21 Aug, 2015

NGOs Condemn Arrest of Former al-Wefaq MP Sheikh Hasan Isa

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express concern over the recent arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa, a prominent member of the opposition political group al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. His arrest is the latest in a series of such detentions undertaken by the government against opposition political figures. We condemn this arrest as both yet another act of suppression of free speech and a further attack against peaceful political opposition. We therefore call on the government to lift all restrictions against the legitimate and peaceable work of all political societies in Bahrain.

On 18 August 2015, government security forces arrested Sheikh Hasan Isa as he returned from vacation with his family. A former member of parliament for al-Wefaq National Islamic Society representing Sitra, Sheikh Hasan resigned his parliamentary position following a government assault on peaceful protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in February 2011, but maintained active membership in the political society. Upon his arrest, security forces transported him to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), a facility run by the Ministry of Interior known for human rights violations including substantial numbers of cases of reported torture. They held him there without charge for over 48 hours in direct violation of Bahraini domestic criminal law. Sheikh Hasan’s family has not been informed of the reason for his arrest, and the government has thus far denied Sheikh Hasan access to his attorney.

Sheikh Hasan Isa’s arrest is the latest in a campaign of government attacks against Bahrain’s peaceful opposition. The Government of Bahrain has also arrested and prosecuted other prominent political opposition figures, including al-Wefaq Society’s Secretary-General, Shaikh Ali Salman, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison for acts of peaceful speech; former Secretary-General of Wa’ad political society Ebrahim Sherif, who was re-arrested for exercising free speech and criticizing the government; Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society Fadhel Abbas, who was sentenced to five years in prison over a statement in which his society condemned the war in Yemen; and al-Wefaq’s General Secretariat member Majeed Milad, who was arrested for a speech in which he demanded fair electoral districts, a democratic State, and self-determination for the people. The government has also summoned other political leaders for interrogation over similar accusations, chiefly including al-Wefaq General-Secretary's Political Assistant Khalil Marzooq.

BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD believe that the arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa is in contravention of international legal protections, including his right not to be deprived arbitrarily of liberty as set forth in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD urge the Bahraini government to:

  • Immediately release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa, and all other prisoners of conscience detained on charges of free expression;
  • Take concrete steps towards resuming a national dialogue, including the release of all members of the Bahrain 13, other prominent opposition leaders including Sheikh Ali Salman, and human rights defenders like Naji Fateel; and
  • Cease all reprisals taken against individuals peacefully exercising their right to free expression as guaranteed by Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On the United Nations and its Member States to:

  • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa;
  • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to end all harassment of political opposition leaders and take concrete steps towards resuming national dialogue;
  • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, compelling the Government to urgently implement all recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations;

On the United States to:

  • Reapply and immediately put into effect the recently lifted arms suspension on the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard;

On the United Kingdom to:

  • Reassess the current program of assistance to the Government of Bahrain in light of the ongoing abuses;
  • List Bahrain as a Country of Concern in the next FCO Human Rights Report;

On the European Union to:

  • Condemn the re-arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa and adopt the recommendations outlined in the European Parliament’s Urgent Resolution of 9 July 2015 on Bahrain.
15 Aug, 2015

Authorities Suppress Popular Celebration of Bahrain’s Independence Day

Since 2009, it has become the custom to carry out peaceful protests demanding self-determination on 14 August in celebration of Bahrain’s Independence Day. On 14 August 1971, Bahrain was announced as an independent sovereign Arab country, free from the British occupation. This historic decision was issued by the United Nations to crown the struggle and sacrifices of the people of Bahrain to obtain their right to self-determination.

From 2009 and beyond, this day has witnessed the presence of security forces countrywide. They routinely suppressed all protests using shotgun pellets and tear gas which caused injuries among protesters that ranged in severity. In addition, protesters have been arrested for the charge of illegal assembly. The authorities in Bahrain do not hold any kind of celebration on this day.

On 13 August 2010, the authorities launched the most repressive campaign in the history of Bahrain, which started with the arrest of the activist Dr. AbdulJalil Al-Singace because he "was intending to organize an event on the so-called National Day of the Kingdom of Bahrain in this month." The authorities in Bahrain claimed that it was "to promote national division" and proceeded to arrest hundreds of activists and dissidents, who were detained for months. They were released during the temporary period of breakthrough in February 2011, as a result of the popular uprising; but it was short-lived and soon was brutally suppressed, with many more arrests following.

In 2013, a group of citizens announced the formation of the "Tamarod" (Rebellion) group that set 14 August 2013 to be the start to its activities. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) documented a fast escalation of violations by the authorities a month and a half before the start date. There were reports of an increase in violence, arbitrary arrests, house raids, and blocking villages with barbed wires and cement barriers. Also, the Bahraini authorities passed new to restrict opposition activities.

 

Read the Full Report Here

7 Aug, 2015

Champions for Justice: Bahrain’s Student Prisoners

Since 2011, students and children in Bahrain have faced arbitrary charges and detention related to their freedoms of expression and assembly. Some have been arrested for participating in pro-democracy protests; others have been detained for apparently no reason at all. Bahraini authorities have treated preteen and teenage citizens as enemies, subjecting them to maltreatment, impeding their educational development, and inflicting physical and psychological wounds. 

More than half of the 200 minors currently imprisoned in Bahrain are housed in adult detention centers. Officers regularly arrest minors without presenting warrants, and once imprisoned, security forces deny them access to their families and attorneys. Bahraini authorities accuse children of a wide variety of crimes, including illegal gathering and rioting, destroying property, attacking police officers, damaging police vehicles, and possessing Molotov cocktails. They have not hesitated to use violence and intimidation in order to extract forced confessions. 

Children imprisoned in Bahrain miss critical years of their education, often being denied adequate access to education while serving out their sentences; children who should be in school are instead sitting neglected in prison. Bahrain has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that all children have the right to a primary education.

As August 12 is International Youth Day, this month we highlight students who have been imprisoned in Bahrain and denied their right to an education.

Nedhal Ali Hussain al-Abood was arrested from his home by Bahraini authorities on 24 September 2013, when he was 15 years old. Authorities did not present an arrest warrant to Nedhal before they transported him to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID), where he faced 48 hours of incommunicado detention and abuse at the hands of Bahraini security officers. Nedhal later told his parents that he signed a false confession in order to avoid returning to the CID. On 13 August 2014, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Nedhal to life imprisonment under the anti-terrorism law for acts that he claims he did not commit. An appellate court later reduced Nedhal’s sentence to 15 years. His favorite hobby was football, and he intended to finish high school and go to university to become a doctor.

Ammar Yasser Abdulla Abbas was arrested from his home by Bahraini security forces on 2 March 2014, when he was just 13 years old. Security forces did not present him with a warrant. He was transported to Samaheej police station, where security forces beat him in an attempt to extract a confession. On the same day as his arrest, the Bahrain Criminal Court sentenced Ammar to six months of detention for arson, illegal gathering, violence, and possession of Molotov cocktails. Though security forces administer examinations inside the juvenile center where he is detained, they endeavor uncomfortable for inmates. Ammar was attending the ninth grade when he was arrested.

Jehad Sadeq al-Hebaishi was arrested by Bahraini authorities in the Bilad al-Qadeem area on 23 July 2012, when he was 16 years old. While detained at the CID, security officers slapped, insulted, tortured, and humiliated him. He was kept in solitary confinement for ten days and refused permission to consult with a lawyer. On 4 April 2013, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Jehad to ten years in prison under the anti-terrorism law, despite the fact that he told the court he had been tortured into giving a false confession. He remains in Jau Prison. In 2015, at age 19, Jehad was allowed to resume his studies in prison and recently completed a semester. But this resumption of education comes after three critical years without it, and reflects the arbitrary way by which prison authorities deprive youths of education. His hobbies included photography, sports, and traveling. Jehad had hoped to graduate from high school and go to university with his friends to study engineering. 

Abdul Aziz al-Mula was pulled from his mother’s car and arrested at a checkpoint on 26 June 2013. Security forces did not present him with a warrant. They transported him to the Isa Town police station, where he faced verbal and psychological abuse. Security forces eventually charged Abdul with arson and possession of Molotov cocktails. A Bahraini court sentenced him to five years of detention, a sentence that was later shortened to two years on appeal. Abdul remains in Jau Prison, where he suffers from psychological abuse and an eye injury that has rendered him blind in one eye. Abdul was in the 12th grade when he was arrested. His family is working with the Ministry of Education in an attempt to allow Abdul to continue pursuing his education.

Mustafa Mohammed Ali was arrested by security forces in August 2013, when he was 17 years old. Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member of the group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the Bahrain 13. His arrest may be related to the ongoing persecution of his family. Security forces interrogated Mustafa at the CID, where he was threatened with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Mustafa signed the confession and authorities charged him with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel. A criminal court convicted Mustafa and sentenced him to six months in prison, later reduced to three months in prison. Mustafa turned himself in to Sitra police station on 10 July 2015 and was immediately transferred to Dry Dock Prison. Security forces deny him clean clothes and access to money for food. Mustafa completed his intending to pursue a career as a doctor.

Sayed Adnan Sayed Majeed al-Khabbaz was arrested by Bahraini security forces on 28 March 2014 for allegations related to an attack on an on-duty police officer. Sayed was accused in several cases, and has been sentenced to over five years in detention. He currently serves his sentences in Jau Prison. Sayed could not finish his studies because of continuous home raids and numerous arrests. He was only able to complete the 11th grade before he was forced to withdraw from school.

Ahmed al-Saroo was arrested during a raid on his home conducted by masked Bahraini security forces on 9 April 2013, when he was 15 years old. Security forces transported him to the CID, where he faced harassment and abuse during his detention. Ahmed signed a forced confession after security personnel insulted him and threatened to beat him on his already injured leg. He was not provided access to a lawyer during interrogation. Under the anti-terrorism law, the court sentenced Ahmed to three years in prison on 19 September 2013, and he is currently serving his sentence in Jau Prison. Ahmed enjoyed photography and swimming, and wished to graduate high school and attend university with his friends.

Sayed Hadi Mohamed was arrested by Ministry of Interior (MOI) security forces during an attack on a friend’s home on 23 April 2014. MOI forces did not present him with a warrant at the time of his arrest. He was charged with criminal arson and transported from Samaheej police station to Dry Dock Detention Center, where police covered his head with a mask and took photographs of him holding Molotov cocktails. The photographs were later used against him. Sayed was in the ninth grade at the time of his arrest. His father filed legal papers and followed up with prison authorities and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in order to make sure Sayed could continue his schooling in prison, but the prison authorities only allowed him to take two of his final exams. He therefore failed the entire school year. The school called Sayed’s father and told him they never received any forms from the MOI or the MOE. Sayed remains in Dry Dock awaiting trial.

Ebrahim Ahmed al-Muqdad was arrested by Bahraini authorities following clashes in Bilad al-Qadeem on 23 July 2012, when he was 15 years old. Authorities transported him to Qudaibiya police station and then to the CID. He remained disappeared for two days. Security officers tortured Ebrahim during his detention at CID, harassing him, beating him, shocking him, and depriving him of food, sleep, and water. Ebrahim was denied access to a lawyer throughout his detention. Security forces eventually forced him to confess under duress. On 4 April 2013, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Ebrahim to ten years in prison on charges of murdering a policeman, stealing a police vehicle, burning a military armed vehicle, illegal gathering, and possession of Ebrahim enjoyed attending school with his friends and playing with his siblings.

Hussain Faisal Abdul Wahed Jasim al-Nakhotha was arrested by Bahraini security forces while at his friend’s house on 17 September 2013, when he was 17 years old. He was transported to Nabih Saleh police station, where security forces tortured him. The public prosecutor charged Hussain with criminal arson, attacking police officers, and making Molotov cocktails, and ordered him detained for 45 days pending his trial. Hussain awaits trial at Dry Dock Detention Center. Security forces prevented him from taking school examinations during his detention. As a result, Hussain was forced to withdraw from school.

We call on the Government of Bahrain to take substantive measures to protect the rights of minors against arbitrary detention and abuse at the hands of security officers. We urge the government to allow the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children to visit the country to investigate allegations regarding the detention and conviction of underage Bahrainis, as well as to monitor access to education within Bahraini prisons. Finally, we call on the government to thoroughly reevaluate all allegations against those imprisoned while underage, to allow all prisoners access to an adequate education, to hold accountable any officials responsible for the abuse of minors, and – pending the proper investigations – to ensure their release.

5 Aug, 2015

Mass Arbitrary Arrest Campaign Post-Sitra Bombing

5 August 2015 - Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) are extremely concerned over the escalated measures and collective punishment the authorities have subjected the people of Sitra to in the aftermath of the bombing incident. On 28 July 2015, BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD condemned the violent attack on security forces that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight. 

Last week, the Government of Bahrain announced an explosion in Sitra that has reportedly resulted in the death of two policemen and the injury of eight. Immediately following the incident, Bahraini authorities put Sitra under siege and started a random and arbitrary arrest campaign. As a result, around 32 people have been arrested, 26 of which remain in detention. Arrests and searches were carried out without presenting legal warrants. All arrests were conducted through house raids leaving households in chaos and mess, and members of the families were reportedly harassed and traumatized. It was reported that one woman was violently beaten by security forces while trying to defend a relative who was being arrested. Since their arrest, detained individuals were allowed just one call to their families, which lasted only a few seconds before the call was ended. All persons arrested were not allowed to contact their lawyers or have legal representation following their arrest. 

The bomb incident has left the area under siege; the mobility of people living on the island has been restricted. Checkpoints were set up, including on the main causeway connecting Sitra and the main island, which has created traffic jams and hindered movement. Cars and trucks searches have been conducted and there have been some reported arrests at checkpoints. The boosted presence of security forces and newly created checkpoints add to the already existing tension on the island.

BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD condemn the arbitrary arrests and find it alarming that safety of the detainees has been compromised, along with their basic rights of contact with their families and lawyers. We have seen previous similar cases in which speedy arrests and enforced disappearances have led to further human rights violations, including the torture of detainees in detention, deprivation of due process and right to a fair trial. BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD suspect a breach of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”; and Article 12 stating, “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.” The recent actions are also not in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9, Paragraphs 1-5.

Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD urge the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately provide all detained individuals in this case with a lawyer, and allow them access to family visits;
  • end the practice of torture to extract false confessions, and end the practice of subjecting detainees to enforced disappearance;
  • Respect and protect human rights of the suspects during and after the investigation process.
30 Jul, 2015

Bahraini authorities must respect human rights when investigating Sitra bombing

Amnesty International has today called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure those arrested in connection to a recent bombing are not subjected to acts of torture and other ill-treatment while in custody.

The Public Security Chief of the Ministry of Interior stated that several individuals had been arrested in connection with a bombing in the village of Sitra, on an island south of the capital Manama, which killed two policemen and injured six others yesterday. The security forces have been heavily deployed in Sitra and have carried out a number of house raids and arrests since the bombing.

Amnesty International recognizes the Bahraini authorities’ duty and responsibility to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the two policemen and injury of six others. However, the organization urges the authorities to ensure those arrested are not arbitrarily detained or placed at risk of torture and other ill-treatment and are given prompt access to a lawyer and family. If charged, they must be given a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.

In many cases documented by Amnesty International, individuals arrested in connection to past explosions in Bahrain have often been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their first days or weeks in the custody and interrogation at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Many were then tried unfairly and convicted on the basis of “confessions” under torture. Scores have had their nationality revoked and several have been sentenced to death.

Many of those detained, for instance, in connection to an explosion in al-Daih village that killed three policemen on 3 March 2014, complained, including in court, that they were tortured during interrogation at the CID. Their lawyers were not able to meet with any of the defendants until the first session of the trial on 30 April 2014 despite repeated requests to do so ahead of the trial. The court also refused to grant lawyers full access to the evidence (video recording, pictures and witnesses) referred to in the prosecution documents, depriving them the right to equality of arms and preventing them from mounting an adequate defence or meaningfully cross-examining witnesses. In February 2015, the court sentenced three of the defendants to death and seven others to life imprisonment. All had their Bahraini nationality revoked.

Amnesty International is concerned that many of those being detained in relation to the Sitra bombing may be denied access to their lawyers and families for at least 28 days, in accordance with 2014 amendments to the anti-terrorism law, though contrary to international human rights standards. This places them at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. The anti-terrorism law also empowers the detaining authorities to hold them for up to six months without any means to challenge the legality of their detention before a court of law or an independent body.

The bombing on Tuesday in Sitra is the second to take place in one month. On 19 July, a bomb exploded in West Ekar which injured one policeman on duty. In 2014, five policemen died following separate bomb blasts in the village of al-Dair in February, in al-Daih in March and in Damistan in December.

All major political opposition groups in Bahrain publicly condemned Tuesday’s killings.

The Sitra bombing took place after the Ministry of Interior announced on 25 July that the security authorities had “foiled” an attempt to smuggle weapons into Bahrain and that one of two suspects arrested had “received military training in Iran” and was “given funds to assist the failed smuggling operation”. The Chief of Public Security stated that these weapons contain the same substance as that used in the bombing.

 

To view the original statement by Amnesty click here.

 

30 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Ailing human rights defenders Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel not receiving medical support in prison

More than four months since a crackdown on protests took place in Jaw Prison, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned about the treatment of prisoners who were hurt during the incidents in March, notably human rights defender Naji Fateel, a Board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. In addition, human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike for over four months in protest of the treatment of prisoners, causing serious concerns for his health.

Naji Fateel, who was jailed for 15 years for his human rights activities in 2013, was reportedly badly hurt during the events of 10 March when a protest by prisoners was violently suppressed, even though he was a bystander.  In April, GCHR received reports that Fateel was among prisoners being subjected to “physical and psychological torture,” and that he had suffered a broken leg and nose. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/998

Fateel is currently being held in ward 10 at Jaw Prison, which is famous for harassment of prisoners. He has reportedly not received proper treatment for his injuries even though he and his wife submitted several complaints to the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain, from which there was no response.

On 23 July, Fateel appeared before the 4th division of the High Criminal Court in relation to the Jaw Prison protests on 10 March. Fateel was transferred to the court where he was spotted with a shaved head, a procedure usually used to punish prisoners. He is accused of the following three charges: alleged assault of a public servant, damage to public property, and burning public property. The hearing was adjourned to 17 September.

Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 21 March 2015 to draw attention to poor prison conditions and torture, including the violence that occurred in Jaw Prison on 10 March. He is part of the group of activists and human rights defenders known as the Bahrain 13, which also includes GCHR Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the peaceful protests in 2011. Both men have alsoprotested the treatment of prisoners of conscience. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1006

Dr. Al-Singace remains in Al-Qala’a hospital, where he has been kept since 1 April after he collapsed due to the deterioration of his health since he began his hunger strike. Dr. Al-Singace is taking liquids, is on an intravenous drip and getting basic treatment to respond to the health implications of the ongoing hunger strike. His family says hesometimes needs to be taken to Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF) hospital for treatment, but they won’t take him because he refuses to wear the prison uniform.

 

He is in need of treatment for a sore disc in his neck and lower back for which he needs physiotherapy, needs urgent surgery for his ear and nose, and requires a white blood cell count test. As of 22 July his white blood cell count was 3400, whereas it should be 3800.

 

As well, the prison authorities in Jaw Prison set the visit dates for Dr. Al-Singace according to their whims. They sometimes set visits after three weeks and not the standard two. His nephew passed away and the prison authorities refused to give him a condolence visit for it. They are also not allowing him to see his lawyer.

 

The prison authorities came up with new regulations and tried to force the Bahrain 13 to wear the prison uniform (which Dr. Al-Singace refuses to wear because he believes that he is not a criminal, but a prisoner of conscience.) Previously he stopped receiving visits for 10 months in 2013-2014 because of this requirement, which Al-Khawaja has also protested. The prison authorities also tried to implement the humiliating physical body search, where prisoners are forced to take their clothes off and wear a light piece of cloth in order to be searched.

 

The authorities are reportedly ignoring his concerns about prison conditions, apart from a visit from the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain on 7 July after 100 days of hunger strike, and a phone call from an officer to check on his condition.  Dr. Al-Singace told the Ombudsman he wouldn’t submit to wearing the prison uniform in order to go for medical tests and checkups. According to his family, he said, “I’m a respectable person, many officials in this country were taught by me. I’m being punished and humiliated further by making me look like a criminal. I refuse humiliation and insults. I’d rather die here than accept this.”

 

GCHR joined other NGOs to express concern for Dr. Al-Singace earlier this month and call for his freedom. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1039

 

Recommendations:

The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing poor treatment of jailed human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on international supporters to:

1.     Take action and sign a petition posted online by PEN International for Dr. Al-Singace at http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/bahrain-serious-concern-for-the-health-of-academic-activist-and-blogger-dr-abduljalil-al-singace/.

2.     You can also send a letter to Dr. Al-Singace in prison via this link.

 

The GCHR calls on Bahrain’s authorities to:

1.   Free Naji Fateel, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and all wrongfully detained human rights defenders who are in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

2.   Investigate allegations of poor conditions and the torture of inmates in Jaw prison;

3.   Ensure human rights defenders are protected from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities; and

4.   Provide detained human rights defenders proper medical care and attention, and the rights afforded to prisoners under the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

 

Read the original article here.

 

28 Jul, 2015

NGOs Strongly Condemn Violence in Bahrain

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

“Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

“Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

28 Jul, 2015

NGOs Strongly Condemn Violence in Bahrain

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

“Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

“Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

27 Jul, 2015

ADHRB: NGOs Express Concern for Arbitrary Detention of Outstanding Student

20 July 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) are concerned with the arbitrary detention of 18-year-old student Mustafa Mohammed Ali in Bahrain. We are also concerned by reports that Mustafa’s arbitrary conviction will prevent him from receiving his certificate of good conduct from school, a requirement for Mustafa to access higher education in Bahrain.

Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member the prominent group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the ‘Bahrain 13’. We are concerned that Mustafa’s detention may be directly related to the ongoing persecution of his family, who have suffered ongoing government intimidation since 2011.

In August 2013, security forces arrested Mustafa and interrogated him at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). At the CID, authorities threatened Mustafa with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Because of these threats, Mustafa signed the confession and was charged with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel at just 17 years of age.

After obtaining the forced confession, the government immediately transferred Mustafa to Dry Dock Prison, where he served three weeks in pre-trial detention until he was released on bail. A Bahraini criminal court convicted Mustafa of his charges and sentenced him to six months in prison; an appellate court later upheld Mustafa’s conviction, but reduced the sentence to three months imprisonment. Both courts relied substantially upon Mustafa’s forced confession in securing his conviction and sentence.

On 10 July 2015, Mustafa turned himself into Sitra police station, whereupon the government immediately transferred him to the facility for minors at Dry Dock Prison. Mustafa has been detained since, and is currently being denied clean clothes and access to money with which to purchase food.

Mustafa completed his secondary school studies and graduated with honors, obtaining an outstanding 98.7% mark in his science courses. He intends on attending medical school and pursuing a career as a doctor. However, his arbitrary criminal conviction may interfere with his plans for higher education, as Bahraini universities require that students submit certificates of good conduct in order to obtain admission.

“Mustafa should be preparing for his life at university,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB, “Instead, the government is punishing him for being the son of a political prisoner. Bahrain’s allies must reject this attack on Mustafa, as well as the greater attack upon his generation.”

Mustafa’s conviction stands in direct violation of Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that ‘in the determination of any criminal charge,’ a defendant should be guaranteed the right ‘not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.’ It is also in violation of Article 13(c) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which states that ‘higher education shall be made equally accessible to all…’

Since 2011, many students and children have been detained on arbitrary charges related to their free expression or assembly. Families of prominent activists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders have also been systematically targeted by the government.

“Bahrain has not imprisoned a criminal, it has imprisoned its future,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, “Today’s generation of Bahrainis are being deprived of an education, and in the long term it is everyone in Bahrain who will suffer for it.”

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy condemn the arbitrary conviction and detention of Mustafa Mohammed Ali and call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali, and all other students or individuals arbitrarily detained or convicted;
  • Urgently grant Mustafa Mohammed Ali the documentation required for him to pursue his studies at University level;
  • Remove all restrictions on current and former detainees’ access to education and other social, economic and cultural rights;
  • Take urgent and effective measures to reform the judicial system towards compliance with international standards and minimum guarantees for those convicted, as outlined in Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

On the United Nations and its Member States to:

  • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali;
  • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging the Government to take urgent steps towards reforms in line with recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Second Cycle UPR Recommendations

 

To read the original article, please click here.

 

27 Jul, 2015

Discrimination And Lack of Transparency in the Distribution of Scholarships in Bahrain

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over acts of discrimination and a lack of transparency associated with the scholarship distribution system in Bahrain. The organization deems the system to be unjust, lacking transparency and preventing talented students with high GPAs and aspirations from pursuing further education.

 

Since 2011, the Ministry of Education has stopped publishing the names of students who received scholarships publicly in newspapers. On 18 July 2015, the results were endorsed by the Minister and were available to each student upon logging in to his or her account on the Ministry’s website. Since then, widespread public complaints about the results have been published over social media as well as mainstream media. For example, there are several cases of Shia students with GPAs over 90% who received no scholarship, but a mere grant of up to BDH400 (around €960) annually, which does not cover even a half of their tuition fees and cost of living. Around 600 students have scored over 95% GPA, and there were 2144 scholarship offered (2073 scholarships in Bahrain and 71 in other GCC countries). For example, Nawraa Abdulnabi is a student with 99.1% GPA who has requested to study medicine, but instead of a scholarship she was provided a grant. Zainab Mohamed, who also scored 99.1% and was looking to study medicine, has been provided with a scholarship in Nutrition.

 

Another flaw concerning the scholarship system implemented by the Ministry of Education is its process. In order to apply for a scholarship, the top students need to apply for 12 majors to which they aspire, a number far greater than their interests. The process of applying for a scholarship is based 60% on academic achievement and the remaining 40% depends on a personal interview. Some students recalled uncomfortable questions regarding politics and their support for the regime. This generates a very subjective assessment of one’s capability of receiving a scholarship, with a major focus revolving around awarding loyalty to the state of Bahrain.

 

Moreover, in some instances, instead of getting a scholarship, top students sometimes land in jail. The recent case of Mustafa Mohammed Ismael, a top Bahraini Shia student with a GPA averaging 98.8%, was arrested for allegedly taking part in an “illegal gathering” instead of being able to pursue his medical studies.   

 

These cases are alarming and BCHR suspects a breach of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, “Everyone has the right of education. Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Furthermore, Bahrain is a signatory of the International Convention on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of the Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which reads, “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.” It also says: “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.”

 

The BCHR believes that the current scholarship distribution system lacks transparency, and its mechanism of awarding scholarships leaves room for practical discrimination based on opinion or sect.

 

Based on the information provided above, the BCHR urges the international community to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

 

·     Reform the scholarship distribution system so that it is more effective, just and transparent;

·     Put an end to all possible discrimination related to religion and beliefs in the context of distributing the scholarships; and

·     Respect and obey the treaties and declarations signed which advocate for fair and equal accessibility to higher education based on academic merit only.

 

 

For more on Government Discrimination Against Shia in Bahrain, read BCHR’s latest report: Apart in Their Own Land.