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Asma Darwish's oral intervention @ HRC 33rd _ 29/09/2016

BCHR at HRC33: Bahrain Hostile to OHCHR's Cooperation Programs

On 29 September Asma Darwish, Advocacy Officer at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 10 on technical assistance and capacity-building carried out by OHCHR, together with the AlSalam Foundation, the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights (BIRD) and the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB).

Read the full remarks below or access the document in PDF format here. Watch the presentation here.


Mr. President,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, together with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), are concerned with Bahrain’s total lack of cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Over past months, Bahrain has created an extremely hostile environment for OHCHR’s cooperation programs, imprisoning human rights defenders, deporting religious leaders and dissolving the main political opposition. This session, we were shocked by Bahrain’s decision to issue blanket travel bans preventing civil society from engaging with the Council.

Moreover, Bahrain has made a conscious effort to both internationally and locally undermine the High Commissioner and his office, calling into question its independence, impartiality and calling the High Commissioner “baseless and powerless”.

Therefore, we were surprised to hear the Government express its readiness to cooperate with OHCHR earlier this session, when its behavior and practices suggest otherwise. Only a few days ago, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister said that Bahrain would not “waste its time on the Human Rights Council”.

We strongly believe that Bahrain’s cooperation with OHCHR is of utmost importance, especially given the alarming deterioration in the human rights situation. We particularly think that the High Commissioner’s office could assist in justice system and in security sector reform, where the gravest violations are occurring.

We urge the Council to remain prized of the situation in Bahrain. We call on Bahrain to end all reprisals against civil society and to look to its upcoming UPR as an opportunity to pave a genuine and tangible path for reform and cooperation with OHCHR.

Thank you.

BCHR: 22 Citizens Arrested in 1 Week, Court Rules Total of 140 Years of Imprisonment in 6 Cases

Head of the monitoring and documentation unit at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Inas Aoun, said that 22 citizens were arrested in the past week (October 19-25, 2016), among which was a child not exceeding 18 years of age.

Aoun confirmed that half the detainees were arbitrarily arrested "through breaking into their houses at dawn without any arrest warrants, which is considered a violation of international conventions on political rights.


Continue reading here.

64 Academics from 20 Countries Urge Ban Ki-moon to Interfere to Stop Oppression in Bahrain

A group of 64 researchers and academics from 20 different countries sent a letter to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, expressing their concern regarding the recent repressive measures taken against the spiritual leader of the Shiite majority in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim.

Read the full article here

Bahrain: One Year in prison for each day at Duraz sit-in

The Prosecution of Duraz Protesters Continues: 11 Verdicts so far.

Bahrain’s courts continue to convict protesters over their peaceful participation in the ongoing Duraz sit-in. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply worried about the abyssal neglect of basic human rights in Bahrain and condemns the recent court rulings with their disproportionately lengthy prison terms, which solely serve to silence political dissent and to further deter protesters from expressing their opinions freely.

The most recent case concerns Habib Al-Dirazi, a 19-year-old Islamic preacher, who has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for participating in the Duraz protests. Last week, on 21 September 2016, a Bahraini court confirmed and upheld the sentence issued against him. Al-Dirazi joined the sit-in in Duraz for two days (25 and 26 June). In the aftermath, a case was raised against him for each day that he participated in the protest under charges of “illegal gathering.” The court sentenced him to one year in prison for each of these days.

Since late June 2016, thousands of Bahrainis gathered in Duraz to stage an open-ended sit-in in order to show their support for Shia leader Sheikh Isa Qassim, whose citizenship was revoked by the government. Despite the authorities’ attempts to limit participation by restricting access to Duraz and to deter protesters by increasingly arresting protesters, the sit-in has continued for about 100 days. BCHR has previously condemned the excessive violations of freedom of assembly and expression, but Bahraini courts continue to prosecute Duraz protesters for what is termed “illegal gatherings.” Since 19 August 2016, when the first sentence was issued against Shiite cleric Sheikh Ali Humeidan, eleven defendants in eight cases have been sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison over their participation in the Duraz protests. The verdict against Al-Dirazi is thus another one in a series of disproportionately lengthy prison terms for peaceful protest against the government’s politics.

The government’s actions are in direct violation to Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that “the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Disregarding such international obligations, the Bahraini government has moved forward to restrict the right to freedom of assembly and expression since the 2011 pro-democracy movement. In 2013 for example, all demonstrations, particularly in the capital Manama, were banned unless permitted by the Ministry of Interior.

The legal restrictions on the right to free assembly and speech as well as recent court rulings on Duraz protesters manifest the Bahraini government’s neglect to follow up on the recommendations of the second Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This disregard for its own commitment to follow up on the recommendations  has also recently been stressed by NGOs in a joint statement during the 33rd session of the UNHRC.

We call upon the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately release all those detained for peacefully practicing the freedom of assembly and expression, and to withdrew all charges against them; and
  • Annul and withdraw any restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and expression and allow peaceful protesters to exercise their fundamental rights without disturbance and fear of interrogation, arrest or any other form of reprisal.

Index on Censorship: Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab put in isolation ahead of 6 October trial

On Sunday 25 September Nabeel Rajab was transferred from the West Riffa Police Station to solitary confinement in the East Riffa Police Station ahead of his sentencing next week.

“It’s been over a hundred days since Nabeel was arrested and charged and am very worried about his well-being. He has been treated harshly and sent back to a place where he suffered complete isolation in facilities not fit for purpose,” Sumaya Rajab, Nabeel’s wife, said.

The last time the 2012 Index on Censorship award-winning Rajab was held in East Riffa, he required urgent medical care after two weeks of isolation in deplorable conditions. The president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights faces up to 15 years in prison on 6 October on three charges related to his posts on social media.


Continue reading here.

Bahrain: Foreign Minister glosses over rights record at UN General Assembly

27 September 2016 – Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa delivered a statement yesterday on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. The undersigned NGOs condemn the Foreign Minister’s misleading and unconstructive remarks as the Bahraini government continues its campaign to conceal its human rights violations from the international community.

Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa, who has publicly undermined the authority of both the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and the High Commissioner of Human Rights himself, used his platform to outline the government’s perceived commitment to human rights. He highlighted the country’s achievements in regards to women’s rights and the kingdom’s role in establishing security and stability in the region. However, he failed to address the widespread human rights violations carried out by Bahraini authorities, which have led to an extremely tense political situation that promotes the exact opposite of “stability.”

The Foreign Minister was quick to point to the achievements of Bahraini women at the international level, such as their appointment to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Executive Board of UN Women. While the success of Bahraini women should not be discounted, the Foreign Minister failed to provide a full picture of Bahrain’s record on women’s rights, specifically how it has targeted women human rights defenders and instituted new restrictions on women’s participation in the hajj. Most recently, Bahraini authorities arrested and imprisoned activist and founder of the Women’s Petition Committee, Ghada Jamsheer, as she returned to Bahrain. The pending charges against her are all related to Jamsheer’s activism, such as her online criticism of the government and her work on corruption.

Additionally, it was only in March of this year that Bahraini authorities arrested and imprisoned human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja with her infant son. After two months of heavy international pressure, the authorities released al-Khawaja. However, due to threats and pressure from the Bahraini government, she Zainab left Bahrain and now lives in exile in Denmark. Her sister, Maryam Al-Khawaja, is another prominent human rights defender who also lives in exile in Denmark. Maryam Al-Khawaja  is at risk of imprisonment, should she return to Bahrain.

“Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wants to discuss Bahrain’s ‘stability’ and the achievements of Bahraini women on the international stage but fails to address the government’s constant targeting of female human rights defenders,” stated Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “He should also be addressing the destabilizing effects of discrimination and punitive travel bans, many of which target women human rights defenders and prevent them from engaging with international bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.”

The Foreign Minister went on to state that the “wellbeing, happiness and stability of our citizens are the main pillars of development in all fields.” Yet it remains completely unclear how the recently intensified campaignagainst civil society contributes to the happiness and stability of Bahraini citizens. Repression has reached such heights that five UN Special Procedures issued a joint statement calling on the Bahraini authorities to halt their “persecution” of the country’s marginalized Shia majority. A recent US Department of State reporton Bahrain as well as the opening remarks of the High Commissioner for Human Rights countered his baseless claim of guaranteed constitutional rights to all citizens. Foreign governments, international bodies, and independent NGOs have all called attention to widespread use of arbitrary detentions, arrests, torture, and due process violations in the country.

The Foreign Minister discussed Bahrain’s national path to prosperity and advancement, but declined to mention how the government has actively suppressed the development of a free, independent civil society. Bahrain’s courts recently upheld a ruling to dissolve the largest political opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, continues to enforce legislation that criminalizes dissent, and routinely imprisons human rights defenders like Bahrain Center for Human Rights president Nabeel Rajab. Nabeel Rajab faces up to 15 years in prison on 6 October on charges related to his freedom of expression. Authorities brought new charges against him after he wrote a letter to the New York Times. For activists, independent political leaders, and critics of the government, there is no national path to progress.

“This is just more empty rhetoric from the Bahraini government,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD).  Bahrain’s authoritarian actions more accurately illustrate where they stand on human rights. For those who disagree with the government, the only ‘national path’ that exists is to prison.”

The speech also alluded to the importance of stability and security of society at large. Again, the Foreign Minister omitted the fact that Bahraini authorities themselves use hate speech to discredit political opposition and stoke societal division. Authorities not only tolerate hate speech against the Shia population, but they use it as a political tool to quell cross-sectarian participation in pro-democracy movements. These tactics defy the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) recommendation to prevent sectarianism and integrate the country’s security forces. Indeed, despite its declarations, the government has failed to implement the vast majority of the BICI’s 26 recommendations. A November 2015 study by ADHRB, BIRD and BCHR found Bahrain had only fully implemented just two recommendations, with eight key recommendations completely unimplemented.

We find the Foreign Minister’s attempt to whitewash these crimes against Bahrain’s citizens deplorable. We call on the international community to hold the Government of Bahrain accountable for its systemic human rights violations:

  • Call for the release of Nabeel Rajab and the dropping of all charges against him, and for the release of all prisoners of conscience and persons detained for their free expression.
  • Call and act for the reversal of Al Wefaq’s dissolution.
  • Suspend sales of arms and investment into Bahrain until the Governments meets and implements all BICI recommendations.



Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)

Prominent HR Activist Nabeel Rajab to be Transferred to Deplorable Prison by "Force"

Adam Rajab, son of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, said that the detention authorities at the West Riffa Police Station notified his father of the decision to transfer him to the East Riffa Police Station, where he was held during the first 3 weeks of his detention.


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HRC Member States Condemn Bahraini Measures against Opposition

More member states at the UN Human Rights Council condemned on Monday (September 19, 2016), the measures adopted by the Bahraini authorities against the Bahraini opposition and civil society institutions.

On his level, the Swiss representative expressed his country's concern in relation to dissolving the Al-Wefaq Islamic National Society, and increasing the imprisonment sentence against its Secretary General Sheikh Ali Salman to 9 years. He also condemned the travel ban imposed on the Bahraini rights activists.

Read full article here

BCHR at HRC33: Bahrain Did Not Follow Up on Recommendations

On 23 September, Erin Sigmon from Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrian (ADHRB), delivered an oral intervention at the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva under Item 6, together with Alsalam Foundation, the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights (BIRD) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). In the intervention Sigmon pointed out that the Bahraini government did not follow up on the vast majority of the proposed recommendations from the previous cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Continue reading for the full intervention or click here for a PDF version. A video of the intervention is available here.


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 call the Council’s attention to the upcoming third cycle of the Universal Period Review of Bahrain. ADHRB has completed a preliminary assessment of the government’s progress in implementing the previous 176 recommendations provided to Bahrain in its 2012 second-cycle review, and found that Bahrain has effectively rejected the vast majority of the proposed reforms.

Although the government accepted 158 of the Human Rights Council’s 176 recommendations, the government has only made considerable progress in implementing three of these. 122 recommendations have not been implemented to any significant extent and 33 have been merely technically implemented through cosmetic efforts with little to no substantive impact.

Four years on, the Government of Bahrain has refused to implement recommendations to reform its criminal justice system, curb the use of torture, or institute real protections for basic human rights like free expression, assembly, association, and belief. Rather, Bahraini authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, disappear, torture, and imprison individuals for exercising these rights. Since its last review, Bahrain has significantly expanded its criminal code and counter-terror laws to broadly restrict free expression and assembly—effectively criminalizing all forms of dissent. The government has additionally taken steps to imprison, harass and constrain most of Bahrain’s civil, political and religious societies.

Some issue, such as women’s rights, had seen modest steps toward improvement during the beginning of Bahrain’s second UPR cycle. Yet today, the government has begun backsliding in these areas too, having recently issued problematic new policies instituting new male guardianship regulations for female religious pilgrims and targeting women’s rights activists with imprisonment or exile.

We therefore call on the members of this Council to follow up on the recommendations given to Bahrain during its previous UPR cycle, while underscoring a need for accountability and transparency for implementation in the coming third cycle review.

Thank you