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Human Rights First - Pentagon Forces Congress to Wait for Late Bahrain Report

Congress has requested an analysis of how the current security situation in Bahrain affects the safety of U.S. personnel in the kingdom, and for the Pentagon to suggest alternative locations should they have to move.

Page 759 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Committee Print directs “the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, on threats posed to Department of Defense personnel and operations associated with United States military installations in Bahrain. The report should, at a minimum, include an assessment of the current security situation in Bahrain, the safety and security of Department of Defense personnel and dependents, and appropriate measures to mitigate the threat to U.S. operations and personnel including potential alternative facilities should U.S. personnel require temporary relocation.”

On Sunday the main opposition group Al Wefaq was dissolved. Leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is currently on trial, hauled before a court for tweeting criticism of the repressive government. Leading Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim has had his citizenship stripped and leading members of civil society are prevented from leaving the country.

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RSF condemns politically-motivated charge against correspondent

The Bahrain correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya, Nazeeha Saeed went to the prosecutor’s office with her lawyer, Hameed Al Mullah, on 17 July in response to a summons without knowing what awaited her.

It was only after being interrogated that she learned that she was charged with working illegally for international media.

We condemn the authorities’ attempts to prevent her working, firstly by imposing an unjustified and incomprehensible travel ban on her and then by accusing her of working illegally although her papers were always in order.”

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France: Bahrain – Dissolution of al-Wefaq (July 17, 2016)

France deplores the decision of Bahrain’s Supreme Administrative Court to order, on July 17, that the political opposition movement al-Wefaq be dissolved.

We call on the Bahraini authorities to establish an environment conducive to the resumption of a broader political dialogue, which is essential for national reconciliation and the country’s stability.

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EU: Statement by the spokesperson on the verdict to dissolve Al Wefaq political society

The verdict that a Bahraini court issued to dissolve Al Wefaq political society and to liquidate its assets is the last of a series of worrying developments in the country. The EU expects this judgment to be reversed.

As already expressed, the EU considers that Bahrain's stability and security can only be achieved through reforms and inclusive reconciliation. The verdict on Al Wefaq, the arrest of activist Nabil Rajab and the revocation of the citizenship to Sheikh Isa Qassem go, on the contrary, in the direction to further divide Bahraini society.

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Bahrain: Continued Attack on Freedom of Press and Expression as Journalist Nazeeha Saeed Banned from Work and Travel

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the authorities imposition of a travel ban and new charges against journalist Nazeeha Saeed.

Bahraini human rights defender and correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, Nazeeha has fallen once again victim of the government’s crackdown on freedom of expression. 

Saeed was arrested for the first time in May 2011, after covering the pro-democracy movement spreading throughout the country, she was subjected to beatings and torture while in police custody, and released only after signing a false confession. Describing her torture, Saeed said she was “blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession.”

Although she had three independant medical reports - two of them issued by Bahrain’s MOI - and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for torturing her and those who were brought to court were later acquitted of all charges.

In its most recent attempt to silence Saeed from publicly reporting on the escalating human rights violations in Bahrain, the government forbade her from leaving the country. She was prevented from boarding a plane to Germany on 29 June, when airport security authorities informed her that a travel ban had been imposed on her, without providing any reason or additional information.

Saeed enquired at the Nationality, Passport, and Residence Department which confirmed that she wasn’t banned from travel; however, when she attempted to travel through King Fahd Causeway, she was again not allowed to leave the country and was told that she is banned from travel.

On 17 July 2016, the public prosecution summoned Saeed for interrogation over charges of “exercising media work without an authorisation.” According to the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), Saeed has allegedly violated Article 88 of 2002 Bahraini Press Law, regulating the press, printing and publications as stated, which states that “correspondents of foreign newspapers, magazines, news agencies and radios shall not exercise their work in the Kingdom of Bahrain unless licensed by the ministry for a renewable one-year period.”

Saeed asked for a renewal of her permit earlier in March, which was refused by the IAA. Now she faces a fine of up to 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650).

Freedom of expression, as well as freedom of movement, are fundamental human rights preserved by both national regulations and international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Bahrain is a signatory.

The charge filed against Nazeeha Saeed, and the travel ban imposed on her, are merely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate activities in the defence of human rights in Bahrain.

 

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally lift the ban on Nazeeha Saeed, guaranteeing her right to freedom of movement;
  • Drop the charges against her, allowing her to carry out her journalistic work, and respect the sanctioned right to freedom of expression;
  • Allow all human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their activities, in Bahrain and abroad, without fear of harassment and retaliation; and
  • Immediately cease the ongoing crackdown on journalists, activists and civil society.

Foreign Secretary statement on the dissolution of Al Wefaq in Bahrain

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

I am deeply concerned by the decision of the Bahraini High Administrative Court to dissolve Al Wefaq. I urge the Government of Bahrain to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens. I encourage all sides to engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue to promote social cohesion and inclusivity, including political representation, for all Bahrainis. I understand there is a right of appeal, and we will continue to follow the case closely.

Read full statement here

Bahrain: UN chief condemns dissolution of Al-Wefaq political party

18 July 2016 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today deplores the dissolution of the main opposition political party in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq, and called for the resumption of an all-inclusive national dialogue aimed at peace and stability in the country and the region.

In today's statement, Mr. Ban stressed that the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, similarly to other actions taken in the country – such as stripping Sheikh Issa Qassem and others of citizenship, a travel ban on human rights defenders, and the increased sentence for the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman – risk escalating an already tense situation in the country.

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Read full statement here

Bahrain prosecutes journalist in renewed crackdown on the media

The Bahraini authorities have stepped up their pressure on Nazeeha Saeed, the France24 correspondent who was detained and tortured 2011.

She has been prosecuted for “illegal reporting” on behalf of foreign media in what appears to be a renewed crackdown on free expression.

Saeed was called to the public prosecutor’s office yesterday (17 July) and charged under a press law that prohibits Bahrainis from working for foreign media outlets without a licence.

In May 2011, Saeed was tortured by police for reporting on the events of the Arab Spring in Bahrain. In November 2015, Bahrain’s authorities decided not to prosecute her torturers. To mark that year’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, renamed the Parisian street where the Bahraini embassy is located as Rue Nazeeha Saeed.

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NGOs call for human rights abuses to be addressed in the forthcoming EU-GCC Ministerial Meeting

With the 25th European Union-Gulf Cooperation Council (EU-GCC) Ministerial meeting set to take place in Brussels on 18 July 2016, we, the undersigned organisations, call on Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as well as the ministers of EU member states, to raise a number of pressing human rights issues with the representatives of the GCC countries. In particular, we urge High Representative Mogherini and the EU ministers to call for an end to the Bahraini government’s intensified suppression of civil society and political opposition. We further urge the ministers to raise their concerns following the UN Secretary General’s decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen from a UN register of children’s rights violators, after the regime and its coalition partners threatened to cut off crucial funding.

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What Today’s Abolition of Bahraini Opposition Group Means for the Kingdom and the United States

Today a Bahraini court dissolved the country's largest opposition group. The move is a sledgehammer in the face of Bahrain's already frail politics, smashing any residual hope that the solution to the kingdom’s crisis could be negotiated

The Bahraini regime has now deliberately left itself with no partner to join in a political dialogue, and closed off the last real remaining way for people to voice their discontent peacefully. It’s a reckless move, and does nothing more than offer encouragement to those who are pushing for violent attacks against the government.

Today’s decision wasn’t a surprise but was still a shock—it's the government’s single most repressive act in five years, and the culmination of a more than a month of intense crackdown designed to choke all remaining voices of dissent. It also represents a major challenge to other governments, which cannot ignore the severity or significance of this move.

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