Bahrain: The Deprivation of Life
On the occasion of the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty, The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the ongoing use of death sentences in Bahrain and call for the abolition of this practice in the kingdom. This anniversary comes at a time when detainees in Bahrain are exposed to the most severe violations of the basic rights.
Bahrain’s use of the death penalty is in breach of Bahrain’s international commitments. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights make clear that all people are entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination, Human Rights Defenders are either in prison, exile or under threat. Whoever expresses his views is harassed, arrested or has his family members targeted as a tool of pressure to stop his activism. Death penalty is the most brutal of all shapes of restrictions which authorities in Bahrain apply to guarantee a complete closure of civic and political space.
In Bahrain, death sentences continue to be imposed in violation of major international standards, including the right to a fair trial and the principle of non-discrimination. The most recent cases were on 27 July, 2019, when authorities in Bahrain executed both victims of torture Ahmed al-Mullali and Ali al-Arab. On 06 May 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of detainees Ahmed Issa al-Mullali and Ali Ahmad al-Arab. The court largely based its judgment on confessions obtained under conditions of torture of Al-Mullali, Al-Arab and others, where detainees were subjected to ill-treatment and incommunicado detention in circumstances that can be considered as enforced disappearance. The executions took place despite reported concerns that the convictions were based on confessions extracted under torture.
BCHR and other human rights organizations have repeatedly called on Bahraini authorities to restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of crimes susceptible of such punishment. Today, BCHR reiterates its concern over the continued use of the death penalty in Bahrain, and also calls on the International Community, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to support the adoption of the resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty.
Therefore, BCHR call on the government of Bahrain to:
- Commute immediately all death sentences;
- Dismiss any and all judgments made with confessions obtained under conditions of torture;
- Abolish the death penalty.
The International Day of Non-Violence
Today marks the International Day of Non-Violence, which coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual leader of India, who worked to spread the culture of civil rights around the world as a result of the struggle he led.
On this day, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to join the democratic and human rights world in celebrating this anniversary which will promote respect, human rights and principles that encourage the renunciation of violence and hatred.
It is very unfortunate that this anniversary is passing amid the increasing violence in Bahrain in various forms, especially the violence faced by people exercising their rights such as the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
BCHR continues to record cases of ill-treatment and torture of persons arrested for expressing their opinions or for issues related to freedom of expression such as peaceful protests.
On this occasion, BCHR would like to reiterate its call on the Bahraini authorities to stop using violence in all its forms and to hold accountable the perpetrators of these violations, which are rejected by all human rights principles, covenants and international conventions that work on the principle of non-violence.
Bahrain: Religious freedom threatened in Ashura
Shiite cleric tried for contempt of a sect
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Interfaith express both their deep concern about the continued deterioration of Religious Freedom level in Bahrain. This comes as the Bahraini authorities continue to exercise restrictive procedures and punish people related to speeches and religious opinions, especially Shi'a clerics.
During Ashura in Muharram that was on the first of September this year, the Bahraini authorities made a series of summons and interrogated dozens of preachers, clerics and religious leaders for sermons delivered on religious occasions related to the performance of Ashura rituals. Some of them were charged. They were abused by being deprived of their own rituals. Authorities continued to restrict the revival of these rituals by attacking banners and religious phrases held in Ashura in different parts of Bahrain.
(For detailed Ashura-related violations, read this statement)
One of the government's most recent violations of religious freedom is the arrest of Sheikh Abdul Nabi Al-Nashaba, whose case will be heard on 27 September by a Bahraini court. He is a Shiite cleric who faces charges of contempt for a sect following a sermon he gave early at a religious event in April 2019.
In detail, Bahraini authorities arrested Sheikh al-Nashaba on July 28, 2019 (about a month before Ashura began) after receiving a call from the Qudaibiya police station asking to be present without explaining the reasons and was arrested upon arrival. The following day, al-Nashaba was brought before the Public Prosecution, which ordered his detention for 15 days pending investigation on charges of “contempt of sect” and no lawyer was allowed to appear during the investigation session.
45 days after his arrest on pending investigation, the Public Prosecutor ordered on Thursday 12 September, 2019 to extend and transfer the case to the court and set a trial date on September 27, and also requested his release under the guarantee of residence.
It is noteworthy that Sheikh al-Nashaba was previously interrogated on the same charge after being summoned on April 10, 2019 to the Nabih Saleh police station, but was released after interrogation.
In other cases, on September 9, Hamad Town Police Station in Roundabout 17 summoned Mullah Mahdi al-Manami, a religious preacher, and arrested and interrogated him. The next day he was brought before the Public Prosecution, which released him after he was charged with inciting hatred against the regime.
Bahrain faces a lot of international criticism over restricting religious freedoms and the restrictive procedures against clerics and individuals participating and/or related to religious events. The UN Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has expressed grave concern over reports stating that Bahrain's government is preventing Shi'a prisoners from accessing worship books and other religious texts in prisons, as this contravenes Bahrain's international human rights obligations. This was as a comment on a press release issued on Thursday 22 August, 2019, by “Bahrain Interfaith”.
BCHR and Bahrain Interfaith therefore call on the government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Sheikh Abdul Nabi Al-Nashaba and drop all charges related to religious freedom.
- Commit to international conventions and laws that enshrine religious freedom, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Stop the practice of restrictions on religious freedom and public freedoms.
- Work on promoting and spreading a culture of respect for freedom of religion among society through procedures issued by official authorities.
Bahrain: Ashura Reveals False Allegations of Respect for Freedom of Religion
Bahraini Shiites celebrate “Ashura” on the month of Muharram every year in honor of Imam Hussein, the son of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. Every year, Bahrain witnesses numerous violations related to Ashura, which reveal the false claims of the government to respect the constitutionally and legally guaranteed freedom of religion.
With the beginning of Muharram this year (2019), which was on September 1, the Bahraini authorities have taken several measures that are considered official harassment. Authorities have summoned preachers and clerics for participating in religious lectures related to Ashura, interrogating and arresting some of them, and assaulting Ashura's rituals by removing banners bearing religious phrases.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) monitored, from 1 to 8 September 2019, a large number of summonses, where 23 religious preachers from the Shi'a community were summoned for investigation after delivering religious sermons. They are: Sheikh Abdulmohsen Al-Jamri, Sheikh Mounir Maatouq, Mahmoud Al-Ajimi, Mulla Qasim Zainuddin, Sheikh Fadhel Al-Zaki, Sheikh Jaafar Al-Sayegh, Sheikh Issa Eid, Sheikh Sadiq Rabie, Sheikh Jawad Al-Mirza, Sheikh Hamed Ashour, Sayed Jaber Al-Shahrakani, Al-Sheikh Mohammed Ali Al-Mahfouz, Sheikh Zuhair al-Khal, Sheikh Issa al-Momen, Sheikh Hussein Al-Asfour, Sheikh Hassan Al-Ali, Mulla Mahdi Al-Manami, Sheikh Aziz Al-Khodran, Sheikh Hani Al-Bina, Sheikh Abdul Amir Malallah, Sheikh Hassan Al-Shakhoori, Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaie. Three of them were arrested before being subsequently released; they are Mulla Qasem Zain El-Din, Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Ajimi, and Sheikh Mounir Al-Maatouq.
The authorities also summoned five preachers: Ali Hammadi, Ahmed Al-Awainati, Sayed Hadi Al-Biladi, Sayed Hani Al-Wadaie and Abdullah Al-Bouri. The authorities additionally summoned 6 Ma’tam officials and 3 social activists.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) also monitored a number of attacks on Ashura rituals in various areas in Bahrain by police forces. BCHR recorded at least 17 attacks on Ashura manifestations in different areas in Bahrain through the removal of banners and religious phrases related to Ashura. Among these areas are Muharraq, Bilad Al Qadeem, Al Markh, Abu Saiba, Al Musalla, Al Malikiyah and Nabih Saleh.
BCHR believes that the Shiite clerics and preachers pay the tax of participating in these occasions every time through summonses and investigations leading to arrest and imprisonment.
BCHR believes that these measures, which are still being carried out by the Bahraini authorities, are a clear restriction and an infringement on the freedom of religion, which the Government of Bahrain has stated to respect on many occasions. It is certainly a violation of the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their religious freedoms that the authorities must respect and promote respect for. It is also very unfortunate that the headlines of respect for human rights and freedoms are merely media allegations and have nothing to do with reality.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Stop the restrictions on the participants in Ashura rituals.
- Launching more freedoms, especially religious freedoms.
- Work on increasing respect for freedom of religion and public and personal freedoms.
Bahrain: Former MP Osama al-Tamimi is in danger and his family lives in fear every moment
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern about the increasing harassment of former MP Osama al-Tamimi. He suffered a stroke in the brain that makes him lose his ability to move and speak normally, hours after his arrest and interrogation. Al-Tamimi's health is deteriorating as his kidney stopped functioning, which necessitates an urgent dialysis session.
The Tamimi family says they are being harassed by policemen as they surround their house and ask anyone who enters for their identity, as if al-Tamimi is under house arrest.
Now, according to al-Tamimi’s daughter who posted on her Instagram account, a group of policemen are breaking the doors of his house, apparently in an attempt to arrest al-Tamimi, who is in the hospital. She said she was scared because she was alone with her younger brother at home as her mother accompanied her father in the hospital. His brother-that looks like him- saw an arrest warrant issued against al-Tamimi that justify all these actions by the police.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) issued earlier a statement detailing the arrest of former MP Osama al-Tamimi and the fears that his health would deteriorate.
Based on the above, BCHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Allow al-Tamimi to leave Bahrain for treatment abroad before his health deteriorates
- Stop harassing the Tamimi family who are concerned about his health and afraid of arbitrary actions they are subjected to.
Urgent: The health of former MP Osama al-Tamimi is deteriorating after being interrogated by the Ministry of Interior in Bahrain
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern about receiving information on the deterioration of the health of former parliamentarian Osama al-Tamimi. He started dialysis after his kidney has stopped functioning. That was after a noticeable deterioration of his health after being summoned and interrogated by the Ministry of Interior in Bahrain.
On Tuesday afternoon, 06 August 2019, police raided the house of former MP Osama al-Tamimi and arrested him arbitrarily after breaking his door and confiscating his personal phone. That happened in front of his family, who had no knowledge of the reason for his arrest. The forces that raided the house did not inform the family of the reason of the arrest, nor did they present a warrant.
Hours after the arrest of al-Tamimi, the Ministry of Interior published a statement in which it announced that the arrest of al-Tamimi came on the background of a case of fraud and forgery filed against him in court. However, after hours of interrogation, Tamimi suffered a relapse that necessitated his immediate transfer to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed his condition as a stroke, that made him lose his ability to move and speak normally.
Although al-Tamimi was not informed of his continued detention, especially as the police left the hospital after his family arrived, he was prevented from traveling when his family was trying to take him abroad for proper treatment. Since then, Tamimi is still undergoing treatment because of his deteriorating health. He started a new stage in dialysis after one of his kidneys stopped functionning.
Tamimi had been subjected to harassment before his last arrest, where he was summoned for investigation more than once. In June of this year, he and his family were targeted by the police. He had then to turn to the US Embassy to get him and his family safely out of Bahrain, but the embassy refused to do so. Al-Tamimi has previously spoken of being harassed and threatened by security agents at different times, and Amnesty International published in its statement on 8 August the details of the harassment of al-Tamimi.
In 2014, Tamimi was shot by unknown assailants before his membership in the Bahraini parliament was overthrown. That was after his repeated criticism of the performance of the prime minister and interior minister and his arrest for a year on charges of insulting a security man. Al-Tamimi's gym was hit by unidentified gunfire once and arson again without the Ministry of Interior reaching the unknown perpetrator.
BCHR fears that the arrest of al-Tamimi is in retaliation against him, given the previous campaigns of threats, prosecution and targeting because of a position against the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain and demanding that those responsible be held accountable. In particular, the manner in which he was arrested highlighted the arbitrary use of power by the authorities, and which is contrary to the principles of human rights. His denial of travel for treatment abroad suggests a violation of the right to liberty of movement, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates.
Accordingly, BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to:
- Allow al-Tamimi to travel and receive appropriate treatment and ensure that it is not delayed or procrastinated so as not to experience new health relapses.
- Ensure that al-Tamimi is not summoned and prosecuted again.
BCHR also calls on all Bahraini allies to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:
- Ensure all human rights, especially those related to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of movement.
Statement by the Spokeperson on executions in Bahrain
On 27 July the Kingdom of Bahrain executed three individuals convicted in two separate cases, according to a statement issued by the Public Prosecutor who did not identify them. Human rights groups have identified two of the individuals as Ali Al Arab and Ahmed Al Malali who were both sentenced to death in a mass trial on 31 January 2018 on terrorism-related charges. Mr. Al Malali was sentenced in absentia. The identity of the third individual is currently unknown.
The executions took place despite reported concerns that the convictions were based on confessions extracted under torture.
The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.
No compelling evidence exists showing that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime or terrorism and any miscarriages of justice are irreversible.
The European Union is unequivocally opposed to the use of capital punishment in all circumstances and calls on the Kingdom of Bahrain to introduce a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition.
Urgent Appeal: Ahmad al Mullali and Ali Hakim Al Arab at Risk of Execution
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is highly concerned about the cases of Ahmad al Mullali and Ali Hakim Al Arab who are sentenced to death and urgently calls for the stop of all death sentences in Bahrain
BCHR has received the information that the families of Ahmad al Mullali and Ali Hakim Al Arab both received a call from Jaw Prison, at 9 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. respectively, for a private interview at 2 p.m. in the form of a visit under the Criminal Procedure Code for Execution. These private visits are a dangerous indicator of a risk of execution tomorrow morning i.e. that the King of Bahrain has approved the execution of the above-mentioned individuals, sentenced to death, after having been accused and charged of killing the lieutenant Al Hammadi. The verdict was upheld on 06 May 2019 by the Court of Cassation.
Based on the above, BCHR urgently calls on the Government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately refrain from the application of the Death Penalty against Ahmad al Mullali and Ali Hakim Al Arab
- Commute all death sentences;
- Establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition;
- Investigate and prosecute all acts of torture, mistreatment, enforced disappearance; and,
- Establish procedures to ensure the fairness of all criminal trials and appeals.
Six months’ analysis of rights violations in Bahrain shows heightened volatile crackdown in 2019
The first six months of 2019 have seen increasing instances of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders, journalists, and active members of civil society in Bahrain. Amid the heightened crackdown on critical voices, the Bahraini government has regressed to a near total suppression of human rights. The Bahrain Center for Human (BCHR) has documented increased numbers of individuals arbitrarily arrested, an increased number of protests, and a significant number of citizenship revocation orders. All major opposition parties have now been dissolved, and stripped of their nationalities. Peaceful protesters died from injuries inflicted by security forces, many caused by the use of birdshot pellets and tear gas.
BCHR is gravely concerned about these recent developments in Bahrain, and the ongoing and increasingly severe and volatile crackdown on human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, journalists, and active members of civil society in the country.
Between 01 January and 30 June 2019, BCHR has recorded a total of 261 arbitrary arrests in Bahrain, amongst which, 23 children, and 2 women.
There have been 128 protests across the country; 5 of these protests were attacked. Numerous injuries were also reported during this time; injuries caused by birdshot pellets were the most common.
Between 01 January and 10 May 2019 BCHR recorded a total of 521 individuals sentenced in politically motivated cases, amongst which 334 had their Bahraini citizenship revoked, rendering them stateless, whilst 46 were sentenced to life.
Since January 2019, 109 individuals were sentenced to death in Bahrain while many countries have, each year, recommended that Bahrain move towards the abolition of the death penalty and impose an official moratorium on the death penalty (104 countries such as France, Germany, United Kingdom, and South Africa).
Mohamed Ramadan, a 36-year-old soldier formerly serving at the Bahrain International Airport, and Husain Ali Moosa, 32 years old, are two Bahraini citizens that were sentenced to death in a collective judgment in 2014. They were convicted for their alleged involvement in the Al-Dair bombing of 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. On 16 November 2015, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation – the highest court – rejected Mohamed’s final appeal. He is currently awaiting imminent execution at Jau Prison. Sentenced to death in the same trial, Husain received a similar treatment. On 22 October 2018, the Court of Cassation overturned their verdict, on the basis of new medical reports, which may exhibit signs of torture. They are currently awaiting a re-trial. The order for a retrial of death-row inmates Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa certainly represented a positive step, given that their case rests on the coerced confession extracted from Mr Moosa. However, there is still a risk that Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa will be subjected to an unfair trial as they have been prevented from attending recent hearings of their re-trial.
The increased use of indiscriminate violence against critical voices in the country, and the targeted reprisals levied at human rights defenders and their families is demonstrative of the escalated campaign in Bahrain.
Human rights defenders and members of Bahrain’s civil society more generally are systematically being harassed and punished, with the use of torture and imprisonment. On 31 December 2018, Bahrain’s top court, the Court of Cassation, upheld leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s five-year sentence for tweeting his criticism of the war in Yemen and the torture prisoners in Bahrain’s notorious Jau Prison are subjected to. Hassan Mushaima, a former political opposition leader, continues to serve his life imprisonment. Female activist Najah Yusuf has been imprisoned for alleged social media activity, which includes Facebook posts calling for peaceful protests against the Bahrain Grand Prix 2017.
The Court of Cassation also upheld the life sentence handed down to former political opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman. The lack of any credible political opposition in Bahrain restricts democracy in the country, and reduces avenues for criticism which could lead to a total suppression of the freedom of expression and association in the country.
Trying civilians in military courts
The use of military courts to try civilians in Bahrain has particularly been criticized by many countries who called for Bahrain to rescind law 105b, which allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if accused of crimes under the terrorism law. Bahrain should, additionally, review the anti-terrorism law and its implementation to ensure that it is not utilized for abuse, harassment, and detention of dissenters.
Based on the above, it is a critical time to push for the end of the systematic clampdown on freedom of expression in Bahrain. The international community is to put more pressure on Bahrain to lift the restrictions on the right to the freedom of expression; it goes without saying that the right to exercise the most basic rights, one cannot expect any reforms or rule of law .BCHR calls on the International Community to pursue its effort to raise concern about the plight of civil society in Bahrain and calls on the Government of Bahrain to take concrete steps to foster an environment in which civil society can operate freely, in accordance with international standards.
Further recommendations for the Government of Bahrain are:
- Signing and acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that aimed at abolishing the death penalty.
- Repeal the amendment to the Military Law and to restore the law to its previous case, which prohibits the prosecution of civilians in military courts.
- Provide basic guarantees for all civilians accused in military courts and re-trials in civil courts with the legal access of lawyers.
-Immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscious that were arrested as a result expressing their opinion through media.
The Persecution of Religions in Bahrain
In light of the recent events in Bahrain and the disregard of the ruling authorities in Manama for local and international laws and the involvement of systematic violations of religious freedoms according to experts of the United Nations and international organizations concerned with the file of religious freedoms. Bahrain Interfaith, in cooperation with Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Amnesty International, organized a conference entitled "Religious persecution in Bahrain ". The conference was attended by human rights and media personalities. The conference was held in Beirut, on Monday July 15. It focused on restrictions on freedom of expression and belief in Bahrain's prisons. From Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Ghiwa Faroukh spoke about restrictions on religious freedoms and stressed that "Bahraini prisons, overcrowded against detainees on political and legal backgrounds, in the country do not take into consideration or include the basic rules for the protection of human rights." The lawyer Abbas Dbouk called on to "find effective international mechanisms according to high standards in the face of any authority that violates the human rights of individuals in their basic rights and freedoms." Amnesty International representative Devine Kenny also spoke of discriminatory policies against Shi’a referring to the following three high-profile cases: the denaturalization of Sheikh Hussein Najati in 2011, the destruction of Shi’a places of worship in 2011, and the denaturalization of Sheikh Issa Qasim in 2016. Soumaya al-Haj Hassan, on behalf of Bahrain Interfaith, spoke of the US State Department's recent report on religious freedoms in Bahrain and noted that the Shiites in Bahrain continue to be discriminated against across jobs, education and the judiciary. She added that Shi'a prisoners are also subjected to humiliation, persecution, ill treatment and denial of treatment.