From 2011 to 2019: The Screams of Torture Still Echo
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June, BCHR issues the report at hand, which takes stock of the acts and victims of torture in Bahrain in the year 2019.
Bahrain acceded to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN-CAT) on 6 March 1998. In accordance withits obligation under the convention, Bahrain’s report was due in 1999. However, thegovernment of Bahrain submitted its report five years late, in 2004. Although Bahrain’s firsttreaty Periodic Report was due in 2007, no Periodic Report has been submitted since.
This report provides an overview of the current status of human rights violations in Bahrain, particularly those pertaining to allegations of ill-treatment and torture of political prisoners, including minors, while held in police custody. It also provides a background on the status of torture in Bahrain by providing readers with a glance at earlier cases and events of the last few years.
Information about ill-treatment and torture, as well as other human rights violations mentioned in this report were documented by BCHR by interviewing detainees after their release, or by recording testimonies provided by the families of detainees still in custody.
In this report, BCHR documents different methods of ill-treatment and torture used by the Bahraini authorities, which range from physical to psychological torture methods. These include beatings, forced standing, electric shocks, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, humiliating and degrading treatment, threats against family members or of a sexual nature, among others which will be mentioned in more detail in this report. The methods of ill-treatment and torture are compared with the findings from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report and data from other reports on torture in Bahrain.
Results of the presented data raise questions about the Bahraini authorities practices of systematic arbitrary arrests, use of methods of torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, and detention of people based on politically-motivated charges. Based on the cases we have been able to document, prison sentences often rely on forced confessions, as the interviewees claim, and on more than one occasion defendants lack access to a legal representative during public prosecution.
The findings suggest that the Government of Bahrain (GoB) is not abiding by attributable international and national law with respect to the crime of torture. The alleged new cases presented in this report represent evidence of the current state of affairs in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The report concludes that the GoB, contrary to what it claims, is still practicing grave violations of human rights, including systematic use of torture as a tool to not only punish political dissent, but also instill fear of any attempt of such dissent.
In a number of recommendations, BCHR calls on the Bahraini government to abide by applicable international and national law prescriptions, and calls on the international community to take immediate steps to address the culture of impunity and the clearly illegal use of torture and ill-treatment, to which individuals continue to be subjected at the hands of the security forces of Bahrain in 2016.
Read full report.
Bahrain: Threats and defamation against Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha and Hussein al-Satri
BHR 001 / 0619 / OBS 048
June 7, 2019
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the threats and defamation against Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha, Vice-president of the NGO Salam for Democracy and Human Rights and Board member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and Hussein al-Satri, an online activist .
According to the information received, on May 19, 2019, the Director General of Anti-corruption and Economic & Electronic Security (Ministry of Interior) announced that an investigation launched into Twitter accounts “that tended to encourage sedition and harm civil peace, social fabric and stability” in Bahrain had shown that most of these accounts were managed by individuals based in Iran, Qatar, Iraq, European countries such as France and Germany, and Australia, and by “fugitives convicted in absentia” . In his statement, the Director General namely accused Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha and Hussein al-Satri of managing an “e-network of accounts providing false information” and said that legal action will be taken against those accounts holders. Following this statement, the King of Bahrain and its Prime Minister also called on those running these Twitter accounts to be held to account.
On May 21, 2019, the media outlet Al Arabiya published a video report about the Ministry of Interior’ statement. The video  describes Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha and Hussein al-Satri as “wanted” men. The two defenders have never been consulted by the media to get quotes or their versions of the facts. Mr. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha stated he would denounce this act of defamation before courts and considers these threats constitute a reprisal for his human rights work and Tweets denouncing the human rights violations in Bahrain.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha has already been targeted for information he shared on social media in the past. In December 2012, Mr. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha was arrested for allegedly spreading false information on Twitter, following his documentation of a peaceful protest in Manama. He was held in pre-trial detention for one-month and then released on bail on January 17, 2013.
The Observatory is deeply concerned about the threats and acts of defamation against Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha and Hussein al-Satri, and fears the consequences those could have on their family members based in Bahrain. The Observatory believes these threats are only aimed at punishing Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha and Hussein al-Satri for their legitimate human rights activities and exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion, as it has been the case with other human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Mr. Nabeel Rajab .
Please write to the authorities of Bahrain asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha, Hussein al-Satri, their family members, and all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
ii. Put an end to all threats and acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Sayed Yousif Almuhadafdha, Hussein al-Satri and all the human rights defenders in Bahrain;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 11 and 12;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
Read more: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/bahrain-threats-and-defamation-against-sayed-yousif-almuhadafdha-and
The Formula One Group should support the safeguarding of human rights in Bahrain
We, the undersigned human rights organizations, write to you in advance of the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix race in Bahrain, scheduled for 29-31 March, to raise concerns regarding the worsening human rights situation in the country and the specific human rights risks associated with the event.
We call on the Formula One Group to take concrete measures to safeguard human rights in Bahrain during the race, in accordance with its own “Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights,” including instating a freedom complaints mechanism.
Bahrain's human rights situation has continued to deteriorate over the years, and we have seen a trend of increased repression by the authorities in the lead up to, and during, Bahrain's Grand Prix – notably the targeting and suppression of free expression in the context of the race. We are deeply concerned that the Bahrain Grand Prix has continued to take place in an environment of oppression, human rights violations, and constricted freedom of expression.
Targeting journalists for their coverage of protests surrounding the race has become commonplace. In 2012, 22-year-old videographer and journalist Ahmed Ismail Hassan was fatally shot by Bahraini security forces while covering protests around the Grand Prix. Witnesses stated that he was targeted because authorities saw his video equipment. In the seven years since, no one has been held accountable for his death.
In March 2016, Bahraini authorities refused to renew journalist Nazeeha Saeed's press credentials with foreign media outlets, seemingly as retribution for her previous coverage of police brutality during protests. She was then taken to court and fined for “working without a license.”
Additionally, journalists traveling to Bahrain for the 2017 Grand Prix were required to sign a form that stated they would only cover the Grand Prix or risk losing their visa – a strategy that has effectively muted coverage of protests and freedom of the press, while simultaneously bolstering Bahrain's reputation, thereby providing cover for abuses to continue unabated.
Other instances of human rights abuses occurred during the Grand Prix in April 2017, including the use of tear gas against protesters. Bahraini activist, Najah Yusuf, was arrested following her online criticism of Bahrain's Grand Prix, and has been subjected to arbitrary detention and torture. She was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in June 2018.
In 2012, 36-year-old father of five, Salah Abbas, was shot dead by Bahraini authorities after taking part in a peaceful demonstration on the eve of the Grand Prix. Protesters were concerned with the Bahraini government's use of the race to deflect attention from broader issues in the country, especially following the violent government crackdown on Bahrain's 2011 popular pro-democracy movement.
The 2016 Grand Prix was marked by the death of 17-year-old Ali Abdulghani, critically injured during his arrest in Shahrakan village, located within three miles of the Bahrain International Circuit. He was arrested in relation to his involvement in protests, and died on 4 April 2016, a day after the Grand Prix concluded. Witnesses state he was hit by a police vehicle and no credible investigation was ever carried out.
Authoritarian states use sports to raise their profile. Sporting bodies, including The Formula One Group, have a responsibility to protect and uphold human rights, including the right to free expression. The potential impact of interventions was recently demonstrated when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) successfully called for the release of imprisoned footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who had been held in a Bangkok prison awaiting extradition to Bahrain and risk of torture and death.
In addition, major sporting organizations, including the IOC and FIFA, have instated freedom complaints mechanisms which enable individuals, particularly journalists and human rights defenders, to report human rights and press freedom violations.
We call on the Formula One Group to follow in the footsteps of the IOC and FIFA and implement a similar freedom complaints mechanism as a concrete demonstration of its own “Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights,” in which it pledges to understand and monitor the potential human rights impacts of its activities, to identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts, and to consider practical responses to any issues raised.
A freedom complaints mechanism through the Formula One Group would be a step in the right direction to address human rights abuses surrounding the Grand Prix in countries like Bahrain, and would help to protect the fundamental right to free expression.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Independent Journalism Center (IJC)
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Pakistan Press Foundation
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
South East Europe Media Organisation
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
Bahrain Press Association (BPA)
Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
Women And Children Under Repression
Bahrain Center for Human Rights issued a new report entitled “Women and Children under Repression”, on the occasion of International Woman Day, in both, English and Arabic languages. The report is published to highlight the status of Bahraini woman under the Bahraini laws and decrees violating women's rights.
In the report, the Center examines Bahrain's laws and legislations restricting the freedom of women and children and shows the extent of its non-conformity with the international treaties, covenants and agreements especially the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The report also documented abuses against women since the popular protests beginning in 2011.
The report concluded with recommendations to the Government of Bahrain urging them to release all detained women. The report has also recommended enacting the Bahraini Nationality Act (2014), that guarantees the right of the individual in all matters relating to nationalities; Granting citizenship to every Bahraini child who has been stripped of his nationality and compensated for every right he was deprived of when he was stateless and; Amend the law to allow the Bahraini mother to transfer her nationality to her child.
To read the full report click here
Bahrain: Drop Charges Against Activist's Family
We, the undersigned organisations, call on the authorities in Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Hajer Mansoor Hasan, Sayed Nazar Alwadaei and Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, to ensure their convictions and sentences are quashed, and to drop all additional fabricated charges Mr Nazar Alwadaei is facing. On 25 February 2019, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain will issue its verdict in the appeal against the three-year prison sentence handed to all three individuals. If the sentence is upheld, they will have exhausted all legal remedies available to them.
Ms Mansoor, Mr Nazar Alwadaei and Mr Mansoor are family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who has been tortured, judicially harassed, stripped of his citizenship and threatened by the Bahraini authorities due to his human rights work in the United Kingdom. The prosecution of his relatives is the latest attempt to intimidate him and silence his advocacy efforts. Last month, the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention described the imprisonment of Ms Mansoor, Mr Nazar Alwadaei and Mr Mansoor as “arbitrary” and in reprisal to Mr Alwadaei’s activities, and called for their immediate release.
Mr Alwadaei’s family members were arrested in March 2017, while he was attending the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. They were subjected to physical and psychological abuse and prosecuted on dubious charges of planting fake explosive devices to create terror among the population. The prosecution failed to present any physical evidence linking the three to the alleged crime, relying instead on “confidential sources” and confessions which the defendants claim were extracted under duress.
On 31 October 2017, Ms Mansoor, Mr Nazar Alwadaei and Mr Mansoor were convicted by a Bahraini court following a long trial marred by due process violations, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, coerced confessions and denial of legal representation. On 20 December 2017, an appeals court upheld the sentence. Mr Nazar Alwadaei was issued an additional seven years’ imprisonment in two separate cases on 29 November 2017 and 26 March 2018 based on similar charges. He is now serving 11 years in total.
Furthermore, we are concerned that the prison conditions in Isa Town Prison, where Ms Mansoor is held, are not in line with international standards. We are aware that she is not receiving adequate medical attention for a lump in her breast, which may be cancerous. We also understand that she has not been allowed to see her family since September 2018, due to the imposition of a physical barrier in the visitation room.
We urge the Bahraini authorities to release Ms Mansoor, Mr Nazar Alwadaei and Mr Mansoor immediately and unconditionally, to ensure their convictions and sentences are quashed and to drop all additional fabricated charges against Mr Nazar Alwadaei . An impartial, effective and independent investigation into their credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment must be conducted and the results made public to ensure that all those involved can be held accountable following fair judicial proceedings.
The treatment of Sayed Alwadaei’s family is indicative of Bahrain’s pattern of abuse, harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders, as highlighted by the UN Secretary-General in September 2018. We call on the authorities in Bahrain to end such actions and ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and that the right to freedom of expression is fully respected.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First (HRF)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Women’s March Global
Nabeel Rajab among the 100 Global Thinkers
Nabeel Rajab is one of the most prominent Arab human rights defenders and has been a leading voice in the Arab Spring in Bahrain. He played a key role in Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy uprising but has been imprisoned for several years for dissent. Nabeel stands convicted of “spreading false rumors in time of war” and “insulting public authorities”.
Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and deputy secretary general of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), has been detained in October 2014 on charges relating to a series of tweets in which he called to end the war in Yemen for humanitarian reasons.
Nabeel Rajab is among the most respected rights activists in the Arab world, and his rights work has been recognized internationally.Instead of honoring him for his human rights activism in Bahrain, he has been subjected in inhumane conditions and ill-treatment in prison.
In February 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for his tweets documenting torture in Bahrain’s prisons. He has reportedly been subjected to inhumane conditions and denied medical care in prison. Human rights organizations are campaigning for his immediate and unconditional release. Foreign Policy (FP) listed Nabeel Rajab among the top 100 list of the most important Global Thinkers of this year.
Press Briefing Note on Bahrain
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 4 January 2019
We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and to ensure that all Bahrainis are able to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of arbitrary detention.
Rajab has been imprisoned since June 2016 for tweeting in 2015 about Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen and allegations of torture inside Bahrain’s Jau Prison. One such tweet read as follows: “We have the right to say no to the war in #Yemen and should struggle for peace and security but not bloodshed #Sanaa.” On Monday this week, Bahrain’s highest court – the Court of Cassation – upheld Rajab’s conviction and five-year prison sentence on charges of "spreading false news and rumours in time of war", "insulting foreign countries" and "insulting publicly the interior ministry". The UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention had last year declared Rajab’s detention to be arbitrary.
Monday’s court decision brings into focus the continued suppression of Government critics in Bahrain through arbitrary arrest and detention, travel bans, harassment, threats, revocation of citizenship and other means. There have been numerous reports of human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and opposition figures being targeted for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. The UN Secretary-General’s report on reprisals in September 2018 highlighted several specific cases where civil society activists and their families in Bahrain suffered reprisals for seeking to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council. In some of the cases, the activists were accused of terrorism-related offences.
The arrest, detention and imprisonment of individuals for the exercise of their fundamental human rights is in violation of Bahrain’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified. We urge the Government of Bahrain to stop criminalising dissenting voices.
Round table: The Restrictions Imposed on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression-Bahrain
“Bahrain Center for Human Rights” with the cooperation of “Bahrain Interfaith”, “Salam for Democracy and Human Rights”, and “Maharat Foundation” organized a seminar entitled “The Restrictions Imposed on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression-Bahrain”. The seminar discussed the use of regional laws as a mean to limit the freedom of expression in Bahrain. It reviewed the violations and constraints imposed on the citizens, organizations, and civil society that are making use of their right to freedom of expression, through judicial and legislative restrictions.
The legal advisor Ibrahim Sarhan, from SalamDHR, reviewed the legal articles that the government of Bahrain uses to restrict freedom of expression. In the second panel, Hussein Al-Sharif, from “Maharat Foundation” discussed Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that emphasizes the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Additionally, he listed the international legislations protecting this right. In this context, he noted the importance of human rights activists' knowledge of the gaps in internal laws and how these gaps can be used to their advantage.
Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, from Bahrain Interfaith, commented on the provisions of incitement to hatred in Bahrain, and ways of guaranteeing the right to express one’s opinion through the scrutiny of the Bahraini law, and provided a precise definition of hatred, as well as the adoption of the Rabat Plan of Action. Finally, human rights activist Enas Aoun, from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights participated in a recorded video on the situation of prisoners of opinion and expression in Bahrain.