16 Jul, 2015

UN: Freed from jail, now all charges against Nabeel Rajab must be dropped

GENEVA (16 July 2015) – Three United Nations human rights experts* today call on the Bahraini authorities to drop all charges the prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was released from prison earlier this week for health reasons. While welcoming Mr. Rajab’s release, the experts called it “only a half measure, given that the he is still facing charges that carry up to fifteen years of imprisonment.”

Mr. Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was jailed in October 2014 in connection with statements made on his Twitter account and was initially charged for ‘publicly insulting official institutions.’ This was only months after he had completed a two-year prison sentence after calling for and participating in peaceful demonstrations.

Despite his recent release, Mr.Rajab’s pending charges include ‘disseminating false rumours in the time of war,’ ‘insulting public officials’ and ‘disseminating false news causing damage to the public security.’

“Criminalizing, prosecuting and imprisoning human rights defenders for carrying out their vital human rights work and enriching public debate are unacceptable under international law,” the experts stressed. “Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation or imprisonment.”

“We call for the immediate release of all Bahraini activists, as well as political dissidents, detained for peaceful exercise of their rights,” said the the experts, who have expressed serious concerns on a number of occasions to the Bahraini Government concerning the harassment of civil society and political activists in the country.

The UN experts continue to urge the authorities to review domestic laws and practices to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law, in particular the freedoms of expression and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

(*) The UN experts: Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.


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15 Jul, 2015

Concern over Privacy as New Evidences Emerge on Spyware sales To Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over recent reports and evidence indicating Bahrain’s purchase of advanced surveillance tools primarily used to spy on human rights activists and political opponents.


The recent hack by an unknown source of the Italian surveillance technology company Hacking Team revealed some troubling connections with Bahrain. Over 400 gigabytes of data, ranging from e-mails to personal WhatsApp backups, linked the company and its services to several governments around the world. This sensitive information entailed a purchase of the notorious spyware “Remote Control System” which spies on political opponents, human rights advocates, journalists and digital activists. It does so by recording Skype calls, controlling the target’s devices and eavesdropping via a computer’s webcam.


This spyware and other surveillance services were used by 37 countries, including Bahrain. Among the 400 gigabytes of data, was a file called “Midworld Pro – Bahrain” which indicated a Bahraini purchase of the “Remote Control System” spyware worth €210,000 (over 87,000 Bahraini dinars), likely used to target human rights activists and political opposition.


This is not the first time Bahrain has been found to be using malware to spy on activists and violate their privacy. Research published in August 2014 found Bahrain to be using the UK FinFisher spy software (also known as FinSpy) to hack on human rights lawyers, politicians and even members of a government commission investigating human rights abuses.  


BCHR considers these new findings to be compelling evidence of the repressive conditions in Bahrain, and sees it as a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 of that Declaration urges that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Article 19 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.


Bahrain is known to have been arresting and torturing online users who have practiced their freedom of expression over the Internet. in its latest report about freedom on the Internet, Freedom House has ranked Bahrain as not free.  


Based on the above, the BCHR calls on European governments to:     

  • Apply stronger measures to prevent such technology from being supplied to states that do not comply with international human rights norms and practices.


And to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately stop purchasing and engaging with Hacking Team and any other spyware provider.
  • Stop spying on human rights activists and political opponents
  • Respect its obligation to protect human rights, including the right to privacy and to freedom of expression.


14 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Mohamed Faraj Deprived of Medical Care in Jaw Prison

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the deprivation of adequate medical care of detainees in Jaw Prison, including in cases where the detainees are suffering from serious diseases. The BCHR has regularly documented the refusal by prison officials to give the detainees the medical assistance that they need.

For example, Mohammed Faraj (21 years old) was arrested on 27 October 2014, when he was sentenced to 10 years on charges of alleged “criminal burning and illegal gathering,” which was reduced upon appeal to 7 years on 26 January 2015. He was arrested at the court where he presented himself in a wheelchair.

Since then, he has been detained at Jaw Prison. According to medical reports obtained by BCHR, Faraj is suffering from a rare disease called Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Before his arrest, he was receiving treatment at the neurology clinic in Salmaniya Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Issa Al-Shroogi. His disease requires injection treatments three times a week and a regular intake of medicine. However, the administration at Jaw Prison refuses to accept the injections and medicine that his family has tried to provide many times. As Faraj’s disease has worsened, his lawyer, Sami Siadi, has submitted two letters to the judge in question requesting a suspension of the prison sentence. However, this request has not been answered despite the fact that Faraj continues facing serious risks such as sight loss and paralysis.

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on governments and international organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Provide Mohamed Faraj and all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment; and
  • End the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation and punishment for exercising their human rights.