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Sign Petition: Amnesty Int: Bahrain: ensuring accountability for excessive force and protection for protesters

24 March 2011

Amnesty International has documented how in February, security forces in Bahrain used excessive force against peaceful protesters without warning and impeded and assaulted medical staff trying to help the wounded. The riot police used tear gas, batons, rubber bullets and shotguns to disperse the crowds, killing seven people between 14 and 21 February and injuring scores of other protesters. Among those injured were medical staff who were trying to help wounded protesters in or near the Pearl Roundabout after protestors who had set up camp there were forcibly dispersed by the security forces early on 17 February. Paramedics trying to assist injured people on the same morning were beaten and attacked by the riot police.

Bahrain experienced further violence in mid-March after Saudi Arabia sent in one thousand troops and UAE police arrived in the small Gulf state, apparently at the request of the Bahrain government. On 15 March Bahrain's King declared a national state of emergency of three months’ duration. On 15 and 16 March the riot police and army reportedly fired at protesters injuring many and killing several. During these two days the army and riot police blocked access to health centres and hospitals. Since protests started on 14 February, at least 12 protesters have been killed and another four have been found dead after they went missing in circumstances that are as yet unclear. It has been reported also that three foreign migrant workers were killed, apparently by persons other than the security forces, and that at least three policemen officers also died in clashes with protesters. Hundreds others have been injured and access to hospitals and health centres has been blocked.

Following the attacks on 16 March, at least 10 opposition activists and six medical doctors were arrested. Two of the 15 detainees were released within hours of their arrest but the whereabouts of the 14 others are currently unknown. The Bahraini authorities have not said where they are being held or given them access to their families or lawyers, nor have they disclosed the legal basis for their arrest other than saying they are accused of calling for the downfall of the government, inciting violence and acting as agents of a foreign power – an implicit reference to Iran. These accusations are denied by the detainees’ families. At least eight of the opposition activists are reported to have been arrested by a joint force of Bahraini and Saudi Arabian security forces who did not produce arrest warrants. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience; four were only recently released after several months in detention during which some alleged that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated.

Following the deaths of seven protestors in February, the King of Bahrain announced that an inquiry would be conducted by Deputy Prime Minister, Jawad al-'Arayedh but, to date, the government has provided no further details about this inquiry. Clearly, it cannot be considered independent if it is being conducted by a senior government minister.

Amnesty International is calling on the King of Bahrain to establish an immediate full, thorough, transparent and independent commission of inquiry to investigate the use of lethal and other excessive force by the security forces against protesters, medical staff and others in both February and March, to make the results of the investigation public and to ensure that all those found responsible for unlawful killings, excessive force or other serious abuses are brought to justice.

Amnesty International is also urging the Bahraini authorities to immediately rein in their security forces, including support forces provided by Saudi Arabia and other states, in order to prevent any repetition of the killings and other abuses that have occurred so far; to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest; and to release the political activists and medical practitioners who are currently being detained as prisoners of conscience.

His Majesty, Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Please sign the petition urging the King of Bahrain to:

• Set up immediately an independent commission of inquiry to conduct a full, thorough and transparent investigation into the killings and attacks on protesters and the assaults on health and medical workers, and make the results of the investigation public; • Guarantee and uphold the right to peaceful protest and afford protection to peaceful protesters from excessive force by police or violence by others; • Respect and protect the right to freedom of association and ensure that all human rights organizations and human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without political interference or hindrance; • Ensure that excessive force is not again used against protesters in Bahrain •Release immediately and unconditionally the opposition activists and medical practitioners detained in March who AI considers to be prisoners of conscience. • Protect foreign migrant workers who may be at risk of attack


Bahrain: EP condemns violent repression of demonstrators

23 March 2011

Plenary sessions

Parliament condemns the Bahrain's violent repression of demonstrators voicing their legitimate aspirations for democratic reforms and urges it to engage in political dialogue in a resolution passed on Thursday. Prompted by political and security developments in the Gulf, this updated resolution calls for a strengthening of strategic links with the Gulf Cooperation Council and its member countries.

The resolution prepared by Dominique Baudis (EPP, FR) and voted by a very large majority on Thursday calls for trade negotiations with the GCC and its members to be pursued, and for bilateral cooperation to be extended to the fields of education, research and energy. Parliament stresses the need to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Violence condemned, call for political dialogue

In the context of the current drive for democracy in certain GCC countries, MEPs call for an immediate end to the Bahraini authorities' violent repression of peacefully demonstrating citizens. Parliament is concerned that this repression is being supported by troops from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, under the GCC banner. It urges states in the region to acknowledge the aspirations of citizens and to engage in a political dialogue with emerging civil society for a peaceful transition to genuine democracy.

Free trade agreement and more extensive relations in the energy field

Parliament deplores the fact that despite 20 years of negotiations, an EU-Gulf free trade agreement has yet to be concluded, even though most of the work has been done. It calls for a definitive solution to bring this instrument of mutual prosperity, which could promote geopolitical stability, into effect. In the energy field, Parliament believes that synergies should be sought among GCC, Union for the Mediterranean and EU countries, notably in the fields of energy efficiency, measures to combat climate change, natural gas and nuclear safety.

Step up EU diplomatic presence

MEPs urge the EU to step up its diplomatic presence in the region, notably by establishing an EU delegation in each of the six GCC states (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuweit, Bahrein, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar). With a view to the 20 April 2011 annual EU-GCC ministerial meeting in Abu Dhabi, MEPs ask that regular meetings be held at head of state level.

Procedure: non-legislative resolution

Statement on the situation in Bahrain

On behalf of the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, Angelika Niebler, chair of the delegation, issues the following statement:

"We noted with deep concern the deteriorating situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the deployment of the Saudi-led Peninsula shield forces on the territory of the Kingdom, the imposing of the state of emergency and of the martial law. We express our great distress on the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, on attacks on ambulances and hospitals and call for immediate cessation of further violence. We call on the Bahraini authorities to find a peaceful answer, through political dialogue, to the people's legitimate aspirations and to fulfil their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including the protection of healthcare facilities and allowing the treatment of the wounded."

Contact : Delphine COLARD AFET/DROI/SEDE BXL: (+32) 2 28 43383 STR: (+33) 3 881 74934 PORT: (+32) 498 98 44 85 EMAIL: foreign-press@europarl.europa.eu EMAIL: delphine.colard@europarl.europa.eu

Paola BUONADONNA London STR: (+33) 3 881 74822 PORT: (+44) 7 786 060 531 EMAIL: Press-en@europarl.europa.eu EMAIL: paola.buonadonna@europarl.europa.eu ADDINFO: (+44) 207 227 43 35

Eimear NÍ BHROIN Dublin STR: (+33) 3 881 64122 PORT: (+353) 868 559 423 EMAIL: Press-en@europarl.europa.eu EMAIL: eimear.nibhroin@europarl.europa.eu ADDINFO: (+353) 1 605 79 32

HRW: Bahrain: Investigate Shooting, Arrest of Man Caught Up in Police Sweep

Authorities Refusing to Reveal Whereabouts of Growing Roster of Detainees

March 23, 2011

(Manama) - Bahraini authorities should immediately investigate the shooting of a 32-year-old man caught up in a police sweep on March 19, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should immediately reveal his whereabouts and condition and hold those responsible for his attack accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

The man, Hani Abdul-Aziz Abdullah Jumah, is among scores of people arrested since security forces resumed attacks on protesters on March 15. The authorities have refused to reveal where they are being held or the charges against them.

"It's bad enough that authorities refuse to say anything about the well-being, whereabouts, or legal charges against their scores of detainees," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch. "But denying information to the families of people who are injured by security forces is a new and alarming development." Jumah, a cleaner from Khamis village and the father of year-old twins, left the family's house at about 5 p.m. on March 19. His father, Abd al-Aziz Abdullah Jumah, told Human Rights Watch his son was responding to a cry for help outside just as riot police began sweeping through the neighborhood. Fifteen minutes later, a witness said, the younger Jumah was seen running from the Khamis roundabout pursued by eight riot police wearing helmets. "Hani was running toward the nearby building, which was under construction, and the police were 15 meters behind him," the witness said, asking not to be named for security reasons. "He ran straight past my house."

Another witness said he had seen police chase Jumah into an empty apartment building under construction, but only realized an hour-and-a-half later that Jumah had not left the building after the police did. The witness raised an alarm, and local residents went to search for Jumah. They found him unconscious, lying in a large pool of his own blood, the witness said. He sustained massive injuries to his knees and arm caused by being shot at point-blank range with a shotgun, a witness told Human Rights Human Rights Watch examined the scene of the attack on March 22, three days afterwards, and found fragments of bone, which a medical expert confirmed to be fragments of knee bone consistent with being shot at close range, as well as a tooth and pieces of human tissue still stuck to the wall and ceiling of the empty room, apparently the result of the velocity of the shots that maimed Jumah. "The sheer brutality of the attack on Hani Jumah demands an immediate independent investigation, and the officers responsible need to be held accountable," Stork said. "Bahraini authorities have not even acknowledged his whereabouts, much less explained why he was lying there in a pool of blood." Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they rolled Jumah onto a carpet provided by a local resident and brought him by car to a nearby private hospital, where doctors struggled for nearly two hours to stabilize him after massive blood loss. Jumah's father said that at about 9:20 p.m., an ambulance arrived from the Bahraini Defense Force (BDF) Hospital, accompanied by two masked police officers, and the officers announced they were transferring his son to that hospital. That was the last time Jumah's family saw him.

The father told Human Rights Watch that he called the BDF Hospital on both March 20 and March 21 requesting information on his son's whereabouts and condition, but that hospital officials would give him no information. "I told them I know the BDF ambulance came and brought my son there, but the BDF Hospital keeps saying, 'No, he is not here.'" The father said he said he told the officials that he and Jumah's mother would come and look for him, but that they said, "No chance."

"Hani Jumah was last seen being taken away in a BDF Hospital ambulance, and we know from witnesses and medical experts that there was no way he could have walked away after being shot in the knees at close range," Stork said. "The military runs the BDF Hospital and needs to tell Jumah's family how and where he is."

As of March 23, Wefaq, a leading Bahraini political society, had documented 112 cases of people missing as well as dozens detained without charge since attacks on protesters resumed on March 15. Human Rights Watch has also documented a pattern over the past week of late-night raids on homes and arrests of people who have criticized the government, as well as prominent opposition figures and doctors.

"Bahrain's declaration of martial law on March 15 does not change the responsibility of the authorities and security forces to comply with their obligations under international human rights law." Stork said. "They need to account for all those in state custody and investigate the apparent unlawful use of force against Hani Jumah."


Amnesty Int: Bahrain: URGENT ACTION: Further arrests of activists and doctors

Further information on UA: 79/11 Index: MDE 11/015/2011 Bahrain Date: 23 March 2011


A crackdown on Shi’a opposition activists and doctors continues in Bahrain, with six more people detained in the past few days. Amnesty International believes that they have been detained solely for their criticism of and involvement in the protests and that therefore they are prisoners of conscience.

Salah ‘Abdullah al-khawaja, an opposition activist, was arrested on 21 March in his house. His family does not know where he is being held. He is said to have recently denounced attacks on protestors by Bahraini security forces in interviews on Arabic satellite TV channels and to have been actively involved in documenting human rights cases. Dr ‘Ali al-‘Ekri, who works at al-Salmaniya hospital in Manama was detained on 17 March. His whereabouts and those of four other doctors from the same hospital - Dr. Bassem Dhaif, Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, Dr. Nada Dhaif, Dr. Mahmood Ashgar – are currently unknown and have not been disclosed by the Bahraini authorities. A sixth doctor who was arrested has since been released. Some of the detained doctors had given TV interviews in which they condemned the security forces both for attacking protestors and for obstructing the efforts of medical workers to assist the wounded, including by blocking access to the hospital to people in need of medical assistance and preventing medical staff from leaving the hospital.

A doctor from al-Salmaniya hospital told Amnesty International on 23 March that many doctors and nurses have been receiving anonymous sms messages in the last few days containing threats against their lives such as: ‘don’t go to the hospital. If you go to work you will die in a car accident’.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:

•Express concern that the activists and doctors detained since 17 March are prisoners of conscience, detained for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression, association and assembly;

•Urge the authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally and to protect them from torture or other ill-treatment;

•Urge the authorities to reveal the wheareabouts of all those detained and give them immediate access to lawyers and their families;

•Urge the authorities to refrain from continuing to arrest and harass opposition activists, health professionals and any other person exercising the rights to freedom expression, movement and assembly in Bahrain, including the right to peaceful protest.


King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17664587 Salutation: Your Majesty

Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Office of the Prime Minister P.O. Box 1000, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17533033 Salutation: Your Highness

Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah bin Ahmad Al Khalifa Minister of Interior Ministry of Interior P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 17232661 Salutation: Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 79/11.

Additional Information

Bahrain has been gripped by popular protests inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt since 14 February 2011, when there was a ‘Day of Rage’, held on the 10th anniversary of the endorsement of Bahrain’s National Action Charter, a programme of reforms. Protesters have largely been drawn from the majority Shi’a community who comprise some 70 per cent of the population but complain they are discriminated against and marginalized by the ruling Sunni minority. They have been calling for a new constitution, an elected government and greater freedoms and opportunities. Seven protestors were killed by security forces in February and hundreds injured, many by rubber bullets and riot police using shotguns. There was then a temporary hiatus after the government proposed a national dialogue involving opposition activists and political associations but this broke down earlier this week after Saudi Arabia sent in one thousand troops to buttress the government and 500 police arrived from the United Arab Emirates. Bahraini security forces, backed by these foreign forces, then launched a brutal crackdown which resulted in clashes between security forces and demonstrators and further deaths and injuries. The King declared a three month state of emergency and much of Bahrain has been placed under a virtual curfew. At least two government ministers, five members of the Shura Council, an advisor to the King, and many judges in the Shari’a (al-Ja’fariya) courts, who are all Bahraini Shi’a Muslims, have resigned in protest at the use of excessive force by the Bahraini authorities.


BCHR Condemns Reported Hate Attacks on Migrant Workers in Bahrain

March 23, 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has condemned reports of a series of violent attacks on migrant workers in Bahrain over the last week, amidst a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

An article in the Gulf Daily News printed on Sunday said that 34 migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh had been injured in attacks over the previous six days. [1]

“Because of the security conditions in the country right now, we are unable to independently investigate and verify these specific cases,” said Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

“However, any violent attacks on peaceful migrant workers who are in Bahrain simply to earn an honest living are entirely unacceptable, and those who committed the crimes must be held accountable.”

Just over half of the resident population of Bahrain is made up of foreign nationals, many of them low-income earners from South Asia.

A large portion of Bahrain’s security forces, who have been involved in the violent suppression of anti-government protesters in recent weeks, are also foreign nationals, or recently naturalized citizens.

“It is difficult to judge the motive of the recent attacks on migrant workers, but we do not rule out the possibility that they may have been xenophobic revenge attacks,” Rajab said.

The BCHR also reiterated its demand for the Bahraini government to end its long standing practice of recruiting foreign nationals in to the state security forces and military.

According to an article printed in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper on Monday, over 1,000 Pakistanis have been newly recruited to serve in the Bahrain National Guard, and are expected to arrive in Bahrain in a month. [2]

“The Bahraini authorities has been using these foreign nationals to carry out human rights abuses in the country,” Rajab said. “Their recruitment creates feelings of hostility between Bahrainis and migrant workers, the vast majority of whom are honest hard-working people.”

Over 20 people have been killed since political unrest began in Bahrain five weeks ago.


1 - '34 Asian are injured', Gulf Daily News, March 20, 2011

2 - '1,000 Pakistanis recruited for Bahrain forces', Dawn newspaper, March 21, 2011

IFEX: Security forces resort to night-time raids of terror to quell dissent

23 March 2011

Nabeel Rajab, the head of IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was briefly held and beaten by security forces on 20 March, days after Bahraini security forces killed at least four protesters and arrested opposition figures. The arrest appears part of a broader government offensive involving pre-dawn raids of terror on the homes of those viewed as supporting pro-democracy protesters, according to BCHR, Human Rights Watch and other IFEX members. Rajab says he is the only human rights defender in Bahrain currently not in hiding or detention.

A pattern of these arrests is that dozens of security forces come in the middle of the night and break down the door with guns, terrorising the families, including small children. "At 1:30 in the morning, around 25 masked men in civilian clothes came inside the house while we were sleeping and were running from room to room, while around 20 more in security forces' uniforms waited outside," said Rajab. They left with several boxes of information.

Rajab said he was blindfolded, handcuffed and put into the back of a car."They beat me and threatened to rape me and they kicked me when I refused to say I love the prime minister," he told Reuters. He was driven around for more than an hour before being taken to an investigator who questioned him for five minutes.

A similar raid happened at the house of another BCHR staffer, Sayid Yousif al-Muhafdah, on the same night, but he was not there, reports Human Rights Watch. When leaving, security officers warned the family to "tell Sayid Yousif to come to the police station or we will come back every night." Like other human rights defenders, he remains in hiding.

Just last month, Bahrain made some major concessions to protesters, such as the release of hundreds of political prisoners and open calls for citizens to protest freely. But with the pro-democracy movement showing no signs of abating, Bahrain has done an about-face, calling a state of emergency on 15 March and even enlisting military contingents from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help contain political unrest in the kingdom.

BCHR put out statements last week accusing Bahraini forces and their Saudi and Emirati allies of "massacres." Rajab had been giving interviews to international news media about the government's use of violence to disperse protests and indiscriminate killings by the armed forces.

According to Human Rights Watch, four protesters and three police have been confirmed killed during unrest on 15 and 16 March and more than 10 have been confirmed arrested over the past week. Among recent arrests are those of opposition leaders who had called for the overthrow of the monarchy and doctors who had complained of excessive use of force against protesters. Members of Bahrain's largest Shi'ite opposition party Wefaq said on 20 March they believed more than 100 people had been arrested.

"The government is depriving them of their liberty in a completely arbitrary manner, apparently for their leading roles in peaceful protests demanding democracy," said Human Rights Watch. "At this point the lawyers and families of the people who have been arrested don't even know who is holding them or where."

Abdeljalil Alsingace, a blogger and head of the human rights office of the Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, a pro-democracy and civil liberties group, was picked up on 16 March, reports the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International, which is urging people to send letters to demand his release.

A family member of Alsingace told the IFEX Clearing House that Alsingace was basically kidnapped: he was dragged away in the night without proper clothes, his glasses, or a means to walk since he needs crutches or a wheelchair. His daughters woke up with several guns pointed at their heads, and feared he would be shot dead in front of them.

Alsingace was arrested in a sweep of suspected dissidents in August last year. Along with 22 others, he was charged with financing and directing "a terror network "One of the allegations was that he had contacts with foreign groups, including IFEX members. That time, it took the family two months to find out where he was being held. Last month, in the midst of their trial, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah freed the men.

According to Human Rights Watch, the official Bahrain News Agency said the Bahraini Defense Force this time arrested "several leaders of the sedition ring who had called for the downfall of the regime and had intelligence contacts with foreign countries." Unconfirmed TV reports say they were taken to Saudia Arabia.

Since 17 March, many opposition political activists, journalists and local rights defenders have slept away from their homes or gone into hiding to avoid arrest or harassment, reports Human Rights Watch. Several have sought to leave the country following threats against them on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Some are missing and it is unknown if they are in hiding or being detained, including journalist Lamees Dhaif, who "has recently been outspoken in her opposition to government policies," said BCHR.

Hearing of the arrests, well-known blogger Ali Abdulemam, known by his nickname "the blog-father" for setting up the first free uncensored online forum in Bahrain for political and social debate, left his home a few minutes before it was raided and has gone into hiding, report Index on Censorship sources and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The BBC said his wife, who was very outspoken during his months in detention, is now refusing to give interviews for fear of reprisals.

"Bahrain is rapidly reverting to the police state of the 1990s," said Human Rights Watch. "The authorities should stop arresting rights activists and doctors who speak out against abuses, and release all those improperly detained."


RSF: List of media freedom violations gets longer

21-23 March 2011


Ali Abdulemam, a blogger who was freed on 22 February after several months in prison, was arrested again on 17 March amid a continuing crackdown on human rights activists. After being set free again, he went into hiding to avoid further arrest. The BBC said his wife, who was very outspoken during his months in detention, is now refusing to give interviews for fear of reprisals (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12796892). Abdulemam was one of the nominees for this year’s Netizen Prize, which Reporters Without Borders awards with support from Google. The prize went to the Tunisian website Nawaat. Abdeljalil Al-Singace, a blogger who like Abdulemam and 21 other human rights activists and government opponents was detained from September to February, was also reportedly arrested again on 17 March. The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace was previously arrested in 2009 for allegedly trying to destabilise the government because he used his blog (http://alsingace.katib.org) to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain’s Shiite population.

Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was abducted from his home at about 1:30 a.m. yesterday by about 40 individuals who threatened him and beat him before finally releasing him several hours later. Rajab had been giving interviews to international news media about the government’s use of violence to disperse protests and indiscriminate killings by the armed forces (http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/3825).

CBS journalist Toula Vlahou was travelling in a car with a colleague on 19 March when riot police fired on them using shotgun pellets. Watch the video in which she tried to get an explanation from foreign minister Sheikh Khalid ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpxSPY5ZPCM

23 March 2011

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced yesterday that it has withdrawn the licences of 2 Connect, a local telecommunications company and Internet service provider run by Ibrahim Sharif, the head of the opposition party Waad, who was arrested last week. The TRA gave no reason for the decision, which will take effect on 27 March. It just warned 2 Connect clients that they have until then to switch to another ISP.

A message posted on the blog of the journalist Lamees Dhaif says there has been no news of her since 15 March (http://www.lamees.org/articles1/p2_articleid/374).

rsf.org 21 March

rsf.org 23 March

CPJ: Attacks on the Press in Bahrain

New York, March 22, 2011

In Bahrain, police fired pellets at CBS Radio correspondent Toula Vlahou as she covered demonstrations in the capital, Manama, on Thursday, CBS News said. Vlahou reported that police fired as she and her local driver tried to leave a confrontation in which police were using tear gas to disperse demonstrators. "The riot police showed no mercy, they did not stop to ask us who we were. They just saw a camera and they started firing," Vlahou said in her report. She said police rammed her car, slashed its tires, broke its windows, and confiscated identification cards and equipment. In a video posted on YouTube, Vlahou can be seen asking Bahrain's foreign minister about the attack.

Also in Bahrain, authorities arrested bloggers Ali Abdel Imam and Abduljalil Alsingace on Thursday, regional media reported. It was not immediately clear whether Alsingace's detention was related to his political activism or his online writing; he was detained alongside four high-profile members of the political opposition. The two bloggers had been arrested on antistate conspiracy charges last year during a government crackdown; they were released in February as the government sought to appease a then-nascent protest movement.

Read full report on cpj.org

UN human rights office voices concern at recent events in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria

22 March 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced its deep concern at recent events in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, including the excessive use of force and killing of protesters, while stressing the responsibility of Governments to uphold basic freedoms, even in times of instability.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), voiced alarm about the situation in Yemen, where there is now a state of emergency and armed clashes.

“We remind the Government that fundamental rights, such as the right to life, and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, cannot be derogated from under any circumstances, even in a public emergency,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

OHCHR deplored the reported killing of dozens of peaceful protestors last week, including reportedly by snipers shooting from rooftops, Mr. Colville added. He also noted the call for an independent investigation into the killings, particularly during the protests at University of Sana’a on Friday.

“All such violations of human rights must indeed be investigated by independent and impartial mechanisms,” he stressed.

There is also concern about the suppression of the right to freedom of expression in the region, including the Yemeni Government’s decision to deport two Al Jazeera correspondents on 19 March. OHCHR also called for the immediate release of an Al Jazeera crew which is allegedly being held by government forces in Libya.

The situation in Bahrain remains “very worrying,” Mr. Colville stated, noting that between 50 and 100 people have been reported missing over the past week. Two of those who had earlier been missing have now reportedly been found dead.

There are also disturbing reports that people who have spoken on the record to media have been detained and threatened. Those arrested are reported to include political activists, human rights defenders and doctors and nurses from the Salmaniya hospital.

“It is vital that the authorities scrupulously abide by international standards. People should not be arbitrarily arrested and should not be detained without clear evidence that they have committed a recognized crime,” he stated.

“We stress again that demonstrating peacefully is not a crime. Giving an interview to a journalist is not by any stretch of the imagination a crime, nor is reporting human rights abuses.”

Mr. Colville’s concerns about Bahrain were echoed by a group of UN independent human rights experts, who criticized the country’s Government for its “broken promises” on commitment to human rights.

“From security to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, the Government of Bahrain has ignored key human rights commitments made a month ago,” the statement noted.

The statement was issued by: Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions; Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; El Hadji Malick Sow, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

OHCHR is also greatly concerned by the recent killings of protesters in Syria and reiterated the need to put an immediate halt to the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, especially the use of live ammunition.

A total of six people have reportedly been killed by security forces in the southern city of Daraa since Friday, when thousands took to the streets following Friday prayers, calling for greater political freedom and an end to corruption. OHCHR called for an independent, transparent and effective investigation into these killings.

Mr. Colville noted that the Government responded “forcefully” and it has been reported that security forces first used teargas and water canon and later used live ammunition against the protesters, killing at least four people and wounding others. Security forces also used similar tactics over the weekend.

“The use of excessive force constitutes a clear violation of international law, which provides for individual criminal responsibility for violations committed,” noted Mr. Colville.

“People have the legitimate right to express their grievances and demands to their Government, and we urge the Syrian Government to enter into a broad, meaningful dialogue with the protesters in an attempt to address those grievances,” he stated.

The protests in the three countries are the latest in a wave of uprisings across the Arab world that has already led to the ouster of long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. In Libya, the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi has waged a fierce military offensive against the opposition movement.


Broken Promises In Bahrain – Un Experts Question Government’s Human Rights Commitments

22 March 2011

GENEVA – “From security to the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, the Government of Bahrain has ignored key human rights commitments made a month ago,” a group of UN independent experts* warned today. “These promises have been broken, and the authorities have embarked on a path of multiple human rights violations amidst a dramatic deterioration of peace and security in the country.”

“In light of the discrepancies between reality and expectations, the Government’s commitments are in question,” the experts said recalling two official statements in response to condemnations by the UN human rights chief and experts in relation to the crackdown against peaceful protestors: ‘The Government of Bahrain’s immediate priority is to keep peace and security’ and ‘The people are now able to demonstrate freely on the Pearl Roundabout and can continue to do so.’

The Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, condemned the persistent use, on an even more intensive scale than one month ago, of the brutal tactics to quash non-violent protests. “This is happening despite the Government’s promises and in clear violation of the right to life and international principles on the use of force,” he stressed. “Public order cannot be sustained by attacking peaceful crowds and unarmed civilians with shotguns, rubber bullets, clubs, tear gas and knives.”

Since February 2011, the Government has promised to have an open dialogue with opposition members, noted the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, “but how is it possible to have any genuine exchange of views when people have guns directed at them?”

“By crushing the voices of peaceful protesters with brute force, rather than addressing their legitimate concerns, the Government is only aggravating the situation,” he said, a position also supported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya.

In the past week, human rights organizations and the media have documented increased incidents of serious human rights violations in the capital, Manama. The Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, demanded an immediate stop to the violations and described “the appalling killing and ill-treatment of protestors, including those in hospitals, and the targeting of medical personnel and journalists” as “completely unacceptable.” He called on the Government to take immediate action to start an investigation and prosecution of those responsible, in line with Bahrain’s international obligations.

“The reports of takeovers of hospitals and medical centres by security forces, blocking access to life-saving medical treatment, and the targeting of medical workers is deeply distressing,” affirmed the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover. “The Government of Bahrain must respect the right to health by not interfering with the provision of medical treatment or denying or limiting access to health facilities.”

On his part, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow, called on the authorities “to immediately release all those detained in relation to their peaceful activities in the context of the protests.”

The independent experts recalled that, while the imposition of a state of emergency permits temporary derogation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, it must not be used as a means to prevent the exercise of this right. The task of the new mandate established by the Human Rights Council on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association will be to report on violations of these fundamental rights and make recommendations on means to ensure their protection. “The full support of the international community will be needed to carryout this important function,” said the experts.

The experts will continue to scrutinize the situation.

(*) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, ChristofHeyns; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya ; Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention El HadjiMalick Sow; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, Anand Grover.