20 Sep, 2013

Amnesty Int'l: Bahrain must immediately release opposition leader

The arrest of the prominent opposition leader Khalil al-Marzouq in Bahrain last night is the authorities’ latest move to tighten the noose on political opposition in the country and silence anyone seen to be critical of the authorities, Amnesty International said.

“Khalil al-Marzouq is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned only for of his vehement criticism of the government. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“His arrest is yet another blow to the National Dialogue which the Bahraini authorities have been flaunting as a reason to cancel the visit of the UN expert on torture to the country. However harsh his speech towards the authorities, he should not have been arrested for expressing his views.”

Khalil al-Marzouq, the Assistant Secretary General of al-Wefaq, the registered political association representing the majority Shi’a population in Bahrain, and former Head of the Legislative and Legal Committee in parliament, was arrested on 17 September.

He was interrogated by the Public Prosecutor in the presence of a lawyer for seven hours.

Khalil al-Marzouq has been charged with incitement to violence after he gave speech critical of the government on 6 September at a political rally attended by nearly 6,000 people near the village of Saar. During the speech a masked man passed near the podium and gave him a white flag which Khalil put aside. The flag allegedly symbolises the “14 February Movement”, a loose network of youth groups established in 2011 which has called for the end of the monarchy. Some of the movement’s members are on trial, accused of using violence.

Amnesty International has reviewed the video of the 6 September speech by Khalil al-Marzooq and the flag incident, but does not believe there is any incitement to violence in them.

The Public Prosecution ordered Khalil al-Marzouq’s detention for 30 days pending an investigation. If convicted he faces a lengthy jail sentence and the possibility of his nationality being revoked.

Khalil and al-Wefaq have repeatedly stated that they are against the use of violence and are committed to achieving change through peaceful means.

“Over recent months, the Bahraini government has increased its threats and attacks against political associations which are critical of the government, in particular al-Wefaq. This must stop and Bahrain’s allies can no longer hide behind the National Dialogue to mute their criticisms under the pretext that it could derail the process,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

This latest arrest comes only days after a joint statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Bahrain, signed by 47 countries, expressed concerns about the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain.

As a response to Khalil al-Marzooq’s detention and other serious ongoing human rights violations the political opposition associations have today announced their decision to suspend their participation in the National Dialogue which had just resumed after two months of summer break.

In July the King issued several decrees which, among other things, banned demonstrations, sit-ins and public gatherings in Manama indefinitely and toughened punishments laid out in the 2006 anti-terrorism legislation. In early September the Minister of Justice issued a decree adding new restrictions on political associations. Political associations must now notify the Ministry of Justice three days before any meeting with a foreign diplomat and must take place in the presence of an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/bahrain-khalil-al-marzouq-arrested-2013-09-18 

17 Sep, 2013

Bahrain- GCHR & BCHR express their grave concern over the continued attacks and harassment of Bahraini rights defenders

Left to right: Hussain Ali, Zainab Al-Khawaja, Naji Fateel

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their grave concern over the continued attacks and harassment, including arrests and ongoing detention, of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

On 6 September 2013, Hussain Ali Abdul Nabi (20 years old) – a member of the Documentation Team of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) - was arrested from his friend's house. He was subject to enforced disappearance for several days. On 10 September, the public prosecution ordered the detention of Abdul Nabi for 45 days pending investigation on charges of "illegal gathering" and targeting policemen.

Abdul Nabi is not the only human rights defender facing criminal charges as part of a campaign that targets human rights defenders in Bahrain with defamation and fabricated charges in order to hinder their work. Naji Fateel, a board member BYHRS, remains detained since 2 May 2013 on charges of “establishing a terrorist group for the purpose of disturbing public security, disabling constitution and law, preventing public institution and authorities from performing their duties, attacking public and personal rights, and harming national unity,” under the internationally condemned Terrorism Law. On 23 May 2013, Fateel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for “illegal assembly”, while he is expecting a verdict on the other charges on 29 September 2013. In his first court hearing, which was held on 11 July 2013, Fateel talked publicly about the torture he was subjected to and took his shirt off to show the torture marks on his back. However, instead of  taking action to carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the allegations of torture, the judge did not allow the defendants to complete their testimonies and refused to take note of their allegations. (For more information please see:  http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6227).

In addition, the GCHR and BCHR are concerned about the health of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja who is still being kept with criminal prisoners who have Hepatitis A and B. Her family visited her recently and they reported that she has lost a lot of weight and her face looked yellow. Hepatitis A and B are contagious diseases and authorities at the prison rejected many requests made by Al-Khawaja to get the vaccine which puts her at great risk of infection. Al-Khawaja is serving multiple prison sentences at Isa women’s prison, and expected to remain imprisoned until February 2014 on different charges including entering a restricted area (the Pearl Roundabout) and “illegal gathering”. It is important to note that all prisoners eat together from the same food, which puts them at higher risk of contagion. To add to that, Al-Khawaja has been prevented from going outdoors since March 2012, which increases risks of infection and puts her health at risk.

The GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration, as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and leading human rights organizations, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

1- Immediately release detained human rights defenders  Hussain Ali Abdul Nabi, Naji Fateel and Zainab Al-Khawaja, as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;

2- Immediately remove Zainab Al-Khawaja from her cell and provide her with vaccination;

3- Guarantee the legal rights and due process of the prisoners of conscious and victims of torture;

4- Stop the ongoing daily human rights violations as well as the escalated attacks against human rights defenders;

5- Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment;

 

The GCHR and BCHR remind the Bahraini government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels  (b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups” and Article 12 (2) “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

15 Sep, 2013

Repression and Impunity in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

In a Side Event at the United Nations Human Rights Council:

Repression and Impunity in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

 

Yesterday, 12 September 2013, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) organized an event at the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to highlight the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and lack of accountability for human rights violations within the Gulf region.

The speakers of the event included Ms. Maryam Al-Khawaja, acting director of BCHR and co-director of GCHR, Mr. Khalid Ibrahim, co-director of the GCHR, Melanie Gingell, a board member of the GCHR.  Mr. Jeremie Smith, director of the Geneva office of CIHRS, chaired the event.  The event was attended by state delegations, United Nations officials and civil society groups from around the world.

Mr. Ibrahim highlighted ongoing widespread attacks against human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen.  He then moved on to discuss the findings of the GCHR’s recent report on the role of human rights defenders within the transitional process in Yemen and ongoing attacks against these defenders. Mr. Ibrahim also pointed out the continued lack of accountability for human rights violations in Yemen, including the failure of the Yemeni government to appoint any m