into conformity with international human rights standards

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

25 Dec, 2008

Bahrain: Apprehending activists .. Using excessive force.. Dawn raids of Shiite villages by foreign Special Forces

Amidst security and political tensions, Authorities assert discovering another terrorist cell.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concerns about the deteriorating local security status due to excessive use of force, mass arrests of activists and demonstrators, and dawn raids to several Shiite villages using heavy armed foreign forces. An atmosphere of clashes between demonstrators and security forces consisting of foreign forces prevailed in all villages and areas of Bahrain after the Authority prevented a peaceful demonstration on December 17, called up on by the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture to commemorate the anniversary of victims of torture in the previous era. This date was chosen to retrieve the public memory about the two young men shot dead by snipers of special security forces during nineties of the last century, while they were participating in a peaceful march in the village of Sanabis calling for political reforms, democracy and restoration of the then dissolved parliament.

The clashes were concentrated in the villages of Duraz ,Sanabis , Jidhafs, Daih, North Sehla, Jabalat Habshi, Sitra, Malikeyya , Bani Jamra and South Sehla .The detainees, all Shiite, aged between twenty and thirty years. BCHR believes that the majority of detainees were targeted for their activities in popular and various human rights committees.

On the other hand, an official statement, released to local and international news agencies by a source in the National Security Bureau, stated that a "terrorist" cell was discovered consisting of a group of Bahrainis was "planning" to carry out a terrorist acts aimed at disrupting public order, terrorize innocent civilians and threaten their lives. The said statement did not disclose the number of persons involved or details of the case, but spoke of the intention of bombings, intimidation and murder of citizens and expats and did not publish any pictures or details of the nature of the explosives to be detonated or the bombing destinations.

The state- security Authorities in Bahrain have been known of fabricating fictitious security incidents or exaggeration what happens in protests or "riots" in the light of the security and political tensions in the country by its policies of discrimination against Shiites as well as other outstanding issues. In the past, the same Authorities had numerously portrayed some protesting activities as terrorist plans and spoke of cells and camps of terrorism, but failed to provide any evidence to support such claims and allegations. In 2006, the security authorities claimed that it had discovered a terrorist plot and a training camp to train terrorists in the village of Bani Jamra. But subsequently, it was found that the said place is an ordinary farm of no connection to security story. Rather, the whole issue became mockery and sarcastic comments in the press and public.

Another issue is the death of Majid Asghar Bakhsh in the village of Karzakan, a Pakistani national member of Special Forces who was on duty in civilian clothes in armed security patrol. The security Authorities initially claimed that his death was a result of fire set in the car by protesters, however, the forensic reports revealed later that his death was due to head injury and not burns, a testimony concurrent with that of lawyers confirming the death cause to be injury to the head. Doubts increased in the case when the lawyers brought up document proving that Bakhsh died on a day different from the alleged date.

According to the statement issued by the security authorities, the defendants in terrorist cell case would be prosecuted according to the internationally condemned Terrorism Code (Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts). The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism had condemned the law and so did many local, regional and international organizations. These would include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and Frontline Defenders who oppose the law as it violates human rights principles and its international charters.

Until this moment, neither the families have not met with the accused youth as the Public Prosecutions (PP) conducts prolonged interrogations after midnight till early morning. It is believed that the PP is using this time to ensure that the lawyers and families do not meet with the defendants.

Bahrain is in a state of deep tension primarily because of the unsolved issues such as the systematic discrimination against Shiites, the detention and imprisonment of dozens of detainees, political and sectarian naturalization, and the constitutional issue.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls for:

1 – Release of all political and human rights activists from jails 2 - Stop the systematic discrimination against the Shiites in all fields. 3 - Cessation of politically motivated naturalization and stop recruiting foreign mercenaries in Special Forces. 4 – Open a dialogue with the different societal and political groups to reach practical solutions to the outstanding issues. 5- Stop attacks on peaceful marches and demonstrations, which represent signs of the freedom of expression.

19 Dec, 2008

AP:Police disperse Bahrain protest

Witnesses: Police disperse Bahrain protest By REEM KHALIFA – 5 hours ago MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Witnesses say Bahraini security troops have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of protesters demanding Arab governments take action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

The witnesses say a number of people, including women and children, were wounded by rubber bullets and others overcome by gas. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals by authorities and could not give exact numbers.

Ibraheem Sharif, an opposition leader, says more than 10,000 people were attending the rally Friday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Mohamad Bin Dina denies rubber bullets were used, saying tear gas was fired when some demonstrators began destroying public property and throwing stones at police. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gpCxJx1tcrgtx8_fW0OmL4RjCysQD955RVPO0

Bahraini demonstrators assist a veiled woman who collapsed while riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who urged people across the Arab and Muslim world to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators flee tear gas and rubber bullets fired Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah for Arabs and Muslims to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators flee tear gas and rubber bullets fired Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah for Arabs and Muslims to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Bahraini demonstrators assist a veiled woman who collapsed while riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Friday, Dec. 19, 2008, to disperse many thousands of protesters in Manama, Bahrain. The massive rally, peaceful until degenerating into chaos near the end, stemmed from a call by Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who urged people across the Arab and Muslim world to demonstrate Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

19 Dec, 2008

London:Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group

Bahrain seminar, 11.00 Thursday December 18, Moses Room

This week Bahrain was hosting a regional security summit, and the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, a close relative of the King like most leading members of the government, gave the keynote speech. He had the nerve to say that in Bahrain “individual rights are protected, and ….the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law, and economic freedom prevail”. As we have noted on previous occasions, one of the principles of democracy is that the people have the right to change the government through the ballot box, whereas in Bahrain, the electorate has no right or power to dislodge the ruling family. The Prime Minister, the king’s uncle, has held office as Prime Minister for 38 years, a world record. The king himself appoints all the Ministers, under a constitution that preserves the hereditary dictatorship. Another principle of democracy is that the majority decide public policy. Again as we have noted before, on Bahrain the Shi’a did constitute 70% of the population, but they hold less than 13% if the top positions in government departments. I say ‘did’, because the ruling family has a long term strategy of encouraging immigration by Sunnis and emigration by Shi’a, in a unique piece of demographic engineering that was reported by Human Rights Watch and others. In the census of 2001 there were 406,000 citizens, and this has leapt to 529,000 by the end of 2007 . Although there are reports on how this is organised from reputable international organisations like the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Asian Commission on Human Rights and the International Crisis Group, up to now there has been no systematic collection of the evidence, as I suggested when we met in August. I repeat: the conspiracy to change the cultural identity of a population is a crime against humanity that must be exposed, and the process of setting up a mechanism for receiving testimonies in confidence and publishing them on the web is now in train. Collecting and publishing this material has to be done abroad, since freedom of expression is another of the rights which are not protected in Bahrain. Last week a writer and journalist, Maryam al-Shoroogi, was charged with sedition for an article she wrote on discrimination in public employment, based on her own personal experience. Whistle-blowers who report inconvenient facts are generally liable to prosecution, but we do know how the conspiracy is organised from the report by Dr Saleh al-Bander, a British citizen who was expelled when he published details of the plan master-minded by Sheikh Ahmed bin Atiyatalla Al Khalifa, yet another member of the royal mafia. When three prominent human rights activists spoke at a meeting in Washington DC about the exclusion of Shi’a from higher education and public sector jobs, they were branded as ‘traitors’ and ‘stooges of the Unuted States’ on returning to Bahrain, and the Interior Minister, one more al-Khalifa, called for the enforcement of Article 34 of the Penal Code, which provides that a person who criticises Bahrain abroad is liable to three months imprisonment and a fine. I wrote to the Foreign Office Minister who deals with Bahrain, Bill Rammell MP, and he said our Ambassador was seeking a call on the Interior Minister to discuss his Article 34 demand, and also the wider issues of Bahrainis speaking at conferences abroad. But the British Consulate in Manama is an accomplice in making it difficult for human rights activists to speak at overseas meetings, by delaying the granting of visas, as with our speaker from the Bahrain Youth for Human Rights today. This is not the first time our invited speakers have had delays in getting their visas, and as there is no record of any of our speakers over many years complying with the immigration rules, one is tempted to suspect collusion between the consulate and the Ministry of the Interior. Our Minister said he wasn’t aware of the coordinated smear campaign against Nabil Rajab, chairman of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and his two colleagues, who attended the Washington meeting. Human Rights Watch, IFEX, the network of free expression groups, and Frontline Defenders, have all carried notices about the threats, and its clear that the regime’s plan is to intimidate human rights activists in the hope of silencing them without having to use more drastic tools of repression.

In the same way, the al-Khalifas use the monopoly service provider Batelco to block websites that deal with human rights abuse in Bahrain, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The al-Bander report also shows that large sums of money are paid to organisations running websites and Internet forums which foment sectarian hatred, and to GONGOs – Government Organised NGOs – such as the Jurists' Society, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, the Bahrain First Society and the Bahrain Political Society. The regime is also spending money on a US lobby firm, Patton Boggs, to peddle the line that the Shi’a are getting a fair deal in Bahrain. Unfortunately, it has turned out that the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, which was intended to be the mechanism for identifying and rectifying human rights abuses in every country as its name implies, is ineffective. In the case of Bahrain, there were submissions from 12 ‘stakeholders’ with serious criticisms of inequality and discrimination; violations of the right to life, liberty and security of the person; maladministration of justice and breaches of the rule of law; denial of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and right to participate in public and political life, and the right to an adequate standard of living. But the report which followed doesn’t have a single word to say on any of these matters. It simply repeats some of the minor recommendations made by other member states, such as that Bahrain be invited to inform the Human Rights Council in four years time what plans it has to pass laws for the protection of domestic workers, and that the draft press law ought not to unduly restrict freedom of expression.

We just held the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the occasion for much self-congratulation. It would have been far better, to have recognised the insufficiency of the UN processes it has taken the world all that time to create, and to underline the necessity of holding seminars like this, to allow genuine debate on the persistent and endemic human rights crises that still undermine many people’s freedoms. The submerged half of Bahrain’s population looked in vain to the new system in Bahrain, but until there are the fundamental changes to their own system of governance they will continue to rely on us to keep their flag of liberty aloft.

1. A gender perspective be included in the planning of the next stages, including the outcome of the review (Slovenia). 2. Initiating a public campaign with the view to removing reservations to CEDAW, ratifying the Optional Protocol and harmonizing national legislation with the Convention. Bahrain was invited to inform about plans in this regard (Slovenia). 3. With regard to the recommendation of Switzerland reflected in paragraph 35 above, Bahrain can conduct wide consultations between different partners, in particular the legislative authority, with the view of adopting a family law. 4. Bahrain could consider signing the Convention on the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance (France). 5. The draft law on the provision of citizenship to children where the father is not a Bahraini citizen would be considered a priority (Russian Federation). 6. With regard to the recommendation of the Netherlands reflected in paragraph 40, Bahrain would inform the Human Rights Council in the next review of Bahrain that will be held after four years on the status of adoption of new legislation on female domestic workers. 7. The draft press law ought not to be unduly restrictive on freedom of expression (Sweden). 8. Bahrain could consider inviting the United Nations to a workshop on follow-up to the UPR (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). 9. The positive dynamism of the information sector of Bahrain be recorded (Tunisia). 61. With regard to the other recommendations, the State under review offers the following comments: 1. While independence of the judiciary is preserved by the Constitution and laws, efficiency and performance are the main areas that the judiciary and the Government are working to enhance. 2. Forced marriage is a crime in the laws of Bahrain and is covered by the Criminal Code and the anti-trafficking law. Victims are entitled to remedies and protection in accordance with the laws of Bahrain. 3. Bahrain would consider inviting special procedures in the future.

18 Dec, 2008

The British Embassy in Bahrain prevents a human rights activist from getting a visa

Due to his Participation in a Human Rights Symposium in the British House of Lords:

The British Embassy in Bahrain prevents a human rights activist from getting a visa

Manama, Oslo – 17 December 2008 The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights -BYSHR and the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights and International Law-AECHR express their deep concern regarding the measures the British embassy in Bahrain took in delaying the procedures of obtaining a visa for entering the British lands for Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati – president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights – in order to participate in a symposium held by Lord Eric Avebury – member of the British House of Lords [[i]] – regarding human rights issues in Bahrain. Mr. Avebury had extended an invitation to Mr. Al-Maskati to participate with a paper on human rights issues in Bahrain on 18 December 2008 at the headquarters of the British House of Lords in London.

Mr. Al-Maskati stated that he received the invitation on 30 November 2008, and on 4 December he applied for a visa and he attached the letter addressed to the British embassy in Bahrain to facilitate obtaining the visa. For 13 days he continuously and for several times kept checking with the people in charge of extracting visas, and he also checked with the visa department in the British embassy. This continuous follow-up did not give any results whether with a rejection or approval, nor did the embassy even ask for additional documents other than the invitation letter that was attached to the visa application.

Al-Maskati made clear that he informed Lord Avebury of the delay in obtaining the visa, and Lord Avebury told him that he would keep track of the case with the British Foreign Office to know the cause of delay in the visa.

Al-Maskati stressed that on 17 December 2008, he decided not to participate in the symposium, and he informed Lord Avebury of this decision, because he would not be able to travel within just one day, and in case he did get the visa he would not be able to participate because the next flight would arrive in London later than the time of the event.

The information of The BYSHR and the AECHR indicate that the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some of the members of parliament, who have a close relation with the executive powers in Bahrain, have played a role in preventing the participation of human rights activists in the event held by the House of Lords [[ii]]. The reports published in the local and international newspapers indicate the intensive meetings that were held between some of the MPs and the British ambassador in Bahrain, and between the Minister of Foreign Affairs with the British Foreign Secretary, where they discussed issues concerning Bahraini human rights activists who have obtained political asylum in Britain and the Bahraini authorities resentment towards the British government giving political asylum to Bahraini activists who the authorities accuse of committing acts of sabotage and riots in Bahrain, and also Bahrain’s resentment towards holding annual events on human rights issues in Bahrain, and the participation of international organizations in these events.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Arab-Euro Center emphasize that the British embassy in Bahrain does not carry out the EU guidelines on human rights defenders in the world. The European Commission of Human Rights has confirmed that the Union Member States should inform their embassies in countries of the guidelines on the definition of human rights defenders, and which emphasizes providing the protection possible to whoever carries out a job in the field of human rights [[iii]].

The BYSHR Rights and the AECHR stress on the following:

To provide legal and moral protection to the human rights activist Mohammed Al-Maskati, in order for him to practice his work in utmost freedom.

To investigate the details of the delay in extracting a visa for Mr. Al-Maskati by the British embassy in Bahrain.

The European Union should direct a straightforward criticism to the British government for the embassy’s lack of attention towards the EU Commission of Human Rights’ guidelines.

The British embassy in Bahrain should practice its diplomatic work in utmost freedom without any pressures from the Bahraini authorities.

The international organizations should criticize what the British embassy in Bahrain did towards Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati.

For further information:

In Bahrain, Nader Al-Salatna – Vice president of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights

+973-3... or naderalsalatna@ byshr.org

In Norway, D. Abdullah Al-Salamo – Assistant director of the Arab-Euro Center for Human Rights

+33-65... or a.alsalmo@gmail.com

Organization’s number: 989 862 057

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[[i]] Lord Eric Avebury’s website http://ericavebury.blogspot.com/

[[ii]] Statements of some of the MPs close to the executive power , Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs statements

http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7011832072

[[iii]] The EU human rights commission’s guidelines on the defenders of human rights

http://ue.eu.int/uedocs/cmsUpload/GuidelinesDefenders.pdf

16 Dec, 2008

Bahraini Forces attack residents to prevent a demonstration calling for release of political and human rights activists

Using tear gas, rubber bullets and all means of force, Bahraini Special Forces (BSF) fiercely attacked the residents of village of Sanabis in an attempt to suppress a demonstration started from within the village after being banned from being launched from its declared position. The sponsoring group of the event composed of fourteen well known scholars, political, human rights activists publically called for a peaceful demonstration to be held last Friday. The demonstration is to call for cleansing the Bahraini prisons from all political and human rights defenders. Three days before the event, the sponsoring group informed the Authorities of its call and passed a written notification to the Capital Security Authorities who refused to receive it. An hour before the event, the BSF, armed and outnumbered, besieged the location where the demonstration should launch, preventing any body from coming close. Protestors then gathered in the nearby village of Sanabis and initiated a demonstration, towards the other end of the village, away from the location of the BSF. The security forces fiercely attacked the demonstration as it reached the main road, and showered it with rubber bullets and tear gas. Protestors reverted to the village main center, but the BSF chased them into Sanabis throwing big quantities of gas and the bullets, on the residents of the village. Protestors and people from the village re-acted by blocking main roads with garbage containers, setting fire into them . This situation continued until the evening, and resulted in the arrest of some detainees.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concerns over the violent attitude of the Authorities towards freedom of assembly, and the violent re-action by the demonstrators. A month ago, the same group held a sit-in in front of the Bahrain Mall, calling for the same demands and was attended by representatives of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, local committees defending the rights for detainees in addition to some political societies. The event lasted for over an hour without any clashes or misconduct. The act of the Bahraini Authorities is in violations to articles of the ICCPR, conceded by Bahrain on September 20, 2006, in particular that for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Article 19 of ICCPR states that "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference". Article 21 of the same covenant states that:"The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

MORE INFORMATION:

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

10 Dec, 2008

Journalist prosecuted for alleged sedition, slander, false reporting

Urgency: Threat (BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has learned that Maryam Al-Shoroogi, a journalist and writer from "Alwasat" newspaper, was summoned on 1 December 2008 by the Public Prosecution (PP) Office on charges of publishing an article which harms unity and introduces discrimination sedition between citizens in Bahrain.

Al-Shoroogi was interrogated by Nawaf Hamza, Head of Public Prosecutions, who decided to postpone the case until summoning the writer's friend to confirm the validity of the information brought up by the journalist in her article.

The interrogation focused on Al-Shoroogi's response to a Civil Service Bureau (CSB) statement, charging Al-Shoroogi with insulting the Bureau when she accused it of using discriminatory practices based on political affiliation. Moreover, the CSB accused Al-Shoroogi of slander and false reporting when she mentioned her experience of employment discrimination by staff of the Bureau when she and her friend were applying for jobs with the CSB.

In a statement to "Alwasat" newspaper, Al-Shoroogi stated that she told the PP: "There is discrimination taking place. I mentioned the details of my own experience when a friend and I applied for posts with the Civil Service Bureau."

Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR, stated that: "Prosecuting the journalist and writer Al-Shoroogi is yet another example of deterioration in the level of freedom of expression and journalism in Bahrain". He continued:"The Bahrain government should stop its systematic practice of sectarian discrimination against the majority indigenous Shia, rather than silencing journalists and writers who are highlighting a way to stop it."

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the Bahraini authorities: - urging them to cease harassing journalists and writers who express their views on public affairs and issues related to misconduct, corruption and ill-practices - calling for the amendment or abolition of all legislation targeting journalists and writers who exercise their duty of documenting, reporting and analysing the conduct of public institutions - asking that they repeal the case against Al-Shoroogi and ensure that no reprisals are carried out against her as a result of reporting on discriminatory practices in the government - calling for an end to the practice of sectarian discrimination against the majority indigenous Shia

APPEALS TO: His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, the King of Bahrain Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

MORE INFORMATION:

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