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Bahrain Authorities Prevent Civil Society Members and Human Rights Defenders from Participating in UN HRC 32

The undersigned NGO's are seriously alarmed with Bahrain’s imposition of travel bans against human rights defenders attempting to take part in the 32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Travel bans were imposed on human rights defenders Hussain Radhi, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Ebrahim Al-Demistani and the parents of Ali Mashaima at the Bahrain International Airport after attempting to travel to the UNHRC in Geneva. Both Al-Saegh and Radhi have been participants with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights workshops held in the Kingdom earlier this year. The NGO’s condemn any attempts at preventing civil society from engaging with the Council and are extremely concerned at the failure to protect members of civil society who are taking part in the OHCHR technical programme of assistance in Bahrain.

In a serious clampdown on free speech, officials in Bahrain have so far banned at least six human rights defenders including families of abuse victims from leaving the country. On 12 June, the individuals were stopped at the airport ahead of their trip to Geneva. Officials at the airport held Radhi and Al-Saegh for almost one hour before informing them that they were banned from traveling. No reason was given for the bans. Officials have confirmed to Al-Demistani that there has been a notice on his name imposed by the public prosecution since 9 June 2016.

These are only a few examples of a recent escalation in travel bans imposed against activists that have engaged with the Council. On 10 June 2016, officials banned Dr. Taha Al-Derazi,a  former political prisoner and an activist, from traveling to the United Kingdom with his wife to visit their son. He, like others, was given mixed messages by different government departments. Dr. Al-Derazi has participated in the previous HRC sessions and it is believed that the reason behind this ban is to prevent him from participating in the current session.

Bahraini officials have also imposed a travel ban on the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab for nearly one year. Despite several appeals against the ban, officials have remained unresponsive. A similar travel ban has also been imposed following his participation in several human rights conferences overseas.

Preventing civil society from engaging with the UN is a new tool being used in Bahrain to intimidate and silence freedom of expression. A pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders has emerged to prevent reporting on severe ongoing rights abuses in the country.

As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Bahrain has committed to uphold international standards of freedom of movement and freedom of expression. Both rights must only be restricted in limited circumstances.

We therefore call on the the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally lift the ban imposed on civil society activists and allow them to freely engage with the UN. Bahraini human rights defenders must be free from intimidation and restrictions to carry out their legitimate human rights activities. We also call on the international community to hold the government of Bahrain to its commitments and obligations to foster a safe environment for human rights reform.

 

Signatories:

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)

Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)

 

Bahrain’s Dry Dock Detention Center: Mass and Indiscriminate Punishment

9 June 2016 - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), together with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), and the European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR), are deeply concerned over the alarming situation unfolding at the Dry Dock Detention Center, following the Ministry of Interior (MOI) claims of the escape of 17 detainees last Friday, 3 June.

As disclosed by the MOI, 17 men held in custody in the Dry Dock Detention Center escaped the facility in the night of Friday, 3 June. Security forces immediately launched a manhunt, deploying dozens of security service vehicles and personnel on main roads and setting up checkpoints to search for the detainees. The Minister warned those with any information to get in contact with the authorities, and firmly discouraged anyone from giving the detainees shelter. In addition, the MOI ordered the formation of an ad hoc committee to investigate the case and take legal action against those responsible.

Later that day,  an MOI spokesperson reported: “Thus far, eleven of the detainees have been caught along with five others who assisted in the planning and execution of the escape. The search continues for the remaining six escapees". The authorities have not disclosed any details regarding the nature of the escapees’ detention, or the charges they are being held on. Since the beginning of the pro-democracy movement in February 2011, the prison population in Bahrain has swelled with political prisoners, growing exponentially into the highest incarceration rate in the Middle East. This is due to the criminalisation of acts of assembly, association and expression.

BCHR has received alarming reports from families of detainees in Dry Dock, specifically those held in buildings 16 and 17 used for the long-term detention of minors, alleging their exposure to abuse in retaliation for Friday’s escape. Inmates have been subjected to various forms of ill-treatment amounting to torture. In the past week, prison authorities have forced detainees to break their ongoing hunger strike, to stand for long hours, and to remain blindfolded. Security forces physically beat, kicked and slapped the detainees. They told the detainees that they deserved the punishment, as they knew about and did not report the escape. Several inmates have suffered injuries due to torture. Specifically, one detainee told his family that security forces pulled him by his neck and hit his head on the wall. Four days ago, inmates in building 16 and 17 went on a hunger strike protesting the ill-treatment and torture, many have reported to pass out due to the strike.

Some families have told BCHR that they reported the abuses in the Dry Dock Detention Center to the MOI’s Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsman has not formally responded to these allegations. Instead, the Ombudsman has told some of the families that it cannot do anything as its communication with the MOI is difficult in such cases.

Widespread and indiscriminate punishment continues to be a common practice in the Bahraini detention system. Last year, BCHR, BIRD, and ADHRB documented police response to a riot which broke out in Jau Prison on 10 March 2015. During that event, prisoners protested against the increasingly overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions in the prison. Although only a minority of the inmates participated in the riot, Bahraini authorities punished inmates collectively and with excessive force. They fired tear gas into enclosed spaces and subjected inmates to torture and ill-treatment. Upon regaining control of the prison, the prison forces continued to physically and mentally torture the inmates. They insulted the prisoners, forced prisoners to perform humiliating acts, deprived them of food and sleep, and placed them in solitary confinement. Despite the authorities claiming to have launched an investigation into the incident, no formal action has been taken to hold any officers responsible for committing abuses. Instead, the government sentenced 57 inmates to lengthy imprisonment terms.

In 2014, BCHR and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights found , the reported conditions of detention in Dry Dock to be extremely poor: overcrowding, unsanitary facilities, and mistreatment of inmates are commonplace. Prison guards are free to act without fear of persecution, openly violating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Under those guidelines,“prisoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their families”, “corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited”, and “the different categories of prisoners shall be kept in separate institutions or parts of institutions taking account of their sex, age, criminal record, the legal reason for their detention and the necessities of their treatment.”

We therefore call on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally end the unjustified mass retaliation against prisoners in Dry Dock detention center;
  • End the systematic practice of abuse and ill-treatment of political prisoners in Bahrain, and hold security guards accountable for their misdeeds;
  • Uphold international legislation forbidding any form of torture and cruel, inhumane or other ill-treatment or punishment.
     

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Bahrain shatters façade of reform with ruthless persecution of key opposition leader

Nobody saw it coming. In a shocking new blow to freedom of expression last week a Bahraini appeals court more than doubled the prison sentence against the leader of the country’s largest opposition group, al-Wefaq, increasing his term from four to nine years for peacefully criticizing the government in his speeches.

Read the full article here.

State Department Urged to Submit Overdue Report on Bahrain’s Progress Toward Reform to Congress

Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today urged the State Department to submit its congressionally-mandated report assessing the extent to which the Bahraini government has implemented the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. The call came in a letter to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson asking her to release the report, which was mandated as part of the omnibus appropriations bill enacted in December of 2015 and due to Congress by February 1 of this year.

Read the full article here.

SIU Interrogated 58 Policemen & Referred 1 to Trial over Beating Prisoner

The Deputy Chairman of Bahrain's Special Investigation Unit (SIU), Mohammed Khalid Al-Hazza, said that the unit received 13 complaints in May, which included claims of alleged torture, maltreatment, and excessive use of force committed by public security service members. The SIU has taken action by investigating all the complaints, he added.

Read the full article here

Open Letter to UN Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children, on the Occasion of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

 

In 2015 alone, BCHR documented 237 cases of minors who have been arbitrarily deprived not only of their freedom, but also of innocence and childhood, held in inadequate facilities, in poor and degrading conditions, and who are victims of inhumane treatments.

 

June 4, 2016

Ms. Marta Santos Pais
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children

Copenhagen

 

Dear Ms. Pais,

On the UN International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression,
the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) wishes to express its deep concern over the deteriorating situation of child political prisoners in Bahrain, hoping to gain your support in urging Bahraini authorities to release them, and to end the practice of subjecting minors to unlawful arrests, systematic torture and ill-treatment in the Bahraini penal system.

Since the 2011 violent crackdown on peaceful democracy protests sweeping the entire country, the situation of human rights in Bahrain has dramatically worsened, affecting every segment of the society. Minors, as young as 10, have since become the target of retaliations by Bahraini authorities, as part of the ongoing repression of the pro-democracy and human rights movement.

BCHR, together with Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), has been able to document cases of minors arrested without due process, tortured under interrogation and unlawfully jailed alongside adult inmates, a dark reality of Bahraini retaliation tactics, transforming even the society’s most vulnerable and in need of protection into state enemies in order to intimidate even peaceful opposition to their authoritarian regime.

According to the Bahraini Penal Code, Article 32, “a person that is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing a crime, shall not be held liable.” And yet, BCHR continues to document cases of arbitrary arrests, detention and physical as well as mental assault on children below the age of 15 by security forces. (See Annex below for sample cases.)

Many of these minors have been arrested following their participation in peaceful rallies, and even for their mere proximity to protests taking place near their residences. Frequently arrested without a warrant, teenagers and minors are more often than not held in incommunicado detention, i.e. their family is not given notice of their arrest, or communication between them and their children is prevented, while defendants are not allowed to  access the services of  a lawyer or have a legal representative during public prosecution. Charged on various grounds, ranging from illegal gathering and rioting, to destruction of properties, attacks on police officers and possession of Molotov cocktails, these children are impeded from properly defending their innocence.

Based on their testimonies, once they are brought to various police stations or to the infamous Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), teenagers and minors are subjected to food, water and sleep deprivation, to severe verbal humiliations, to incessant beatings e.g. slapping, punching, beaten in their genital areas, and even to sexual threats and assaults. Under this intimidating regime, the minors agree to sign false confessions of their alleged deeds, which are then used in public courts to issue their sentences. In most cases they are taken to Dry Dock Prison or Jaw Prison, to either wait for their trial or serve their sentences alongside adult inmates.

The lack of due process is sadly a common practice applied to all political prisoners in Bahrain; the fact that minors are forced to undergo such practices only serves to illustrate the severity and scale of mass bullying to which the Bahraini government is subjecting its own people. We continue to note the escalation of arrests, torture and ill-treatment under detainment of teenagers and minors at the hands of Bahraini security forces, in absence of due process and over politically motivated charges

 

Screenshot 2016-06-02 11.26.45.png

* Total of Arbitrary Arrests in Bahrain during 2015

As a signatory party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) since 1998, Bahraini authorities should “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever [...] may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Furthermore, Bahraini authorities are acting in violation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified in 1992. Accordingly “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [Nor] shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; [e]very child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”

Moreover “[e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.”

BCHR calls on the Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children and all close allies and institutions, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Release all child and teenage political prisoners, and end any form of physical or mental retaliation tactics to which these minors are being subjected;
  • End the systematic violence during arrest and detention, in order to extort confessions, and enable access to a fair trial;
  • Observe International norms and standards, ensuring every child a decent life and full respect for his/her dignity; and
  • Offer adequate support to victims of unlawful arrests, torture and detention, through rehabilitation.

 

CC: Sven Jürgenson, President, UNICEF

       Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

       Helle Thorning Schmidt, Chief Executive Office, Save the Children

 


 

ANNEX

In this annex, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to draw Your attention to individual cases of abuses that have been documented, in cooperation with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), about children in the Bahraini detention system.
 

Jehad Nabeel al-Same’a, age 10.

Bahraini police initially arrested Jehad in December 2013 as he played near his grandfather’s home. They charged him with attacking policemen, vandalizing police cars, gathering illegally and possessing a Molotov cocktail. Officials detained him for 43 days. After his release, he was re-arrested in May and sentenced to six months in prison.

Ali Husain Abdulla Ahmed, age 16.

On 1 August, 2014, police chased Ali to his grandmother’s house and arrested him. They did not present a warrant and based the arrest on Ali’s proximity to clashes occurring in the area. Security forces transported him to the police station, and during the detention they beat him all over his body and humiliated him. Ali is now held at the Dry Dock detention center where he awaits trial.

Nedhal Ali Hussain al-Abood, age 16.

On 24 September 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Nedhal from his house. They did not present an arrest warrant. They transported him to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), where he was not allowed to get in contact with a lawyer. During his detention at CID, Bahraini security officers abused him. Nedhal told his parents that he signed a false confession in order to avoid returning to CID. On 13 August 2014, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Nedhal to life imprisonment. An appellate court later reduced his sentence to 15 years in prison.                                   

Ebrahim Ahmed Al Muqdad, age 17.

Ebrahim was arrested on 23 July 2012, at the age of 15, following clashes in Bilad al-Qadeem. After he was transported to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), his family was not given notice of his arrest for two days. During his detention at CID, security officers tortured him. They beat him with police batons and their bare hands, sexually harassed him, shocked him and deprived him of sleep, food, and water. They pointed a gun at his head and told him to confess. Denied access to a lawyer, Ebrahim was sentenced to 10 years in prison, on charges of allegedly murdering a policeman, stealing a police vehicle, burning a military armored vehicle, illegal gathering and possession of Molotov cocktails. Ebrahim is now serving his sentence at Jaw prison, making him the youngest political prisoner prosecuted under a terrorism law internationally.

Read their full stories here.                                   

       

                               

 

 

NGOs support MEPs letter to the EU on urgent cases of Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Moosa in Bahrain

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, together with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahraini Centre for Human Rights, The Bahraini Institute for Rights and Democracy, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Justice Human Rights Organisation, welcome the open letter sent to the European Union High Representative Ms Mogherini by 42 members of the European Parliament. The letter, led by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mr Javier Nart, underscored the urgent cases of Mr Mohamed Ramadan and Mr Husain Ali Moosa in Bahrain.

Bahraini courts sentenced Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion that resulted in the death of a policeman in al-Deir village on 14 February 2014 in Bahrain. Mr Ramadan has exhausted all routes of the judicial appeals process on his case, and both men are currently awaiting execution. The execution is awaiting authorization by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and could be carried out at any time.

UN expert condemns the sentencing of the opposition leader Sheikh Ali al-Salman

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today condemned the sentencing to nine years imprisonment on charges of inciting violence of Sheikh Ali al-Salman, the leader of the Wefaq opposition party in Bahrain. The expert’s call comes after a Bahraini court of appeal on Monday more than doubled his prison term, up from an earlier four years. 

Read full text here.