25 Nov, 2015

NGOs Condemn Imprisonment and Nationality Revocation of Photographer Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi

25 November 2015 – Award-winning photographer Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison and had his nationality revoked, along with 12 others, after covering a series of demonstrations in early 2014. Security forces detained Al-Mousawi for over a year without trial or official charges, accused him of being a part of a terrorist cell and subjected him to torture. The undersigned NGOs condemn the government’s continued attacks on independent journalism, policy of media censorship and severe restrictions on freedom of expression in Bahrain.

Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, a winner of 127 international photography awards, has been incarcerated since his arrest on 10 February 2014, when security forces raided his home in Duraz village. According to al-Mousawi’s father, a group of plainclothes masked policemen arrested Sayed Ahmed and his brother. The police provided no arrest warrant and confiscated al-Mousawi’s cameras and electronic devices. Al-Mousawi alleges that he was tortured during his detention and interrogation.

Al-Mousawi’s torture follows a pattern of abuse Human Rights Watch documented in a new report released on 24 November on the ongoing use of torture in Bahraini police detention and prison. Police disappeared and tortured al-Mousawi for five days, subjecting him to severe beatings on his genitals, electrocution and hanging from a door. For the duration of his disappearance, he was stripped naked and forced to stand for long periods of time. Officers did not allow a lawyer to accompany al-Mousawi when they transferred him to the Public Prosecutor. Courts renewed al-Mousawi’s pre-trial detention six times, and he spent over a year in prison without formal charges.

“Sayed al-Mousawi’s torture took place at a time when the UK has been increasing its spending on a ‘reform programme’ for Bahrain to bolster its institutions,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “It is becoming increasingly clear that this programme has failed. Torture is still systematic and unrelenting and the government has broken all promises of reform.”

During his extended detention, al-Mousawi continued to win international awards for his photography. In spite of this, the government accused him of giving SIM cards to “terrorist” demonstrators and taking photos of anti-government protests. As a result, Bahrain tried al-Mousawi under Bahrain’s vague anti-terrorism legislation. A judge later accused him and his brother of membership in a terrorist cell, which al-Mousawi continues to deny.

“Al-Mousawi’s case exposes Bahrain’s continued misapplication of its counterterrorism law to hide evidence of its human rights abuses,” said Husain Abdulla the Executive Director of ADHRB. “Taking photos of peaceful protestors is not a crime and Bahrain’s overreaction shows just how fearful the Bahraini government is of its own people.”

Bahrain’s continued arrest of journalists and photographers, who expose human rights violations, reflects a systematic campaign by the authorities to quell freedom of expression and the press. Bahrain is ranked 163 out of 180 in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index according to Reporters Without Borders. Last year, a Bahraini court also convicted another renowned photojournalist, Ahmed al-Humaidan to 10 years in prison under similar charges. Bahrain has revoked the citizenship of more than 130 individuals since 2012.

"Yet again the Bahraini government has wielded citizenship as a weapon of censorship against journalists," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. "We call on the Bahraini judiciary to overturn this disturbing sentence, recognize al-Mousawi's citizenship, and free him immediately."

We, the undersigned NGOs, call for the immediate release of Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi, and on Bahrain to end the criminalization of free speech and press. We also call on the UK government to suspend its spending on technical assistance to Bahrain, and on the US government to reinstate the ban on arms sales to the country, until systematic torture has been eradicated and restrictions on the enjoyment of internationally-codified human rights are lifted

Sincerely,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Index on Censorship

 

23 Nov, 2015

HRW report: Bahrain: Detainees Tortured, Abused

(Beirut, November 23, 2015) – Bahraini security forces are torturing detainees during interrogation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Institutions set up after 2011 to receive and investigate complaints lack independence and transparency.

The 84-page report, “The Blood of People Who Don’t Cooperate: Continuing Torture and Mistreatment of Detainees in Bahrain,” concludes that security forces have continued the same abuses the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) documented in its November 2011 report. The commission was established after the fierce repression of pro-democracy demonstrators in February and March of that year. Bahraini authorities have failed to implement effectively the commission’s recommendations relating to torture, Human Rights Watch found.

“The claims of Bahrain and its allies that authorities have ended torture in detention are simply not credible,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “All the available evidence supports the conclusion that these new institutions have not effectively tackled what the BICI report described as a ‘culture of impunity’ among security forces.” 

The United Kingdom has taken the lead internationally in arguing that Bahrain has reformed its security forces and accountability mechanisms, as the BICI mandated, but Human Rights Watch found the operations of those mechanisms seriously flawed.

In 2012 and again in 2013, Bahrain postponed indefinitely the scheduled visit to the country of the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 detainees who said they endured coercive interrogations at the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and in police stations since 2012, and four former inmates of Jaw prison, who said authorities had tortured them in March 2015.  

All said security officers had physically assaulted them. Several described being subjected to electric shocks; suspension in painful positions, including by their wrists while handcuffed; forced standing; extreme cold; and sexual abuse. Six said that the CID interrogators boasted of their reputation for inflicting pain on detainees.

“I’ll show you why Wifaq [Bahrain’s leading opposition party] calls Bahrain the capital of torture,” a former detainee quoted an interrogator as telling him. Another said a CID officer held something to his nose and told him it was “the blood of people who don’t cooperate.”

BICI investigators in 2011, and Human Rights Watch researchers in 2010, documented similar torture methods.

King Hamad appointed the BICI in July 2011 in response to international criticism of the security forces’ violent and disproportionate response to largely peaceful anti-government protests that began in February 2011. The BICI concluded in its report, released on November 23, 2011, that the National Security Agency and the Interior Ministry “followed a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees in their custody.”

The BICI’s recommendations led the government to establish three bodies since 2012 – the Office of the Ombudsman in the Interior Ministry, a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the Office of the General Prosecutor, and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission (PDRC) – with a collective mandate to end torture in interrogation and detention facilities.

Human Rights Watch found, though, that little information is available from those bodies about complaints, investigations, and prosecutions. Since Bahrain announced the institutional reforms in early 2012 there has been only one prosecution for torture and none relating to detentions associated with Bahrain’s political unrest.

The use of the techniques detainees described to Human Rights Watch violate Bahrain’s own laws as well as its obligations as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and other international treaties.

Bahrain should issue an immediate and open invitation to the UN special rapporteur on torture to conduct a country visit and allow unfettered access to detainees and all places of detention, Human Rights Watch said. Bahrain should ensure the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and the PDRC by removing them from the Ministry of Interior and taking steps to guarantee the independence of the SIU from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, which has until now failed to establish a record of holding perpetrators of torture accountable.

Human Rights Watch further recommended that the government set up a civilian oversight committee, including well-regarded independent experts, to scrutinize the work of the SIU and ensure its independence from the Interior Ministry and public prosecution.

“Since the peaceful anti-government protests of 2011, which the authorities responded to with brutal and lethal force, the Bahrain government has overseen a campaign of incarceration that has decimated its pro-democracy movement,” Stork said. “Bahrain can’t claim any progress on torture while its anti-torture institutions lack independence and transparency and until it takes some serious steps to address the complete lack of accountability for the abuse of detainees.”

During the embargo period, “The Blood of People Who Don’t Cooperate: Continuing Torture and Mistreatment of Detainees in Bahrain” is available at:
http://hrw.org/embargo/283352/a6982d7e818ad4f8474102f30054bf55

Upon release, it will be available at:
http://hrw.org/node/283352

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Bahrain, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/bahrain

For more information, please contact:
In London, Nicholas McGeehan (English): +44-751-395-6155 (mobile); or mcgeehn@hrw.org. Twitter: @Ncgeehan
In London, Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or houryn@hrw.org. Twitter: @nadimhoury

In London, David Mepham (English): +44-757-260-3995 (mobile); or mephamd@hrw.org. Twitter: @Ncgeehan

In Washington, DC, Ahmed Benchemsi (English, French, Arabic): +1-929-343-7973 (mobile); or benchea@hrw.org. Twitter: @AhmedBenchemsi

23 Nov, 2015

Opposition Leader Majeed Milad Sentenced to Prison Term

The Bahraini government last week sentenced opposition politician Majeed Milad to two years’ imprisonment for acts related to his exercise of free speech. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Rights and Democracy (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the criminal prosecution of peaceful political dissidents, and demand that the Government of Bahrain release all those currently incarcerated for their peaceful acts of free expression.

Majeed Milad is a member of Al Wefaq, the largest political society in Bahrain, and the former president of the Capital Governorate Municipal Council. Police arrested Milad on 1 July 2015, just two days after he gave a speech in Ma’ameer in which he criticized the ruling family for “seizing the national wealth,” and making decisions “without involving the Bahraini people.” The government charged and convicted him of “inciting non-compliance with the law.”

“The trial of Majeed Milad was a sham,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Advocacy Director of BIRD. “If due process truly existed in Bahrain, Milad would never have been arrested. He should be at the negotiating table, not in chains.”

In addition to sentencing Milad to two years in prison, the government also postponed its trials against Sheikh Ali Salman, the imprisoned Secretary-General of Al Wefaq, and Ebrahim Sharif, the former president of Wa’ad. Sheikh Ali Salman is currently appealing a four-year sentence for inciting public disobedience and insulting the government; his next trial date is scheduled for 14 December. Ebrahim Sharif, who had his next trial date postponed to 15 December, stands accused of “inciting hatred” and “encouraging the overthrow of the regime.” Last week, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) released a decision in which it ruled that Sheikh Ali Salman’s imprisonment is arbitrary and stands in violation of international human rights law.

“The detention of Sheikh Ali Salman, Ebrahim Sharif, and Majeed Milad only adds to the monumental number of political detainees in Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “With the majority of the opposition now behind bars, Bahrain has rejected reconciliation and reform in favor of silence.”

Read this statement in French. 

20 Nov, 2015

Bahrain: The authorities Violate the Rights of Hundreds of Children Against the Convention on the Right of the Child

Bahrain authorities violate the rights of hundreds of children violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
 
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, Salam for Human Rights and Democracy, The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights Justice Human Rights Organisation, the Pearl Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, and the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights express deep concern about the continuing violations by Bahraini authorities against hundreds of children and the violation of its commitments to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
Since 2011 until today, the authorities in Bahrain have violated children's right to security by killing more than 10 children under 18, and the right to freedom by arresting more than 1500 children some of which are still in detention facing charges under the Terrorism Act. Dozens of children are denied the right of citizenship by the authorities including those whose parents were arrested because of the political situation or the children of those whose nationalities were arbitrarily revoked. Hundreds of children were denied to the right of education because of detention, especially as the schools claimed by the authorities in the juvenile prison are not specialised and do not meet children's educational needs.
 
Mr. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, thinks that this violation of children's rights is only a reprisal against juveniles whose only crime is living in a country that does not recongnise the rights of the child, living in an area with ongoing protests or being members of a family well-known for its political activity.
 
Mr. Youssif Rabi'a, the president of Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, has seen that children in Bahrain are exposed to the risk of ongoing violations up to losing the right to live.
 
Mr. Hussain Barweez, the president of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, considered children's rights as high human rights that should be respected by Bahrain as long-standing democracies have been doing. No progress could be made without respecting children's rights.
 
"Bahrain joined the UN convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and thus be fully responsible for all violations committed after its entry into force. Therefore, Bahraini authorities must stop violating children's rights and amend its laws to ensure full compliance with the international standards", said Ms. Jaleela Al-Salman, the representative of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory.
 
Mr. Jawad Fairooz said that all these grave violations against children in Bahrain including killing with live ammunition, detention, torture, long-term sentences and denial of education are all indications to Bahrain's indifference to its local legislations and international conventions and treaties.
 
Ahmed Al-Hujairi stressed that although twenty-six years have passed since the UN convention on the Rights of the Child has been issued and fifteen years on the two Protocols thereto, we still see dozens of children under 18 being exposed to violations which result in psychological troubles that may lead to violent acts and laws opposition.
 
Mr. Nader Al-Salatna expressed his regret as Bahraini authorities continues to try children under 18 before court under Terrorism Act and the Bahraini Children Law 2012 which considers children under 15.
 
Accordingly, NGO's signing this statement call Bahrain allies and international organisations to put pressure on the government for:
 
- Immediate release of all children unconditionally.
 
- Stopping denial of children's right to freedom and reprisals due to the political situation in the country.
 
- ensuring children's rights in accordance with the international treaties and conventions ratified by Bahrain.
 
- amendment of Bahraini Law to raise the child age to 18 instead of 15.
 
Read the statement in French here. 
18 Nov, 2015

Bahraini Court Approves Capital Punishment of Torture Victims

16 November 2015 – London – Bahrain’s Court of Cassation today rejected the final appeal of death row inmates and torture victims Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. The decision finalizes their convictions; absent a royal pardon, the government may carry out their execution at any time. Both defendants allege that they were tortured into confessing the crimes. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) condemn the final decision to execute Ramadan and Moosa, and express serious concern that the Bahraini courts have allowed the government to execute defendants that confess under duress. We call on King Hamad to commute their sentences.

The government arrested Husain Ali Moosa in February  2014, where Moosa states that security officers subjected him to torture until he confessed to carrying out a bombing attack. According to Moosa, government agents hung him from the ceiling for three days and took turns beating him with police batons. He additionally states that they threatened to harm his relatives, on several occasions claiming that they would rape his sisters. Moosa confessed as a result of the torture, but later recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor. After he recanted, security forces tortured him further.

Bahraini security forces arrested Mohammed Ramadan on 20 March 2014 without a warrant. During his initial detention, Ramadan alleges that security officers tortured him, violently beating him on his hands, feet, body, neck, and head. In order to stop the torture, Mohammed agreed to “confess to anything.” When Mohamed told a judge that he had been tortured into confessing, security officers tortured him further, placing him in solitary confinement and subjecting him to further beatings.

On 29 December, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair in February 2014. They were sentenced alongside ten other defendants, nine of whom received six years’ incarceration and the last receiving life in prison. The defendants state that the court relied substantially upon the confessions obtained through torture, casting significant doubt on the veracity of their convictions.

At the time of their initial sentencing, Ramadan’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer, stated, “Although the defendants emphatically claim that their confessions were extracted under torture, Bahrain’s courts failed to consider their claims or even open an investigation. Instead, the Bahraini judicial system utilized its anti-terrorism law to justify the death penalty in a case with no concrete evidence of their guilt, but abundant evidence of ill-treatment, torture, and politically motivated charges.”

“Not only did government agents torture Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, but the prosecutor and the judge did not investigate. The criminal justice system has altogether failed these men.” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “The King must commute their sentences.”

Earlier this year, five UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture, expressed serious concerns that both Ramadan and Moosa had confessed under duress. The European Union found that Bahrain’s use of the death penalty had expanded to politically-motivated cases in an urgency resolution over the summer, and called for Bahrain to immediately ratify and implement international treaties banning the use of capital punishment.

“For a strong ally of the United Kingdom and United States to take these actions is appalling,” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “The international community must act to demonstrate that abuse can never lead to convictions, that torture cannot be the gateway to execution.”

 

17 Nov, 2015

Bahraini upholds death sentence for torture victim

16 November 2015 – Washington, DC - Bahrain’s Court of Cassation today rejected the final appeal of death row inmates and torture victims Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa. The decision finalizes their convictions; absent a royal pardon, the government may carry out their execution at any time. Both defendants allege that they were tortured into confessing the crimes. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) condemn the final decision to execute Ramadan and Moosa and call for the government to commute their sentences, and express serious concern that the Bahraini courts have allowed the government to execute defendants that confess under duress.

The government arrested Husain Ali Moosa in February  2014, where Moosa states that security officers subjected him to torture until he confessed to carrying out a bombing attack. According to Moosa, government agents hung him from the ceiling for three days and took turns beating him with police batons. He additionally states that they threatened to harm his relatives, on several occasions claiming that they would rape his sisters. Moosa confessed as a result of the torture, but later recanted his confession in front of the public prosecutor. After he recanted, security forces tortured him further.

Bahraini security forces arrested Mohammed Ramadan on 20 March 2014 without a warrant. During his initial detention, Ramadan alleges that security officers tortured him, violently beating him on his hands, feet, body, neck, and head. In order to stop the torture, Mohammed agreed to “confess to anything.” When Mohamed told a judge that he had been tortured into confessing, security officers tortured him further, placing him in solitary confinement and subjecting him to further beatings.

On 29 December, a Bahraini criminal court sentenced Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in al-Dair in February 2014. They were sentenced alongside ten other defendants, nine of whom received six years’ incarceration and the last receiving life in prison. The defendants state that the court relied substantially upon the confessions obtained through torture, casting significant doubt on the veracity of their convictions.

At the time of their initial sentencing, Ramadan’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer, stated, “Although the defendants emphatically claim that their confessions were extracted under torture, Bahrain’s courts failed to consider their claims or even open an investigation. Instead, the Bahraini judicial system utilized its anti-terrorism law to justify the death penalty in a case with no concrete evidence of their guilt, but abundant evidence of ill-treatment, torture, and politically motivated charges.”

“Not only did government agents torture Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa, but the prosecutor and the judge did not investigate, ” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. “The criminal justice system has altogether failed these men.”

Earlier this year, five UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Torture, expressed serious concerns that both Ramadan and Moosa had confessed under duress. The European Union found that Bahrain’s use of the death penalty had expanded to politically-motivated cases in an urgency resolution over the summer, and called for Bahrain to immediately ratify and implement international treaties banning the use of capital punishment.

"For a strong ally of the United Kingdom and United States to take these actions is appalling," Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “The international community must act to demonstrate that abuse can never lead to convictions, that torture cannot be the gateway to execution.”

Read the French version of this statement.

16 Nov, 2015

Shattering the Facade: A Report on Bahrain's Implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Four Years On

16 November 2015 – Washington, DC – The Bahraini government has only fully implemented two, and has not made any progress on eight of the 26 recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011, finds a new report released today by Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

In Shattering the Façade: A Report on Bahrain’s Implementation of the BICI Recommendations Four Years On, ADHRB, BIRD, and BCHR provide recommendation- by-recommendation analysis of the Government of Bahrain’s implementation of the recommendations made by the BICI in 2011. Despite government rhetoric to the contrary, the report finds that some of the most fundamental abuses addressed by the BICI continue unabated in Bahrain.

Despite the government’s claim that it has fully implemented 19, partially implemented six, and one recommendation remains inapplicable, Shattering the Façade finds that the government has fully implemented only two of the BICI’s recommendations, with 16 remaining partially implemented and eight having not been implemented at all. The eight recommendations the government has not implemented represent some of the BICI’s most vital components, including recommendations to decriminalize free speech and relax censorship, integrate government security forces and implement extensive human rights training to end human rights abuses, avoid arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, and undertake measures to prevent incitement to sectarianism.

Instead, the government has specifically acted to undermine many of these recommendations, undertaking a mass campaign of arbitrary detention to silence dissent, criminalizing free speech and assembly in public and private forums, and holding security forces largely unaccountable for the torture and excessive force that continues to this day.

“The government’s claims to have fully implemented the BICI couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Sayed Ahmed, Director of Advocacy at BIRD. “Instead, it has actively worked to impede implementation of some of the BICI’s most important reforms, while the human rights situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate as any sense of urgency the government may have once felt to implement reforms has dissipated.”

The Bahraini government’s piecemeal approach to reform is partially due to a lack of consistent international pressure. Despite Bahrain’s backsliding on reform, the international community only voices its concern over Bahrain’s lack of progress from time to time, insisting that Bahrain must be recognized and rewarded for the steps that it has taken towards reform and reconciliation. However, this report shows that rhetoric from Bahrain’s international allies has made little impact towards pushing Manama to make meaningful progress on reform and reconciliation.

“The Government of Bahrain continues to point to the same cosmetic reforms that have not actually impacted the conditions that led to the events of 2011 or the issues that continue preventing Bahrain from achieving actual progress,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “Instead of using its significant leverage to push for the release of the country’s thousands of political prisoners, the international community, including the US and UK, has continued to laude cosmetic reforms rather than push for initiatives that could actually contribute to national reconciliation and bolster human rights.”

Four years on, as the government continues to claim that the BICI’s recommendations are no longer relevant, it is even more critical that international allies concerned with Bahrain’s long-term stability and security, particularly the US and UK, push for reform in action. Without the Government of Bahrain’s full commitment to transparently implementing the BICI recommendations, holding security forces and government officials accountable for ongoing human rights abuses, releasing political prisoners, and engaging in a meaningful dialogue with the entire opposition, Bahrain’s persistent unrest will continue and the hope created by the BICI in 2011 may be lost.

“The government must refocus its efforts on promoting human rights in the country if it wants to see lasting change and peace,” added Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR. “When the government respects human rights, the people will respect the government.”

 

For the full report, click here.

6 Nov, 2015

Al Salman demands Lifting the 11 months ban on Freedom of Assembly & allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly visit Bahrain

Sheikh Maytham Al Salman the head of the Religious Freedom unit at BHRO called upon the international community to exert effective pressure on authorities in Bahrain to lift the 11 months ban on all public rallies, assembly and demonstrations that have been banned since January 2015.

Al Salman said: the 11 months ban on all forms of assembly and demonstrations is a glaring example of the failure of authorities in Bahrain to comply with their international commitments to adapt democratic reforms and end systematic human rights abuses. Al-Salman demanded authorities in Bahrain to lift the ban immediately and comply with the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI) recommendations and the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations which both stressed on the role of authorities in protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Al Salman also revealed that BHRO received reports that confirmed that authorities have rejected receiving more than 130 notifications of peaceful demonstrations since January 2015; scores of other notifications have been refused by authorities prior to that date.

Al Salman added: As a member of the United Nations and as a party to the ICCPR, Bahrain has legal obligations to ensure and protect freedoms of assembly and expression.

Article 21 of the ICCPR clearly recognizes freedom of assembly and confirms that authorities should not restrict the exercise of this right:

"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, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Sh Al Salman renewed his demands to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Mr. Maina Kiai to visit Bahrain in order to independently evaluate and analyze the situation on the ground. On the other hand Mr. Maina Kiai Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association has expressed his willingness and intention to visit Bahrain to assist Governmental and Non- Governmental actors in protecting fundamental rights associated with freedom of assembly & association.

5 Nov, 2015

Letter from Reema Shallan, Wife of Sheikh Ali Salman

 

The Figure of Dialogue and Tolerance Behind Bars,

The Higher Criminal Court in Bahrain convicted Sheikh Ali Salman and sentenced him to four years imprisonment in June 16th 2015 , on baseless charges related to promoting the change of the political system , inciting hatred of the government , encouraging disobedience of the laws , and insulting  the Interior Ministry .This trail is considered to be void and lacks the basic standards of justice . Sheikh Ali Salman , leader of the opposition arrest came two days after he gave a speech calling for non-violent political reform is still imprison instead of sitting at the national dialogue table to get out of the current crisis.

The appeals court held its first hearing in September 19th 2015 , the judge refused to diclose exculpatory evidence as well as what happened in the court of first instance , and this is considered a violation of the international fair trial principles . In the second appeal hearing took place on October 14th 2015 , Sheikh Ali Salman denied all the allegations against him , and said that he was seeking peaceful political and constitutional change , and that he was handed for expressing his opinion.  Indeed , campaign group Amnesty International stressed in its report of October 18th 2015 , commenting on the appeal hearings ," Sheikh Ali Salman, a prisoner of conscience on trial for exercising freedom of expression ".

Sheikh Ali Salman , a prominent leader and Secretary General of the largest opposition party in Bahrain , in his speeches called for political reform , serious dialogue and absolute rejection of all means of violence ,  he believes that the ideal approach to achieve the great objectives is " pro-democracy peaceful activism".  Also , he called for justice , freedom , equality and to stop corruption and discrimination between citizens , these are the principles of a civilized society.

The government of Bahrain is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , also on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which in Article -19 guarantees " The right of freedom of expression " , however it has violated its international obligations by arresting Sheikh Ali Salman , instead of supporting genuine dialogue that leads to reforms which engage with the aspirations of the Bahraini people , but it's clear that the authority is launching a broad crackdown against a non-violent opposition and arrested its critics , who have different policy views .

That civilized and peaceful conflict in Bahrain is a historic struggle going on between the authority that has all the centers of influence within marginalization of the whole Bahraini people , this conflict will not end until they attain full rights guaranteed by international conventions which have been signed by the government should be respected , and not to disregard it.

Since February 14th 2011 , Bahrain has seen frequent peaceful protests demanding political change , but the security forces have responded harshly with it . The popular uprising is still continuing today , dozens were killed and thousands were wounded , also the authority has detained  the opponents of political human rights activists , and the pollitical critics , and they often use torture forcing them to confess . Prison sentences has been issued against prisoners for many years , some are life imprisonment . Moreover , seven citizens are sentenced to death against the backdrop of demonstrations , also many opposition figures were systematically stripped of the Bahraini identity.

The majority of international organizations issued many statements condemning the use of violence and the wide array human rights violations in Bahrain . Furthermorer , the media coverage of the national protests is adequate and biased , as the satellite channels covers protests in different countries , while it ignores human rights violations in Bahrain where people demonstrate for the sake of peaceful struggle.

The international community, which claims supporting  democracy , and specifically the close allies of Bahrain , including the United States and the United Kingdom have to exercise an effective and influential pressure on the government of Bahrain for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, and all prisoners of conscience and to call for respecting human rights , to take the initiative to perform reforms that ensure the ambition of Bahraini people , to disable the security option , and to create the appropriate atmosphere for the democratic transformation of the country until moving to the other side of security and stability . Indeed , the Bahraini people who pay valuable prices for their freedom , are continuing peaceful struggle and resistance to oppression , until their legitimate demands for freedom , dignity and democracy are achieved.

Reema Shallan, Lawyer and Wife of Sheikh Ali Salman

Read the letter in French

2 Nov, 2015

Violence Against Journalists in Bahrain

C2 November 2015 - On this day in 2013, two French journalists were murdered in Mali. To commemorate their loss, the United Nations (UN) proclaimed 2 November the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The corresponding UN resolution dedicated the date to all members of the press who have suffered from violence. It condemned the continued imprisonment, torture, and murder of journalists who simply strive to do their job with professionalism and integrity. Accordingly, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) would like to take this occasion to express grave concern regarding the Government of Bahrain’s continued harassment of those who exercise their freedom of speech through traditional and social media.

Since the onset of unrest in 2011, the Government of Bahrain has increasingly criminalized the freedom of expression, in part by systematically prosecuting journalists and bloggers. This year, Freedom House rated Bahrain “Not Free” in its annual report, noting that ambiguous legal provisions “allow the state to imprison journalists for criticizing the king or Islam or for threatening national security.” As BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD have extensively documented, the authorities have used such legislation to prosecute, imprison, and torture members of the press.  Empowered by an administrative decision made earlier this year, the government has even revoked the citizenship of several journalists, bloggers, and social media activists.

Currently, the Bahraini authorities hold at least ten journalists and photographers on charges related to their freedom of expression.

Arrests and Detentions

Journalists and Photographers

Ahmed Humaidan, an award-winning photojournalist, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for documenting the pro-democracy demonstrations in Sitra. He has been incarcerated since December 2012, accused of taking part in an attack on a police station. During Ahmed’s interrogation, the authorities subjected him to ill-treatment. They beat him, forced him to stand in freezing temperatures for hours at a time, and threatened to arrest and fabricate criminal cases against his brothers. Throughout his detention, the government has prevented Ahmed from consistently communicating with his family, and on several occasions it has denied their visitation rights.

Security forces arrested photographer Jaffar Marhoon on 26 December 2013. Prior to this official arrest, the authorities interrogated Jaffar for three days, reportedly subjecting him to torture. A Bahraini court later convicted him on several politically motivated cases; on 24 February 2015, the court sentenced Jaffar to life in prison.

Hussein Hubil, a freelance photographer, was arrested before boarding an international flight to Dubai on 31 July 2013. Hussein was interrogated for four days, during which time the authorities reportedly tortured him and threatened him with rape. Hussein’s lawyer called for an internal investigation into these reports, but his request was denied. On 28 April 2014, a court sentenced him to five years in prison on charges related to his right to free expression, including "using social media networks to incite hatred of the regime", "calling on people to ignore the law" and "calling for illegal demonstrations".

On 2 August 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Qasim Zainal Deen, a freelance photographer who previously filmed opposition protests, at his home. By December 2013, a court had convicted Qasim on charges of illegal assembly, sentencing him to three months in prison. A month later, in January 2014, he was convicted on new charges of illegal assembly and vandalism, and sentenced to an additional six months imprisonment. On 25 February 2015, the appellate court upheld Qasim’s sentence of three years in prison. Most recently, on 10 March 2015, a riot broke out at the prison where Qasim is currently detained, preventing his family from visiting. Security forces badly beat many of the prisoners during the riot, including Qassim, who now suffers from a back injury.

Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, a photographer who has won 127 international awards for excellence in his field, was arrested on 10 February 2014, after security forces raided his house. According to Sayed Ahmed’s father, the authorities took him and his brother into custody. They also seized several of Sayed Ahmed’s belongings, including 4 hard disk drives, a laptop, his cameras, and other professional photography equipment. Following the raid, Bahraini officials subjected Sayed Ahmed to enforced disappearance for at least four days. During this period, security forces tortured Sayed Ahmed by beating his genitals, hanging him on a door, forcing him to stand for days, stripping him naked, and electrocuting various parts of his body. Throughout the interrogation, officials also deprived Sayed Ahmed of his right to due process, denying him access to a lawyer.

On 4 September 2014, security forces arrested three journalists, Hussam Suroor (17 years), Ahmed Zainaldeen (20 years) and Mustafa Rabea (19 years), as they raided their houses in Duraz. These three men were subjected to enforced disappearance for up to five days following their original arrest. On 30 September 2015, a court sentenced the men to 10 years in prison for illegal assembly and charges related to an explosion in Duraz. Ahmed Zainaldeen is also awaiting a court ruling in a separate case.

Bloggers and Internet Activists

BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD have also documented the government’s prosecution of bloggers and social media activists. During the last several years, the Government of Bahrain has intensified its repression of free speech on the internet, most recently passing a broad Cybercrime Law that further criminalizes online dissent. The authorities have routinely used such legislation to prosecute and incarcerate peaceful critics of the government. Since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have collectively sentenced activists to more than 400 months in prison for exercising their right to free expression on independent social media.

Security forces arrested Jaleela al-Sayed on 10 February 2015. During their raid on Jaleela’s house, the authorities confiscated her computers and mobile phones. Later, they charged her with misusing social media, inciting hatred against the regime and insulting the king on Twitter. The authorities also subjected Jaleela to ill-treatment, causing her to faint and require medical attention. Following the initial arrest, Bahraini official additional prevented her from contacting her family or her lawyer. Jaleela is currently held at the Isa Town Women’s Prison.

Blogger and Internet activist Ali al-Mearaj was arrested on 6 January 2014. The authorities accused him of misusing information technology and insulting the King on his blog, “Awal Pearl.” During his interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), officials allegedly beat Ali, threatened to harm his youngest son, and verbally abused him. In court, the judge reportedly refused to listen to defense witnesses or receive evidence in Ali’s case. Nonetheless, on 9 April 2014, the court sentenced Ali to 30 months in prison. Ali is currently awaiting his next appeal hearing on 1 December 2015. The court continues to refuse submissions of evidence from the defense.

Masked security forces abducted Jassim al-Nuaimi, an Internet activist, from his home on 31 July 2013. The authorities reportedly subjected Jassim to torture for at least four days before they took officially detained him on charges of inciting anti-government hatred and posting messages on social media calling for illegal demonstrations. During one of his hearings, Jassim told the court that he had not been in the country at the time the alleged messages had been posted, and that he had actually sold the computer from which he could have submitted said posts. The criminal court rejected Jassim’s alibi and sentenced him to five years in prison on 28 April 2014.

In October 2015, Bahraini authorities raided the house of Ebrahim Karimi, confiscated his electronic devices, and arrested him – all without ever presenting a warrant. The security forces took Ebrahim to the CID where he was subjected to ill-treatment including forced standing for prolonged hours and sleep deprivation. Officials also threatened to harm his family if he did not confess. During his interrogation, the authorities questioned Ebrahim about posts on the Twitter account “FreejKarimi”, and prevented him from contacting his lawyer. The public prosecution later charged Ebrahim with inciting hatred against the regime, insulting the king, and misusing of social media, among other related offenses. In 2012, the Government of Bahrain additionally revoked Ebrahim’s citizenship through an administrative decision. The court has since ordered his deportation, a decision Ebrahim is attempting to appeal.

In September 2015, security forces arrested the two social media activists behind the “BuKhamis” and “HajiAhmed” Twitter handles. The Ministry of Interior announced that it had arrested them because of their posts on Twitter were insulting to the country’s martyrs in Yemen. The posts in question allegedly denounced and criticized Bahrain’s participation in the ongoing military operation in that country.

In January 2015, the Bahraini authorities arrested another nine Internet activists for alleged criticism of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Twitter. The Ministry of Interior stated that these individuals were arrested for “misuse of social media,” and that according to Bahrain’s Penal Code, they could face imprisonment for up to two years as well as a BHD200 fine.

The authorities arrested several other social media activists on similar charges of social media misuse, dissemination of false news, and/or insulting government officials in Bahrain or other GCC countries. BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison for a tweet in which he described Bahrain’s military institutions as incubators of extremist ideologies. The government is also prosecuting him on charges related to tweets about the war in Yemen, and for insulting a statutory body on social media; it is currently holding Nabeel under a travel ban.

Likewise, the Bahraini authorities also arrested political activist Fadhel Abbas on charges related to a tweet in which he denounced the war in Yemen. A court sentenced him to five years in prison.

Citizenship Revocation

In January 2015, the government revoked the citizenship of 72 Bahrainis, of whom the majority were activists. Among those whose citizenship was revoked were four members of the independent media: founder of the Bahrain Online forum Ali Abdulemam, critic and blogger Ali al-Dairi, journalist Abbas AbuSafwan, and blogger Husain Yousif. The government stated that it had revoked their citizenship because of “acts resulting in harm to the Kingdom’s interest.”

Suspension and Prosecution of Free Media

The Government of Bahrain has also targeted entire media outlets. In February 2015, the Bahraini authorities suspended the Al Arab television channel after only its first day on air. According to the government, Al Arab did not have the proper licenses to operate in Bahrain. Other sources have contradicted this claim, however, reporting that the suspension was related to the “failure of those in charge [of Al Arab] to abide by the prevailing norms in the Gulf, including the neutrality of media positions and staying away from anything that could negatively impact the spirit of Gulf unity". During Al Arab’s first and only program, it aired an interview with a Bahraini opposition leader about the government’s revocation of citizenship.

On 6 August 2015, the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), part of Bahrain’s Ministry of State for Information Affairs, announced that it had indefinitely suspended Al Wasat newspaper for “violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries.” The IAA had previously suspended Al Wasat in 2011, and had also issued it an official warning regarding an opinion column it had published. The article, written by Hani al-Fardan, discussed persons who accuse opposition members of treason on social media; al-Fardan criticized the activity in general, and did not specifically name anyone in his column.

Though Al Wasat was later allowed to resume its work, in June 2015, a member of parliament filed a case against Hani al-Fardan and Al Wasat’s Editor-in-Chief, Mansoor al-Jamri. The law suit accused them of defaming the Member of Parliament in an article that addressed the MP’s meeting with an illegal armed group in Syria. Al Wasat had a similar case filed against it in 2014 as well, because of yet another opinion column.

Al Wasat is widely considered to be the only independent newspaper in Bahrain that covers both government and opposition news. It is also the only newspaper in Bahrain that publishes content related to Shia community events and political demonstrations.

The Government of Bahrain has systematically targeted those who dissent from the official state narrative, or who present an opportunity for alternative discourse. Be they photographers who document abuses of authority with their cameras, or journalist and bloggers tell the stories of wounded protestors, members of the media represent a democratic challenge to government repression in Bahrain. Rather than acknowledge or protect the independent press, Bahraini authorities have worked with authoritarian efficiency to constrain and silence it. To conceal its unremitting violation of human rights, the government continues to maintain a general media blackout – starting with the prosecution, imprisonment, and intimidation of journalists.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Americans for Human Rights & Democracy in Bahrain and Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Release and pardon all wrongfully imprisoned journalists, photographers, bloggers and social media activists; and
  • Repeal any laws that restrict, criminalize, or otherwise infringe on the freedoms of expression, speech, and press in Bahrain.

Click here to download the report.

Read the report in French