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Bahrain: Gov’t Prosecutes Religious Freedoms Advocate Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman and Rights Activist Al-Derazi for “Illegal Gathering”

15 August 2016 - Bahrain's authorities today charged with illegal gathering the human rights defender and scholar Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman and activist and medic Dr. Taha Al-Derazi following their arrests and interrogations yesterday. Al-Salman has been released on bail, while Al-Derazi is remanded in custody.

The charges relate to their peaceful assembly in the village of Duraz, which has been blockaded by police since June and has witnessed an escalation in arrests over protests. We strongly condemn the arrest and prosecution of Al-Salman and Al-Derazi for exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

On Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 9 AM, the Bahraini authorities began interrogating Al-Salman and Al-Derazi. The interrogation lasted over twelve hours, before they were detained to be presented to the public prosecution today.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Bahrain’s allies, especially the US and UK, should use their leverage to end this cycle of injustice against peaceful activists. These repressive measures cannot be justified and must not pass without condemnation.”

Both Al-Salman and Al-Derazi are members of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO) and have actively participated at UN Human Rights Council (HRC) sessions. They were also banned from traveling: Al-Salman’s travel ban was imposed in March 2016, while Al-Derazi was banned from traveling to the UN HRC’s 32nd session in June 2016. Despite the travel ban against him, Al-Salman has been actively reaching out to the international community, and this arrest is seen as a measure to completely stop his activities.

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain: Bahrain has increased its acts of repression since June. If there are no actions by the international community, then the repression will only continue to worsen. The United States must take the next step and suspend arms sales to Bahrain.

Also on 14 August, the authorities interrogated at least 20 individuals, including at least three women. The list included human rights defenders and activists, doctors, clerics, and families of victims of extrajudicial killing. The interrogations were carried out over long periods of time ranging between three hours to over ten hours. Bahraini authorities asked these individuals to sign pledges to not participate in the sit-in in Duraz before they were released. The interrogations were focused on their participation in an open-ended sit-in in Duraz which started on 20 June, protesting the authorities’ arbitrary revocation of Sheikh Isa Qasim’s citizenship. Since then, more than 80 protesters were summoned for interrogation, and while many were released, the authorities have remanded more than 20 of the protesters and referred at least eight to court over these charges.

Sayed Yousif Almuhafda, Vice-President, Bahrain Center for Human Rights: The Government of Bahrain’s harassment of human rights defenders and activist is intended to silence and intimidate free voices. Bahrain’s allies must stop government escalated measures against its people’s fundamental rights.”

We believe that the authorities’ continue to harass human rights defenders Al-Salman and Al-Derazi, because of their activism and cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms. The Bahraini authorities have been restricting and preventing people from peacefully protesting the escalation of repressive measures against fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as targeting human rights defenders who work with the UN mechanisms to report these violations. We call on the government of Bahrain to:

 

  • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, and release Dr. Taha Al-Derazi, and all currently detained human rights defenders including Nabeel Rajab;

  • Stop all reprisal actions against human rights defenders who work with the UN mechanisms and allow them to work freely; and

  • Cease the attack on peaceful protests and allow peaceful assembly and expression to take place without reprisal.

 

Signed,

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

Justice Human Rights Organisation

 

Letter: UK must question Bahrain’s record on press freedom

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Index on Censorship, and Reporters without Borders have sent an open letter to United Kingdom's foreign secretary Boris Johnson raising concerns about recent statements and records on press freedom of Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK, Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s royal family. Between 2010 - 2012, he was president of Bahrain’s information affairs authority (IAA), the state’s media regulator and operator of Bahrain TV and the public news agency.

The letter argues that while he was head of the IAA, Fawaz used his power to restrict press freedom, coinciding with the systematic crackdown on political and civil freedoms by the Bahraini government.

In the letter foreign secretary Johnson is urged to take up the matter with the Bahraini ambassador.

Read the full letter here.

UN Rapporteur Very Concerned by Bahraini Authorities’ Summoning of Sheikh Maytham al-Salman

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, expressed deep concern about the Bahraini security authorities' summoning of Head of Religious Freedom unit at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, Sheikh Maytham al-Salman.

"I am very concerned by reports that talk about the Bahraini authorities summoning Maitham Salman for interrogation on August 14, 2016, and I am observing this matter closely," he said in a tweet on his official Twitter account.

Continue reading here.

Britain must listen to Bahraini human rights defenders

In late July, the UK Foreign Office published an update report on human rights in Bahrain. From opening line to closing paragraph, the report implies the FCO is either being misled by its Gulf ally, or is knowingly minimising Bahrain's abuses. Bahraini human rights defenders (HRDs) suspect it's a bit of both.

The report begins: "There has been a mixed picture on human rights in Bahrain between January and June 2016," standing in stark contrast to what HRDs are calling "the worst and most violent crackdown since 2011". The FCO's review continues with a largely upbeat story of reform in a kingdom that became famous in 2011 for crushing peaceful dissent, killing protestors, torturing medics and imprisoning human rights defenders for life following military trials.

Read full article here.

Bahrain Continues Harassment and Imprisonment of Human Rights Defenders

In response to plans by Bahraini authorities to formally question interfaith leader Maytham Al Salman on August 14, Freedom House issued the following statement: “Authorities in Bahrain are using baseless interrogations to intimidate Maytham Al Salman and other human rights defenders, who are working to promote human rights, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue,” said Dokhi Fassihian, senior program manager for Middle East and North Africa programs. “These divisive tactics undermine the country’s social fabric and chances of reconciliation. The government should work with all of its citizens, especially its vibrant human rights community, to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.”

Continue reading here.

Role of UK police in training Bahrain’s forces ‘ignores abuses’

British police have come under fire for their role in training Bahrain’s police force, which has been accused of ruthlessly suppressing public protests and dissent. A confidential 27-page “agreement for the provision of services”, obtained by the Observer, was signed on 14 June 2015 by the UK’s College of Policing and Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior. It spells out the explicitly commercial nature of the relationship between the two parties, but omits any mention of human rights issues.

Read full article here.

Human Rights Defender Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman at Risk of Arrest in Bahrain

The Bahraini authorities summoned the human rights defender and scholar Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman to be present at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) for interrogation on Sunday, 14 August 2016. The authorities did not declare the reasons over which Al-Salman is going to be interrogated. We strongly condemn the targeting and prosecution of Al-Salman, and other human rights defenders and activists.

Al-Salman is an international spokesperson and a human rights defender focused particularly on topics related to freedom of religion, anti-extremism, anti-violence and strengthening positive relations between cultures and religions. He is the head of the Religious Freedom unit at at the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, the founding member and current coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Civil Society Coalition to Counter Incitement to Hatred; a multi-stakeholder platform and the Director of Bahrain Inter-Faith, a non-profit organization seeking to prevent religious and social discrimination and sectarianism, and working to encourage and support interfaith dialogue. Al-Salman also serves on a committee of the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.

He has taken part in a number of human rights conferences, as well as meetings with the United Nations Human Rights Council. Recently he has released a video statement about the recent crackdown on civil society in Bahrain and called for the international community to support efforts to end the crackdown.

Al-Salman has been a target of repeated harassment by the authorities. In 2011, security forces arrested and subjected him to torture. The court sentenced him to four months in prison for inciting hatred against the regime. However, he was detained for six months before he was finally released. Since then, he has been repeatedly summoned and arrested over his human rights work. With each arrest, the authorities interrogated him over his activism and participation in international human rights conferences and forums. He was summoned several times during the past year, the latest in March 2016, when he was accused of allegedly “insulting religious figures.” The authorities have confiscated his passport since then. He has been prevented from traveling which hindered his ability to do his human rights work, and deprived him of attending the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law this summer.

The targeting of Al-Salman and other human rights defenders, including President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab, is an example of the government of Bahrain’s attempts to restrict the space of human rights organizations and civil societies. We call upon the government of Bahrain to stop summoning and arresting human rights defenders and activists, release all detained defenders and drop charges against them, and provide civil societies with the space to practise their jobs without fear of reprisal.

 

Signatories

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Justice Human Rights Organizations (JHRO)

 

Bahrain Government Takes Direct Control over Internet through Central System that Blocks Websites

The Bahraini authorities announced that telecommunications companies in Bahrain that provide internet services are obliged to purchase a unified technical system that blocks websites and is linked to a central system run by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). This new regulation allows the government to have full control over the internet infrastructure in the country, and directly block or provide access to sites.

Read full report here.

Bahrain: Head of Largest Shiite Religious Body's Trial Abruptly Launched

Bahrain Mirror: A Bahraini court held the first trial of head of the largest Shiite religious body in the country, on Monday (August 8, 2016), over charges of illegal assembly and rioting.

The Court abruptly held this afternoon the first trial hearing of the Islamic Scholars' Council president, Sayyed Majeed al-Mashaal. It then decided to adjourn the trial until August 17, so that the defense team is provided with a copy of the case documents. Meanwhile, the court announced that Sayyed al-Mishaal would remain in custody.

Sayyed al-Mishaal had declared the start of the open-ended sit-in outside the house of the supreme Bahraini Shiite religious leader, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim last month, when authorities decided to strip the Sheikh of his citizenship.

Read full article here