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BCHR at HRC33: arbitrary detention

On 16 September, Sayed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy delivered the intervention under Item 3 on special procedures at the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, together with the AlSalam Foundation, the Americans for Rights and Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

See full remarks below. 

 

Mr. President, 

Alsalam Foundation, together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, would like to raise our concern over increasing trends of arbitrary detention. 

For example, in the special procedures’ joint communications report released this week, the mandates raised concerns about the detention of the human rights activist Zeinab al-Khawaja and her infant son in Bahrain. While Zeinab has now been released and forced into exile under threat of renewed indefinite detention, many others in Bahrain face different circumstances. 

Following the arbitrary denaturalization of Bahrain’s Shia religious leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, hundreds, if not thousands, of people took to the streets of the village of Diraz to stage a peaceful sit in around his home to prevent his deportation. Since then, the Bahraini government has begun systematically targeting other Shia clerics with interrogations, harassment, arrest and arbitrary detentions in relation to their gathering in Diraz in support of Sheikh Isa. 

Prominent human rights defenders have also recently been targeted with arbitrary arrest. At the start of the last HRC, Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR was arrested in relation to tweets, and may serve up to 15 years social media comments in relation to his work. Likewise, Sheikh Maytham al-Salman, an interfaith leader and human rights defender has also been arbitrarily arrested and interrogated by Bahraini authorities. 

We therefore call on all states, including Bahrain, to end the practice of arbitrary arrest and detention, and for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners. 

Thank you. 

 

Read the intervention in pdf format here

US Representative at HRC Expresses Concerns over Freedom of Expression in Bahrain

The US Representative to the Human Rights Council, Keith Harper, expressed his country's concerns over the Bahraini government's recent measures, which included an imposed travel ban on human rights defenders who wanted to take part in the Human Rights Council's 33rd session. In a statement delivered by Harper at the council, the US demanded that these measures be put to an end, and stressed that the steps taken by the Bahraini government trigger concerns over the respect of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the Gulf kingdom.

Read the full article here.

35 UNHRC Members Condemn Bahrain Anti-Opposition Measures, Call for Inclusive Reforms

35 UN Human Rights Council member states condemned the recent measures taken by the Bahraini authorities against the political opposition, calling for inclusive reforms to stabilize the country. The European Union issued a statement at the UNHRC, backed by eight countries, including Britain, expressing concern about the revocation of political dissidents' nationalities.
 
Read the full article here.

Bahrain: ‘Call for Nabeel Rajab’s release’, rights groups urge 50 governments

15 September 2016 – The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, together with 21 other NGOs, yesterday wrote to the governments of 50 states urging them to publicly call for the release of Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment for comments he made on Twitter. Last week, Bahrain brought the new charge of “defaming the state” against him, after an op-ed was published under his name in The New York Times.

The letter from 22 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, urges the 50 governments to "speak out on Bahrain’s continued misuse of the judicial system to harass and silence human rights defenders, through charges that violate freedom of expression."

Read the full letter here.

Among those addressed are the governments of France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. While the US State Department called for Nabeel Rajab’s release on 6 September, other governments have not done so. The 50 states addressed in the letter are all previous signatories of statements at the United Nations criticizing Bahrain's ongoing human rights violations and calling for progress.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein, used his opening statement at the 33rd Human Rights Council this week to raise concern over Bahrain's harassing and arresting human rights defenders. He cautioned Bahrain: "The past decade has demonstrated repeatedly and with punishing clarity exactly how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them."

Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been held in pre-trial detention since 13 June. During this time he has been held largely in solitary confinement, and his health has deteriorated as a result. Since 2011, Nabeel Rajab has faced multiple prosecutions and prison sentences for his vocal activism. He was subjected to a travel ban in 2014 and has been unable to leave the country.

In his current trial, Nabeel Rajab faces charges including “insulting a statutory body”, “insulting a neighbouring country”, and “disseminating false rumours in time of war”. These are in relation to remarks he tweeted and retweeted on Twitter in 2015 relating to torture in Bahrain's Jaw prison and the role of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Nabeel Rajab’s next court session has been set for 6 October, when he is expected to be sentenced.

Read the full letter here.

Background

NGOs and others have been urging action on Nabeel Rajab’s case since he was imprisoned in pre-trial detention in June. On 2 September, 34 NGOs wrote a letter to the King of Bahrain calling for Nabeel Rajab's release.

Human rights groups urge countries to call for Nabeel Rajab's release

Human rights groups have written to 50 states urging them to call on the Bahraini authorities to release Nabeel Rajab, who is facing up to 15 years’ in jail for comments he made on Twitter. Rajab has also been charged with “defaming the state” by publishing “false news... and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of the kingdom” following the publication of an article by him on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Read the full article here

HRC33: EU statement Item 2

At the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, 13-30 September 2016, EU delivers a statement  under Item 2 related to the High Commissioner for Human Rights' report. EU states concern regarding allegations of human rights violations in Bahrain, and calls on the government to extend an invitation to the UN Special Raporteur on Torture.

Check the full text of the statement here.

UNHRC33: Government of Bahrain Denies Allegations of Human Rights Violations

At the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council held in Geneva, the government representative from the Kingdom of Bahrain completely denied the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the small island kingdom, when stating: “Our progress in the field of human rights continues.”

Responding to opening remarks by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein,on 13 September 2016, in which he noted that “the past decade has demonstrated repeatedly, and with punishing clarity, how disastrous the outcomes can be when the government attempts to smash the voices of its people instead of serving them,” the Bahraini representative claimed that concerns about the harassment and arrests of human rights defenders and the revocation of citizenships were both “mistaken and inaccurate.”

While national human rights institutions have been set up in response to heavy international criticism of the authorities’ violent response to the peaceful, pro-democratic uprising in 2011, these institutions - in spite of the government’s claims to the contrary - have not delivered on promises to ensure accountability and redress for victims of human rights violations. According to the third annual report from the Office of the Ombudsman there have been no convictions in alleged cases of torture since the office began receiving complaints. The Government of Bahrain nevertheless insisted: “These activities and programs are productive – having encouraging results.”

It thus appears that the Government of Bahrain is in complete denial of the current state of affairs, something which became blatantly obvious when the Bahraini representative made the following remark:

“The Kingdom of Bahrain wholeheartedly agrees on the desirability of engaging productively with the High Commissioner’s Office. It has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness and readiness to do so.”

Yet, as documented in the report Charting the Seas of Abuse: Analysis of United Nations Special Procedure Communications to the Kingdom of Bahrain 2011 – 2016, the Government of Bahrain has accumulated since 2011 a total of seven outstanding visit requests by the UN Special Procedure mandate holders. Bahrain’s statement given today at the Human Rights Council therefore stands in stark contrast to its actions and seems to completely deny the basis for the numerous statements of concern about the continued, ongoing and deteriorating human rights situation in the Kingdom from the international community.

In the new report Collective Efforts: International Calls for Accountability and Reform in Bahrain, BCHR together with partner organizations conclude that it is time for the Human Rights Council to issue a resolution on Bahrain that not only reflects but insists on the increasing seriousness of the human rights situation in Bahrain. This must be done to send a clear message to the Government of Bahrain that the international community will not tolerate the continued violation of basic human rights in the Kingdom.

At the time of writing, all public figures of BCHR residing in Bahrain have been banned from leaving the country, including to attend the UNHRC33, and some are detained and/or being prosecuted for their peaceful human rights activities.

 

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See below an unofficial transcript of the full text of the statement delivered by the representative of Bahrain at the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on 14 September.

The Kingdom of Bahrain wholeheartedly agrees on the desirability of engaging productively with the high commissioner office. It has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness and readiness to do so. In fact, a detailed program of work has been agreed between us and the OHCHR under the current technical capacity-building program. Although one event took place in Bahrain in May 2016, our repeated request for further activities as agreed have not been met with positive response. We will look forward to the OHCHR’s prompt and positive engagement.

Our progress in the field of human rights continues. In addition to many domestic initiatives, Bahrain has a variety of bilateral, technical and capacity-building programs with different countries and partners, including reputed international organizations and NGOs. These activities and programs are productive – having encouraging results.

The High Commissioner’s concerns regarding Bahrain are mistaken and inaccurate. Every person under arrest in Bahrain has been charged with the violation of the penal court and the general criminal law of the land. In addition, Bahrain’s law of citizenship complies with the international laws applicable to the Kingdom.

The High Commissioner also made a general statement regarding the first decade. This surely does not apply to Bahrain. I remind this (...)  Council of the numerous unprecedented reforms in Bahrain since the adoption of the national action charter in 2006.

These reforms have been repeatedly affirmed in this Council in the past decade. In addition, finally Bahrain has responded to every communication received under the Special Procedures – this shows positive and constructive engagement across the Council, which will continue.

Thank you Mr. President.

 

Husain Abdulla's oral intervention @ HRC 33rd _ 14/09/2016