BCHR Open Letter to Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) re statement to Reuters
09 Aug 2011 Open Letter:
Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni Commission Chair, Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
Subject: Your interview with Reuters on 5 August 2011
Your appointment to the independent commission tasked with investigating recent human right abuses in Bahrain was encouraging news for all those involved in the field of human rights. It is, therefore, with deep disappointment and regret that we at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) read your recent comments. The comments suggest that, without completing anywhere near a full investigation, you are willing to espouse the view of the political establishment whilst paying lip-service to the concept of a fair and independent enquiry.
This is all the more surprising as your hasty comments contradict a vast range of published reports by well respected human rights groups who have spent time and resources investigating the situation in Bahrain. Indeed, your comments that “there was never a policy of excessive use of force” in Bahrain contrasts grimly with the news, published just days before, of an armed raid on the offices of Médecins Sans Frontières by the Bahraini authorities. Claims of torture by detainees are so widespread that it is hard to believe that they were carried out by a few bad eggs within the security forces.
Countless reports catalogue a range of human rights abuses which targeted specific segments of society, most notably medical workers. The well respected human rights group, Physicians for Human Rights, published a thorough report which detailed the systematic persecution of medical workers. Such organised, wide scale discrimination strongly indicates the collusion of high ranking government officials and renders your initial judgment that such abuses were “a case of people at the lower level acting, and there not being an effective chain of communication, control" premature and, potentially, extremely damaging to the credibility of the commission.
Even if we were to accept the extremely unlikely situation that the Minister of Interior (as currently suggested by you) was unaware of the actions of lower level government officials, Bahrain is still subject to the obligations outlined in the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which requires it, in Article 16, to prevent acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. Bahrain has clearly failed to maintain its obligations under this Convention.
Your current views seem to be based on a range of false assumptions. Most notably, that “it’s totally untrue that people are afraid of coming forward”. These comments are surprising, as those interviewed by the commission thus far are not representative of the vast range of people affected by the governmental crackdown on protestors. We are aware of a number of individuals who, initially subjected to torture, have since been subjected to further torture as punishment (and as a warning to others) for speaking out about the treatment they received. Whilst we, and a number of other organisations, are strongly encouraging individuals to come forward and speak to the commission about their treatment, the off-hand comments of the commission are insulting to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, under the policies of the current regime and discourage participation in the commission’s investigation.
These concerns lead us to seriously question the legitimacy of this commission and its ultimate findings. You appear to have accepted without question the assertions of the government as to the number of political prisoners, the treatment they received and the governments “willingness” to rectify the mistakes of “rogue” individuals within the government framework. Because the Ministry of the Interior is ‘extraordinarily willing’ to listen to the commission, it does not follow that there was not a systematic policy of violence. This argument is a non-sequitur and questionable at best.
This defies the very objective of the commission; to reach an independent and impartial conclusion as to the human rights abuses committed in Bahrain and the cause of such abuses. Recent news regarding the release of prisoners, whilst encouraging, should in no way subtract from the commission’s stated goal.
Nabeel Rajab President Bahrain center for Human Rights 09 Aug 2011
Human Rights First: Bahrain Reforms Generate Small Change
By Stephanie El Rayess
9 August 2011
“The mere fact that the king has appointed this commission and the Interior Ministry is cooperating shows me things have changed,” Cherif Bassiouni, head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, told Reuters on Thursday. But things have not changed enough for many Bahraini teachers, students and activists.
Jalila Al Salman, teacher and Vice-President of the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA), is still forgotten in prison. She was arrested in March for her alleged role in coordinating a teachers’ strike along with other BTA board members. Jalila decided to begin a hunger strike last week to demand her freedom and to protest her continuing torture and ill treatment while in custody. Jalila is not alone.
She is joined by Roula al-Saffar, also awaiting trial in connection with the February and March protests. Roula, a cancer survivor and founder of the National Association for Cancer Awareness, is Head of Bahrain Nursing Society and Assistant Professor at the College of Health Sciences. She is accused of publicly defaming officials from the Salmaniya Medical Complex, the main public hospital in Bahrain where she is the Head of Nursing. She has repeatedly denied the charges against her.
Other female detainees are also serving sentences in harsh conditions. Mariam Mohamed Abdulla and Reem Ahmed Hilal, two young female students of the Bahrain Institute, were sentenced on April 1 for “having illegal messages or slogans on their phones when searched at a military checkpoint,” according to an urgent appeal Human Rights First (HRF) received. They had exchanged messages that were forwarded to them on their Blackberry phones. Mariam is yet to be released despite serving her three-month term, which, according to her mother, is causing her severe distress. As for Reem, she was sentenced to seven months in prison and is reportedly suffering from humiliating and degrading treatment.
The situation of students has not changed enough either. The Bahraini government had punished students who participated in protests by revoking their scholarships. Recently, honor students and their parents have been worried about the distribution of academic awards and scholarships for the 2011- 2012 school year. The names of the recipients of the scholarships were not officially announced, and the selection criteria were not made clear, according to reports sent to HRF. The Ministry of Education responded to “allegations of favoritism, sectarian abuse and cover-up. “The ministry said it followed Arab and international standards in selecting qualified candidates for scholarships based on their academic performance and their personality traits reflected in personal interviews conducted by specialists trained by the Bahrain Institute of Public Administration, insisting that there were no questions about any student’s sect or “sectarian remarks.” Human rights activists are voicing their concern over using scholarships as political tools to pressure students, warning about the negative effect of the increasing suspicion on the credibility of Bahrain’s educational system.
Bahraini women activists are still speaking out about human rights violations. Mariam al Khawaja, Head of Foreign Relations Office at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, recently tweeted “Student Abdulhadi Nabeel Diwani was arrested upon return from his studies in the UAE, arrests are still ongoing.” In another recent tweet, a leading female activist, “angryarabia”, said that it is great that Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Investigation caused the release of 41 people as well as the suspension of a police chief and several officers as Bassioni mentioned in his interview with Reuters, but wondered “Is the price the truth?”.
Bassiouni said that about 300 people remain in detention over the widespread demonstrations earlier this year and that he hoped to secure the release of a further 150 in coming days. The release of several detainees - Matar Matar, the youngest member of the Bahraini parliament whose wife spoke to al-Jazeera about her fears ; Jawad Fairooz, who like Matar was a member of al-Wefaq’s parliamentary bloc that resigned following the government’s crackdown on protestors in February, and Mohammed al-Tajir, a human rights lawyer who has defended a number of activists – is an indication of the “good faith” of the Interior Ministry Bassiouni commended. But it is hard to see why these people were arrested or detained in the first place, and so their release – while welcome – should not be seen as a substitute for investigating and prosecuting those who have committed torture.
Amnesty International: Released Bahraini politicians still under threat from government repression
8 August 2011 Two Bahraini MPs jailed during anti-government protests might still be facing criminal charges despite being released from prison this weekend, Amnesty International has warned.
Matar Matar and Jawad Fairouz, who were reportedly tortured in detention, were among at least three opposition figures freed on 7 August.
"The release of these government critics is welcome, if overdue, but the Bahraini authorities must ensure that all charges based on their legitimate exercise of freedom of expression or other human rights are also dropped, so that the threat of re-imprisonment is not left hanging over Matar Matar, Jawad Fairouz and others," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme
The third government critic confirmed released this weekend was human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer, who told Amnesty International today that his peaceful activities remain stifled.
"As far as I am concerned the charges against me have not been dropped. The items confiscated from my office have not been returned and my bank account is frozen," said Mohammed al-Tajer.
"I am happy for the release but I was forced to sign papers stating that I would appear in court and be available for interrogation at any time if I was summoned, and I was required to declare that I would not undertake any activity ‘against the country’."
All three released men are alleged to have been tortured by security officials since they were detained in May.
"I was forced to stand up with my hands against the wall while I was beaten on my head. They deprived me from sleeping and going to the toilet. I could hear from my cell how others were tortured," said Mohammed al-Tajer.
Matar Matar is alleged to have been tortured after he complained that he was being harassed in prison by a National Security official.
Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into allegations of torture of these three men and other detainees arrested in connection with the protests in Bahrain.
"The Bahraini authorities must ensure that all allegations of torture are independently investigated and that those responsible for torture are brought to justice," said Malcolm Smart.
”They must not continue to tolerate such abuse and allow the perpetrators to escape accountability.”
Local human rights groups say that several other protesters might have been freed yesterday but Amnesty International has not yet been able to confirm names.
The Guardian: Bahrain protests: 'The repression is getting worse'
Mahdi Hassan Al-Eskafi , an injured protester
Months after its brief exposure to the Arab spring, Bahrain's cat-and-mouse routine of protest and repression continues
by Ian Black in Sitra guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 August 2011
Hassan Ali Salman is a stocky, fit-looking young man. But he flailed in vain as the police officers grabbed him, one forcing his T-shirt roughly up over his head as three or four others laid in with their wooden batons, dragging and pushing him to a line of waiting Land Cruisers and more helmeted cops.
Behind him, on a bare breezeblock wall, crudely drawn nooses encircle the names Hamad and Khalifa – in reference to the king of Bahrain and his uncle the prime minister – alongside graffiti demanding their execution and the overthrow of the regime.
The recent scene in Sitra, a short drive from central Manama, the capital, provided an ugly glimpse into the cat-and-mouse routine of protests and repression in this Gulf island state. Filmed secretly, posted on YouTube and distributed on Twitter, it exposes what Bahrain's western-backed government prefers foreigners not to see.
In the nearby cemetery lies the grave of Zainab al-Juma, a disabled woman who died in July after inhaling tear gas from a police grenade. The black flag that marks her "martyrdom" hangs limp in the hot, still air. Another local victim was Ahmed Farhan, shot in March, his brains spilling out of his shattered head live on camera as horrified screams sounded all around.
Bahrain is far quieter now than during its brief exposure to the winds of the Arab spring in February and March, but unrest continues. Every night cries of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) echo through the villages of a Shia underclass that has chafed under the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty since the country's independence from Britain in 1971.
"We go up on to the roofs and shout and then try to march to the entrance of our village," said Abu Ali, a thirtysomething accountant and former prisoner from Karzakan who supports al-Wifaq, the Islamist movement demanding democracy and equal rights for all. "The repression is getting worse."
Haydar, from nearby Diraz, described a savage beating, curses and threats of rape as he was forced to kiss the boots of the police officers who tormented him on 26 June. "They pulled my shirt over my head and every hundred metres they hit me in the face and kicked me," he said.
Captain Ahmed of Manama's police special forces unit insists his job is simply to "protect citizens" and that he and his men are reluctant to make arrests or use force. "If we catch someone they are in trouble," he said. "They can lose their job or be thrown out of their studies and that will be on their files for good. Of course we take action if they try to harm us."
The night the Guardian joined his four-vehicle patrol the radio network reported small crowds gathering but there were no beatings or shootings. Young men waiting in the shadows in Sanabis, part of a Shia "triangle of steadfastness", ran off when the Land Cruisers roared up, blue lights flashing as the police officers scrambled out, helmet visors down, to demolish the makeshift roadblocks, their gas grenade launchers at the ready.
"It's not just kids," a police lieutenant said. "They are organised quite professionally with co-ordinated actions in different places at the same time." Still, this is basically a public order problem, not a war or – despite the brave rhetoric – a Palestinian-style intifada. Ahmed hopes Bahraini municipalities will respond to police requests to remove the wheels from rubbish bins to stop them being used to barricade roads.
Central Manama is calm. Pearl Roundabout in the commercial heart of the city has been wiped off the map, its famous statue has been destroyed and the only clue to its status as Manama's "Tahrir Square" are two or three armoured cars and a refuse cart emblazoned with the name of a radical Shia leader, Hassan Mushayma, a bogeyman for the regime and for Sunnis.
Yet underlying tensions remain. Pearl has been renamed Farouq junction, an epithet attached to the seventh-century Sunni Caliph Omar and bitter rival of Ali, the founder of Shia Islam. It's one of the signifiers of dominance and prejudice that are part of the sectarian fabric of Bahraini life. Another is that state TV broadcasts only the Sunni call to prayer.
Sheikh Ali Salman, al-Wifaq's leader, prefers to talk of universal rights. "What Bahrainis want is the same as people elsewhere in the Arab world," he said. "The government succeeded to some extent in portraying what happened here as a Shia-Sunni clash, though it was less successful in convincing anyone that there was Iranian involvement. It also tried to show that the opposition were terrorists. But there is one basic conflict – between those who support democracy and those who want to maintain the current dictatorship."
Al-Wifaq withdrew its 18 members from the 40-seat parliament in protest at the first killings of demonstrators in February, but remains committed to peaceful change. Enemies dismiss its moderate image and claim it is no different from Shia hardliners such as Mushayma, who called for a republic to replace the Al Khalifa dynasty, launched a campaign of civil disobedience and destroyed a dialogue between the opposition and the reformist Crown Prince Salman that might – just – have defused the crisis.
The crackdown began in earnest on 15 March when most foreign journalists had been thrown out or diverted to Libya.
"It was an anti-Shia pogrom," said Hala, an activist who helped plan the Pearl Roundabout protests. "Arrests began at two or three in the morning. People were dragged out of bed by armed men in ski masks and their houses smashed up. The Mukhabarat [secret police] set up a Twitter account and named people as traitors so that when they tried to leave the country they were picked up." Hundreds remain in prison.
Dismissals of some 2,000 people who stayed away from work during the unrest began at the same time. The destruction of around 30 Shia mosques has sharpened the sense of sectarian polarisation.
Under pressure from the US, trials have been moved from military to civilian courts and two al-Wifaq MPs and a lawyer were freed at the weekend amid signs that more detainees would be released. But doctors and nurses from the Salmaniya hospital still face charges of occupying the building, hiding weapons, refusing to treat Sunni patients and inciting protests.
Sunnis talk of boycotting Shia shops and Shia night workers complain of being stopped by police on their way home. "Even among lawyers there are tensions," said a Sunni who defends Shia clients. "I am very pessimistic," sighed Jassim, a Shia taxi driver whose startling cockney accent is a souvenir of years of work at the RAF base on Muharraq. "Things are much worse then before." Shia journalists are smeared as traitors and fear harassment or worse if they cover Sunni events.
"It's been a big setback for all of us in Bahrain," concluded Munira Fakhro, a Sunni member of the secular opposition Wa'ad party, whose leader Ibrahim Sharif is also behind bars. "We will either come out safe despite our wounds or the situation will deteriorate further." Another middle-class professional woman reflected gloomily: "We sank very low. If we go any further people will start to leave. We were tearing ourselves apart."
Two things seem certain: repression without reform will not solve Bahrain's problems and its citizen journalists will keep the story alive. "They are doing our job for us," said a local photographer who works for international news agencies. "They set up webcams in the villages where there are clashes. It's hard to get in and if you do you risk being arrested or hit by a tear gas grenade or worse. If the police catch you they make you erase your pictures. It happened to me once. After all, they are the ones with the guns."
Some names in this report have been changed
Updates on Bahrain, release of prisoners without dropping of charges
8 August 2011
There are ongoing protests and attacks by riot police at the moment in a few villages around Bahrain. This is the 6th day of hunger strike for the military detainees as well as Head of Nursing society Roula AlSaffar and Deputy General of the Teachers society Jalila AlSalman. Families of the military detainees were promised that they will be released in the next two days. Jalila's family say her health is doing poorly and there is great concern for the aforementioned detainees health and well-being. Today a number of detainees were released (number is said to be around 147), amongst them resigned members of parliament Mattar Mattar and Jawad Fairouz. Amongst them also was human rights lawyer Mohammed AlTajer. Also amongst them was a 14 yer old boy (Ali Jafar Ahmed from Samaheej ).
In the cases we have documented, charges have not been dropped against those released.
This piece by Justin Gengler offers an overview of the released and Mr. Bassiouni's involvement.
In a disturbing development, Bassiouni made statements to the press saying: "What I have found so far is the extraordinary willingness of the minister to listen to anything we bring to his attention and act on it, whether it's suspension of police officers, arrest of police officers, or release of detainees," he said. "It leads me to believe that on his part there was never a policy of excessive use of force or torture...that doesn't mean it didn't happen. I think it was a case of people at the lower level acting, and there not being an effective chain of communication, control."
These statements were met with widespread condemnation and loss of faith in the commission. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights will nonetheless continue to urge people to keep faith in the commission and to continue to provide them with cases of human rights violations and documentation.
There was a mass protest titled "March for self determination 6" in Bani Jamrah last Thursday. The protests were attacked by use of excessive force. Protesters kept regrouping and getting attacked, and protesters in several other areas started. Protests are still ongoing on almost a daily basis.
Picture of a boy after the security forces showered at least two villages with teargas: yfrog.com/h4grumej
Waleed Zayman, 17 years old, Hussain Ghuloom Jawadi, 15 years old, Mahdi Kalzaman, 15 years old, Amir Ali Jeeran, 15 years old, Hussain Sajjad Moh'd, 13 years old, Ebrahim Esmail, 17 years old, Ali AlMajed (15) got 45 days imprisonment and his bro Hussain (13) got 7 days for illegal gathering. Arrested in Muharraq Picture of the boys
There is great concern as we have received news that the boys are being split up and put in cells with prisoners with criminal charges such as drugs.
AlJazeera English's documentary on Bahrain that has received attention from both the people and the government.
AlJazeera's piece on the channel started by Bahrain's expats abroad and how it has been attacked by the Bahraini authorities: english.aljazeera.net/vid..
Information on cases of detainees, as received:
1 Hashim almosawi is a 22 years old individual that was detained from marriot hotel parking in juffair at the 18th march 2011 , he was attacked haremfully at the parking and got blind eyed and taken to uknown destination with his younger brother . Hashim is a exceptional person ,he achieved second class on bahrain government high school 99.2 % and first class with owner Engineering bachelor holder from University of New castle , he's the first bahraini to get choosed in the Thomas Addison scholarship programme in bahrain from General Electrical (USA) and was going to leave bahrain just few weeks after his his detention to study Masters in engineering of gas energy turbines . he was accommodated in the marriot hotel as part of an evacuation plan with other employees by GE itself . Hashim has no political relations and activities at all .
His younger brother was released same day and both was investigated and got treated in a very ruff way ,but authourities couldn't get anything on him rather accusing him that hes a bachelor holder from UK and has a great salary . They saw his graduation project that he got talent merit patent certification for ,and accused him that its a terror plan . As hashim work on an american company ,he gets international calls from USA and Dubai on regular basis , but they still accused him of having an international relations with media.
-first 10 days in manama castle ,single jail ,blind eyes and tortured eventually -signed on different papers after torture without seeing the content of them -second 10 days in dry dock ,single jail, blind eyes and tortured eventually -after that he got into group jail , tortured on daily basis for 2 main reason they always repeat, your a UK bachelor holder and you have a great salary .
One of the Men responsible of managing Dry Dock jail (Name : Bader Ghaith ) was leading the torture on him and others eventually in different ways and methods.
2 A protester was injured on Sunday 24 of July 2011 by riot police after they ambushed him following their crackdown on a march calling for the release of political detainees and the justified rights. After he fell riot police starting kicking him, beating him with their sticks on his face and head which lead to a wound in the back his head and bruises in the skull. They also insulted him.
Later, they forced to crawl on ground or they'd shoot him and leave him on ground. he crawled for 30 meters until one of the residents took him to his nearby house where the injured protester was in a very bad condition due to the ruthless beating . The house owner treated him with the aid of a nurse, but she couldn't stitch the wound due to unavailability of proper tools/kit as well as swelling wound and shaking skull. Later he was taken to a professional where he was treated properly. The beating caused him bruises in the skull.
Videos for the injury:
Videos showing the screaming of the injured protester after riot police ambushed him, due to dark it wasn't filmed directly youtube.com/watch?v=giXYrFVXuZ8
3 Haitham Shubar Sharaf, married, father of two daughters. From Magabah
As sent by his wife:
"In the morning of 16th March my husband woke up to the 2nd Lulu attack news. He want out and we kept in contact. The road to Al Qadam roundabout was blocked by the army. At around 9 am we heard gun fire near Magabah. I kept calling him, I kept trying until his brother picked up and told me he got a slight injury in the foot. I believe him. But when I got to his father's house & I was shocked to see he was hit in both legs & his hand. He lost his thumb!
I got out of the house heading to Budaya Medical Center where he was taken, but I wasn't allowed to go there. Then a cousin called and he said they're coming home. Later he came with torn clothes & bandaged feet & right hand. He was hit with live ammunition, 15 cm. He got hit trying to pick up someone from the ground. He came home & laid on the sofa. I offered him food but his hand was bleeding, we were tense and clueless. We called one of the nurses in the village hoping she could stop the bleeding. Before that his brother, a doctor in SMC, came. He took him to SMC to get treatment. We lost contact & we couldn't go check on him because hospital was besieged. The hospital also had a shortage of food and no electricity. It was terrible moments.
The next day we wanted to visit, it was dangerous. After a hard time, checkpoints everywhere we got to the hospital. We saw his legs in a cast, legs & hands operated on. We wanted to take him out but everyone leaving got arrested. The next day he told me police came in, hit him & took pictures of him. His files were taken & he was forced to walk to the 6th floor despite not being able to. No one was allowed to visit. The next day they were taken. Taken to an unknown place, later we found out it was BDF hospital. We didn't know for 5 days, if he's alive or dead. On 22nd March Budaiya Police called us to bring clothes for him. We knew nothing & weren't allowed to visit.
On 16th May he was taken to court, sentenced to 2 years. I met him & he told me he was tortured & beaten. He was taken from SMC in handcuffs despite a cast on his hand & a chopped finger! We appealed the sentence, it was reduced to a year. He was transferred to Jaw prison, he's still being beaten.
All that my husband went through is a terrible injustice. He is a peaceful citizen who only wanted freedom & rights.
RSF: Arab Spring And Repression Continue From Rabat To Manama
Lualua TV, a satellite TV station launched by 15 members of the Bahraini opposition on 17 July in London, has been jammed since the first day despite changing frequency regularly. According to Eutelsat, the jamming is being orchestrated from Bahrain. Lualua TV wanted to broadcast from Bahrain but it was repeatedly denied permission. It is still managing to broadcast on the Hotbird satellite.
In a 24 July press release, the head of Lualua TV said: “A lot of hard work has gone into this channel and we are extremely disappointed that we have had trouble broadcasting our message. It comes as no surprise that the source of the jamming is Bahrain. It is as we had expected. We have followed all regulations in the creation of this station and we will not allow this setback to stop us from broadcasting permanently. We are hoping that the interference has now ended, but if it returns we will just have to find other ways to reinforce our message.”
Professor McCormack rebuts misrepresentation & inaccuracies in official statements in the Bahrain media re Irish delegation.
Professor Damian McCormack, head of the recent Irish humanitarian delegation to Bahrain rebuts the misrepresentation and inaccuracies contained in recent official statements and commentary in the Bahrain media re the visit of the delegation. He also reiterates the delegation's concern at ongoing risk of torture and ill treatment of medics in custody. Full Text of Press Release PRESS RELEASE
On 13 July 2011 an Irish humanitarian delegation travelled to Bahrain to offer solidarity to doctors, nurses and other health professionals currently held in prison or facing charges in Bahrain. The delegation consisted of myself Professor Damian Mc Cormack, Professor Eoin O'Brien, Ms Marion Hakin MEP, Ms Averil Power TD (member of the Irish Parliament) and Front Line representatives Deputy Director Andrew Anderson and Khalid Ibrahim.
In the course of the mission we heard repeated testimonies of torture and ill treatment, including the threat of sexual assault. One testimony stated:
“I was taken to a room blindfolded and handcuffed with my hands behind my back. After hours of standing against a wall I was verbally insulted and then placed in solitary confinement for 10 days in a small dirty cell, during which time I was tortured, sexually molested by both male and female interrogators and beaten with a hose on the back and neck. I was then moved to a gaol where I could hear other prisoners being tortured and I was interrogated repeatedly. I was filmed signing many papers the content of which no longer mattered to me, but among which was a confession that I had stolen drugs from the Hospital and that I had incited disturbance.”
This is typical of the experiences recounted to us and it should be added that all the statements given were clear, consistent and credible and on the basis of these interviews the delegation would like to reiterate our call for the release of the doctors nurses and other health professionals still in detention on humanitarian grounds pending the outcome of the Independent Commission of Inquiry and any resumption of cases in the civil courts.
I deeply regret that they have not been released in time for the start of Ramadan which would have been an enormously positive gesture. I welcome the reported comments expressed by Dr Al Balushi in relation to concerns about a suicide risk with one of the detainees that she will “consider the matter with the concerned authorities”. Since then however there have been been repeated attempts by official sources and sections of the Bahraini media to misrepresent the purpose of the mission and we are unfortunately obliged to respond to a number of untrue statements attributed to Dr Al Balushi in the media including in the Daily Tribune of 29th July.
As is clear from the letters sent in advance the delegation did not arrive in Bahrain as “tourists” and then demand meetings. It was made abundantly clear from the outset, and in advance of their arrival that the primary purpose of the mission was to meet with the families of the detained medical personnel and recently released doctors.
It is also not true to say that we have used insulting words against Dr Al Balushi. In any interviews we placed particular emphasis on warmly welcoming the undertaking by Dr Al Balushi to raise with His Majesty the King the possibility of releasing those still detained.
We have not said that Dr Al Balushi personally refused us permission to visit the detained medical personnel and we have not alleged that she was personally responsible for the charges brought against medical personnel, although we have noted several occasions on which the minister did appear to have defended such charges publicly.
It is most welcome that Dr Al Balushi refers in her reported comments to Bahrain's adhesion to the Convention Against Torture. Unfortunately it is very clear that Bahrain has not complied with Article 13 which states that:
“Each State Party shall ensure that any individual who alleges he has been subjected to torture in any territory under its jurisdiction has the right to complain to and to have his case promptly and impartially examined its competent authorities. Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given.”
The Special Safety Court and the Military Prosecutor who were responsible for the detention, treatment and legal process against the medical personnel during March to June 2011 refused the detainees the right to raise allegations of torture in court. They also failed to ensure prompt investigation of complaints of torture and ill treatment including by denying independent medical examination of the detainees.
We concluded and wish to reiterate our clear view that some of the medical personnel who were detained were tortured and ill treated on the basis of:
a) numerous personal testimonies received before and during our visit to Bahrain; b) independent medical evidence received before and during our visit to Bahrain; c) photographic and eye witness statements provided to us and to other human rights organisations; d) the denial of access to family, lawyers or independent medical examination in the initial stages of detention; e) the documented evidence of the torture and ill treatment of other detainees during the last months including at least four cases of deaths in custody; f) the failure of the Bahraini authorities to properly investigate complaints of torture prior to the establishment of the Independent Commission of Inquiry.
These are matters which will now properly be considered by the Independent Commission of Inquiry and we hope that this will result in those responsible being brought to justice in Bahrain. It is worth noting that under the Convention Against Torture those responsible for and those complicit (Article 4) in acts of torture must be brought to justice, if necessary through the use of international jurisdiction (Article 5).
Release detained Bahraini teachers says TUC
August 2011 Release detained Bahraini teachers says TUC
The TUC and Amnesty International are calling for the release of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, two members of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) who were arrested during the unrest in March and April 2011. They remain incarcerated awaiting trial in a civilian court, which has been postponed until further notice.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to HE Rashid Al-Khalifa, Bahraini Ambassador to the UK, expressing serious concerns over their continued detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. He urged the Government to immediately release them and to hold to account those responsible for their arrest and possible abuse.
Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, together with several other board members of the BTA, were arrested in March and April 2011. While their colleagues were released, they were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on 15 June on charges which include 'inciting hatred towards the regime', 'calling to overthrow and change the regime by force', 'calling on parents not to send their children to school' and 'calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations'. After further hearings on 22 and 29 June - their trial was transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.
Jalila al-Salman's house in Manama was raided on 29 March by more than 40 security officers. She was reportedly taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Manama where she remained for about a week during which she was reportedly beaten, including with objects, and held in solitary confinement. She is believed to have been transferred to the custody of the military and held there for around two months, before being transferred again to a detention centre in 'Issa Town in Bahrain, where she is currently held. Jalila al-Salman's family were not aware of her whereabouts until soon after her transfer to the detention centre in 'Issa Town and have only been allowed to see her there on two occasions. The second of these visits was on 16 July, and was under very strict surveillance.
Amnesty International has reviewed statements issued by the BTA. One of them, published on 13 March, called on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike, and on parents not to take their children to school during large-scale demonstrations in Bahrain. Amnesty International has also listened to speeches delivered by Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb that made similar appeals. It has, however, seen no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind in these or other activities. Consequently, although the organization does not have the full details of the evidence presented so far in the trial, it believes that they are likely to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA.
Please go to the Amnesty International page for further information on this appeal and see ITUC Annual Survey of Trade Union Violations for information on trade union violations in Bahrain.
2 August 2011 HE Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al Khalifa Ambassador Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain Dear Ambassador
Detention of Bahrain Teacher's Association members
Further to my letter of 24 May 2011, I am now writing to express our deep concern over the continued detention of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Madhdi Abu Dheeb of the Bahrain Teachers' Association (BTA) for exercising their legitimate rights as trade unionists.
Jalila and Mahdi, together with several of their colleagues, were arrested after calling on teachers and employees of the Ministry of Education to go on strike. Jalila was taken from her home in Manama on 29 March 2011 by members of the Criminal Investigation Directorate, detained for about a week and reportedly beaten and held in solidarity confinement. She was transferred to military custody for two months. She has since been transferred again to a detention centre in Isa Town, Manama where she remains.
Their colleagues have been released but they remain in detention, facing trial on charges which include inciting hatred towards the regime and calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations. No trial date has been set.
In considering the Bahraini government's allegations against them, Amnesty International concluded that: 'they are likely to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leading members of the BTA'. I am attaching Amnesty International's urgent action appeal for your information.
I urge your government to release them immediately and unconditionally. I also urge the authorities to protect them from torture and other ill-treatment and immediately set up an impartial and public investigation that brings to justice those found responsible for what has happened to them.
I hope you give this important matter your immediate attention and look forward to your response.
In that regard, I would also appreciate a reply from you to my letter of 24 May 2011 where I raised serious concerns about the mass sackings of workers.
Yours sincerely BRENDAN BARBER General Secretary General document (900 words) issued 4 Aug 2011
BYSHR: Open Letter to:Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)
Open Letter: Mr. Cherif Bassiouni Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)
Subject: Questions Relating to Your Interview with Reuters on 05/08/2011
WE, at the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), along with many people in Bahrain, had been very skeptical upon receiving news that a commission of inquiry, appointed by the King of Bahrain, had been established. Especially, since we were expecting one to be set up by the High Commission for Human Rights at the United Nations. This was until we heard the names of the individuals who were charged with the commission, for they were renowned for their work in international justice and human rights. We then became hopeful, that this may present itself as an opportunity for the victims of the latest human rights violations, to have their cases heard, documented and reported by a commission run by individuals whose reputation precedes them.
We therefore welcomed the commission from the start, and encouraged people to cooperate by testifying to your investigators, although many had been skeptical and frightened from coming forward.
Consequently, you cannot imagine our disappointment upon reading the content of your interview with Reuters. There are several points we wished to bring to your attention:
1. You stated in your interview that: “It’s totally untrue that people are afraid of coming forward. It’s not the case that they don’t have anxieties, but that’s because they’ve had bad experiences and they don’t know where this is going.” WE, at the BYSHR work directly with victims, and have been active the entire period following the February unrest in documenting cases of torture, abuse and mistreatment. We do not hesitate in stating that from our deliberations with victims, many, if not most, have told us that they are genuinely afraid of the consequences of their testifying once your esteemed Commission has left. Yet they came forward, despite that fear, in hope that this may help the situation and document the mass violations that took place. This is also despite the fact that we could not provide any real guarantees for their safety other than, as you mentioned, “the kings promise” which for many victims is no protection.
2. You stated in your interview: “What I have found so far is the extraordinary willingness of the minister to listen to anything we bring to his attention and act on it, whether it’s suspension of police officers, arrest of police officers, or release of detainees,”.
“It leads me to believe that on his part there was never a policy of excessive use of force or torture…that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I think it was a case of people at the lower level acting, and there not being an effective chain of communication, control.”
There are two point worth mentioning relating to this point. Firstly, we at the BYSHR believe that it is too early for a conclusion like that to be made given that the inquiry is still ongoing, and do not believe that cooperation on the part of the Minister exonerates him from responsibility. There are credible reports from international human rights organizations for many years now stating that torture and other violations in Bahrain are systematic. That you have concluded that it is not so, just 3 weeks into the investigation and before the commission concludes its work is unprofessional and puts the entire Commissions proceedings into question. Furthermore, it hurts the credibility of the Commission, as many victims now are refusing to testify to the commission when we refer them.
Secondly, abuses, torture, and mistreatment that has reached this level, as to be condemned by the European Parliament, the General Secretary of the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International,Human Rights First, Frontline, FIDH, IFEX, High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as Doctors Without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights and others, can hardly be “ a case of people at the lower level acting, and there not being an effective chain of communication, control.” This statement removes the burden of responsibility from the people who make the decisions and is highly alarming. We are not discussing a small number of victims, we are talking about ALL the victims that we have documented, complaining of some form of torture. These complaints of torture can be collaborated by many reports by international human rights organizations as well as local ones. And sacrificing a small number of individuals at the “lower level” is unjustifiable and will not begin to explain the breadth, magnitude and similarities of torture methods used in different prisons and detention centers.
We at the BYSHR respectfully request clarifications on the above mentioned points, for it may help in restoring the credibility of the Commission with the victims. We will continue to refer victims to the Commission as we had before, and will work on the documentation of the cases. We are willing to cooperate with the Commission in any manner that will serve the victims.
Sir, your commission has a responsibility towards these victims, towards this country, the international community and towards history, to make sure that the truth is revealed.
Thanking you kindly,
Mr.Mohammed Al-Maskati – President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Mr.Nader Al-Salatna – Vice President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Bahrain denies entry for Aljazeera staff: Report
07 August 2011
DOHA: Bahraini authorities are so upset with Doha-based Aljazeera TV Channel that they are reportedly not allowing the Channel’s staff — both Qatari nationals and expatriates — into the country.
There is an unofficial entry ban on Aljazeera staff into Manama, say social networking sites in Qatar as well as in Bahrain. The move might be fallout of a documentary English Aljazeera telecast on Wednesday, they suggested.
This, however, could not be independently confirmed by this newspaper since it was a weekend and officials were not available for comment.
The documentary entitled ‘Shouting In The Dark’ aired a shocking account of the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.
The film follows the unraveling of the protests in Bahrain from its initial days last February and documents the ruthless ways in which the security agencies handled the uprising.
The documentary has, meanwhile, triggered a heated debate on social networking sites in Qatar and Bahrain with a majority of participants faulting Aljzaeera English Channel for its portrayal of the Bahraini uprising.
People have also been twitting messages with most of them saying that they are with Bahrain and that Aljazeera English Channel had no business focusing on the goings on in the neighboring Bahrain.
People commenting on social websites in Qatar say they wonder how the Bahraini authorities have been able to blacklist entire Aljazeera staff and not allow them entry into their territory.
“It’s surprising how Bahraini authorities come to know that a particularly Qatari visiting Manama is working with Aljazeera because Qatari passports do not mention the holder’s nature and place of work,” said a commentator.
Another commentator said that one of his fellow Qatari friends who went to Manama by air was not allowed entry into the country and turned back by the airport immigration authorities.
“This is even true of those going to Bahrain by road via Saudi Arabia, They are being turned back from the border although they are all Qatari citizens,” said yet another commentator.
According to still another commentator, a senior administration official of Al Jazeera who resigned a year ago, was also not allowed to enter Bahrain.
The commentators are largely unhappy with Al Jazeera English Channel and say they wonder why it is supporting Shia protesters in Bahrain and spoiling Qatar’s relations with the friendly neighbour.
At least one commentator said that he backed the Bahraini move to prevent Al Jazeera staff from entering the country because the English channel was constantly supporting the Shia protesters.
A website in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, reported yesterday that the Al Jazeera documentary could seriously strain Doha’s relations with Manama.