Bahrain : 4 activists freed on bail, but still facing possible “terrorism” charges
23 October, 2017: Bahrain freed two female activists, Ms. Ebtisam Al Saegh and Ms. Rawan Sangoor, as well as activists Mr Radhi al-Qatari and Mohamed al Shakoori, all jailed under the new anti-terrorism law and victims of torture and ill-treatment during their detention.
Ebtisam Al Saegh, who works for Salam for Democracy and Human Rights has been detained since July 4, 2017. She was brought to Isa Town women’s prison where she was interrogated for long hours, tortured and sexually abused by two officers of the National Security Agency. On July 18, UN experts urged Bahrain to investigate reports of torture and ill-treatment of Ms. Al Saegh and to release her. Ms. Al Saegh described as well daily harassment and humiliation by prison officials at Isa Town’s prison since the beginning of her detention, a move that can be seen as a form of reprisal against Ms. Al Saegh for being outspoken about her abuse. Blogger Rawan Sangoori was arrested on the 23th of September and moved to Isa Town’s prison for cooperating with the International Committee of the Red Cross in order to secure a more humane treatment for her tortured brother Ali Sangoor who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
“The release of Ms. Al Saegh and others after months of abuses is a positive news, but the authorities should seriously investigate the reports of torture and drop all the charges against them” said BCHR today. “The continued persecution of human rights activists inside the country and their detention on terorism charges pose a serious threat to all human rights monitoring and reporting in Bahrain at a time when abuses are growing in the country” BCHR added.
The authorities should ensure that the prison and security officials who violated Ms. Al Saegh’s rights are held accountable and should also immediately and unconditionally release all other peaceful activists, including Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President, whose trial has been marred by serious due process violations.
Bahraini human rights organizations appeal to the international community and human rights organizations to save prisoners in Bahrain
The undersigned human rights organizations call upon the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to urgently visit Bahraini prisons to stand upon their situation and invite UN Special Rapporteurs and relevant UN working groups to submit new applications to visit Bahrain.
The organizations are calling on Member States of the Human Rights Council to exert serious pressure to be allowed to have unconditional access to all places of detention and meet any prisoners to know the reality of the situation in all prisons as well as activating the mechanisms of international control.
In the same time, the signatories call on the government of Bahrain to respect international covenants, notably the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. They urge to respect the rights of prisoners determined by the Reform and Rehabilitation Law in the prison administration and its executive regulations that goes in parallel with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and modify the texts that do not conform with the later rules.
The Human rights organizations urgently appeal to the international community and international human rights organizations to pressure the authorities in Bahrain to stop their grave violations against detainees and prisoners and to work on immediately release prisoners of conscience.
According to documented statistics, the number of detainees and prisoners in Bahraini prisons has reached 4,000 prisoners, including 12 women. Since 2011, the total number of arbitrary arrests has reached more than 12,000 including 330 women, 968 cases of children including 3 female children, where more than 4000 citizens were subject to torture or abuse and ill-treatment.
In addition, the information reaching out to us confirms the overcrowding of prison cells by more than 50% of their capacity, with the continuation of humiliating inspections, the confiscation of personal belongings, and the practice of a number of abuses against prisoners, which deprive them of basic rights.
In September of this year, prisoners of conscience organized a hunger strike to demand improvement to their detention conditions: stopping torture and ill-treatment, providing medical care, opening the praying area for prayer and religious services, providing a waiting room for visiting families, removing the plastic barrier inside the visits rooms, improving the quality of meals and other demands. Previous reports from inside Bahraini prisons said prisoners have been exposed to food poisoning due to poor food quality, contrary to Rule 20 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
In March 2015, the security authorities punished prisoners in Jau central prison in a collective manner after disturbances in the prison. The security authorities resorted to excessive use of force to quell the prison protests, and forced detainees to sleep outside their cells and subjected them to various forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment in clear and explicit violation of rules 10-14 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Article 10, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that guarantees respect for the inherent dignity of all persons deprived of their liberty.
Ill detainees and prisoners, particularly those suffering from chronic diseases, suffer from inadequate medical care and treatment to prevent any health deterioration, when the UN recommendation clearly calls for adoption of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
• Bahrain Centre 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: Human Rights Defenders face terrorism charges and travel bans for their peaceful activism
Yesterday, Bahrain brought new charges against Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President and prominent activist. Rajab who has been in jail since June 2016 is being charged for tweets and instagram posts published at the beginning of this year when he was already in prison.
Four Human Rights Activists working for BCHR have been also summoned by the Anti-terrorism prosecution this September for interrogation. Ahmed al Saffar and Husain Radhi were subpoenaed to appear on 14 September, Enas Oun on the 17th and Nedal Al Salman today, Tuesday 19 September. All four members are being charged by the public prosecution for illegal gatherings under the new anti-terrorism law, and all have been placed on a travel ban. This shows a new pattern of abuses towards BCHR staff and fits in a wider pattern of systematic censorship and repression against journalists, media activists and HRDs. BCHR believe that the new Anto-terrorism law has been designed specifically to target human rights activists for their legitimate work.
The 27th UPR Session in Geneva on Bahrain’s Human Rights Record
Report about the The 27th UPR Session in Geneva on Bahrain’s Human Rights Record.
In this report, we shed light on and evaluate the recent UPR of Bahrain that took place in May 2017, in Geneva, when 178 recommendations were released to the government of Bahrain. This report provides an analysis and evaluation of the significance of this event and its impact on the situation of Human rights in Bahrain.
The purpose of this report is to give a vivid demonstration of the effectiveness of the UPR mechanism and the assessment of the level of cooperation showed by the government to urge the international community including the most influential countries, human rights organizations, civil society organizations and human rights activists to exert effective pressure to implement the given recommendations.
Read full report here.
Bahrain to continue persecution and imprisonment of Nabeel Rajab : trial delayed for 17 time
September 11, 2017: “The Bahraini authorities must end their persecution of prominent activist Nabeel Rajab and immediately and unconditionally release him, said BCHR today. “Our president is merely being punished for refusing to stop his legitimate campaigns for justice in Bahrain and for criticizing the Saudi Arabia-led military operations in Yemen.”
Nabeel Rajab has been convicted in July 2017 for two years after an unfair trial which was deeply flawed and was widely criticized by various human rights bodies and international human rights organisations. This second case brought againt him is related to Twitter comments published on his twitter acount between March 10, 2015, and his arrest on April 2, including nine Anti-War tweets about the military operations in Yemen.
The today hearing was again adjourned until September 27, despite the prosecution failed to bring any evidence to court since 2015.
Rajab’s Twitter comments led to his arrest on April 2, 2015. Authorities released him on July 13, 2015, but prosecutors did not close the cases and ordered his re-arrest on June 13, 2016.
Bahrain: Zainab Al-Khamees summoned in worrying escalation against women’s rights defenders
“Bahraini women’s rights defenders are at heightened risk of harassments, attacks and intimidations, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said today, “The Government must repeal all repressive measures against human rights defenders, including travel bans and counter-terrorism legislations that criminalizes legitimate activities”
The recent summon and investigation of Zainab Al-Khamees from the Bahrain Human Rights Society, which follows the arrest and torture of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, and the travel ban imposed on activist Fatima Al-Halwachi, show a pattern of abuses against Bahraini female activists aiming to silence and intimidate them.
Activist Rihanna Al-Mosawi who took part to protests at the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix, has been summoned as well today for illegal gathering.
Zainab Al-Khamees is a member of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, an organization aimed at promoting human rights in Bahrain. Zainab was actively involved in campaigning for the release of her colleague Ebtisam Al-Saegh. She has been summoned on Tuesday to the Criminal investigation Directorate (CID).
Ebtisam Al-Saegh is a Bahraini human rights defender who works for the organization Salam for human rights and democracy. She is charged and currently detained under anti-terrorism law. She was previously tortured, including by being raped and sexually harassed by members of the National Security Agency.
Fatima Al-Halwachi is the Deputy-Head of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR). She has been banned on Tuesday 5th of September from traveling to Geneva and participating in the 37nd session of the Human Rights Council.
BCHR believe that the government’s actions are preventing women human rights defenders from conducting their legitimate activities and from advocating for their own rights to be protected.
NGOs Raise Concern Over Forcibly Disappeared Sayed Alawi
Ministry of Interior Ombudsman
10th Floor, Bronze Towers
Building 204, Road 2803, Block 428
P.O. Box 23452
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
National Security Agency Ombudsman
8th Floor, Brown’s Tower
Building 204, Road 2803, Block 428
P.O. Box 61016
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
National Institution for Human Rights
Building 2771, Road 2835, Block 428
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Special Investigation Unit
Public Prosecution Office
P.O. Box 450
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
23 August 2017
We write to seek clarification on the reasons for the detention, current legal status, and detention location of Sayed Alawi Hussain al-Alawi, 43, and to raise our concern that he is at high risk of torture or other ill-treatment, and that the ongoing denial of information to his families as to his whereabouts is tantamount to enforced disappearance.
Sayed Alawi has been detained for over nine months, with no access to a lawyer or to his family since his arrest. During this time, he was allowed only four brief phone calls to his family, who has repeatedly inquired during this time about the reasons for and location of his detention. To date, the authorities have not provided this information.
Sayed Alawi was arrested at his work in Muharraq by four armed men in civilian clothing at around 4pm on 24 October 2016. His work phone and computer were confiscated. The same day his wife filed a missing person report at Budaya police station. Staff at the station contacted all detention facilities falling under the control of the Ministry of Interior, including the Central Investigation Directorate (CID), as well as hospitals and ports in Bahrain, and they all asserted to the police station staff that they knew nothing about his whereabouts. About 45 minutes after his wife left the police station, she received a call from a staff member of the station saying that he was being held at the CID and asking her to cancel the missing person report, which she did. On 26 October, the family went to the CID and was told by CID staff that he was not there.
Despite CID staff initially denying several times to the family that Sayed Alawi was in their custody, his wife received a call from the CID on 3 November at about 6pm stating that he had been transferred to Dry Dock prison. When his family went to Dry Dock prison on 6 November, the prison authorities told them that he was not in their custody and referred his family to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO), which likewise denied having him in their custody. On 10 November, Sayed Alawi’s family handed in a letter to the PPO requesting to visit him, but they received no response.
On 27 November, Sayed Alawi called his family in a four-minute phone call and told them that he was being held at the CID. According to his family, he sounded exhausted. When his family called the PPO on 4 December to follow up on their visit request, they were told that the PPO had not looked at their first letter and were asked to send another visit request, which they did. His family was also told by the PPO that Sayed Alawi had been taken to the Terrorism Prosecution Unit but did not say under what charges or when this had taken place.
On 14 December, Sayed Alawi called his family for around eight minutes and told them he was at the CID. When his family asked him again where he was and what charges were being brought against him, the line went dead.
Sayed Alawi’s family has made numerous attempts to contact the CID for information and to arrange a visit with Sayed Alawi but without success. On 22 January 2017 the family requested a meeting with the director of the CID who declined to meet them, but on 23 January they received a call saying that they had an appointment with the director the next day at 10am. However, this meeting was not with the director as they had been informed it would be. They were instead met by a man who said that the case was confidential and that he could not disclose any information. When they asked him who he was, he only said that his name was Faisal. When his family told the man that they expected him to have information as they had been told to meet with him, he became furious and repeated that the case was confidential and that he could not give details.
Amnesty International wrote to the Minister of Interior and Public Prosecutor on 13 January 2017 to seek urgent clarification regarding the reasons for Sayed Alawi’s arrest, his detention location and the legal basis for that detention but received no response.
The family has also filed multiple complaints with Bahrain’s human rights institutions. On 1 December Sayed Alawi’s wife filed a complaint at the Ombudsman’s office stating that they were worried about his safety as they had not been granted a visit, had only received a call from him once (as the second call had not yet happened), and he had not been allowed access to a lawyer. They requested that he be examined by a forensic doctor. No reference number was assigned for their complaint. The family followed up on this complaint on five separate occasions before they were told on 10 January 2017 that the complaint had been transferred to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and that they should stop contacting the Ombudsman.
Sayed Alawi’s family had already made a complaint to the SIU on 12 December 2016. The case was logged and given reference number 331/2016. The family contacted the SIU again on 11 January 2017 to follow up on this complaint but was told that there was no news and that the SIU would contact the family when they had any further information. However, they followed up with the SIU again on 16 March, 20 March, and again on 2 April, but have not received any information.
The family has also made several enquiries with the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR). On 15 December 2016, the NIHR responded saying that visits were not being allowed to protect the investigation. They followed up again on 20 December and on 29 December, and Sayed Alawi’s wife was given an appointment at the NIHR. The two staff members she met told her they were unaware of the case, so she filed a new complaint (reference number M_14) requesting that the NIHR investigate the disappearance of Sayed Alawi, find out the reason for his arrest, call for his examination by a doctor, and ensure he be granted family and lawyer visits. On 4 January 2017 Sayed Alawi’s lawyer also wrote a letter to NIHR requesting they investigate the whereabouts of his client. The family has since tried to follow up with the NIHR on 9 January by phone, but has yet to receive any information.
Amnesty International had a meeting with His Excellency Saeed Mohamed Alfaihani, Chairman of the NIHR on 21 June 2017. In this meeting Amnesty International raised Sayed Alawi’s case and requested information from the NIHR on what investigation it has conducted and what information it has ascertained. Amnesty International was told that the family had only made a complaint about the lack of phone calls and that the family would have to lodge a new complaint in writing.
In the nine months since his arrest, Sayed Alawi has not had access to a lawyer and has had a total of four short phone calls to his family, the last phone call on 27 July lasting only one minute.
The right of access to a lawyer is a fundamental safeguard against torture and other ill-treatment, and is one of the key norms established for a fair trial under international human rights standards. It is important to enable detainees to challenge their detention at an early stage and serves as an important safeguard against torture and other ill-treatment, coerced “confessions”, enforced disappearance and other human rights violations. It also enables individuals suspected of or charged with a criminal offence to protect their rights and begin to prepare their defense.
In addition, persons deprived of their liberty should also be able to communicate and have contact with family members and friends, as well as medical professionals. Access should be given subject only to conditions and restrictions which are necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim. Under international law and standards, anyone who is arrested and detained has the right to inform, or have the authorities notify, someone in the outside world that they have been taken into custody and where they are held. In addition, they should be given all reasonable facilities to communicate with and receive visits from their family. Like the right of access to a lawyer, the right of detainees to communicate with the outside world and to receive visits is a key safeguard against torture and other ill-treatment and other human rights violations. It enables persons concerned about the wellbeing of detainees to see where they are held and their condition so as to be able to intervene on their behalf if there is reason for concern. It is also a key safeguard against enforced disappearances.
We continue to receive reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees during interrogation at the CID and National Security Agency buildings. In view of this and the circumstances of his detention described in this letter, we are seriously concerned about Sayed Alawi’s current treatment and safety and believe he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. We also believe that the ongoing denial of information to his family as to his whereabouts amounts to enforced disappearance. We are also concerned that he may be brought before a military court and requests assurances that no civilian, including Sayed Alawi, will be tried before a military court, in line with international standards.
We would therefore like to seek urgent clarification regarding the location of Sayed Alawi and the legal basis for his detention as well as what charges, if any, have been brought against him. We urge you to provide Sayed Alawi with prompt and regular access to his lawyer, family and any medical attention he may require. We also urge you to release him unless he is to be charged with a recognizable criminal offence.
We look forward to receiving your response on this urgent matter as we intend to make public our concerns in the near future.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
European Center for Democracy and Human Rights
Bahrain: postponement of ruling on Nabeel Rajab’s case, new extensive fair trials violations
A Bahraini Court’s decision on August 8, 2017 to postpone issuing its verdict in the case of Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), demonstrates once again the inability of the Bahraini judicial system to uphold his rights to a fair trial. The ruling related to a series of anti-war and anti-torture tweets was postponed again until September 11, 2017. In this case, the prosecution has failed to provide details on the factual or legal basis for the charges and has repeatedly delayed proceedings undermining Nabeel Rajab's right to a fair trial.
“International allies of Bahrain must hold accountable the Bahraini government who is eradicating all forms of peaceful dissent in the country. They should condemn the prosecution of our President who is the latest victim of Bahrain’s crackdown on all moderate voices and request his immediate and unconditional release” said BCHR today. “The serious criminal charges which include allegations of propagating false news are totally baseless and should be dropped”.
The Bahraini Court has suspended its ruling against him in a case related to charges on tweets and re-tweets concerning the war in Yemen and torture allegations against prisoners in Jau.
Rajab was charged of tweeting about the war in Yemen and the Bahraini authorities alleged that he is guilty of breaking Article 133. The article states that “a punishment of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years” can be inflicted upon an individual who during wartime deliberately propagates “false or malicious news.” The second tweet was related to allegations of torture taking place in Jau prison after a prison riot in March 2015. This tweet was found to be defamatory to one of Bahrain’s organizing bodies (the Ministry of Interior), an act which can be penalized in conformity with Article 216 of the Bahraini Penal Code. There is no publicly available evidence that BCHR President engaged in any form of speech or comment that could be qualified as defamation.
Rajab is one of the most prominent human rights defenders in the Gulf and the Head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, he is also Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Committee.
“Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals, and should not face detention or prosecution for exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, referring to Nabeel Rajab’s case in July 2017.
The UN is not the only institution that has protested Rajab’s unlawful detention, mistreatment and sentencing. Germany’s Federal Foreign Office condemned Rajab’s sentencing and called for Bahrain to respect its international obligations to protect human rights. The European Parliament, the United States and Norway have also released statements condemning the rights defender’s sentencing, additionally asking the Bahraini authorities to release Rajab on humanitarian grounds. Ten human rights NGOs, including BCHR, signed an open letter asking nine embassies to be present at Rajab’s trial and to ensure that his rights were adequately protected.
Rajab’s sentencing and detention period have been marred by allegations of mistreatment and the resulting impunity. For instance, prior to Rajab’s sentencing, he was in pretrial detention for more than a year, his trials having been postponed for a total of 26 times. Nine and a half months of Rajab’s detention period were spent in solitary confinement.
Likewise, at times Rajab has been denied access to his lawyer and family, including on 3 July before the first sentencing, and in the weeks following the sentencing.
RETWEET FOR FREEDOM
FIDH: "It's hard to believe, but a tweet of fewer than 140 letters can land a human rights defender in jail these days.
With its RETWEET FOR FREEDOM, FIDH hopes to obtain freedom for the forgotten defenders who are in prison for having tweeted. We need your help!"
Read the callfor action here.
Taking out the trash: UK foreign office report heaps praise on Bahrain
Index on Censorship welcomes UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s interest in human rights. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 2016 Annual Human Rights Report, released on Thursday 20 July, highlights the UK’s work to promote human rights around the world and sets out a list of 30 “Human Rights Priority Countries”, including Bahrain, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
In the report preface, Johnson writes: “Human rights are not inimical to development and prosperity; the opposite is true. Freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to practice whatever religion you want and live your life as you please, provided you do no harm, are the essential features of a dynamic and open society.”
Read the article here.
Read the UK 2016 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report here.