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Health of Ayatollah Isa Qasim worsens

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern of the health state of Ayatollah Isa Qasim, which has, recently, seriously deteriorated. He is still being held under house arrest despite his need of immediate medical attention. His family was kept waiting for over four hours at the police station before a doctor was allowed to access the Duraz area where he lives, an area that has been surrounded by police and under siege for over a year. This has further aggravated his health state.

According to his family: Ayatollah Isa Qassim is suffering from an aggravated case of abdominal hernia which is causing him severe pain, esophagus bleeding for over two months which cause has not yet been diagnosed and extreme fatigue; his ability of movement has been highly reduced.

Moreover, Ayatollah Isa Qasim already suffers from several chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. He has not been able to receive efficient medical care for almost a year and a half because he has been stripped of his nationality. Since 2011, non citizens in Bahrain or citizens with no ID card cannot seek medical care and will be reported to the Ministry of Interior (MOI).

On Sunday 26th of November, a doctor visited him and confirmed that he has to undergo an urgent procedure for his hernia, which, at his age, is highly risky.

After the authorities stripped him of his citizenship in June over allegations of extremism and money laundering, he could be deported at any time. Due to the way the Bahraini government has dealt with the false accusations, Sheikh Isa Qasim has been insisting that he only receives medical treatment from a surgeon and medical group he trusts.

Furthermore, there is no longer a valid reason for the ongoing house arrest as the peaceful assembly outside his house has ceased.

Due to Ayatollah Isa Qasim’s critical condition, BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain:

  • to allow Sheikh Isa Qasim to seek medical care without any restriction or intervention;
  • cease the house arrest he is under and,
  • drop all allegations against him. 

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
BHR 001 / 0417 / OBS 047.1
Restrictions to freedom of movement /
Harassment
Bahrain
November 29, 2017
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
 
New information:
 
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about ongoing obstacles to freedom of movement faced by Ms. Nedal Al Salman, Acting President and Head of Women and Children Rights at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
 
According to the information received, on November 26, 2017 at 2 pm, Ms. Al Salman intended to board a flight to Toronto via Dubai at Manama International Airport. After she was successfully checked-in, she was stopped at the emigration desk, her passport was seized by a policeman, and she was told to wait.
 
After one hour, the policeman came back to Ms. Al Salman to inform her that she “[could] not travel as [she was] under travel ban”. When asking the reasons for such a ban, the policeman answered that he had no idea, and that she “should check with the Public Prosecution Office”.
 
This travel ban will prevent Ms. Nedal Al Salman from attending the European Union (EU)-NGO Forum on Human Rights on December 5 and 6, 2017 in Brussels, where she had been invited by the EU.
 
Ms. Nedal Al Salman has already been banned from travelling several times since August 29, 2016, and most recently in April and June 2017, ahead of sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in Geneva (see background information).
 
On September 19, 2017, she was summoned and charged by the Public Prosecution for “illegal gatherings” under trumped-up charges stemming from the new Anti-Terrorism Law, and placed under a formal travel ban.
 
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing travel restrictions imposed on Ms. Al Salman, which is further evidence of constant reprisals conducted by the authorities against human rights defenders in Bahrain.
 
The Observatory recalls that more than 20 human rights defenders have been prevented to leave the country earlier this year, as a clear attempt to sanction their human rights activities (see background information).
 
The Observatory urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the travel ban against Ms. Al Salman and other human rights defenders in Bahrain, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them.
 
Background information:
 
In April 2017, a new wave of summons and travel bans targeted at least 18 human rights defenders, including members of the BCHR, the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) and Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam), as well as four political activists.
 
Between April 20, 2017 and April 26, 2017, 22 human rights activists, including four BCHR members, Mr. Enas Oun, Mr. Ahmed Al Saffar, Mr. Hussain Radhi and Ms. Nedal Al Salman, as well as BHRO member Ms. Jalila Al Salman, along with BHRS member Ms.Zainab Al Khamees, EBOHR member Ms.Fatima Al Halwachi,Salam member Ms. Ebtisam Al Sayegh, human rights lawyer Mr. Mohamed Al Tajer, journalists Ms.Faisal Hayat and Mr. Ahmed Radhi, Ms. Zainad Mohamed, Ms. Riyhanna Mosawi, Mr. Talal Salawi, Mr. Monther Al Khoor, Mr. Sayed Hadi Al Moosawi, doctors Mr.Taha Al Derazi and Ms. Rulla Al Saffar[1] and four members of the political society Waad were all summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor for interrogation.
 
The 22 individuals were all accused of supposedly participating in “illegal gatherings” in the city of Deraz on January 6 and 14, 2017. Yet, none of the 22 participated in such alleged gatherings. Travel bans have been issued against the 22 individuals. The Observatory fears that the travel bans were preventively issued against the 22 individuals to prevent them from attending Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review to be held in Geneva from May 1 to May 5, 2017 before the UN HRC.
 
Actions requested:
 
Please write to the authorities in Bahrain, urging them to:
 
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of movement of Ms. Nedal Al Salman and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, by immediately and unconditionally lifting the travel bans against them, as they only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;
 
ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against Ms. Nedal Al Salman and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;
 
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;
 
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
Addresses:
 
• Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
• Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax : 00973 17 21 05 75; ofd@mofa.gov.bh
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
• Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: info@interior.gov.bh
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.mission@mofa.gov.bh
• H.E. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Paris, France. Email: ambassade@ambahrein-france.com
 
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Bahrain in your respective country.
 
***
 
Paris-Geneva, November 29, 2017
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
·         E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
·         Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
·         Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
 
[1]               Ms. Rulla Al Saffar is the former President of the Bahrain Nurses Society.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
BHR 001 / 0417 / OBS 047.1
Restrictions to freedom of movement /
Harassment
Bahrain
November 29, 2017
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
 
New information:
 
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about ongoing obstacles to freedom of movement faced by Ms. Nedal Al Salman, Acting President and Head of Women and Children Rights at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR).
 
According to the information received, on November 26, 2017 at 2 pm, Ms. Al Salman intended to board a flight to Toronto via Dubai at Manama International Airport. After she was successfully checked-in, she was stopped at the emigration desk, her passport was seized by a policeman, and she was told to wait.
 
After one hour, the policeman came back to Ms. Al Salman to inform her that she “[could] not travel as [she was] under travel ban”. When asking the reasons for such a ban, the policeman answered that he had no idea, and that she “should check with the Public Prosecution Office”.
 
This travel ban will prevent Ms. Nedal Al Salman from attending the European Union (EU)-NGO Forum on Human Rights on December 5 and 6, 2017 in Brussels, where she had been invited by the EU.
 
Ms. Nedal Al Salman has already been banned from travelling several times since August 29, 2016, and most recently in April and June 2017, ahead of sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in Geneva (see background information).
 
On September 19, 2017, she was summoned and charged by the Public Prosecution for “illegal gatherings” under trumped-up charges stemming from the new Anti-Terrorism Law, and placed under a formal travel ban.
 
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing travel restrictions imposed on Ms. Al Salman, which is further evidence of constant reprisals conducted by the authorities against human rights defenders in Bahrain.
 
The Observatory recalls that more than 20 human rights defenders have been prevented to leave the country earlier this year, as a clear attempt to sanction their human rights activities (see background information).
 
The Observatory urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the travel ban against Ms. Al Salman and other human rights defenders in Bahrain, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them.
 
Background information:
 
In April 2017, a new wave of summons and travel bans targeted at least 18 human rights defenders, including members of the BCHR, the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory (BHRO), the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) and Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam), as well as four political activists.
 
Between April 20, 2017 and April 26, 2017, 22 human rights activists, including four BCHR members, Mr. Enas Oun, Mr. Ahmed Al Saffar, Mr. Hussain Radhi and Ms. Nedal Al Salman, as well as BHRO member Ms. Jalila Al Salman, along with BHRS member Ms.Zainab Al Khamees, EBOHR member Ms.Fatima Al Halwachi,Salam member Ms. Ebtisam Al Sayegh, human rights lawyer Mr. Mohamed Al Tajer, journalists Ms.Faisal Hayat and Mr. Ahmed Radhi, Ms. Zainad Mohamed, Ms. Riyhanna Mosawi, Mr. Talal Salawi, Mr. Monther Al Khoor, Mr. Sayed Hadi Al Moosawi, doctors Mr.Taha Al Derazi and Ms. Rulla Al Saffar[1] and four members of the political society Waad were all summoned to appear before the Public Prosecutor for interrogation.
 
The 22 individuals were all accused of supposedly participating in “illegal gatherings” in the city of Deraz on January 6 and 14, 2017. Yet, none of the 22 participated in such alleged gatherings. Travel bans have been issued against the 22 individuals. The Observatory fears that the travel bans were preventively issued against the 22 individuals to prevent them from attending Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review to be held in Geneva from May 1 to May 5, 2017 before the UN HRC.
 
Actions requested:
 
Please write to the authorities in Bahrain, urging them to:
 
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of movement of Ms. Nedal Al Salman and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, by immediately and unconditionally lifting the travel bans against them, as they only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;
 
ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against Ms. Nedal Al Salman and all human rights defenders in Bahrain, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;
 
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;
 
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
Addresses:
 
• Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587
• Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax : 00973 17 21 05 75; ofd@mofa.gov.bh
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
• Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: info@interior.gov.bh
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.mission@mofa.gov.bh
• H.E. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Paris, France. Email: ambassade@ambahrein-france.com
 
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Bahrain in your respective country.
 
***
 
Paris-Geneva, November 29, 2017
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
·         E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
·         Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
·         Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
 
[1]               Ms. Rulla Al Saffar is the former President of the Bahrain Nurses Society.

Bahrain: Justice fails Nabeel Rajab at appeal

Bahrain: Justice fails Nabeel Rajab at appeal 
 
 
22 November 2017: Today’s appeals court ruling upholding a decision to enforce a 2 year sentence for Nabeel Rajab is yet another injustice in a long procedure against him, BCHR said today.
 
The appeals Court upheld a July decision to sentence Nabeel Rajab for giving televised interviews in which he addressed Bahrain’s poor human rights record. 
 
The trial was deeply flawed : Nabeel Rajab was sentenced in absentia on charges of “deliberately spreading  false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State” (art 134 of Penal Code) 
and evidences provided by Nabeel Rajab’s defense were rejected. Nabeel Rajab remained in detention while he awaited appeal and he is now facing additional charges, including charges related to the “twitter” case where he is facing more than 15 years for tweeting against the Yemen war and about detention conditions in Jau prison.

Silencing Bahraini women and activists

In 2016 and 2017, as international pressure on the Bahraini authorities was reduced significantly, the repression of dissent intensified simultaneously in the Kingdom. The attention of the international community, and the UN Human Rights Council in particular, moved on, despite numerous reports by international NGOs of cases of reprisals for cooperating with the UN, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, torture in detention, interrogation for long hours, and intrusive government surveillance of activists. Key allies of Bahrain, like the UK, even obstructed any adequate or meaningful response from the UN political bodies.

While these patterns of repression are well-documented, though not appropriately addressed, even less attention has been paid to the fact that female activists became a predominant target. The women’s rights issue has been used for many years by the Bahraini authorities to score points on “reforms” and to present a “moderate” face to the world. This picture has never been really challenged as most women’s organizations in Bahrain are government-sponsored. At their Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome in Geneva in September 2017, the Bahraini Assistant Foreign Minister Abdulla Faisal Aldoseri proudly announced a new family law “reflecting the commitment of the Kingdom to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women” (CEDAW), but failed to respond to the horrific reports that emerged in May and July of sexual abuses committed by two members of the National Security Agency (NSA) against Women’s Rights Defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh.

Inhumane Treatment of Detained Female Activists at Isa Town Prison

The year 2017 witnessed many violations of the rights of female prisoners detained in the women’s section of Isa Town Prison, committed by the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and the General Prosecution with the complicity of the administration of the prison in Isa Town.

In 2017 alone, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) documented the detention of nine women related to their activism or political activities, or that of their family members. Two women, Ameera Abd Aljalil and Faten Husain, were arrested (Abd Aljalil on 9 February 2017), and charged under the anti-terrorism law and then tried before military Courts on 22 August 2017, simply because of the suspected association of their relatives with political parties.

In eight cases, the new Anti-terrorism law was used to detain the women without charge, including the recently released activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh and blogger Rawan Sangoor1. Amendments to the 2006 anti-terrorism were adopted in August 2013, and then again in December 2015, allowing amongst others, the Public prosecution to renew any detention for up to six months “pending investigation,” and depriving people of citizenship if they were convicted of crimes under the law.

BCHR interviewed five Bahraini activists who were detained and have been abused, harassed or tortured in detention. Ebtisam Al-Saegh reported about being beaten and raped by two security officers during her interrogations in July 2017. Other former detainees confirmed the use of sexual violence, harassment, and verbal abuse during interrogations by the NSA in the CID facilities and very poor detention conditions in Isa Town women’s prison. Five women prisoners went on hunger strike on 7 October 2017 for several weeks to protest the degrading conditions they were enduring at Isa prison. Activists and political detainees reported being held in cells with insects and being deprived of access to adequate food. They were also barred from having direct contact with their relatives during family visits, after a barrier was constructed in the visiting rooms.

Women’s Rights Activists Have Been Intimidated and Silenced - Online and Offline

All the activists interviewed by BCHR said they had to practise self-censorship because of fears for their own safety or of reprisals against their families. Many of them abandoned their work or fled the country.

“I don’t feel safe anymore even just organizing human rights trainings for young female activists. Everyone has become frightened,” said one activist to BCHR.

Another women’s rights defender told BCHR: “I am afraid to talk. I am a mother and I feel worried for my children. Women who spoke out about issues like sexual violence used by the security services or the situation of women detainees have been harassed and threatened.”

For female journalists, the consequences of publishing articles about human rights can include prosecution and torture, as the case of Nazeeha Saeed, the most prominent Bahraini female journalist, illustrates. After her coverage of the 2011 protests, where she witnessed police officers killing a man at a protest and challenged the government narrative of events, the Bahraini police subjected her to hours of torture, ill-treatment and humiliation. Nobody has been brought to justice for that torture, after a court failed to convict a police woman alleged to have carried out the torture, despite evidence proving the abuse.

Bahraini authorities should investigate all alleged abuses, hold those responsible accountable, including high-ranking security officers, and address discrimination in the new family law to protect women’s rights.

1 The head of Manama’s Prosecution of Terrorist Crimes initiated an investigation against Ebtisam Al-Saegh into allegations of organizing and running an illegal group aimed at preventing state institutions from carrying out their work, initiating attacks on the individuals’ personal freedom and damaging national unity through means of terrorism. Manama’s public prosecutor investigated Rawan Sangoor for “communicating with foreign organizations”. 

Violations of Ashura 2017

 
On the occasion of the visit of Mr. Dwight Bashir, Director of Research and Policy for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in Bahrain, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) urge the US authorities to emphasise in their dialogue with the Bahraini authorities, the need for concrete changes in upholding Bahrain’s obligations to guarantee the freedom of religion and belief. BCHR also calls on the Bahraini authorities to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to conduct a mission to Bahrain to assess the situation of religious freedom and formulate recommandations for combating religious discrimination, sectarianism and intolerance. 
 
A report issued by the American Committee on Religious Freedom shows the deterioration of religious freedom in Bahrain, especially the increase of investigations and convictions of a number of clerics, in addition to preventing some clerics from entering specific mosques for prayers in Duraz Area. 
 
BCHR documented that Bahraini authorities have severely curtailed freedom of religion and belief of its Shia population, imposing tight restrictions to hold mourning ceremonies marking Ashura in October 2017. 
 
BCHR monitored a number of violations, which ranged from removing Shiite banners, flags and figures, from summons of around 67 citizens including number of clerics, like Sheikh Hassan al-'Ali, Sheikh Hassan al-Banna Ali Hammad.  AbdulAmir AlBiladi was suspended for two days only because he called for the release of his colleague.
 
Nuwaidrat, Maameer and Malikya villages were attacked with tear gas and shot pellets for resisting the security forces who were removing all the Ashura banners.  Many families and children were targeted by tear gas. 
 
In Duraz, security froces used excessive force, teargas and rubber bullets against citizens who were peacefully marching next to the house of the most prominent cleric in Bahrain shaikh Isa Ahmed Qasim. 
 
These systematic violations by the authorities in Bahrain are contradictory to the provisions of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain in article 22, which guarantees "freedom to perform religious rituals, processions and religious meetings in accordance with the customs of the country, and to international human rights standards.
 
Many organizations beside the US government called the Bahraini government to fully implement the recommendations of the Bahraini Commission of Inquiry, including those relating to freedom of religion and belief, sectarian incitement and respect for beliefs.
 
 

Bahraini Human Rights Organizations: The Political Space in Bahrain is turning Dark Black amid the Dissolution of "Waad" Political Party Revealing Lack of Judicial Independency

Bahraini human rights organizations have said that the Bahraini authorities have strengthened the closure of the democratic space through the decision of the second Supreme Court of Appeal to uphold the verdict of dissolving the National Democratic Action Association (Waad) during the session held on Thursday, 26 October 2017. When other decisions against a number of other political or civil associations are an additional step in undermining the freedom of political and civil action in Bahrain.

The organizations pointed out that the charges on which the lawsuit against Waad was based were vague, weak and clearly malicious, explaining that this retaliation was due only to Waad's exercise of their legitimate rights under international law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to freedom of political action and association.

The organizations also mentioned that the Ministry of Justice based its action on the arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Law on Political Associations, which allows the Ministry to intervene unjustifiably in the work of political societies. The number of lawsuits and procedures the Authority has resorted to are 9 procedures since 2011, divided between: Lawsuits and Suspension Procedures. Waad is now the third political society to be dissolved after the Islamic National Reconciliation Society (Al Wefaq) and the Islamic Action Society (Amal), beside the prosecutions and crackdowns on a number of Waad leaders.

The dissolution of Waad reveals yet again the lack of judicial independency and confirms that Bahrain's political space is bleaker than before.

 

Signatories:

· Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

· Bahrain Forum for Human Rights

· Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR)

· SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights

· The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR)

Bahrain: Continued judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Nabeel Rajab

New information
BHR 006 / 0812 / OBS 048.31
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Ill-treatment
Bahrain
October 27, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch. Mr. Nabeel Rajab has been one of the country’s most vocal human rights defenders, denouncing human rights violations within the country’s Jaw prison, and denouncing Bahrain’s participation in bombings of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

According to the information received, on October 26, 2017, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was transferred from the Ministry of Interior’s “Qaala” police clinic to Jaw Prison. It has been reported that Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being held in solitary confinement and was subjected by prison guards to degrading treatment, including humiliating and degrading body searches, forcibly shaving his hair, arbitrarily raiding his cell at night and confiscating his personal items.

Since the begging of his detention on June 13, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab has been held under particularly harsh detention condition, including solitary confinement, and is regularly prevented from accessing his lawyers.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being harassed by Bahraini authorities in two different court cases.

On October 26, 2017, an appeal hearing in the “Television interviews case” was postponed to November 7, 2017. On July 10, 2017, the Manama’s Lower Criminal Court handed down a two years’ prison sentence against Mr. Nabeel Rajab under charges of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State” in relation to television interviews he participated to. Mr. Nabeel Rajab faces additional charges in at least two other cases related to articles published in foreign newspapers about Bahrain’s human rights record (see background information).

In the so-called “Twitter case”, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being accused of “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Penal Code), “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133) and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” (Article 215), which carries up to 15 years in prison. Those charges are related to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees in the Kingdom’s Jaw Prison, where he is now being detained, and the human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. The case which suffers endless postponements since July 2016 will next be heard on November 19, 2017.

The Observatory expresses its outmost concerns over reports of ill-treatment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, whose health has severely degraded since the beginning of his detention. The Observatory thus urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s physical and psychological integrity.

In its concluding observations on Bahrain published on May 12, 2017, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) drew attention to the fact that “excessive use of solitary confinement constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or, depending on the circumstances, even torture (...)” [1]. The UN CAT added that it was “deeply concerned” by the arbitrary imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment of detained human rights defenders, including Mr. Nabeel Rajab [2].

The Observatory denounces the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, which seems to be yet another evidence of a long-standing pattern of harassment against him to sanction his legitimate human rights activity.

The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab, to put an end to any act of harassment against him and, in the meantime, to ensure that all judicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with the right to due process, the right to a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent, as protected under international law.

Background information:

On July 9, 2012, Mr. Rajab was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for several tweets posted on his twitter account. On August 23, 2012, he was acquitted by the Higher Appeal Court.

On August 16, 2012, the Lower Criminal Court sentenced Mr. Rajab to three years of imprisonment for his participation in peaceful gatherings. In December 2012, the Appeals Court reduced the sentence to two years. He was released in May 2014 after serving his term.

On October 1, 2014, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was arrested by the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for “insulting a public institution” via Tweeter (Article 216). The case related to a tweet he published in September 2014, in which he criticised the military institutions for generating extremist ideologies (the “terrorism tweet” case). On November 2, 2014, the Third Lower Criminal Court ordered his release but barred him from leaving the country.

On January 20, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment for “insulting public institutions and the army” (Article 216).

In 2015, two other criminal charges were brought against Mr. Rajab. On February 26, 2015, he was summoned for investigations for charges of “inciting hatred towards the regime” in relation to a speech he made in February 2011 during a funeral (the “funeral speech case”). To date, the police investigation is ongoing.

In addition, on April 2, 2015, Mr. Rajab was arrested, sent to the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security, and placed in detention in solitary confinement in Isa Town Police Station. On April 3, 2015, he was interrogated by the CID regarding two new charges brought against him under criminal case No. 2015/38288. The first charge was “insulting a statutory body”, referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison (the “Jaw torture tweets” case). The second charge was “disseminating false rumours in time of war”, in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen (the “Yemen tweets” case).

On May 14, 2015, the Bahrain Criminal Court of Appeal upheld the six-month prison sentence (the “terrorism tweet” case).

On July 13, 2015, the King of Bahrain Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa ordered through Royal Pardon the release of Mr. Nabeel Rajab for health reasons. Mr. Rajab had already served three of the six months’ jail sentence. Moreover, on the same date, the Public Prosecution imposed a travel ban against Mr. Rajab in relation to the Jaw torture and Yemen tweets cases.

In the morning of June 13, 2016, police forces reportedly led by the Cybercrime Unit arrested Mr. Nabeel Rajab, after raiding his house and seizing a number of electronic devices. In the afternoon, he was able to contact his wife by phone, and reported being detained at East Riffa police station.

On June 14, Public Prosecution remanded him in custody on accusations of “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermine the prestige of the State” (Article 134 [3]).

On June 28, 2016, he was transferred from police custody to the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) Hospital due to unprecedented heart problems. On the same day, he was examined by a doctor, and was transferred back to West Riffa police station.

On July 12, during the hearing, the judge dismissed the request for release filed by Mr. Rajab’s lawyers and the hearing was postponed to August 2.

On August 2, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided to postpone the trial to September 5 without justification.

On September 4, Mr. Rajab was summoned and questioned by CID officials. He was denied access to a lawyer on this occasion.

On September 5, 2016, the Public Prosecution announced that additional charges had been brought against Mr. Nabeel Rajab, for deliberately disseminating “false news and information and tendentious rumours that undermine the kingdom’s prestige and stature”, in relation to a letter published in the New York Times on September 4, 2016, [4] describing his judicial harassment and arbitrary detention. If convicted, this could add one year to his final sentence. In total, he now faces up to 16 years in prison.

On October 3, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder as a consequence of his poor detention conditions.

On October 6, 2016, the High Criminal Court decided after a five-minute hearing to postpone the trial to October 31, without providing any justification. Before the hearing, Mr. Rajab’s lawyers asked the Court a copy of his medical reports after the Ministry of Interior and the Public Prosecution failed to provide them, in clear violation of Mr. Rajab’s right to be informed of his own health condition.

Once more on October 31, 2016, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the trial until December 15 in order to obtain a technical expert from the Cyber-Crime Unit to determine who runs Rajab’s twitter account. Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications.

On December 15, 2016, after a fifteen-minute hearing during which Mr. Nabeel Rajab was not allowed to speak, the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the verdict until December 28, 2016 and refused to release him.

On December 21, 2016, the Cybercrime Unit of the Ministry of Interior took Mr. Nabeel Rajab out of custody for interrogation following the publication of a letter quoting him in French newspaper Le Monde [5] on December 19, 2016. The Cybercrime Unit accused Mr. Rajab of using the article to “spread false information and tendentious rumours insulting Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States and harming their relations”. Investigations on those publications were still underway.

On December 28, 2016, Manama’s Fifth High Criminal Court acceded to an application for Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s temporary release following a failure to give any basis or any sufficient evidence of a link between him and the Twitter account with respect to the Yemeni and Jaw prison tweets.

Then Mr. Rajab was taken to the CID for temporary release. However, he was re-arrested later on the same day and referred to the Public Prosecution in relation to an investigation into televised interviews dating from 2014, which commenced in mid-June 2016.

On December 28, 2016, the Public Prosecution ordered the pre-trial detention for seven days of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, pending investigation into televised interviews dating back to 2014. These interviews with television networks Lua Lua Channel, Al Etijah TV and Al-Alam News Network were related to the human rights situation in Bahrain. In this case, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being prosecuted on charge of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State” (Article 134 of the Penal Code) [6], which carries up to three years in prison.

On January 5, 2017, the Public Prosecution renewed Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s pre-trial detention for a further 15 days, pending investigation.

On April 5, 2017, Mr. Nabeel Rajab underwent surgery for bleeding ulcers at Manama’s military hospital. His family was denied the right to visit him while in hospital. Only two days after the surgery, Mr. Rajab was sent back to West Riffa police station where he has remained in solitary confinement most of the time.

On April 8, 2017, Mr. Rajab was rushed to the police hospital in an ambulance because of an infected wound that followed the operation. Since that date, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is recovering from his medical condition and remains in Qaala clinic, which is a division of the Ministry of Interior [7].

On July 10, 2017, the Manama’s Lower Criminal Court handed down a two years’ prison sentence against Mr. Nabeel Rajab under charges of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State” (Article 134 of the Penal Code) in the so called “Television interviews case”, in relation to television interviews in which Mr. Nabeel Rajab was talking about Bahrain’s human rights record.

On August 8, 2017, a Bahraini Court held its 15th hearing in the so-called “Twitter case” against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and decided again to postpone the hearing until September 11, 2017, despite a request by Mr. Rajab’s lawyers to hold the next hearing sooner. Furthermore, the court stated that by then, new judges will be seating in the court.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and that of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Release Mr. Nabeel Rajab immediately and unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary and its conditions amount to ill-treatment and are endangering his life;

iii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab and against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1, Article 6 (c), 9, 11 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Bahrain: Continued judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Nabeel Rajab

New information
BHR 006 / 0812 / OBS 048.31
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Ill-treatment
Bahrain
October 27, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, co-founder and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), founding Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Middle East advisory committee at Human Rights Watch. Mr. Nabeel Rajab has been one of the country’s most vocal human rights defenders, denouncing human rights violations within the country’s Jaw prison, and denouncing Bahrain’s participation in bombings of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

According to the information received, on October 26, 2017, Mr. Nabeel Rajab was transferred from the Ministry of Interior’s “Qaala” police clinic to Jaw Prison. It has been reported that Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being held in solitary confinement and was subjected by prison guards to degrading treatment, including humiliating and degrading body searches, forcibly shaving his hair, arbitrarily raiding his cell at night and confiscating his personal items.

Since the begging of his detention on June 13, 2016, Mr. Nabeel Rajab has been held under particularly harsh detention condition, including solitary confinement, and is regularly prevented from accessing his lawyers.

Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being harassed by Bahraini authorities in two different court cases.

On October 26, 2017, an appeal hearing in the “Television interviews case” was postponed to November 7, 2017. On July 10, 2017, the Manama’s Lower Criminal Court handed down a two years’ prison sentence against Mr. Nabeel Rajab under charges of “deliberately spreading false information and malicious rumours with the aim of discrediting the State” in relation to television interviews he participated to. Mr. Nabeel Rajab faces additional charges in at least two other cases related to articles published in foreign newspapers about Bahrain’s human rights record (see background information).

In the so-called “Twitter case”, Mr. Nabeel Rajab is being accused of “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Penal Code), “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133) and “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]” (Article 215), which carries up to 15 years in prison. Those charges are related to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees in the Kingdom’s Jaw Prison, where he is now being detained, and the human rights violations perpetrated by the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. The case which suffers endless postponements since July 2016 will next be heard on November 19, 2017.

The Observatory expresses its outmost concerns over reports of ill-treatment of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, whose health has severely degraded since the beginning of his detention. The Observatory thus urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s physical and psychological integrity.

In its concluding observations on Bahrain published on May 12, 2017, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) drew attention to the fact that “excessive use of solitary confinement constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or, depending on the circumstances, even torture (...)” [1]. The UN CAT added that it was “deeply concerned” by the arbitrary imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment of detained human rights defenders, including Mr. Nabeel Rajab [2].

The Observatory denounces the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, which seems to be yet another evidence of a long-standing pattern of harassment against him to sanction his legitimate human rights activity.

The Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Nabeel Rajab, to put an end to any act of harassment against him and, in the meantime, to ensure that all judicial proceedings against him are carried out in full compliance with the right to due process, the right to a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent, as protected under international law.

Background information:

Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab subjected to degrading treatment after his transfer to Jaw prison

“The Bahraini authorities must protect Nabeel Rajab from harassment and degrading  treatment,” BCHR said today, after its president has reportedly been subjected to degrading treatment in Jaw Prison yesterday.
 
Nabeel Rajab who is now held in Jaw prison since his transfer yesterday from the Interior Ministry’s hospital, where he was being treated since July, was subjected to humiliating and degrading body searches by guards from the the Jaw prison who subsequently confiscated some of his personal belongings, including his books and clothes. Prison officials reportedly forcibly shaved his head and used this opportunity to humiliate him.
 
BCHR is concerned that some of these actions may have been retaliations for the comments he posted on Twitter related to the allegations of torture in Jaw prison in 2015. Allegations that have been found credible by many international NGO’s and the Committee against torture in his consideration of Bahrain six months ago.
 
“The Bahraini authorities must investigate the allegations that Nabeel Rajab was subjected to degrading treatment. He should not be in prison and must be released immediately” said BCHR.
 
The Jaw prison is known to suffer from poor hygiene, inadequate medical facilities, violence and beatings targeting political prisoners and activists, and chronic abuse of prisoners. Bahraini authorities have closed the Jaw prison to independant and international investigators, no UN Rapporteur has never been granted access to this prison. The Bahraini authorities must protect all detainees and prisoners from harassment and degrading treatment, and hold anyone found responsible to account.