Al Jazeera: Bahrain: The social media battle continues
The battle over Bahrain’s future is raging online between government loyalists and opposition supporters.
It’s the latest chapter in the on-going protests organised mostly by the country’s Shia majority. That movement -- believed to be inspired by popular protests for change in Tunisia and Egypt -- began in February with Shia activists urging Bahrain’s rulers to give them greater political rights and freedoms.
Activists say the story is being kept alive by citizen journalists and social media in the face of a media clampdown by the government.
Shia Muslims comprise about 70 per cent of Bahrain’s population and have long complained of persistent discrimination in employment, education and housing.
A number of people were killed in clashes between security forces and pro-reform demonstrators in the capital Manama in February.
But the violence galvanised the movement with protesters demanding an end to the monarchy of the Sunni al-Khalifa family that has ruled the country since its independence from Britain in 1971.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a state of emergency and appealed for help from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which Bahrain is a member, along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
In March, GCC forces led by Saudi Arabia rolled into the country to quell the movement and the King said an “external plot” had been foiled. Government loyalists believe Shia-majority Iran may have influenced and provoked the protests in Bahrain.
At least 31 people are reported dead since the uprising began. The King announced an independent inquiry to look into the political turmoil and the commission is due to release its report on October 30.
That investigation is being headed by Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American, who has led similar UN inquiries in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. He says the Bahrain government is cooperating fully but pro-reform activists dismiss the exercise as flawed.
Last month, a national dialogue backed by the U.S. also hit a snag when representatives of Bahrain’s largest Shia opposition group al-Wefaq walked out of talks with the ruling al-Khalifa family saying “the regime was not interested in political reform.”
As the stalemate continues, the battle for global public opinion is being waged on social media with bloggers and activists from both sides arguing their points of view, go to stream.aljazeera.com to see some of the different efforts being undertaken online.
Watch the recorded debate between Zainab AlKhawaja and Suhail AlQusaibi here: stream.aljazeera.com
ICRC: Health care in danger: making the case
10 Aug 2011
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday it was "extremely concerned" about events in Bahrain and mentioned the country in a report on attacks against health care workers and hospitals.
"We are extremely concerned about what is going on in Bahrain. We are doing our utmost to ensure we have access not only to hospitals but to detention centres," ICRC director-general Yves Daccord told a news briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.
The report, which surveyed 16 countries and took more than two years to research, warned that the very foundations of the Geneva Conventions - the right of those wounded in war to receive medical attention, and the right of those treating them to work unimpeded - are under threat.
The report cited several examples as evidence that attacks on health care workers are increasing, from the murder of medical students in Somalia, to the invasion of an Afghan hospital by militia groups, to the shelling of hospitals in Sri Lanka. All of these incidents took place in 2009.
One year later the picture was, if anything, even bleaker, with doctors in Libya attacked, and ambulances fired upon. In Bahrain, patients were reportedly snatched from their beds, and hospital staff intimidated.
The ICRC said the violence is driving thousands of medical professionals from their jobs, and putting millions of lives at risk.
Extracts from the report regarding Bahrain
VIOLENCE AGAINST HEALTH-CARE FACILITIES
Attacks on health-care facilities during armed violence and internal disturbances tend to fall into four main categories. [..] The second category of attack is also deliberate, but this time for political, religious or ethnic reasons rather than for military advantage per se. Such assaults against health-care facilities include [..]; the cordoning off and military takeover of Salmaniya referral hospital in Bahrain in early 2011 after it was perceived to support the cause of anti-government protesters;
What the law says:
• Health-care facilities shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack.
• Protective emblems such as the red cross, red crescent and red crystal identifying medical units shall be respected in all circumstances.
• Small arms are permitted in health-care facilities for the purpose of self-defence or defence of the wounded and the sick (against bandits, for example). The presence of all other weapons
compromises the neutral status of a facility.
• Health-care facilities lose their protection if they are used to commit “acts harmful to the enemy.”
• “Acts harmful to the enemy” include the use of health-care facilities to shelter able-bodied combatants, to store arms or ammunition, as military observation posts or as a shield for military action.
VIOLENCE AGAINST THE WOUNDED AND THE SICK
In some contexts, the wounded and the sick face discrimination in access to, and quality of, health care. Although prohibited by international humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as contrary to medical ethics, health-care personnel have refused to treat, or given inferior treatment to patients on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. [..] In recent unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen, protesters have been too afraid to use medical facilities for fear that their wounds will identify them and provoke harsh reprisals.
What the law says:
The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional rotocols of 1977 contain the following rules:
• The wounded and the sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect.
• The wounded and the sick must be protected against ill-treatment and pillage.
• No one may be left wilfully without medical assistance and care.
• Whenever circumstances permit, and particularly after fighting, each party
to a conflict must, without delay, take all possible measures to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded and the sick without adverse distinction between them.
• The special role of the ICRC is recognized in facilitating the establishment of neutralized zones to protect the wounded, the sick and civilians from the effects of war.
• Parties to a conflict have the first obligation to care for the wounded and the sick. Any care provided by the local population, humanitarian organizations or other third parties does not relieve the parties of their obligations.
VIOLENCE AGAINST HEALTH-CARE PERSONNEL
Health-care personnel face many challenges working in situations of armed conflict and other violence, having to adapt standards of care to the resources available and dealing with large influxes of patients requiring immediate life-saving attention. Beyond these professional challenges often lie grave dangers associated with the nature of their work. [..] On occasion, health-care personnel have also been arrested for carrying out their professional responsibilities to treat all in need regardless of who they are and what they have done. In Bahrain, 47 doctors and nurses who treated protesters have been detained in sweeping arrests of health workers that followed the crackdown on protesters and face trial in a military court on a range of other accusations.
What the Law says: • Health-care personnel, whether military or civilian, may not be attacked or harmed. • Health-care personnel shall not be hindered in the performance of their exclusively medical tasks. • Parties to a conflict shall not harass or punish health-care personnel for performing activities compatible with medical ethics, nor shall they compel them to perform activities contrary to medical ethics or to refrain from performing acts required by medical ethics. • Medical personnel may not be required to give priority to any person except on medical grounds. Medical personnel decide, in accordance with medical ethics, which patient receives priority. • The protection of medical personnel ceases when they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.
NPR: An Update With A Woman Caught In The Middle Of Bahrain's Crackdown
Former MP Jawad Fairooz
by EYDER PERALTA NPR Listen to the Story on NPR.org
On today's All Things Considered NPR's Kelly McEvers brings us an update on a story she reported in May. The story was about how the Bahraini government had started targeting women in effort to quell a rebellion that raged in the country since February.
Kelly reported on one women who agreed to be interviewed by NPR only if she could whisper and talk in English so the government could not track her down.
"They took me from my work," she said. "And from the beginning, they slapped me on my face, on my head, shoulder."
"She had been detained, beaten, then let go," Kelly reported. "When she met with NPR, she was limping from pain."
Today, Kelly revealed that the woman in that story was the wife of Jawad Fairooz, a politician who was part of the opposition in Bahrain. The reason Fairooz's wife did not want to be identified in the original story is because her husband was in state custody at the time.
But, earlier this week, Fairooz along with Matar Matar, another MP, were released.
Fairooz's wife told Kelly the reason the government took her was to put pressure on her husband to confess and to get her to admit that that they were having secret meetings at their house and using special equipment to broadcast news out of the country. None of them confessed because it wasn't true.
Kelly said the family told her they had no plans to leave Bahrain or stop opposing the government. Matar told the BBC, that during their time in jail, they were "tortured" and "beaten."
But Kelly said the men's release sheds light on the issues in Bahrain. Kelly said the men were released for no reason; randomly one day a man came into their cells and told them they were free to go.
"Opposition figures are also saying the arbitrary nature of this release... is kind of a reflection of the larger problem in Bahrain, that you can sort of arbitrarily be taken away and released at the whim of the state," said Kelly. "This is the reason people came out in the first place."
The protesters came out demanding a more democratic system, a system, said Kelly, based on rule of law.
The New York Times: What Happened to My Bahrain Friend
By Nicholas Kristof
9 August 2011
I wrote recently about an old friend, Hasan al-Sahaf, a Bahraini artist who had been imprisoned –nominally for economic offenses, but in reality for standing up to the regime. My column was an appeal to King Hamad to release him, and recently Hasan was indeed released. He telephoned with the good news, and I invited him to write a post on my blog about what happened. He courageously agreed, and here’s what he wrote:
I’d like to thank everyone how’s written to the government of Bahrain to demand my release from prison. Of course I write this note here hoping heartily that the Bahraini Minister of Interior will read it. And here’s what went on.
On May 13th at 2 am while everyone was asleep, the Bahraini security forces attacked my house with more than 30 armed men. They pulled me from my bed half naked and arrested me, and then they took me outside, where I was astonished by the number of armed forces, backed by two black tanks and seven armed jeeps. There were armed men on the roof of the house, boundary walls and around my car. They blindfolded me with a black cloth and drove me for three hours. I felt that we had left Bahrain for Saudi Arabia, and that was probably a way to make me horrified and scared. Finally I found myself in a prison cell at a police station. No one spoke to me at all that day. I could not go to sleep. For three days I was in a solitary cell, not allowed to talk to anyone or call anyone. No one told what my crime was.
After a week or so, I was transferred to another prison called Jaw where men are dehumanized, insulted, and hurt. A Bahraini officer named Jowder interrogated me. He asked me about politics and things like: What is your relationship with the American press? Do you communicate now with the American press and with whom? What are your political tastes? Why did you go to the roundabout (a center of protests)?
Just days before my release a Bahraini prosecutor visited me in prison. He asked so many questions concerning my leaving the University of Bahrain, about my business life, the reasons I am at prison, and asked about my current financial situations. At the end he told the reason for the interrogation: a U.S. journalist wrote an article calling for the King of Bahrain to release me from prison. He added that the writer accused the state of treating me this way because I am a Shiite, saying that this was a claim without a justifiable basis, and merely an opinion haphazardly stated. He asked then if I agreed with what was stated in the article. I told him I hadn’t read the article and I didn’t know who wrote it.
At the end, I told the prosecutor that I am ashamed to know that a person of another country is fighting for me, whereas my own government is torturing and humiliating me.
In the past when I had been in prison in Bahrain, I had been tortured and beaten from behind – they weren’t courageous enough to hit me face to face. This time they were more open in their torture, they punched and kicked me face to face. I was hit in the face and kicked on my legs.
There are so many people tortured: beaten by hands, sticks, shoes, etc. I saw people beaten before my eyes and screaming loudly. I also heard police calling for killing the Shia.
Reuters: Some freed Bahrain detainees to be tried - former MP
Left to right: Lawyer Mohamed AlTajer and former MP Jawad Fairouz after releasing them.
Aug 10, 2011 By Isabel Coles
DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain has released more than 100 detainees who had been facing military trials over their roles in anti-government protests earlier this year, but some of them will still be prosecuted in civilian courts, one of those set free said on Wednesday.
A panel of international lawyers which Bahrain's Sunni Muslim monarchy invited to investigate the protests that mainly involved the Gulf state's Shi'ite Muslim majority, said on Tuesday that a total of 137 people had been released.
Among the detainees, who walked free on Sunday, were Jawad Fairouz and Matar Ibrahim Matar, former members of parliament in the largest Shi'ite political bloc, al Wefaq.
Fairouz, who expects proceedings against him to be dropped, said some other detainees had been told they could not leave the country pending prosecutions in a civilian court.
"I heard they took some photos of them to show that they are in good health, so that later on when they re-appear in court there shouldn't be any kind of claim they're going to be tortured," said Fairouz, who had been charged with spreading false news and taking part in illegal gatherings.
"When they released us they didn't take any signature or any commitment from us that we were going to be referred to the civil court," he said.
Among those likely to face trial in a civilian court is lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer, who was detained in April after defending people arrested during the protests, Fairouz added.
More than 1,000 people were detained after Bahrain crushed demonstrations in March for greater political freedom and an end to sectarian discrimination that Shi'ites say they face in access to land, housing and state employment.
The kingdom, which hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth fleet, attributed the unrest to manipulation by Iran of its Shi'ite co-religionists in Bahrain and denied persistent allegations of torture during and after the wave of detentions.
It has responded to international criticism of the crackdown
by funding an international legal commission to investigate the events, but activists and rights groups say the panel is cut off from people who fear reprisal for testifying.
Bahraini opposition activists have also faulted the panel's head, Cherif Bassiouni, for praising the authorities for cooperating with the investigation, and suggesting that abuses were individual acts, not official policy.
In a statement, Bassiouni said the cases of detainees had been transferred to civilian courts at the commission's behest.
Bahrain's public prosecutor has said some of those released had been held for a period equivalent to possible sentences, implying that their cases might be dropped.
(Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Statement
10th Aug 2011
In view of the fact that certain statements made by chairman of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (“BICI”) have been interpreted as prejudging the outcome of the Inquiry, the BICI has decided to issue the following statement on how it has worked, will continue to work, and determine the contents of its report. 1. The BICI is still at the beginning of its investigations. It has not reached any final conclusions. Its work continues to be independent and free from any interference, either by the government of Bahrain, any other government, or any interest group, either within or outside of Bahrain. The BICI hires its own staff, conducts its own investigations, has its own budget, and acts in every respect as an independent commission.
2. In carrying out its responsibilities, the BICI has so far met with a number of government officials, as well as opposition leaders, representatives of civic organizations, and individual victims and witnesses. It has conducted unscheduled visits to several detention and prison facilities, as well as police stations, and its investigators have spoken to detained individuals outside the presence of any public official. It has also reviewed arrest and conviction records.
In the short period since July 24, the BICI has:
Met with over 200 persons in prisons and detention facilities and injured persons in hospitals; 50 senior government officials, including several members of cabinet; 18 opposition parties and civil society organizations; 90 students who have been suspended from their studies; and 105 persons who have been arbitrarily dismissed from their work positions. Received 300 complaints from dismissed employees. Recorded 140 allegations of physical abuse and torture in prisons and police stations. Secured the release of 151 persons from prisons or detention facilities. This number includes 137 persons who were charged with misdemeanors and were pending trial. These cases were transferred from the military court system to the civilian court system by a Royal Order at the request of the BICI chairman. Instigated an investigation by the Ministry of Interior into 2 police officers and 10 police personnel charged with physical abuse and torture. Received statements from 348 witnesses and victims of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention, physical abuse, and torture. Received over 900 emails, many of them containing information about events, and alleged victimization, either by the sender or claimed to be known by the sender. 3. All of the above has been done in cooperation with individual witnesses and victims, representatives of political opposition groups and civil society organizations, and the government. The BICI wishes to acknowledge with appreciation the hundreds of victims and witnesses who have come forward with their information. In addition, the BICI wishes to reassure them and others of the safety and privacy of these communications. We have taken and will continue to take all possible measures to safeguard the confidentiality of all information received, and we sincerely believe that there is no reason for anyone to believe otherwise.
4. It is important for anyone following the work of the BICI to know that while all of what is described above is taking place, there can be no final conclusions that can be derived therefrom. Conclusions and recommendations will occur after investigations are complete, and a more complete record is established. As of now, it can be stated that the BICI has had the cooperation of witnesses and victims, civil society organizations, opposition groups, and the government. The chairman of the BICI has publicly credited the Ministry of Interior, National Security Agency, the Attorney General, and the Military Prosecutor General for their cooperation, and it is only fair to do so. This should not be interpreted by anyone as covering up or overlooking the responsibility of any organization or any person for any illegal act. The BICI will continue to gather evidence and the conclusions in its report will be based on that evidence, in whatever direction it may lead and at any and all levels of responsibility.
5. We look forward to the continued cooperation of all parties concerned, and we hope that the heightened level of anxiety that exists in Bahrain society, and particularly with respect to the victims and families of victims of those who have been arrested, detained, tried and convicted, physically mistreated and tortured, does not carry them to any unfounded conclusions or judgments on the BICI and its work. We remain committed to the truth, and to continuing our work on the basis of impartiality, fairness, and neutrality.
Reply of the Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to the BCHR Open Letter
August 9, 2011 Mr. Nabeel Rajab President Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Dear Mr. Rajab,
Thank you for your letter of August 9, which states your concerns with the work, but more so the integrity, of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
1. The BICI does not espouse the government’s views or any other views. The statement I made was that so far we have received the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, and that is borne out by the facts. I am attaching a self-explanatory statement that will soon be posted on the Commission’s website.
This allegation insults the Commissioners and staff who are working 14 to 16 hours a day to serve the cause of human rights in Bahrain. All of us have well-established records in the field of human rights and this speaks for itself. We are neither bought by nor at the service of anyone. We are at the service of human rights and will continue to act as such.
2. There is no doubt that there have been a large number of reported cases of human rights violations which include: deaths, torture and physical mistreatment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, wrongful dismissal of public and private sector employees, suspension of students and termination of scholarships, destruction of mosques, and destruction of private property. As we now know it, 35 people have been killed, and one is too many. We estimate from the more than 900 emails and 200 complaints, as well as interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses, that the possible number of physical abuse and torture may well reach into the hundreds, but we still do not have a complete picture of these violations. We need the cooperation of everyone in order to ascertain that information.
3. Once we have concluded our investigations, it will be possible to determine whether such a large number of violations are the product of “state or organizational policy” (see the definition of crimes against humanity in the ICC’s Art. 7, para. 2; see also M. Cherif Bassiouni, Crimes Against Humanity: Historical Evolution and Contemporary Application (Cambridge University Press, 2011). This is separate from the individual determination of individual cases of torture under the Convention Against Torture to which Bahrain is a state party. (See Nigel Rodley & Matt Pollard, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law (Oxford University Press, 3d ed. 2009), and M. Cherif Bassiouni, The Institutionalization of Torture by the Bush Administration (Intersentia, 2010)).
4. As a lawyer, you know that each of these crimes has separate legal elements that need to be established. Moreover, I am sure you know the legal differences between individual criminal responsibility and the responsibility of superiors, which is more difficult to establish. In particular with respect to the latter, we need to establish whether superiors in the chain of command failed to take appropriate measures to prevent torture when they knew or should have had reason to know that torture took place. There is also command responsibility, when those in the chain of command failed to investigate and prosecute those who commit such a crime.
5. These considerations of international criminal law are not exclusive, since the Bahrain criminal code contains two provisions criminalizing torture (namely, Arts. 208 and 232). These provisions also apply with respect to torture and other forms of physical mistreatment which may be of a lesser nature, and we are not ignoring this source of national criminal responsibility. The BICI is diligently pursuing all of these leads, and it is premature at this point to reach any valid legal conclusions.
5. With all due respect to all the international human rights organizations you have mentioned, I am sure that as a lawyer you will agree that their reports are considered secondary evidence. We need to either have access to the facts upon which they reached their conclusions, or to be able to determine those facts on our own. Since we are not a human rights organization, as you yourself stated, we need to ascertain the facts not only for their broader significance, but also with a view to determining where the system went wrong, who in the system initiated wrongful policies or carried them out, and how to correct these wrongs.
6. In light of the scope of what has happened, the polarization and radicalization that exists, the climate of suspicion and distrust, and the scale of the violations claimed, I am sure you will agree that it is premature to reach any conclusions. Any focalized or limited statements such as the one I made to Reuters cannot be used as a basis for the type of generalizations to which you and others have arrived.
7. Lastly, I understand that you were interviewed in an online newspaper article today in which you claim that the BICI is not looking into the deaths of persons. This is simply incorrect and you know this, since you yourself have an appointment with the BICI to accompany witnesses with evidence concerning deaths. Furthermore, I found it disheartening that you deemed it necessary to personally attack me in that interview.
The BICI will continue its work as an impartial, fair, and neutral body dedicated to the service of human rights, irrespective of any criticism or any political perspectives that are at play. We are here for the truth and nothing but the truth. We remain open to any constructive criticism and to any constructive ideas that may improve our work, and we welcome everyone’s cooperation in the pursuit of these goals which we are all pursuing.
Trusting that you will publish this reply to give it the same publicity that you have given your open letter, and that you will see fit to continue to cooperate with us and to help us in achieving our mission. We look forward to cooperating with civic leaders like yourself to successfully accomplish our mandate. Sincerely,
M. Cherif Bassiouni Chair, Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
Updates on Bahrain: two police men on trial, released prisoners allege torture and a detained doctor transferred to the ICU
Dr. Saeed AlSamaheeji
09 August 2011
Bassiouni explains his comments and gives more details about the commission's work to Alwasatnews (Arabic)
Two police men are being charged with involuntary manslaughter for the cases of Ali AlMoamen and Isa AbdulHassan: a. Original information that was sent on the day of AlMoamen's death: "I just received a phone call from Maryam and she gave me word for word information as to what it is she wants you to know. This attached file is a copy of Ali Ahmed Abdulha Ali's death certificate. This young man passed away the evening of Feb 17th. Maryam was there when they tried to resuscitate him. He's 22 years old. As shown on the death certificate, he died due to extensive bleeding. The doctor told Maryam that a foreign plastic object was found in his body. They think this foreign object might be a rubber coated bullet. He had shrapnel in his body as well. He was one of the brave young men who got out of the roundabout safely when the attack first happened but then went back when he realized there were women and children still inside. Maryam told me that she might receive four more death certificates soon." b. Copy of Ali Almoamen cause of death c. Graphic pictures of both victims are here: Isa AbdulHassan and another photo Ali AlMoamen
d.Eye witness: M.H Testimony taken on: 2nd March 2011 Eye witness account to death of Isa AbdulHassan. On Thursday 17th February, after I managed to run away from the roundabout after the riot police attacked us I took my car and went to Salmaniya hospital. At 8 am I went back in my car toward the roundabout when I got stuck in the traffic and the cars were not moving easily. The street was covered and closed by the riot police. After a while a group of people most of them youth were heading to the roundabout with ambulances to help them get through to reach the injured people, an old man and a young man were a bit ahead of this group going toward the riot police. The riot police started shooting sound bombs, rubber bullets, bird shotgun and teargas, and the young guy was attacked by the riot police. The old man tried to help him but one of the riot police who seemed to be the in charge officer, I assumed this because he wasn’t wearing a helmet and his dress was a bit different from others, stepped ahead and shot the old man from a less than 1 meter distance and the old man fall down. I’m not sure if the old man passed away from the first shot or they shot him again because when he fell on the ground I couldn’t see him. e. Video testimony of another witness (Arabic) youtube.com/watch?v=bT_WN79melc
University of Bahrain dismisses several employees yesterday, due to their involvement in the events which took place in the university in March as per the officials.
Waad (National Democratic Action Society), headed by Ebrahim Sharif who is currently in prison serving a 5 year sentence, has announced that they will boycott the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
The Bahrain government recalls their ambassador to Syria, as security forces continue violent attacks on protests at home.
The arrested minors mentioned here were released.
Amnesty International puts out a statement on the released politicians and human rights lawyer.
Families of those killed since February 14th uprising, as well as families of injured staged a protest 09 August 2011 at the BICI office demanding to speak to Mr. Bassiouni about his statements. They were given 10 minutes to leave by a plain clothed officer, but left after being promised a meeting at a later time with the commission.
Later the same day, expelled students also staged a protest at the BICI headquarters for a short time then left. Numerous people are now telling the BCHR that they are not willing to speak to the commission any more, some mentioning that the reason is because of Bassiouni's statements.
Dr. Saeed AlSamaheeji, a detained eye doctor, has been transferred to the ICU in Salmaniya hospital. He has aneurismal brain disease which ruptured due to high blood pressure (reached 210 systolic). It resulted in subdural hemorrhage which requires surgery by clipping (microsurgery) within 24hrs. The doctors who can do the surgery are suspended or on trial in Bahrain. His family was only allowed in for a few minutes after some of them started crying when they were denied visitation. Security told them if they wanted to see him again they must get visiting permission. He is put under heavy security at the hospital. His family believes that his condition is due to torture and ill treatment.
Several employees of the ministry of interior have been identified by several released detainees as being responsible for torture and ill treatment, their names are: Mubarak bin Huwail and Abdullah Sultan, Khalid bu Nasser and Maher AlMutairi from West Riffa Police station, and Murad, Nizar and Ebrahim from the hospital. Shamma and Eman Bilal were identified as the security who tortured women.
Amnesty International: Lawyer released in Bahrain, charges not dropped
Further information on UA: 116/11 Index: MDE 11/042/2011 Bahrain Date: 9 August 2011
URGENT ACTION LAWYER RELEASED in BAHRAIN
A prominent defence lawyer arrested in Bahrain on 15 April was released on 7 August . T he charges against him have not been dropped and he has reported being tortured in prison.
Mohammed al-Tajer, a prominent Bahraini defence lawyer, was arrested at his house in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on the night of 15 April. He was arrested without an arrest warrant by a group of over 20 masked security officers who then took him to an unknown location. On 12 June, he was brought before the National Safety Court of First Instance, a military court, and formally charged with offences that included spreading rumours and malicious news and incitement of hatred towards the regime. He pleaded not guilty. His trial was then referred to a civilian court.
On 7 August Mohammed al-Tajer was released from prison. He told Amnesty International that his current legal status is unclear and he thinks the charges against him have not been dropped. He was required to sign papers as a condition of his release stating he would appear in court and be available for interrogation at any time, and that he would not undertake any activity against the country. Photographs of the upper part of his body and his legs were taken and a doctor signed papers stating that he was in good health at the time of his release. Mohammed al- Tajer said he had been beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to stand up for long hours during the first three weeks of his detention. He also reported that his bank account has been frozen and that all the items taken from his office by security officials, including computers, laptops and databases, have not been returned. His wife has been dismissed from her job.
Following his arrest, Amnesty International considered Mohammed al-Tajer to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely on account of his work as a well-known human rights lawyer and his public criticism of the government’s violent suppression of recent protests.
Please write immediately in English or Arabic or your own language :
- Welcoming Mohammed al-Tajer’s release but urging the authorities to clarify his legal status and to remove any conditions that have been attached to his release, as well as any other limitations currently imposed on his liberty, freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly; - Urging the authorities to drop any charges against him arising from his legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or work as a human rights lawyer; - Urging the authorities to immediately set up a full, independent and impartial investigation into his allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, to make its results public and to bring to justice anyone responsible;
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 SEPTEMBER 2011 TO :
King Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King P.O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1766 4587 Salutation: Your Majesty
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Shaikh Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs P. O. Box 450, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1753 1284 Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Social Development and Human Rights Dr. Fatima bint Mohammed Al Balooshi Ministry of Social Development and Human Rights PO Box 32868, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1710 1955 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 second update of UA 116/11. Further information: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE11/032/2011/en
URGENT ACTION LAWYER RELEASED in BAHRAIN Name: Mohammed al-Tajer Gender m/f: Male Further information on UA: 116/11 Index: MDE 11/042/2011 Issue Date: 9 August 2011
The Observatory: Bahrain: Release on bail and ongoing judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
New Information BHR 003 / 0411 / OBS 065.2 Release on bail / Judicial harassment Bahrain August 9, 2011
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), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release on bail and ongoing judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, a prominent human rights lawyer.
According to the information received, on August 6, 2011, Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer was released on bail. Before his release, he was forced to sign documents stating that he would appear before courts and be available for interrogation at any time if summoned. He was also required to declare that he would not carry out "activities against the country".
The Observatory firmly denounces the continued judicial harassment faced by Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities as a defence lawyer, and moreover condemns the lack of due process in the trial held against him over the past months before the Lower National Safety Court (see background information).
The Observatory also condemns the ill-treatments suffered by Mr. Al Tajer while in detention: he was reportedly beaten on his head, forced to stand up with his hands against the wall. He also suffered from deprivation of sleep and was forbidden to go to the toilet. He also reportedly heard other prisoners being tortured.
The Observatory recalls the judicial proceedings launched against Mr. Al Tajer took place within the context of an intensified crackdown against activists, including human rights defenders, who have supported or are alleged to have supported the protest movement which started in Bahrain in February 2011. Hundreds of individuals are still arbitrarily detained, and access to the majority of these detainees, including by their lawyers, is not guaranteed. Concern about the physical integrity and life of those arrested are consequently high.
At around 11 pm on April 15, 2011, a group of more than 20 masked and armed plain-clothes men, belonging to security forces, entered without any warrant the house where Mr. Al Tajer was present with his wife and young children. At 00.30 am, after thoroughly searching the house and confiscating computers and mobile phones, the men arrested Mr. Al Tajer and took him to an unknown destination. After his arrest, Mr. Al Tajer was detained incommunicado for five weeks and was then allegedly transferred to the Gurain military prison.
In addition, Mr. Al Tajer appeared before the Lower National Safety Court on June 12, 16 and 23, 2011 and could only meet with his family and lawyer on these occasions.
On June 23, 2011, Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer appeared before the Lower National Safety Court in Manama on four charges: “inciting others to develop hatred or hostility towards the system of Government” pursuant to Article 165 of the Bahraini Criminal Code; “deliberately releasing malicious news or rumours about (…) the State” pursuant to Article 168; “inciting others (…) to hate or show contempt for a certain faction (…) undermining the public peace” pursuant to Article 172; and “taking part in a demonstration (…) with the aim of committing crimes (…) aimed at undermining public security” pursuant to Article 178 punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years. Mr. Al Tajer was blamed for committing all those crimes because he reportedly made a speech in which he addressed the public in the Pearl Roundabout’s last March to denounce Bahrain's human rights record. In the charge sheet against him, it was stated by the prosecution that by making such speech he jeopardised the country stability and security and caused the public to reject the National Dialogue, which was then called for by the Government.
The verdict in this trial was to be issued on July 5, 2011, but shortly before that date, on June 26, the authorities announced that all remaining court cases will be transferred from the special military courts to civilian courts. Thus, Mr. Al Tajer's trial was suspended and transferred to civil courts.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:
i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Mohamed Issa Al Tajer and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular : its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ; - its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ; - its Article 9.3 which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, inter alia […] to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials so as to form an opinion on their compliance with national law and applicable international obligations and commitments; and to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms” ; - its Article 10 which provides that “no one shall participate, by act or by failure to act where required, in violating human rights and fundamental freedoms and no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing to do so”; - and its Article 12.2 which states 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”.
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.
· 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: email@example.com
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.
*** Paris-Geneva, August 9, 2011
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.