22 Jan, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Bahrain: Investigate Alleged Torture of Activists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Jan, 2008

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

(OMCT-FIDH)

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

Geneva-Paris, January 18, 2008. The Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses its deepest concern following allegations of torture faced by human rights defenders in Bahrain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

---------------------------------------------------------

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

18 Jan, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

------------------

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

17 Jan, 2008

IFEX: HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS UNDER ATTACK

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

Between 21 and 28 December, members of the special security forces arrested more than 50 people, including at least 11 human rights defenders who are still in detention, say the rights groups. According to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the 11 rights defenders were targeted for being involved in "illegal" public protests over the past few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(15 January 2008)

17 Jan, 2008

URGENT APPEAL: Claims of Torture, Assault, Sexual and Physical Abuse

URGENT APPEAL After Family visitations and the Release of a number of Activists: Claims of Torture, Assault, Sexual and Physical Abuse

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, January 17 2007

• Human Rights Activists Subjected to Atrocious Treatment to Extract Confessions • After 2 Weeks of Interrogations and Psychological Torture: Continued Claims of Human Rights Violations in Bahrain • Families Allege the Hearing of Screams Upon Visit to Interrogations Centre

(Names of sources are confidential for safety purposes! contact BCHR Vice-President Nabeel Rajab for further details)

The BCHR has received disturbing news from the families of the detained activists, as well as a number of activists who have been released, on torture and physical assaults being used as a means to extract confession from those detained.

Released activists have informed the BCHR that they were subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, sleep and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement and continued use of handcuffs and eye blindfolds.

Some of the detainees claim that they were handcuffed for one to two weeks and had to even sleep and eat with the handcuffs on. They were not permitted to shower for 10 days and after that were only permitted a short chance to clean themselves in the sink with cold water and the stench was unbearable given that a number of them were detained in one room without having the ability to see or speak with each other. More than one detainee complained that they were subjected to psychological torture by making them sleep on a cold floor, and were beaten or kicked as soon as they dosed off. They were not permitted to speak to the other detainees and their blindfolded for most of the time.

Detainees also claim that individuals came at night and picked up one of the activists in the room for interrogations and they then heard anguished cries and screams which made them at a constant fear that their turn may come next. Threats against family members and verbal insults and remarks were continuous. Discriminatory and humiliating verbal abuse was used to belittle the detainees and to break them down emotionally. Cold water, and forcing the detainees to stand for a long period of time, in some cases 3 days, were also used as a favorite torture method. Detainees were also not permitted to pray at times and called derogatory names when they requested a chance to pray.

One of the most disturbing claims made was that one of the detainees, after being subjected to beating and psychological torture, confessed to the hiding of the alleged stolen gun. The SSF took him to the area he informed them off, and tried to dig it up, they could not find it and he told them that he had lied to escape their torture. They then, according to BCHR source, buried him up to the neck in the same hole they had dug and pointed a gun at him telling him that they were going to kill him.

On a slightly different note, family members of some of the activists have informed the BCHR that during a visit to the Adliya interrogations Centre on Tuesday 15th of January to request visit permits, they heard screams coming from the centre and claim it was the sound of individuals being subjected to beating or assault. They were informed by the officer that it was just the screams of school children leaving a nearby school, a claim that they bluntly refused to accept. Furthermore, the father of on of the detainees informed the BCHR today that his son, Maytham Bader Alshaikh, a member of the Unemployed Committee, had informed him, in a brief visit that he had been subjected to sexual abuse including rectal penetration using a stick. There had been many cases of Saxual abuse during interrogation in the eighties and nineties. the most recent case was in Dec. 2006 when Mossa Abdali, a human rights activist was allegedly abducted and subjected to physical an sexual abuse. As a result of such atrocities, Mr Abdali was granted political asylum in the UK starting August 2007.

Accordingly, the BCHR Calls upon all Human Rights Organizations to intervene in whichever way that is within their means to put an end to the physical and psychological emotional torture the detainee are being subject, including,

• Prompt visits to the detainees by representatives of national and international human rights organizations, • Reminding the Bahraini authorities that any confessions taken under torture, according to International law, is void • Calls for an immediate and objective enquiry into these highly disturbing allegations and not to let these human rights violations pass without holding those responsible accountable for their actions Furthermore, The BCHR would like to remind the Bahraini authorities that the review of Bahrain record in the United Nations Human Right Council is to commence next April, and they have, through these latest arrests and methods of detention and torture violated a number of fundamental human rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including articles 1,5,9,10, 11, and 12.

16 Jan, 2008

BCHR: Rights Defender Forbidden from Media Access

Date: 13 January 2008 Person(s): Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja Target(s): Activists and rights defenders Type(s) of violation(s): censorship, forbidden

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concerns about the measures taken by the Bahraini Authorities to terminate a live program arranged by the Egyptian News Satellite with Mr Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja – President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights- to cover the trip of Mr George W. Bush, US president to Bahrain. The producer of the Egyptian program expressed their apology to Mr Al-Khawaja for the last minute termination of the program as a result of the sudden refusal of the Bahrain TV administration to carry out the interview, which was arranged over a week ago through the Union of the Arab Broadcasters.

The Bahraini Authorities did not explain the reasons for the termination of the program which was planned to be broadcasted at 10pm Saturday evening (local time) on January 12 th 2008. This act by the local Authorities could not be understood but being part of the systematic media blockade imposed on human rights defenders who may portray an image about the situation in Bahrain, different than that broadcasted by the Governmental media bodies to the regional and international communities . RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities asking for their respect for freedom of expression, particularly for human rights defenders, whose views are important to maintain and protect general rights and liberties. Furthermore, the Authorities are called to stop preventing human rights defenders from access to media and all means of communications to the public. APPEAL and TAKE ACTION TO: - His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa- King of Bahrain Riffa –Bahrain

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

- Mr Jehad Bu-Kamal, Minister of Information Please copy appeals to the source if possible. MORE INFORMATION:

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

10 Jan, 2008

OPEN LETTER TO MR. W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (OMCT-FIDH)

OPEN LETTER TO MR. W. BUSH,

PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Geneva - Paris, January 9, 2008

Re: Arbitrary arrest of human rights activists in Bahrain

Dear Mr. Bush,

In view of your upcoming visit to Bahrain, 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), would like to convey to you its deepest concern over the recent arrests of human rights activists in Bahrain.

A violent wave of arrest began after the death, on December 17, 2007, of Mr. Ali Jassim Meki[1], due to the excessive use of force by the authorities of Bahrain as he was taking part in a peaceful demonstration in the Sanabis area, at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day - aiming at paying tribute to past victims of torture.

At around 5 p.m., the demonstration was dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Some participants were chased through narrow streets and beaten on the spot.

According to the information received, between December 21 and 28, 2007, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave a arrests that targeted more than 60 activists. As of January 8, 2007, 28 remained in detention, including 11 human rights defenders. Allegedly, all human rights defenders who were arrested had been involved in public protests during the last few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms.

As of January 8, 2007, Mr. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, Mr. Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, Mr. Hassan Abdulnabi, Mr. Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, Mr. Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, Mr. Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Mr. Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Mr. Naji Al Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mr. Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee, remained in detention. Some of these human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers and family. None of the lawyers were given access to their clients’ files.

Besides, the Observatory received allegations of use of ill-treatments and torture against the detainees, including the use of electrical shocks.

Furthermore, on December 26, 2007, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ President, Mr. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, was subjected to verbal insults and beating as he had headed to the Public Prosecutors Office after having received news that family members of the detainees were being beaten as they refused to leave the Office.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied by these arrests which seem to aim at muzzling civil society, and human rights defenders in particular, and consequently considers that these detentions are arbitrary. Additionally, it fears the resurgence of a systematic practice of torture in Bahrain.

Therefore, the Observatory urges you, President Bush, to request the Bahraini authorities to :

* guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 28 prisoners;

* ensure that the rights of the defence and, should they be brought before a court, their right to a fair and impartial trial are guaranteed;

* release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, Mr. Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, Mr. Hassan Abdulnabi, Mr. Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, Mr. Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, Mr. Naji Al Fateel, Mr. Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, Mr. Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, and Mr. Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, as well as all the other persons arrested in the framework of this wave of repression;

* Put an end to any acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

* 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, especially its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and 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”;

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

In the hope that you will take these considerations into account,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen Eric SOTTAS

FIDH President OMCT Director

------------------------------------------- [1] For further details, see the Observatory Press Release of December 21, 2007.

4 Jan, 2008

Front line: Arrest of eleven human rights defenders in Bahrain

Twelve-year-old Badoor holds a picture of her brother, Naji, during a protest held to demand the release of 42 demonstrators detained by police two weeks ago, in Manama, January 4,2008 --------------------------------------------------------

Front Line is deeply concerned following the arrest of eleven human rights defenders and the alleged torture and ill-treatment of a number of those arrested. The arrests took place in the days following demonstrations on 17 December 2007 in Manama and other regions of Bahrain, in which a protester, Ali Jessam Mekki, was killed. The demonstrations were organised by members of the National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture to mark the 13th anniversary of the death of two young Shiite men killed by security forces while participating in a demonstration calling for the restoration of democracy. From the 21st to the 28th December 2007, members of the Special Security Forces (SSF) arrested approximately 50 people including at least 11 human rights defenders.

Further Information Posted 04/01/2008 On 21 December 2007, at 4.00am Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Aal, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; at 8.00am Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; at 8.50 am, Naji Ali Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) was arrested; at 2.15pm Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, head of the Committee to Combat High Prices; at 5.00pm Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, member of the Unemployment Committee; On 22 December, at 2.00pm, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; On 23 December 2007, at 11.30pm, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; On 26 December, at approximately 11.00am, Hassan Abdulnabi, Board member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; on 23 December, at 2.00am, Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested; On 27 December 2007, at approximately 11.00pm, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, member of the Unemployment Committee was arrested by members of the SSF; On 28 December 2007, at 11.00am Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee was arrested by members of the SSF. Both Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin-Al-Arab have been arrested in the past. All eleven human rights defenders have been accused of having taken part in an ‘illegal gathering and rioting’ and of ‘theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of a weapon and ammunition without permission’. None of the human rights defenders have access to their lawyers. They are reportedly all being detained at the Criminal Investigations Department, (CID) in Adliya.

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

Furthermore, on 25 December 2007, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was subjected to a physical assault and verbal insults by a masked Bahraini officer and three SSF members who are not of Bahraini nationality, outside the Office of the Public Prosecutors. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was forcibly removed from the entrance of the Office of the Public Prosecutors, where he had tried to be granted permission to enter. It is reported that family members of a number of detained human rights defenders were also physically assaulted by police officers.

Front Line is concerned that the aforementioned human rights defenders have been targeted by the Bahraini authorities due to their peaceful activities promoting human rights, including economic and social rights.

Source URL: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1315

31 Dec, 2007

BCHR/IFEX: Security forces assault journalists covering repression of protest

31 December 2007

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama

(BCHR/IFEX) - According to the Bahraini Journalists Association (BJA) and eye witnesses, on 25 December 2007, the Bahraini Security Forces (BSF) harassed and verbally and physically assaulted journalists Ali Al-Shehabi (of "Al-Al-Ayam" newspaper), Husain Al-Orrayed (of "Al-Waqt" newspaper) and Mohammed Al-Mukharraq (of "Al-Wasat" newspaper).

The BSF officers also confiscated the journalists' mobile phones. The BSF took these actions to prevent the journalists from reporting on the attack these forces were staging against a peaceful protest taking place outside the public prosecutor's office.

Relatives of detained individuals were holding a sit-in, demanding to see family members who had been arrested in prior days. The public prosecutor refused their request, amidst spreading rumours that the detainees were being subject to torture. The BSF forcefully dispersed the protestors. The BSF officers also assaulted the journalists to prevent them from reporting on the incident.

The BCHR expresses its concern over the actions of the BSF, which violate the journalists' right to freedom of expression and to collect and impart information, and which reflect poorly on the attitude of local authorities towards freedom of expression and the practise of journalism in Bahrain.

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

30 Dec, 2007

Lord Avebury speech : Rising tension heralds post-reforms era

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

Bahrain seminar, Moses Room, December 19, 2007,

A year ago our theme was ‘elections without democracy or human rights’. We noted that in Bahrain, there is a pretence of democracy whilst all the sinews of government are bent to maintaining the absolute rule of the al-Khalifa family, with the assistance of others who benefit financially from the regime.

Twelve months later, the people are still powerless, but there is a growing sense of resentment and a feeling that with no sign of progress towards equality, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, the situation is likely to become unstable.

Some people who don’t belong to the exclusive Sunni tribe who hold all the political power have become very rich by collaboration and are dependable supporters of the status quo.

Foreign immigrants have been and still are being granted citizenship and jobs, gradually marginalising the native people and driving most of them downwards into poverty.

The king and members of his family have taken control of several large islands including those regained by Bahrain through a decision of the international court. That annexation showed clearly that King Hamad regards the state of Bahrain as his personal property.

He and his uncle the Prime Minister have also enriched themselves by the sale of valuable land reclaimed from the shallow sea adjacent to the capital, Manama. To quote from Property Development World:

“The Two Seas development is the creation of a luxury waterfront community located across eleven million square meters of manmade island which will offer investors and potential residents the chance to own freehold property in Bahrain within a district dominated by state of the art homes, recreational, retail and commercial space and an expanse of manicured and landscaped gardens”.

It is the ruling family that controls reclamation, though of course the process is opaque, like the rest of the royal accounts.

Nobody demands that the King’s finances be open to public scrutiny, still less that they should be subject to Parliamentary control as they would be in a proper democracy. It’s a taboo subject.

So is the endemic discrimination against the Shi’a, who still form the majority of the population, though not for much longer. The strategy of the al-Khalifas is to continue with their demographic engineering until the Shi’a can be outvoted, so that the inequality of wealth and incomes, of opportunity, and of political power, can be maintained even in free and fair elections.

In the meanwhile, elections change nothing. After the last Parliamentary elections in 2006 the king reappointed the Prime Minister, who has now held that office continually for 37 years, and a cabinet half the members of which also belonged to the al-Khalifa family. The relatives occupied most of the important portfolios such as defence.

This incestuous system leads to corruption and skulduggery of the sort described by De Salah al Bander, a British citizen who worked for the government until he blew the whistle and was expelled. He exposed Sheikh Ahmed bin Atiyatalla Al Khalifa – a minister and relative – as the centre of a multi-billion Dinar conspiracy to manipulate the elections, foment sectarian distrust, and to keep the Shi’as down. These criminal activities are tolerated by the government to this day as far as we know.

The authorities couldn’t rebut the 200 pages of evidence Dr al-Bander published, so they tried to blacken his name. The accused Sheikh Ahmed is still a ‘key minister’ according to The Economist.

The allegations made by Dr al-Bander, like every other report of misconduct by the al-Khalifa such as the land grab, can’t be discussed by the media in Bahrain.

Among other recent examples of censorship was the instruction to the media not to report anything said by the woman activist Ms Ghada Jamsheer. She had criticised the Supreme Council of Women, chaired by the King’s wife, for its failure to promote women’s rights and its steadfast loyalty to the government.

Bahrain acceded to the CEDAW in July 2002 and was due to submit is first report in July 2003. So its now over four years overdue, and the second report is also late.

But now at least, Bahrain is due to answer to the UN Human Rights Council next February, under the new procedure for review of member states. Key features of the procedure are that a State has to prepare the information through a broad national consultation process and the High Commissioner for Human Rights has to compile a summary of the State’s compliance with the human rights treaties including the CEDAW.

Bahrain will have to explain why it hasn’t reported, and why the king’s wife is considered to be a suitable person to head the women’s rights body, when she is unlikely to call her husband’s government to account.

It remains to be seen whether the consultation required will include bodies such as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, or the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, whose leader Mr Mohammed Al Maskati is due in court on January 21, charged with operating an unregistered society. He says the charge is a violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has ratified.

I challenge civil society in Bahrain to put together their own report for the Human Rights Council. The National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture could write a note on the continued violation of the government’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, drawing attention to the excellent report by Redress that we discussed last year. The BCHR could draw attention to the death of Mr Ali Jassim al-Barbari, a young bus driver, only recently married, following a demonstration on Tuesday, a tragic echo on the eve of Martyrs Day of the two who were killed on December 17, 23 years ago. It was said that he had been overcome by teargas, but he hadn’t previously had any respiratory problems that would have made him particularly vulnerable. Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights who was at the morgue said that bruises could be seen over Jassem's dead body. And Jassim is not the first unexplained death. The Human Rights Council should be provided with a summary of the many others over the years, to enable them to consider whether the right to life, the most fundamental right of all, is protected in Bahrain.

The Special Forces, largely recruited from other countries had been using excessive force against demonstrators over the last weeks, injuring several people by firing rubber bullets at them from close range and beating up demonstrators, some of them children. Bahrain ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and took 6 ½ years to submit its initial report. Exceptionally, it was given until March 2004 to submit its second and third reports, but they haven’t yet appeared nearly four years later. Evidently Bahrain wishes to be thought of as a state where human rights are respected, but doesn’t have any real intention of complying with standard international norms.

Yesterday was International Migrants Day and Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement condemning

“Working conditions that amount to modern forms of slavery, such as long working hours, payment of salaries well below minimum wage established by law, exposure to degrading and dangerous working conditions and confiscation of travel documents”.

She could have been thinking of Bahrain. Those who complain get sacked, like the 50 migrant workers who went on strike against low wages at a Saudi-owned dairy. And its reported that so far this year alone, tens of thousands have been deported without a hearing.

Finally, the attention of the Human Rights Council should be drawn to the report on Bahrain last month from the freedom of expression NGO Article 19. They talk about the recent crackdown, including the banning of books and films, the blocking of websites, and the prosecution of individuals, such as writers and journalists, for exercising their right to free expression.. This year so far 32 cases have been filed against journalists; two writers have been refused leave to publish academic book; several films have been banned; at least 22 websites, including the site of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, have been blocked by Batelco, the only Internet Service Provider in the country, owned by the Bahraini government. The 2002 Press and Publication Law, and the 1976 Penal Code have been used in justify interrogation and prosecution not only of journalists but even bloggers and website administrators. It seems that no further progress towards freedom and democracy can be expected, and we have entered what the title of our seminar describes as a post-reforms era, when the hopes that were raised by the present ruler when he inherited, are dashed, and people must either knuckle under to the dictatorship or take new initiatives of their own to seize their rights. Let us appeal to the Human Rights Council, from this meeting, to take this issue very seriously, when they consider Bahrain’s record in a few weeks’ time. The rising tensions we see in Bahrain at the end of 2007 can only be defused if the people can get robust support from the United Nations for their legitimate aspirations.