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Serious concerns over trial on 6 October of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab

On 6 October 2016, the Bahrain High Criminal Court will hear the case of Nabeel Rajab, leading human rights defender, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH. It is expected that a verdict may be announced. BCHR is deeply concerned about the ongoing detention and prosecution of Rajab, as well as his deteriorating health condition since his arrest.

Rajab, who has spent 114 days in detention since his arrest on 13 June 2016, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted under art. 133 of Bahrain’s penal code for spreading “false or malicious news, statements, or rumours”, an additional two years under art. 215 of the penal code for “offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]”, and another three years under article 216 of the penal code for “offending a statutory body” for comments relating to Jau prison in Bahrain. The whole case is based on tweets and retweets.

Additional charges were subsequently brought against Rajab in relation to The New York Times Op-Ed that was published on 5 September 2016 regarding his arrest and current living conditions.

Rajab’s health has seriously deteriorated as a result of the poor incarceration conditions. On 3 October 2016, just three days before the next trial date, Rajab underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder. For most of his detention, Rajab has been held in solitary confinement. Rajab had endured ill-treatment from the prison staff and unsanitary living conditions by living with other detainees infected with serious diseases. On 25 August 2016, Rajab was transferred to the Interior Ministry's clinic headquarters after suffering chest pains and shortness of breath, a condition he had not suffered before detention, according to his family.

Since his arrest, Rajab’s case has attracted the attention of the international community, including government officials, the spokesperson of the US Department of State, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and members of the EU Parliament. On 2 September 2016, 34 NGOs wrote a letter to the King of Bahrain urging the government to “abide by the principles of democracy and human rights and to safeguard freedom of expression in Bahrain (...) by dropping all charges against the human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab and ensure his immediate and unconditional release.” On 14 September 2016, BCHR, along with 21 other prominent NGOs  including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, wrote to the governments of 50 states urging them to publicly call for the release of Nabeel Rajab, and 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." Among those addressed are the governments of France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, the latter having previously called for Rajab’s release on 6 September 2016.

Just recently at the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights used his opening statement to voice his concern over Bahrain’s imprisonment of human rights defenders, and “how disastrous the outcomes can be when a Government attempts to smash the voices of its people, instead of serving them.” Furthermore, a statement made on behalf of the European Union urged the government of Bahrain to “aim for stability through reforms and inclusive reconciliation,” and expressed concerns over “the arrest and travelling bans for human rights activists, including the re-arrest of Mr. Nabeel Rajab.”

The Government of Bahrain, as a signatory of international human rights conventions, is bound to safeguard the right to exercise freedom of expression without any unjustified and arbitrary constraint. As Rajab’s verdict is quickly approaching, depriving him of his liberty for the mere exercise of a fundamental right goes against Bahrain’s commitment to abide by the international conventions it has signed, and raises concerns over its ability to respect its legal obligations and ensure the security of its citizens.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini government to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Nabeel Rajab and all political prisoners detained for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and expression;
  • Drop all charges against Nabeel Rajab at his trial on 6 October 2016, which are related to his right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech; and
  • Abide by international legislation upholding the right to freedom of expression, without any restrictions or arbitrary legal procedures.

Bahrain top court rejects release of opposition chief

Bahrain's top court rejected Monday a request to release Shiite opposition chief cleric Ali Salman, who is serving a nine-year jail term on charges of inciting hatred and forceful regime change.

The head of the Al-Wefaq group had been sentenced in July 2015 to four years in jail after being convicted of inciting hatred in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.

But the appeals court in May more than doubled his jail term to nine years after reversing an earlier acquittal on charges of calling for regime change by force.

Read the full article here.

One Torturer to Another: Kissinger Honors Bahrain FM With Award

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger—known for orchestrating bloody coups and wars—awarded Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa with a Lifetime Achievement Award for economic development and “respect for religious pluralism.” The state official is known for presiding over a bloody military crackdown on Arab Spring protests.

“It was granted to HM the King in recognition of his continued achievements and incessant efforts in all fields, notably in development, respect for religious pluralism in the Kingdom of Bahrain and his interest in bolstering Bahrain-U.S. ties at all levels, making of them an exemplary model of relations among nations, based on strong and clear foundations,” wrote the state Bahrain News Agency Tuesday when Kissinger awarded the prize during the U.S. C3 Summit, held to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Arab countries.

Read full article here

Lockheed's Jet Sale to Bahrain Blocked for Human Rights Violations

The Obama administration has told Congress it won’t complete approval for Bahrain to buy as many as 19 F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp. and upgrades for older ones for almost $4 billion until the Gulf ally demonstrates progress on human rights, according to people familiar with the issue.

The declaration of concern, which doesn’t specify what steps Bahrain would have to take, was included in a draft notification of the pending sale that the administration sent to Congress on Wednesday, according to the people who asked not to be identified discussing details of the message that wasn’t released publicly.

Read full article here

Nabeel Rajab to undergo surgery on Monday

Bahrain Mirror: The president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights Nabeel Rajab will undergo a surgery on Monday (September 3, 2016) after his health deteriorated due to being held in poor conditions in prison.

Rajab's twitter account said that the prominent human rights defender will undergo a surgery to remove his gallbladder.

Read full article here

Reprieve: UK trained hundreds of guards at Bahrain’s death row prison, new report finds

The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.

Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.

Continue reading here.

UK trained hundreds of guards working at Bahrain’s death row jail: Report

Anti-death penalty charity report also highlights links with other repressive regimes, including EU-funded project in Egypt

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded training for hundreds of prison guards working at Bahrain's death row jail, according to a new report by Reprieve, an anti-death penalty charity. The group also said that at least one innocent man faces imminent execution after being tortured into making a false confession.

A news release by Reprieve said: “Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. "In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

Continue reading here.

Invest NI company 'must suspend Bahrain work' - Reprieve

An international human rights group has called on a company owned by Invest NI to immediately suspend a contract to train security forces in Bahrain. Reprieve says police and prison officers in the state systematically torture and abuse government opponents.

NI-CO was awarded a £900,000 foreign office contract last year to help reform Bahrain's security forces. It says the assistance it provides is in line with recommendations from the UN and a Bahrain Commission of Inquiry. Belfast-based NI-CO (Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Invest NI.

Project teams working for the company have been working in Bahrain's security and justice sectors for the past three years.They have worked with the police and prison services, as well as the office of the Ombudsman, whose job is to investigate allegations of torture. A Reprieve report says all of those organisations are guilty of systematic abuse.

"The global community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations, other governments, are clear that the human rights situation in Bahrain is dire," said Reprieve's deputy director Harriet McCulloch. "Bahrain's police are widely reported to be involved in abuse, Bahrain's prisons are widely reported to be the sites of incredibly brutal torture."

Read full article here.

Asma Darwish's oral intervention @ HRC 33rd _ 26/09/2016

Asma Darwish's oral intervention @ HRC 33rd _ 27/09/2016