9 Sep, 2013

Bahrain: Instead of release, Bahrain13 Subjected to Further Targeting and Harassment

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is gravely concerned about the authorities’ escalation in targeting the imprisoned political and human rights leaders known as the Bahrain13.  The activists’ rights according to the “standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners” have been repeatedly violated with a serious escalation recently. They have been put in smaller area in the prison, deprived from medical treatment and visitation, among other violations, which puts the life of some of them at serious risk.

According to the families, the activists are incarnated in poor conditions and are being deprived of many of their rights. Their complaints to the prison administration has not only been repeatedly ignored and disregarded, but their situation has rather worsened (Read: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/5740).

1. The group was transferred from Building 6 to a separate extension of the same building on Tuesday the 13th of August 2013, placing them in isolation from the other prisoners. Due to the transfer, the 13 prisoners were given 4 prison cells as opposed to 7, resulting in some of them having to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding. Furthermore, the rooms used for reading, writing and personal hygiene such as shaving were no longer provided. Instead of allowing the group outdoors to the "fence area" (a large open courtyard surrounded by a fence, that contains space for sports, with sunshades and a little garden), the authorities have replaced it with a small area surrounded by walls and covered by a metal fence-like barrier on top, similar to a giant cage. As the group is not allowed to interact with other prisoners, they do not benefit from the professional and athletic programs available to other prisoners, nor do they have a substitute to that.    

2. Both Hasan Mushaima and Dr. Abduljalil AlSingace remain deprived of family visits and medical care for the period of over five months now, as punishment for their continued refusal to wear prison clothing. It is important to note here that the limited time Mushaima was allowed a medical visit was following international pressure, as an exception and not as it should be to secure the health and safety of the prisoners of conscience.

3. Abdulwahab Hussain continues to decline contacting his family for approximately 6 months, in protest of the calls being secretly monitored by an entity that he believes to be the National Security Apparatus. Other prisoners of the same group have been facing the same issues; many times their family calls are cut as soon as the conversation takes a direction that is not approved by the security guard monitoring the call.

4. The prison administration has begun to divide the family visitations of some of the activists in the group and their relatives who are held in the same prison. This has been the case with Shaikh Abduljalil Al-Meqdad and his brother, Shaikh Mirza Al-Mahroos and his brother, as well as Shaikh Abdulhadi Al-Mukhodher and his nephew. Previously, the administration would allow for joint visitations as a substitute to meetings that would occur between relatives that are held in the same prison. However with the cancellation of joint visitations, the members of the group will be deprived from meeting their imprisoned relatives altogether. On that pretext, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has not been allowed to meet with or contact his daughter Zainab Al-Khawaja, who has been held at the women's prison, at all since her arrest around 6 months ago, on 27 Feb 2013.

5. The prison administration continues to prohibit the prisoners from access to Al-Wasat newspaper, which is the only daily newspaper not affiliated with the government. A few months the prison administration also blocked access to all magazines including the Kuwaiti magazine Al-Arabi, The Economist, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs.

6. The duration to family visitations has been reduced from 2 to 1 1/2 hours (twice a month) to only 1 hour. This duration has proven too short specifically for married prisoners who have a large number of siblings and children. This has happened for the Bahrain13 despite it being a right they have had for more than two years. The administration has also completely stopped allowing some relatives from visiting such as sons and daughters in-law.

7. The administration in charge of the group has prohibited lawyer visitations with the justification that the final verdict has already been made in the case. However, by international standards the provision of legal consultations should be allowed to prisoners in all conditions, especially that some of them have outstanding court cases. 

8. The prison administration has recently banned prisoners from sending letters, handmade objects and receiving clothes.

9. The prison administration (and supervising judicial entities) have disregarded speeches and complaints raised against them by the Bahrain13, displaying a clear prejudice of the management itself as there have been no replies to the written complaints nor have there been interrogations with the officers or the public prosecution, except when there are pressures from entities outside the prison. In regards to the public prosecution's visitations, they have only been used to justify the prison administration’s harassment and targeting whilst spreading false news about them abroad.

10. The group has not seen any benefit in regards to the visitations of the International Red Cross to them in prison, as the deteriorating situation and targeting has happened during the period in which these visitations took place. Despite the efforts of this international organization and their sincere concerns about the conditions of prisoners, it is apparent that they do not have the persuasive measures and pressure needed. Pressure from the media has proved to have more impact on high standing officials in the country, next to judicial and executive powers. An example of that is the treatment of Hasan Mushaima, and the sexual harassment that some prisoners of minor age were subjected to (which includes Mostafa, son of Shaikh Abduljalil Al-Meqdad).

The main subject of the BCHR’s concern despite all that has been presented above, is the ongoing imprisonment of the group which has been subjected to arbitrary arrest with political motives, and held further following an unjust trial. This was despite the recommendations presented by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed by the government, as well as the pressures of international organizations and entities calling for the release of the group considering them prisoners of conscience. Furthermore, investigation into the ill treatment and torture the group has been subjected to continues to be put on hold, and that is due to the absence of a neutral and independent entity as per international standards.

The authorities continue to violate the preserved rights of the political prisoners according to the “standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners”, such as article 6 that states “there shall be no discrimination on ground of …. political or other opinion ..”. Also article 19: “every prisoner shall, in accordance with local and international standards, be provided with a separate bed ..”. The standard minimum rules emphasize that every prisoner shall be provided with adequate medical treatment, article 23.2: “sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institution to civil hospitals.”, when punishing the prisoners it shall be “with no more restriction than is necessary for safe custody and well-ordered community life.” Furthermore, prisoners shall be allowed to communicate with their families and friends “both by correspondence and by receiving visits”, to mention just a few of the violations.

The BCHR urges the international community and in particular the States that are close allies to the Government of Bahrain like the United States and the United Kingdom, to call upon the Bahraini authorities to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release the Bahrain13 as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.
  2. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the Bahrain13 as well as all political prisoners in Bahrain.
  3. Put an end to acts of harassment and targeting against all human rights defenders and political dissidents in Bahrain.
  4. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
  5. Hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations, especially those in high positions in government.
9 Sep, 2013

Bahrain: Sham Court Sets a Date for Verdict While Ignoring the Boycott of Lawyers and Defendants

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was informed that the defendants in the case of the February 14th Coalition have announced their boycott of the court session on the 5th of September. This court session was supposed to be for questioning prosecution witnesses. The session did not go ahead due to the boycotting of the defendants and their lawyers; and the judge did not show up to the session either. Despite the session not taking place, a court decision was issued announcing the 29th of September as possible verdict reading dates.

The detainees of the February 14th Coalition case issued a statement published on social media saying that they were boycotting the court for the following reasons: "The illegal arrest details, the violations of the interrogators during the interrogations and the fabrication of charges against us, the lack of independence of the Public Prosecution that was proven to us when they forced us to confess to the charges fabricated against us during the interrogations, and the circumstances of the trial in the court sessions confirmed the lack of independence of the judiciary."

The signatories of the statement also stated "All what we mentioned, and other reasons which we cannot disclose, have delivered us to the conclusion that the verdicts were prepared in advance, and that the trial is only a legal cover for these verdicts, thus we refuse to be a part of the charade meant to delude the public opinion about the independence of the judiciary. We say this with our appreciation for the defense team and their great efforts in the case, but our conviction rejects the trial completely and we hope from them – meaning the defense team – not to take any action against our will."

Human rights activists announced their boycott of the session as well; Said Yousif AlMouhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and Mohammed AlMaskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), boycotted the trial stating that the court proceedings were incompatible with the international standards for a fair trial, and they considered the continuation of the judiciary is in violation with the principle of "no conflict of personal interests," which affects the independence of the court.

In a previous session, the legal defense team, requested a response from the Forth Authority High Criminal Court regarding a letter they handed to them. The legal letter included a request to change the court due to conflicts of interest, as well as requesting the formation of a medical committee to investigate the torture the defendants were subjected to.

The defense team withdrew from the session and justified the withdrawal by basing their refusal of the court on Article 211 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Bahrain, which states that the defense team can refuse the judge's ruling in the cases mentioned in the previous article and in other cases which are prescribed by the law.

It was clear from the first session of the trial that it is nothing more than a show trial designed to pass political judgments against the defendants, as the court refused to hear the allegations of torture made ​​by the defendants, which includes 50 Bahrainis; 49 men and one woman, or even document/investigate them. The court also refused to release the detainees despite the risk of being tort