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UK condemns arrest of Bahrain politician

The UK Foreign Office will discuss the case of a Bahraini politician, who was arrested for criticising Prince Charles’ visit to the Gulf, with the Bahraini government.

Last week Bahrain’s Cyber Crime Directorate accused Sharif of defaming the Kingdom when he criticised the British Prince of Wales’ visit whist giving an interview to an American news outlet. Sharif said Prince Charles’s trip to the Gulf state fuels human rights abuses perpetuated by the government.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “We are concerned by the charges brought against Ebrahim Sharif, and we will be raising these concerns at a senior level with the Bahraini government.”

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Bahraini Authorities Continue Crackdown on Activists: More Human Rights Defenders and BCHR Members Face Reprisals

16 November 2016 - In the past few days, the Bahraini authorities have summoned at least 26 activists and human rights defenders for interrogations over charges of illegal gathering, including members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). The undersigned NGOs are deeply concerned about this sudden wave of reprisals against opposition voices and human rights defenders.

Three members of BCHR were summoned for questioning in the past days. On 15 November 2016, the Head of International Relations and Women & Children's Rights Advocacy at BCHR Nedal Al-Salman was interrogated on charges of illegal gathering. Additionally, Enas Oun, Head of the Documentation Unit at BCHR, was summoned on 13 November 2016 and accused by the Public Prosecution of organizing an assembly on 20 June 2016 in the Al-Dair area, around 11:45 pm. Ahmad Al-Saffar, human rights defender and a member of BCHR, was also interrogated on 13 November 2016 by the Bahraini Public Prosecution, which charged him with “illegal assembly.” All were subsequently released.

Moreover, the authorities have also targeted other human rights defenders and activists not affiliated with BCHR during the crackdown. Human rights defender and member of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR) Zeinab Al-Khamis was interrogated by the Public Prosecution. On her Twitter account, Zeinab Al-Khamis explained that the Bahraini authorities issued her a subpoena after breaking into her house on 14 November.

On 13 November 2016, Radhi Al-Musawi and Zainab Mohammad were also summoned for interrogation. Radhi Al-Musawi, Secretary General of Bahrain’s National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was also ordered to appear before the Bahraini Public Prosecution. Just three days before his summoning, on 10 November 2016, he was prevented by the authorities from leaving the country.

On 9 November 2016, human rights defender, writer, Director General of the National Centre for Studies, and former President of the Bahrain Transparency Society Abdulnabi Al-Ekry was summoned to appear for interrogation on 10 November by the Bahraini Public Prosecution. The authorities had previously imposed a travel ban upon him as he was preparing to travel to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, from Bahrain International Airport.

The government has subjected nearly all these activists to travel bans in addition to other forms of judicial harassment since June 2016. During this period, the authorities have arbitrarily arrested and interrogated dozens of human rights defenders, political figures, and religious leaders on a range of charges related solely to free expression and assembly. These harsh measures have been widely criticized by the international community, including the United Nations and the United States.

The increase in summons is part of the Bahraini authorities’ ongoing campaign to silence all opposition, and to prevent human rights defenders and activists from travelling abroad to raise awareness for human rights abuses on the international stage. In June and September, the Government of Bahrain used arbitrary travel bans to restrict Bahraini civil society from traveling to Geneva to participate in the 32nd and 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Furthermore, the authorities continue to detain leading human rights defender and president of BCHR Nabeel Rajab on charges related to tweets and retweets, violating his right to free expression. Rajab has been in custody since 13 June 2016 and is currently awaiting his trial on 15 December at the High Criminal Court after four consecutive postponements. The court has decided to hire an expert from the Cyber Crime Unit to verify that the Twitter handle in question is managed by him. If convicted, Rajab could face up to 15 years in prison.

The leading opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif was charged by the Bahraini public prosecutor on 14 November under article 165 of the Penal Code for “inciting hatred against the regime,” after speaking to the Associated Press (AP) on how the Prince Charles’ arrival in Bahrain could be used to “whitewash” human rights abuses in the Kingdom.

On 10 November 2016, Bahraini authorities summoned human Rights lawyer Mohammed Al-Tajer. They interrogated him over charges of inciting hatred against the regime, misusing social media and communication devices (Mobile phones). Despite the ban, Al-Tajer has continued his human rights work, reporting on violations and participating in events and meetings virtually.

We the undersigned NGOs call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Cease arbitrarily summoning, interrogating, and charging human rights defenders and activists;
  • Lift all travel bans imposed on human rights defenders and activists and allow them to freely travel out of Bahrain; and
  • Release and drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab and all other prisoners of conscience.
     

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

 

Freedom House - Freedom of the Net Report 2016

Key Developments:

  • Messaging app Telegram was blocked for several days in February in an effort to contain protests marking the fifth anniversary of Bahrain’s “Day of Rage” (see Restrictions on Connectivity).
  • 2Connect, a small mobile and internet service provider, had its licensed revoked by the regulator for failing to provide security agencies with a tool to access users’ data (see Regulatory Bodies).
  • Canadian company Netsweeper won a Bahraini government tender to implement a nationwide filtering system in a move that will boost the sophistication of internet censorship (see Blocking and Filtering).
  • Five users were sentenced one to five years in prison for tweets that were critical of Saudi Arabia, including outrage over the Saudi-led airstrike campaign in Yemen, the death of hundreds of pilgrims at the 2015 hajj, and the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Numerous others were prosecuted for insulting Bahraini public officials (see Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities).

Read the full report here.

UK and US concerned at arrest of politician after Prince Charles visit to Bahrain

The British government is to raise concerns with the Bahraini government over the arrest of a politician, Ebrahim Sharif, following last week’s visit to Bahrain by Prince Charles.

During the visit, Sharif gave an interview to a US news agency in which he suggested that Charles’s day-long tour of the island kingdom could “whitewash” an ongoing crackdown on dissent.

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Bahrain Travel Bans Reveal Insecurity

First, Bahraini authorities hit human rights defender Nabeel Rajab with charges for writing an oped in the New York Times, and now they have charged secular opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif after an interview he gave to the Associated Press a few days ago.

Stifling negative press is a classic hallmark of a repressive regime, and Bahrain is increasingly touchy about anyone revealing its ugly truth. Up until mass protests for democracy broke out in 2011, and even for a while after, Bahrain was relatively accessible for media and human rights organizations. Now it’s virtually impossible for us to get in.

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Index of Censorship - Bahrain charges Ebrahim Sharif for AP interview after Prince Charles visit

Bahrain’s public prosecution on Sunday 13 November charged leading opposition politician Ebrahim Sharif under article 165 of the penal code with “inciting hatred against the regime,” after he spoke to the Associated Press last week. We, the undersigned, consider this to be a violation of his right to freedom of expression and a reprisal against his political activity.

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Photos: Hundreds Demand to Unveil Fate of Detainee Held since 21 Days

Hundreds of protestors in Diraz demanded on Monday (November 14, 2016) the security authorities to unveil the fate of detainee Sayed Alawi Sayed Hussein.

The Bahraini authorities arrested Hussein from his place of work on October 24, 2016 and refused to reveal any information regarding the reasons behind his arrest or his place.

Protestors held photos for Hussein and other banners that read "The Ombudsman is a partner in the crime of kidnapping Hussein, hiding and torturing him."

 

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Bahrain Charges Ebrahim Sharif for AP Interview After Prince Charles Visit

UPDATE: 14 November 2016, 2:00pm EST - The United States Department of State has called for the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against Ebrahim Sharif, noting that that the Department has raised the case directly with Bahraini authorities. Director of Press Relations Elizabeth Trudeau stated that “no one anywhere should be prosecuted or imprisoned for engaging in freedom expression, even when that expression is critical. Any charges against Sharif on that basis, should be dropped.” Find full video of the press briefing here.

14 November 2016 - Bahrain's public prosecution yesterday charged leading opposition politician Ebrahim Sharif under article 165 of the penal code with “inciting hatred against the regime,” after he spoke to the Associated Press (AP) last week. We, the undersigned, consider this to be a violation of his right to freedom of expression and a reprisal against his political activity.
The charge carries a three-year sentence and comes after Prince Charles' controversial visit to the Gulf monarchy last week. It is the latest development in the Bahraini government’s intensified crackdown on civil society in the past year.

Speaking on Prince Charles' arrival in the country Sharif, the former leader of the secular National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad), told AP he was afraid the visit would "whitewash" human rights abuses.

Sharif told AP: "I don't see what's gone on behind closed doors or whether the prince raised any questions of human rights. Bahrain's government values its relations with the U.K. and if the U.K. puts its weight behind the improvement of human rights in Bahrain, the government will listen. They need friends."

He further said: "All parties should compromise. We can't have absolute power in the hands of the ruling family."

"Ebrahim Sharif was expressing his opinion and no one should ever be prosecuted for that,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). “Bahrain claims to be inclusive, that's the image they tried to sell with Prince Charles' visit. But Sharif's prosecution reveals the barefaced lie.”

Prince Charles' visit courted controversy, with campaigners accusing him of participating in a PR exercise aimed at hiding Bahrain’s poor human rights record. In his visit, the Prince of Wales highlighted religious tolerance in Bahrain, a theme also highlighted by visiting Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood MP, visiting the Al Fateh Grand Mosque and Bahrain's Hindu temple, and meeting members of the country's Jewish community. But the royal tour failed to meet with members of the Shia community, who make up a majority of Bahrain's citizen population, and who have faced heightened discrimination from the government in the past months. In August, five UN experts called on Bahrain to end its "persecution of Shias".

Ebrahim Sharif is the former Secretary General of Wa’ad. He was a member of the Bahrain 13, a group of high profile activists arrested, tortured and sentenced by military court in 2011. He was released in June 2015, but re-arrested weeks later and sentenced to another year in prison for a political speech he gave calling for continued peaceful opposition. Sharif was released from prison in July 2016. He is currently under a travel ban order.

At the time of Sharif's June 2015 release, the US State Department lifted an arms ban on Bahrain, citing "meaningful progress on human rights.” However, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior re-arrested him less than three weeks later on charges of “inciting regime change and hatred and contempt against the regime.” A court found him guilty and sentenced him to one year in prison. As a result of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, including Sharif’s re-arrest, both the US Senate and House of Representatives introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the resumption of an arms ban on the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) and National Guard, forbidding the sale of weapons that could be used to suppress peaceful dissent. The bills would allow for the sale of arms only after the Secretary of State certifies that the Bahraini government has fully implemented all 26 recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011. As of 2016, the US State Department assessed that key recommendations of the BICI still have yet to be implemented by the Bahraini government and, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and BIRD have found that only two of the Commission’s recommendations have been fully implemented.

“Though the Bahraini government continues to falsely claim that it has implemented all 26 BICI recommendations, virtually all independent assessments reveal a complete failure to reform on key human rights issues,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The prosecution of Ebrahim Sharif for his interview with AP follows the authorities’ decision to similarly charge prominent human rights defender and BCHR president Nabeel Rajab for his open letter in the New York Times. These actions clearly demonstrate that the government remains committed to suppressing all forms of criticism.”

The Government of Bahrain’s actions violate the freedom of expression, as protected under Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain acceded to in 2006.

We condemn this violation of the right to free expression and call for the immediate dropping of all charges against Ebrahim Sharif, and all other persons prosecuted for their speech.

 

Signed,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Index on Censorship

 

Detainee Hussain Abdulwahab Mistreated and Denied Adequate Medical Care

15 November 2016 – The Government of Bahrain continues to deny adequate medical care to Bahraini activist and detainee Hussain Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ismail. NGOs who have spoken to the family have received reports that security officers beat Hussain after he insisted on receiving treatment. We, the undersigned NGOs, strongly condemn the Bahraini government’s ill-treatment  and refusal to provide healthcare to Hussain, and demand that he be released into the care of independent medical experts immediately.

Hussain Abdulwahab is currently detained at Dry Dock, the main pre-trial detention centre. On 6 January 2016, Bahraini authorities summoned Hussain Abdulwahab to a police station, where he was arrested. His family state that he was blindfolded during his interrogation, which lasted nine days. Government forces gave him very little information on the charges facing him, and he was forced to sign confessions without knowing their full content. State media broadcasted the terrorism charges against Hussain Abdulwahab on the day of his arrest, which include allegedly joining a terrorist group and spying for a foreign country. But the family states that he only learnt of his charges after signing the confession, when forces transferred him to Dry Dock. It was at the detention centre where he first learnt that the Bahraini government charged him with terrorism offences. Forces held him in pre-trial detention for six months, which is an extremely long time period under 2014 amendments to the anti-terrorism law. The case, which is ongoing, was referred to court in June 2016.

His family has filed numerous appeals regarding Hussain’s ill-treatment, including official complaints to the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman’s office and to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), demanding authorities provide Hussain with the medical attention that he requires. Yet, over a week after submitting the complaints, Hussain’s health continues to deteriorate.

Hussain relies on a wheelchair for mobility. However, due to the recent decline in his health, he has difficulty moving and is mostly bedridden. In response to the Bahraini authorities’ failure to provide access to medical care while in detention, Hussain began an open hunger strike on 5 November. On 6 November, Dry Dock administration transferred him to the prison’s clinic. At the clinic, Hussain refused to leave until authorities confirmed an appointment with healthcare specialists for his treatment. In response, a police officer kicked and reportedly beat Hussain until he fell out of his wheelchair. Government authorities have still not provided access for Hussain to see a doctor.

Hussain is the son of prominent political leader and activist Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ahmed Esmael. Bahraini authorities sentenced Abdulwahab to life in prison as part of the Bahrain 13 for participating in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. After taking part in the 2011 demonstrations, security forces arrested and beat him and his daughter. During incarceration, authorities subjected Abdulwahab  to torture and mistreatment. Abdulwahab is a lifelong activist, and the Bahraini government repeatedly targeted and imprisoned him prior to 2011. In 2001, after being pardoned by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Abdulwahab co-founded the now-dissolved opposition society, Al-Wefaq. In 2009, Abdulwahab founded another opposition group, Al-Wafa’. He has been spent a portion of his recent sentence in solitary confinement. Prison authorities have repeatedly deniedAbdulwahab access to medical care while in prison, despite his suffering from a chronic neurological disorder.

The Government of Bahrain’s actions are in direct violation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself.” Additionally, authorities are in violation of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes the right of everyone “to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

The undersigned NGOs call on the Bahraini government to:

  • Immediately provide all necessary medical attention and care to Hussain Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ismail and all prisoners in Bahrain;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners of conscience, including Hussain Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ismail, Abdulwahab Hussain Ali Ahmed Esmael, and all members of the Bahrain 13 still in prison; and
  • Abide by international human rights standards, including the ICCPR and ICESCR, by upholding citizens’ right to healthcare.

Signed,

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Parliamentary Proposal Suggests Appointing Military, Security, Legal Attaches in 4 Bahraini Embassies Abroad

Members of Parliament demanded the government to appoint new military, security, and legal attaches in Bahraini 4 embassies abroad. This comes in light of the "vicious attacks Bahrain faces from international organizations and parties that support instability and insecurity in the country."

The Foreign Affairs committee approved the proposal stating the desire to appoint the attaches in the Bahraini Embassies in the USA, UK, Germany, and Russia. Members of Parliament are scheduled to vote for the aforementioned proposal in their meeting next Tuesday (November 15, 2016).

 

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