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Top Bahrain activist denied bail: rights group

A leading Bahraini human rights activist was denied bail on Tuesday on charges of writing an editorial critical of the government, a pro-opposition rights group reported.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy added that Nabeel Rajab's health is deteriorating after he underwent an operation last month for bleeding ulcers.

There was no immediate government comment on the report.

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Bahrain: Postponed verdicts violate Nabeel Rajab’s fair trial rights

Today’s Court decision to postpone Nabeel Rajab’s case is a travesty of justice, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said today.  BCHR President has been held in detention since his arrest on 2 April 2016, far beyond the six months limit for pre-trial detention under Bahraini Law. Numerous requests for release on bail have been rejected which amount to arbitrary detention, according to international standards.

“The Bahraini authorities should grant bail to Nabeel Rajab and investigate allegations of abuse and denial of medical care, as recommended by the UN a few days ago. Furthermore all charges related to freedom of expression should be dropped”, said Sheikh DR Maytham Al Salman, BCHR Senior Advisor.

Nabeel Rajab remains in hospital after being admitted on 8 April following complications related to a surgical procedure he underwent on 5 April. Complications occurred after he was denied adequate medical care and sent back to the police station, only 2 days after the surgery.

Rajab’s most recent trials were on 16 and 17 May, for charges relating to televised interviews given to the international press and comments made on social media. Both trials have been postponed. Rajab’s next trials are scheduled for 30 May and 14 June.

In its concluding observations the United Nations Committee against Torture  noted “with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, including Nabeel Rajab. The committee urged Bahrain to release human rights defenders who are deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their human rights work.

Rajab is President of BCHR, as well as Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Advisory Committee. Rajab has been relentlessly persecuted for his human rights activities and jailed repeatedly on charges in violation of his right to freedom of expression.

On 2 April 2015, Rajab was interrogated and subsequently charged for allegedly “spreading rumours in wartime,” “insulting a neighbouring country,” and “insulting a statutory body.” These charges related to tweets and retweets on social media concerning the ongoing war in Yemen, and allegations of torture in Jau Prison. Rajab’s trial for these charges has been adjourned and subsequently postponed a total of 13 times. The next trial is scheduled for 14 June. If convicted of these charges Rajab faces a total sentence of 15 years in prison.  Rajab’s release was ordered during the eighth hearing held in December 2016, however he was immediately rearrested on new charges.

The second case against Rajab relates to charges of allegedly spreading false information and malicious rumours about domestic matters with the aim of discrediting and adversely affecting the prestige of the state in relation to televised media interviews that he gave. The Bahraini courts have postponed this trial 6 times. The next trial in this case is scheduled for 30 May. If convicted of these charges Rajab is facing a prison sentence of three years.

If convicted on all of the above charges Rajab faces a total of up to 18 years in prison.

Rajab has also been charged with offences that relate to articles he published whilst detained in pretrial detention in international newspapers Le Monde and the New York Times. Rajab is currently awaiting trial on these charges, and as of yet no trial date has been set. Charges include allegedly “intentionally broadcasting false news and malicious rumours abroad impairing the prestige of the state,” and “spread[ing] false information and tendentious rumours” that insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Both of these cases remaing with the Office of the Public Prosecution.

BCHR strongly condemns the continued detention of Rajab, and the inhuman and degrading treatment that he has been subjected too. BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. BCHR further urges the international community to continue to press the Bahraini government for the release of Nabeel Rajab  and human rights defenders that are persecuted and imprisoned in Bahrain.


Bahrain escalates campaign of reprisal

In recent weeks, the Government of Bahrain has substantially escalated its campaign of reprisals against the country’s civil and political societies. So far in the month of May 2017, authorities have targeted family members of exiled human rights defenders and turned a blind eye to the violent intimidation of Bahraini activists and political figures. We in the Bahrain human rights community are deeply disturbed by these acts of reprisal by the government and its perpetuation of a culture of impunity for such abuses. We vehemently condemn these reprisals and call on the government to discontinue these acts immediately. Lastly, we call on the government to allow for international experts to investigate these cases.

Civil and political society leaders have been subject to a pattern of intimidation, as unknown actors have vandalized and destroyed their property with apparent impunity. On 4 May, Salman al-Mahfoodh, former General Secretary of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, had his windshield smashed and another car burned by unknown agents outside his home. Similarly, on 7 May, the car of Khalil al-Marzooq, former Deputy Secretary General of the now-dissolved al-Wefaq political society, caught fire at dawn outside his home. The fire was attributed to an “electrical short circuit.” Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh was also subject to intimidation. On 12 May, government-backed newspaper Al Ayam ran a front-page story accusing human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh of fabricating documentation of rights violations. Days later, at dawn on 15 May, al-Saegh’s car was incinerated in a fire. The Ministry of Interior released a statement on twitter indicating that the fire was, again, the result of a “short circuit.” The pattern of car fires points to targeted, planned acts of intimidation against members of Bahrain’s independent civil society. Moreover, the Ministry of Interior’s dismissal of possible arson cases exhibits a culture of impunity.

Meanwhile, activists outside Bahrain have also come under increasing pressure. Over the weekend, Bahrain’s King Hamad traveled to the United Kingdom for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which Bahrain sponsors, and where activists also traveled to protest the king’s presence at the event.

In response, the government targeted the Bahraini family members of activists. These activists, including Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, had immediate family members summoned to Muharraq police station. Once there, government security officers forced them to call the demonstrators in Britain to ask them to stop their protests. One activist whose family was targeted, Yousif al-Hoori, based in Berlin, did not even attend the protest, but merely voiced his support for the demonstration. The authorities summoned Yousif’s father and sister and reportedly forced them to tell Yousif that if he did not apologize to Bahrain’s king, they would not be released. The reprisals and threats facing activists and their families around the Royal Windsor Horse Show came just days after NGOs wrote to the organizers of the event, HPower Group and Buckingham Palace, calling on them to sever ties with the Kingdom of Bahrain due to the escalation of human rights abuses.

“These latest acts of reprisal against activists inside and outside Bahrain are completely inexcusable. It is clear that the Government of Bahrain is willing to use both judicial and extrajudicial means to crack down on any and all dissent in the country,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director for Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “In recent months, the Bahraini government has increasingly militarized institutions in the kingdom, while also turning a blind eye toward violent reprisals. As a result, the government has lost all credibility to carry out independent and effective investigations into these crimes, and end the pervasive culture of impunity.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD): “Bahrain is resorting to thuggery to silence its critics. My family is being intimidated and my in-laws are currently detained and tortured, all as an attempt to silence my human rights work. This is how mafias operate, not governments. But the Bahraini government’s allies in Washington and London give them the green light to continue committing crimes against Bahraini people.”

Sayed Alwadaei’s brother-in-law Nazar Sayed Namaa Alwadaei and mother-in-law Hajar Mansoor Hassan have been detained since March 2017 and subjected to torture and fabricated charges in an attempt to blackmail him. Nazar Alwadaei faces trial on 21 May and 22 May; Hajar Mansoor Hassan faces trial on 22 May.

These acts of reprisal are not new in Bahrain. Over the past year, civil and political societies have faced rising pressure. Arbitrary travel bans restricted independent Bahraini activists from taking part in the 32nd and 33rd sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, and from attending Bahrain’s third cycle Universal Periodic Review in Geneva. In May, the government imposed travel bans on over thirty members of independent political and civil society, often accompanied by arbitrary charges of participating in “illegal gatherings.” During the 34th Session of the HRC in March 2017, family members of activists attending the HRC were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and mistreated to coerce false confessions on unfounded charges. These also included relatives of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei and Ebtisam al-Saegh.

In a statement addressing these recent reprisals, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights stated, “The civil society in Bahrain has been severely attacked in the past few months, with members of BCHR and of other human rights groups repeatedly subjected to summons for interrogations, travel bans and threats directed at them and at their families. The rising impunity culture encouraged by the government of Bahrain and its relentless attacks against all human rights defenders,journalists, political figures and demonstrators have further instilled a culture of fear among the larger population, thus preventing the civil society from documenting human rights abuses by the government in Bahrain.”

Impunity for acts of vandalism and intimidation targeting civil society actors is also not unprecedented in Bahrain. In a prominent case that occurred in 2012, looters were caught on camera destroying a shop owned by a Shia proprietor while security forces appeared to stand by without preventing damage to the shop or arresting the perpetrators.

These recent acts of reprisals also appear to be the latest brazen challenge to the international community, and to Bahrain’s key allies in terms of human rights credibility. By targeting activists and their family members for peacefully protesting in the United Kingdom, a key Western ally for Bahrain, the kingdom is actively testing the limits of its international partnerships if they can withstand such flagrant abuses. The UK has thus far continued to support Bahrain with an unconditional package of technical assistance, at a cost of over £5m to British tax payers. NGOs have called for the suspension of the assistance due to a lack of substantive results. In the United States, Donald Trump is set to make his first international trip as President of the United States to the Arab Gulf region, as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a major arms package to Bahrain without the human rights conditions of the previous administration. If these allies turn a blind eye to such blatant human rights violations or, worse yet, reward the kingdom with an unconditional arms package, it could have devastating consequences for the future stability of the kingdom.

We, therefore, call on the Government of Bahrain to cease all forms of reprisal against Bahraini civil and political societies and activists, and to release all prisoners held in relation to their peaceful expression of their universal human rights. We also call on the international community to press Bahrain to allow independent international human rights experts to carry out investigations into these and other cases of harassment or reprisal.


Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

BAHRAIN: Call for immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, as trial resumes tomorrow

Paris-Geneva, May 15, 2017 -Ahead of two imminent trial hearings, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab, whose health is deteriorating owing to almost a year in arbitrary detention for denouncing Bahrain’s human rights violations.

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On 5 May, Nizar al-Qari, a member of the opposition party al-Wefaq, was arrested and taken to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), where he alleges he was deprived of sleep and handcuffed behind his back for long periods of his detention. On 8 May, he was charged with “illegal gathering in Duraz” and taken back to the CID where he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

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First civilian to be tried in military courts in Bahrain since 2011

In April 2017 the King of Bahrain ratified a constitutional amendment that allows civilians to be tried in military courts. On 9 May 2017 Bahraini authorities referred a civilian to trial before military courts for the first time since 2011. The Public Prosecution Office referred the case of Fadhel Sayed Abbas Hasan Radhi, a victim of enforced disappearance, to the military court.

Radhi was subjected to enforced disappearance following his arrest on 29 September 2016 by officers from the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He was arrested at his home in Hamad Town during an early morning house raid. Officers asked for Radhi upon entering the home and placed him immediately in handcuffs and under arrest. The security officials were dressed in civilian clothes and failed to show any arrest or search warrants. Despite the Public Prosecution Office granting Radhi permission for four visits the CID refused to facilitate these visits.

Following his initial arrest his family were not told the grounds for his arrest or where he was being taken, they heard from Radhi two weeks after his arrest when he called and told them his whereabouts.

During the seven months that he was held incommunicado Radhi was not allowed access to a lawyer and was only able to contact family members sporadically. Family members reported to BCHR that during a brief phone call that they received on 10 December 2016 Radhi’s voice sounded extremely weak, to the extent that his father was unable to recognise his voice. His family filed a case with the Ombudsman in an attempt to gain visitation, and also approached the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) for help.

The family were told on 9 May 2017 by the Office of the Public Prosecution that Radhi’s case had been transferred to the military court. By transferring Radhi’s case to the military court there are raised  concerns that more cases will be referred to military courts in the near future.

The international community has expressed concern about the trying of civilians in military court. Both the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have both held that military courts should not be used to try civilians.

During Bahrain’s most recent UN Universal Periodic Review (May 2017) numerous countries expressed concern over the use of military courts to try civilians in military courts, among others, the Netherlands recommended that Bahrain rescind the amendment of law 105(b) that allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if charged of terrorism offences. Czech Republic further recommended that Bahrain review the broad anti-terrorism law and its implementation to ensure that it could not be abused, and used for the harassment, detention and prosecution of dissenters.

Furthermore, incommunicado detention is considered by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture as a facilitator of the perpetration of torture, and can, in itself, constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Removing detainees from contact with the outside world provides a period of time where individuals can be subjected to torture to force confessions.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the use of military courts to try civilians and asks the government of Bahrain to:

  • Reverse the amendment to the constitution allowing for individuals to be tried in military courts;

  • Allow prisoners access to legal representation and regular visitation with their families;

  • Stop the practice of incommunicado detention in line with international law and regulations;

  • Immediately released Radhi who has been denied access to correct legal procedure

U.N. urges Bahrain to end torture, solitary confinement

The United Nations Committee against Torture on Friday called on Bahrain to release prominent activist Nabeel Rajab from more than nine months of solitary confinement and investigate widespread allegations of ill-treatment and torture of detainees.

Bahrain's mainly Shi'ite Muslim-led opposition has faced a government crackdown since last year in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom. The Western-allied government closed down the main opposition al-Wefaq group, arrested Rajab and revoked the citizenship of Shi'ite spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim.

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UN condemns Bahrain torture, as UK hosts royals – Reprieve comment

The UN Committee Against Torture has urged Bahrain to end the use of torture, and to retry protesters who are facing the death penalty.

The UN’s report – released today – comes as the King of Bahrain meets with the UK Queen at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa is ‘hosting’ the Queen at the annual show, in a ‘Kingdom of Bahrain Lounge’.

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Activist: 3 Detained in Bahrain over UK Horse Show Protests

Bahrain detained three activists over protests targeting the tiny island nation's king during a royal horse show in the United Kingdom, a fellow campaigner said Saturday.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said those detained include his sister, Sayed Ahmed.

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UN torture Committee “concerned at the climate of impunity which prevails in Bahrain”

May 12, 2017: The United Nations Committee against Torture today issued a strong critique of the Bahrain record on torture. Read the full document of the concluding observations of Bahrain here

The concluding observations noted “with deep concern” the arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, in particular BCHR President Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja former BCHR President. The committee urged Bahrain to release human rights defenders who are deprived of their liberty in retaliation for their human rights work.

“The Committee against Torture clearly rejected the argument made by the Bahraini Government that counter-terrorism would be a valid excuse to abduct, interrogate and torture activists and political prisoners”, BCHR said today. 

The Committee also said that Bahrain has largely failed to prosecute torture cases despite hundreds of allegations of torture in its detention facilities in the past few years, including many documented by BCHR.

As a matter of priority, the Committee also calls on the Bahraini Government to re-establish a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty and is “gravely concerned” over reports that the trials of the three men convicted for killing three police officers in 2014 were based on confessions obtained under torture. 

Other problems the committee flagged include domestic violence and the practices of housing children in adult jails and prisons.

The Committee against Torture is an international body of experts that monitors state compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.