28 Jan, 2015

Bahrain: Arrest of Nine Internet Users Over Social Media Posts

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned over the continuing judicial harassment of whoever exercises his/ her right of free speech, particularly through the use of social media.

On 27 January 2015, nine men, Mohammed Saeed Al Adraj, 24 years, Mohammed Ahmed Ali, 21 years, Yousif Fadhel Salman, 21 years, Abas Ali Ahmed, 21 years, Kameel Ibrahim Yousif, 19 years, and Hussain Mohammed Ahmed, 22 years, were arrested over charges related to free expression. The Ministry of Interior stated that these men have misused social media and they could face an imprisonment term of up to two years or a fine of up to BHD200 according to article 215 of Bahrain’s Penal Code which punishes with these terms whoever “offends in public a foreign country or an international organization based in Bahrain or its president or representative. The same penalty shall apply to a person who offends such organization’s flag or official emblem.” It’s believed that the posts of concern have been critical to the late Saudi king Abdulla Alsaud.

Recently, the Government of Bahrain has escalated its repression and targeting of free speech through judicial harassment, since 2012, numerous individuals were tried and sentenced to more than 408 months in prison for merely exercising their rights to free speech, while more than 186 months imprisonment were handed down in 2014 alone.

Just last week, on 20 January 2015, the prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to 6 months in prison over a conviction related to a tweet he published in September 2014. The international community has been outspoken about the case of Nabeel Rajab and calling on the Government of Bahrain to respect human rights and free speech. Another example of targeting free speech, is the recent case against the former Member of Parliament and Al-Wefaq’s head of Shura Council, Sayed Jameel Kadhem, who was sentenced to 6 months in prison and a fine of BHD500 on charges of “disturbing the elections” for comments he made on Twitter.   

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the arrest of the nine internet users yesterday and calls for their immediate release and based on the escalation of the repression exercised by the Bahraini government on freedom of speech, we call for the international community to intensify its efforts in pressuring the Bahraini government to drop all charges and release all of those who are being sentenced for exercising their internationally protected right to freedom of expression.

The BCHR calls on the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States and other national and international bodies to:

- Publicly call for the Government of Bahrain to release the 9 individuals;

- Apply pressure on the Government of Bahrain to halt any further judicial harassment on the 9 individuals; and

- Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon the internationally protected right of free expression.

5 Jan, 2015

Bahrain: Detainees At Risk Of Torture After More Than Seven Days Of Incommunicado Detention

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern regarding the Bahraini authorities holding of two detainees in incommunicado detention at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), placing them at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

On 27 December 2014, masked security forces raided a house where two wanted men were arrested. Salman Isa (31 years-old) was one of the arrested individuals; he has previously been sentenced to sixty-five years in prison, and had his citizenship revoked by a court order in November 2014. Ali Makki (26 years-old) was also arrested; he has been sentenced to seventy years in prison. Both detainees were charged in multiple cases with terrorism charges including “conducting bombing operations, murder and violent attacks on policemen in East Ekar village”. They were taken to an open area in al-Eker village and videotaped by security forces; witnesses stated that security forces beat Isa and Makki until they fell unconscious. Security forces were also heard threatening them with death and torture. Several houses or apartments were raided after Isa and Makki’s arrest, including an apartment used as headquarter for a Shia religious society which organizes peaceful religious events and processions. The apartment was also used to store equipment used in these events, such as audio devices, speakers, flags and cameras which were all confiscated by security forces. The security forces then raided the home of Shaker Abdulrasool, the President of the society, and arrested him.

On the morning of the next day, 28 December 2014, the families of the detainees received a call from Makki, Isa and Abdulrasool, informing them that they are currently being held at the CID before the line was cut. On the same day, the MOI published the pictures of Makki and Isa stating that they were fugitives who were convicted in absentia. The Ministry claimed that they had weapons which they used during arrest; however, witnesses denied that either of the detainees had any weapons during arrest and stated that they had seen members of the security forces placing weapons in the detainees’ car. The reason for arresting Shaker Abdulrasool remains unknown.

It has been more than a week since their arrest, and the authorities continue to deny the detainees contact with their families, or legal counsel. Makki and Isa’s families visited the CID in an attempt to gather more information, but they were shouted at by officers and told to leave the building without being provided with any information. Similarly, Shaker’s family asked at the CID for his whereabouts and attempted to give his diabetes medicine to the guards. However, officials at the CID refused to take the medicines, and did not provide any information about whether he was at their custody.

The BCHR reiterates the UN Commission on Human Rights’ view that “prolonged incommunicado detention may facilitate the perpetration of torture and can in itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.” Concerns over Salman and Ali’s wellbeing become increasingly acute the longer that they are detained incommunicado at the CID. In 2011, the BICI documented the cases of more than one detainee tortured to death at the CID. In addition, BCHR has documented dozens of torture and ill-treatment cases carried out by security forces at the CID.

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights calls on the international community and the governments of the US, UK and other close allies of Bahrain to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • Allow Salman Isa, Ali Makki and Shaker Abdulrasool immediate access to their families and lawyers and update them on the status of their detention and general well-being;
  • Vacate Isa’s, Makki’s sentences and to unconditionally release all political prisoners;
  • Put an end the practice of incommunicado detention;
  • Urge the Government of Bahrain to replace its anti-terrorism laws with legislation that does not encroach upon citizens’ rights.
29 Dec, 2014

NGOs Call for the Immediate Release of Al-Wefaq General-Secretary Shaikh Ali Salman

On 28 December 2014, Bahraini authorities arrested Shaikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq Political Society. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy for Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) strongly condemn the Bahraini government’s detention of Shaikh Salman for his peaceful political activities and his work as a leader of the largest opposition political party in Bahrain. The undersigned NGOs are extremely concerned for the well-being of Shaikh Salman, and fear that his arrest will lead to the further deterioration of the human rights situation and may strengthen extremism in the country.

On the morning of 28 December, Shaikh Ali Salman went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after receiving a summons from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) following the conclusion of Al-Wefaq's General Assembly conference, which the MOI had banned. On the morning of 28 December, Shaikh Salman went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he was arrested and interrogated. The CID refused his lawyers entry twice before eventually granting one lawyer access to Shaikh Salman’s interrogation. Shaikh Ali Salman and his lawyer were told that the CID would transfer him to the Office of the Public Prosecution. However, according to available information, he was never taken to the Public Prosecution and the MOI has ordered his ongoing detention.

Shaikh Ali Salman’s lawyers stated that he is accused of inciting hatred against the government, c