4 Mar, 2014

Joint Statement: NGOs Express Concern Over Escalation Of Violence In Bahrain And Reiterate The Legitimate Demands Of Peaceful Protestors

The undersigned NGO’s express in the strongest terms their concern in regards to the escalation of violence in Bahrain and the use of foreign security forces to police peaceful protests under the guise of secretive Gulf security agreements. For the past three years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have stated that foreign troops have not been involved in suppressing the peaceful protest movement, but the death of an Emirati policeman in the village of Daih has highlighted this problematic issue.

Since the beginning of the popular uprising in Bahrain in February 2011, numerous local and international organizations have documented ongoing widespread and grave human rights violations in the country, which has created an environment of fear, as well as an infringement on the most basic civil and human rights.

After numerous civilian deaths, many in the form of extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces, and countless arbitrary arrests, systematic physical, psychological and sexual torture, as well as the continuous use of excessive force; evidence confirmed by the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry that avenues of peaceful dissent have effectively been crushed.

The protest movement, which started peacefully and remains largely peaceful, has witnessed a slow turn of splinter groups towards the use of violent tactics. Most of the human rights activists in the country are either imprisoned or exiled and the government’s willingness to reform and enter into a genuine dialogue continues to be an unfulfilled promise three years on. It is the responsibility of the state to take the necessary measures towards political reconciliation rather than resort to security measures that could escalate into a full-blown violent conflict as human rights activists have been warning over the past three years.

Following the death of a protester, Jaffar al-Durazi, in police custody, the authorities in Bahrain stated that an explosion targeting police killed three policemen in Daih from the UAE, Pakistan and Yemen, and injuring others on the 3rd of March 2014. This has again highlighted the problematic use of foreign security forces and politically naturalised officers in violating human rights and the exercise of the right to self-determination, as well as the claims that GCC forces have not had any involvement in direct policing of protests. Following the death of the three policemen, security forces went on a rampage breaking cars in Daih. In less than 24 hours, and after numerous house raids in multiple areas, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of 25 individuals links to the “explosion”. During this period, there was an attack on the AlWefaq headquarters, calls for sectarian attacks, and the Ministers Council issued a decision listing the February 14th Coalition, the SarayaAlAshtar and the Rebellion Movement as well as anyone related to them as terrorists groups. This may be used to target human rights defenders and organizations under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the undersigned NGO’s have called on the Government of Bahrain to halt the use of excessive force, and allow people the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression; warning that the continuation of suppression will escalate violence. Not only has the Government of Bahrain completely ignored calls from civil society, but the human rights situation has further deteriorated with not only the suppression of protests, but also the passing of laws and amendments to laws that further limit and infringe on basic civil and human rights.

The undersigned NGO’s collectively reiterate that we do not condone violence under any circumstance; nevertheless we strongly believe that any form of violence is never a justification for further human rights violations carried out by Government forces. It has been the case that after every statement from the authorities of an attack on police, residential areas are put under lockdown, homes are raided, and people are arbitrarily arrested. Those individuals are usually then tortured into making forced confessions for their alleged involvement in the attack, and those confessions are the evidence used against them in court. Calls for sectarian violence have also escalated from individuals linked to the government on social media, and the use of sectarian targeting during arbitrary arrests.

The Government of Bahrain bears full responsibility for the escalation of the violence in Bahrain given its relentless three year crackdown. The undersigned NGOs call for international pressure on Bahrain to force a process of fundamental reforms and to initiate an immediate process of reconciliation, as well as the immediate halting of suppression as a response to legitimate popular demands.

 

Based on the above, the undersigned NGOs demand that:

1.     Citizens are allowed to exercise the right to self-determination, the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right]

2.  Form a non-governmental independent and neutral commission, with UN supervision, to investigate all deaths that have occurred since February 2011.

3.  Halt the use of politically naturalized persons, and foreign security forces; the police and military should reflect, in a demographically representative manner all parts of society while advocating for greater transparency of GCC security agreements.

4.      Reform the judiciary to bring it to international standards of due process and fair trials. We consider all the rulings emanating from the current system to be in violation of the rights to fair trials and all those convicted on politically motivated charges should be released.

5.      Initiate a process of real accountability of all those involved in human rights violations, especially those with administrative responsibility.  Hold Bahraini officials accountable internationally, especially through international mechanisms like the United Nations, visa bans, sanctions.

6.      Schedule an urgent visit for all six UN Special Rapporteurs that have requested visits and especially the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to Bahrain.

 

Undersigned NGO’s:

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)

Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)

European-Bahraini Organisation For Human Rights (EBOHR)

 

 

2 Mar, 2014

Press Release: Joint Letter to FIA Calling for Suspension of 2014 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix

On 14 January 2014, a group of NGOs sent a joint letter to the Mr. Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter urged Mr. Todt to suspend the 2014 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix until an inquiry by its Ethics Committee can investigate the impact the Grand Prix has on the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter was signed by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Institutes for Rights and Democracy, Bahrain Watch, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, and the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights. FIA has failed to offer any response.

The letter points to the direct correlation between intensified crackdowns on civilians and protesters in the lead up to and during previous Formula One events in the country. Restrictive measures used in the past to target activists include enclosing villages in barbed wire, setting up an excessive amount of police checkpoints, firing a disproportionate amount of tear gas into residential areas, and imprisoning protesters. In 2012, security forces killed protester Salah Abbas Habib on the first day of the Bahrain Grand Prix. There are currently more than 3,000 political prisoners behind bars in Bahrain, and there is no indication that such measures will not be used again during the 2014 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.

In addition to targeting protesters, the Bahrain government’s restriction on free speech has led to the ongoing practice of denying journalists access to the country. The list of journalists denied access to or deported from Bahrain during the time of the Grand Prix includes a news crew from the United Kingdom’s Channel 4, who were deported in 2012, and an ITN news team, who were deported in 2013.

The decision to hold the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain has provided the Government of Bahrain with the pretext to increase its systematic crackdown on protesters, journalists and human rights defenders. As such, FIA bares a unique ethical and moral responsibility to safeguard the integrity and reputation of motor sport worldwide by cancelling the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix until such abuses cease to exist.

 

Please contact Maryam AlKhawaja (Tel. +4581757959 or email Maryam.Alkhawaja@bahrainrights.org) for further information.

Maryam Al Khawaja on Bahrain's "inconvenient revolution"