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Bahrain is still hounding its Shia

A SAGGING rope, haphazard barricades—and fear. That is all it has taken to keep Diraz, Bahrain’s largest Shia village, under siege for the past seven months. Two checkpoints bar access to all but residents. Friends and family members are kept out. Grocers offload their wares at the perimeter wall. And the protesters who once thronged to hear the island’s leading Shia cleric, Isa Qassim, deliver his Friday sermon now stay at home. “Forget the thousands who used to join rallies,” says a cleric in a neighbouring village, recalling the protests which erupted after tanks crushed the mass demonstrations for democracy in 2011. “Today we can’t even find ten. Who wants to risk five years of prison and torture for ten minutes of glory?”

Though small, running out of oil and dependent on larger Gulf neighbours, Bahrain typifies how Arab autocrats have crushed the Arab Awakening’s demands for greater representation. After six years of suppression, the Shia opposition is disheartened. Maligned as the cat’s paw of Iran and a threat to Sunni rule in Bahrain, their movement is battered and broken. More than 2,600 political prisoners are in jail, a large number in a kingdom of just 650,000 people. Many of the detainees are children, says a former member of parliament from Wefaq, the Shia party the government banned last year. Hundreds have been exiled, scores barred from travel, and over 300 stripped of their nationality, including Sheikh Qassim. Even the execution on January 15th of three Bahrainis—the first for two decades—roused only sporadic unrest by the island’s opposition.

Read more here.

Bahrain Intensifies Media Crackdown Ahead of Protest Anniversary

Bahrain is intensifying its crackdown on media freedom ahead of the 14 February uprising anniversary, when anti-government protesters, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets and called for political reform and equality for the country's majority Shia population.

On 16 January, the government banned the online edition of the country’s only independent newspaper al-Wasat, from “using electronic media tools“. This implies that the paper is not only banned from publishing on its website but also from having any online presence through its different social media channels. The paper has 229K followers on Twitter and more than 354K on Facebook. The newspaper also has a YouTube channel, and an Instagram account

Read more here.

A triple execution in Bahrain has provoked national outrage - and international silence

In the middle of the night, on January 15 2017, three citizens of Bahrain were executed by firing squad. Abbas al-Samea, 27, Ali al-Singace, 21, and Sami Mushaima 42, had all been found guilty of planting a bomb which killed three policemen – but their convictions were widely seen as unsafe.

Rumours of their 3am deaths had been circulating on the social media of those with links to the government. Once the state news agency confirmed the news, many Bahrainis took to the streets in protest, confronting riot police, who used tear gas and birdshot in response. Human rights organisations condemned the killings, not simply because they oppose the death penalty, but because these executions were viewed as being political and extrajudicial.

Read more here.

Bahrain Lifts Ban Preventing Newspaper from Posting Online

Bahraini authorities have lifted a ban preventing independent newspaper Al-Wasat from publishing online.

The official Bahrain News Agency said Thursday that the newspaper would be allowed to post material following a decision by the Ministry of Information.

It gave no details for the move, but warned that all media outlets must avoid "posting anything that incites divisions or discord within the community, undermines national unity or disturbs peace."

Read more here.

Britain urged to act as two face execution in Bahrain

Bahrain could be poised to execute two prisoners who claim their confessions were extracted through torture.

Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa were sentenced to death in 2014 for their alleged involvement in a bomb attack that killed a police officer, but supporters say they were falsely accused and confessed under duress.

Read more here.

Leading Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab in Court Again on a New Trial

On 19 January 2017, the public prosecution transferred the case of detained leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), to court to start trial hearings with the first session on 23 January 2017. BCHR strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Rajab over baseless charges related to the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him and drop all charges against him. 

Rajab appeared in front of the public prosecution today to face charges of "spreading false news" and "insulting a statutory body" due to some media interviews given the previous years. These charges are different from those related to his alleged twitter activity, for which he faces up to15 years in prison. On 23 January, he will be attending two trials.

Rajab has been in detention for over 220 days since 13 June 2016, when he was arrested for “spreading false news and rumours about the internal situation in a bid to discredit Bahrain.” Since then, he received additional charges over the “The New York Times”  Op-ed, and then again he was interrogated in December 2016 over an article in the French newspaper “Le Monde”. He was accused of using the latter article to “spread false information and tendentious rumors” that allegedly insult Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and harm their relations. In sum, Rajab is facing over 15 years in prison if convicted.  Since his arrest, Rajab’s health has suffered due to poor detention conditions and he was transferred to the prison hospital multiple times for chest pain and irregular heart beats. A court has previosuly ordered his release on 28 December 2016 on another case related to tweets and re-tweets, however he was kept in detention over other charges.

BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and to end the judicial harassment against him and other human rights defender in the country.

 

Bahrain Partially Suspends Alwasat, Only Independent Newspaper

17 January 2017 - Bahrain’s Ministry of Information Affairs (MIA) yesterday issued an order to suspend the only independent newspaper in the country, Alwasat, from using electronic media tools, effectively suspending its online presence. The order comes a day day after the execution of three torture victims, and on the day the trial of journalist Nazeeha Saeed started for “unlicensed journalism”.. We, the undersigned NGOs, condemn the attack on the freedom of the press, and the ongoing harassment to the Alwasat newspaper.

The MIA alleges that Al-Wasat has been "inciting spirit of division and harming national unity," but  provided no further basis for this accusation. The MIA ban is partial, and Alwasat’s print edition has not been suspended from publication. The MIA’s action and reasoning unreasonably restrict the newspaper’s expression and the freedom of the press. AlWasat is the only newspaper in Bahrain that led its 16 January print edition with frontpage headlines of the 15 January execution. The  Alwasat’s article featured photos of the executed victims, along with views of the independent local and international NGOs, and reporting on the popular reaction on the streets.

Alwasat frontpage on 16 Jan 2017

Despite harassments, Alwasat newspaper have been active in covering the local news with independent views to certain limits, and had a wide reach. Alwasat’s website is consistently ranked among the most popular websites in Bahrain, and in January 2017 was the highest-ranking site in the country, according to ranking site Alexa.

The suppression of Alwasat’s online edition came a day after Bahrain executed Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42) by firing squad, the first political execution in Bahrain since 1996. The three were convicted on anti-terrorism charges in an unfair trial based on evidence extracted under condition of torture. The trial and appeals hearings lacked basic fair trial guarantees, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has condemned their executions as “extrajudicial killings.”

Alwasat, established 2002, is the only newspaper in Bahrain financially and editorially independent from the state, and has been the subject to ongoing and repeated acts of harassment in the past few years. In 2010, it was banned from broadcasting audio reports and interviews on its website. In April 2011, the MIA suspended the newspaper from publishing for a day , and only allowed it to resume operations after the resignation of senior editorial staff, including its editor-in-chief, Dr. Mansoor Al Jamri, and their replacement with pro-government staff; the company’s board later reinstated the editor-in-chief. . Karim Al-Fakhrawi, a businessman and co-founder of Alwasat, was arrested in April 2011 and died under the custody of the National Security Agency (NSA) under conditions of torture. The NSA, which was stripped of law enforcement powers in November 2011, recently had its powers reinstated.

In 2015, the MIA suspended the newspaper a second time for two days, allegedly because the paper had not to used the term “martyrs” in a report on Bahraini military casualties in Yemen. In January 2016, the MIA banned newspapers from using youtube for video reports, and Alwasat was forced to close its video section until August 2016, when the MOIA legislated to regulate newspaper video content. This regulation includes a 2-minute length limit to videos and registration of the operating staff with the MIA. Several of the newspapers editors and columnist have faced prosecutions for their posts over the years.

The repeated suspension of the newspaper and this latest suspension put the newspaper at significant financial risk as it is deprived of revenues from online advertising and subscriptions to its online archive. Inducing financial pressures on Alwasat will contribute to the restriction of media freedoms in Bahrain. In 2010, another independent newspaper, Al-Waqt, had to close doors due to financial difficulties caused by lack of advertisement aid

Bahrain’s restrictions of media freedoms have been even wider reaching. Bahrain has denied multiple Bahraini reporters working for foreign news outlets from renewing their annual foreign correspondence licenses, restricting their work, and denied entry to even more independent reporters. The blocking of the only independent newspaper’s website will contribute to a media blackout on Bahrain news from reaching to the outside world and undermine the freedom of speech and expression in the country.
 

Based on the above, we urge the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Cancel immediately the decision to suspend Al-Wasat newspaper from using electronic media and allow it to use all means of information transfer and sharing.  
  • Stop the continuous targeting of journalists and to guarantee a healthy environment for them to exercise their duty to the fullest, without pressure or intimidation; allowing entry of foreign reporters and the resumption of work for Bahraini staff of foreign media outlets.
  • Show full respect for the freedom of the press, and repeal the laws that restrict the peaceful exercise to the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Signed,

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

Foreign Secretary comments following the execution of three men in Bahrain

Foreign Secretary comments following the execution of three men in Bahrain.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

"The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorites are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government."

Read the Statement Here.

Bahrain executes three Shia men in first death sentences since 2010

Britain is facing calls to loosen its ties with Bahrain after three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing an Emirati police officer and two Bahraini police officers in a 2014 bomb attack were executed.

The death sentences on Sunday were the first to be carried out in Bahrain since 2010, and protesters claimed that confessions were extracted under torture.

Read More Here.

Reprieve: Boris Johnson's Bahrain response 'woefully inadequate'

International human rights organization Reprieve has criticised the response of the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to Bahrain’s execution this morning of three men.

The three men, Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42), were executed by firing squad after being convicted on the basis of forced ‘confessions’.

Read More Here.