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Prince Charles under pressure to raise human rights abuses as he arrives in Bahrain for opening of £30m naval base

Prince Charles is under pressure to raise the issue of torture and human rights abuses in Bahrain when he arrives in the troubled Gulf state this week as part of celebrations to mark 200 years of diplomatic relations with Britain. The heir to the throne is due to arrive in the kingdom on Wednesday for a three-day tour during which he is due to open part of Britain’s first military base in the Middle East for more than 40 years when he visits a new £30m facility on the Persian Gulf to be used by the Royal Navy.

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UN Report: “The Assault on Reporting”

A journalist investigates corruption at the highest levels of her Government and soon finds herself fighting fictional charges from the cell of a prison. A critic of a Government is assassinated while buying groceries. Another Government bans its main political opposition party as “extremist”, sending its leaders to jail. A cartoonist faces prosecution under his country’s laws against sedition. A Government shuts down the Internet in advance of public protests, while another uses surveillance to target political opposition. Bloggers are brutally murdered because their work angers religious dogmatists. Governments criminalize the praising of terrorism even absent incitement to violence. A photojournalist is held without charge. An activist is arrested for a tweet, another for a post, yet another for an e-mail.

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Saudi Arabia appoints Bahraini judge involved in Arab Spring crackdown to investigate alleged war crimes in Yemen

Saudi Arabia has appointed a Bahraini national accused of overseeing torture and unfairly sentencing Arab Spring protesters to lengthy jail terms to investigate human rights violations caused by coalition bombing in Yemen

The colonel gained notoriety in dealing with protesters in the wake of the Arab Spring in Bahrain in 2011, running a tribunal which prosecuted hundreds of non-violent pro-democracy protesters, academics, writers and journalists, often handing down life imprisonment sentences

Dozens of those he sentenced allege torture and sexual assault while they were detained, which they say Colonel Al-Mansour ignored.

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BAHRAIN: Court postpones verdict for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, facing up to 15 years in jail

Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab remains jailed for his alleged tweets and his human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression after a judge postponed his trial on 31 October 2016 but did not free him on bail despite his illness.

Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications. The trial was attended by diplomatic representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

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Journalist Faisal Hayyat Facing Prison for “Defamatory” Tweets

3 November 2016 - Journalist Faisal Hayyat appeared in court today on charges related to a "defamatory" tweet. His sentencing was postponed to 29 November 2016. We, the undersigned, consider this a violation of his freedom of expression and condemn his prosecution as well as the Bahraini government’s continued criminalisation of free speech.

Authorities arrested Faisal Hayyat on 9 October 2016 for a tweet alleged by the prosecution to defame the Sunni sect in Bahrain; ‘insulting religion’ is a charge that carries a one-year prison sentence. Hayyat’s prosecution formally relates to tweets he posted on 7 October 2016 during the religious month of Muharram.

Before his arrest, on 1 October, Hayyat had also written an open letter to Bahrain's Minister of Interior, in which he wrote "as a citizen" urging for an end to restrictions on civil and political freedoms and a solution to the country's crisis. We are concerned that Hayyat’s prosecution for his tweets may be a reprisal against this public criticism.

Hayyat’s 7 October tweets refer to the historical figure, Caliph Yazid, a controversial figure in Islam due to his role in the killing of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The government’s decision to prosecute him may therefore infringe on Hayyat’s religious freedom as well as his expression. Regardless of the contents of the tweets, defamation should not be a criminal offence.

Hayyat is a former sports journalist and a social media activist who directs and presents short video programs online which provide critical perspectives on local politics. He is also a torture survivor. In 2011, he attended protests criticising state control of the media and calling for the resignation of the head of the Information Affairs Authority, the state's media regulator, Sheikh Fawaz Al Khalifa. Sheikh Fawaz is today Bahrain's ambassador to London.

Hayyat was arrested on 7 April 2011 and held until 29 June 2011, during which he was subjected to torture and humiliation. During interrogation, officers physically beat Hayyat on his back, head, and shoulders. They hit him with their guns and subjected him to sexual abuse. A court case was filed against him, but eventually dropped in December 2011. We, the undersigned, condemn Faisal Hayyat’s continued prosecution.

We, the undersigned, call on the Government of Bahrain to cease his prosecution on expression-related charges and respect the rights to expression and religion as protected under articles 19 and 18 respectively of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the latter of which Bahrain acceded to in 2006.

Signed,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

Bahrain: Joint Press Release: Court postpones verdict for human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, facing up to 15 years in jail

Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab remains jailed for his alleged tweets and his human rights activities in violation of his right to freedom of expression after a judge postponed his trial on 31 October 2016 but did not free him on bail despite his illness.

During the hearing, where a verdict had been expected, Judge Ebrahim Al-Zayed of the Fourth High Criminal Court postponed the trial until 15 December in order to obtain a technical expert from the Cyber-Crime Unit to determine who runs Rajab’s twitter account.

Rajab arrived at the court right before the hearing, and was taken out immediately after the Judge made his pronouncements, while Rajab’s lawyers were still making applications. The trial was attended by diplomatic representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

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Hamilton backs NI-CO over Bahrain 'torture' appeal

A call for the Stormont executive to suspend the work of a Belfast based company training security forces in Bahrain has been rejected.

NI-CO, owned by Invest NI, has worked with the police and prison services in the Gulf state. 

In a report published in September, human rights group Reprieve said those organisations were guilty of torture.I

It called on Stormont economy minister Simon Hamilton to suspend the contract.

But in a letter to the group, the minister said the executive was not in a position to suspend the company's work in Bahrain as it didn't award the contract.

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Rights Groups Call for Bahrain Government to Take Action on Recommendations of UN Universal Periodic Review

On 22 September 2016, CIVICUS, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) made a joint submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ahead of Bahrain’s review in 2017. The submission examines the Bahraini government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, as the extent to which the recommendations of the previous UPR in 2012 have been fulfilled remains debatable. Several different sectors are addressed by the UPR such as, Freedom of Assembly, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Civil Society Representatives, Freedom of Expression and the Right to Peaceful Assembly. These are all core to the objectives of the three organisation in their pursuit of a just human rights environment in Bahrain.

Read the full report here.

Firstly, the UPR addressed Freedom of Association and put forward ten recommendations, which were all accepted by the authorities in Bahrain. Among others, the government committed to “abandon any restriction or obstacle to the work of persons and institutions engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights.” However, according to the three organisations, nine out of ten of the recommendations were not implemented in practice. This highlights the government’s disinterest in providing a secure human rights environment in Bahrain, as human rights, opposition, religious and other civil society groups have been harshly punished.

Secondly, five recommendations concerning harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and civil society representatives were presented. Once again, the Bahraini government accepted the majority, by accepting four and noting one. The authorities committed to ensuring “that HRDs must be protected and allowed to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation and harassment.” However, this does not seem to have been the case in the aftermath of the agreement, as HRDs, journalists and civil society representatives are continuously punished for their work. In addition, the joint submission concluded that none of the five recommendations were implemented.

Thirdly, freedom of expression was another key component of the submission. Twenty-three recommendations were put forward and the Bahraini authorities agreed to 22 of them, leaving one noted. As many as all 22 of them could be described as not having been implemented, implying that the government has not taken any significant measures to ensure the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain. Moreover, the organisations suggested that the Penal Code of Bahrain is the main tool used by the government to curb freedom of expression.

Lastly, the previous UPR addressed 17 areas of improvement related to the right to peaceful assembly. They were all accepted by the government, however as a now recurring theme, they were not implemented. Furthermore, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees freedom of assembly. This in turn, contradicts the actual situation in Bahrain concerning peaceful assembly, as demonstrations and peaceful marches are routinely violently dispersed.

As outlined, several recommendations have not been fulfilled nor even pursued by the Bahraini government. This raises concern for civil society, as it illustrates a lack of commitment and lack of will to improve the human rights climate in Bahrain.

As a result, we call upon the Bahraini government to:
 
  • Prioritise human rights on the political agenda;
  • End its interference with the work of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives; and
  • Abide by the UPR recommendations to which it has already agreed.
 
Read the full report here.