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State Department Urged to Submit Overdue Report on Bahrain’s Progress Toward Reform to Congress

Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today urged the State Department to submit its congressionally-mandated report assessing the extent to which the Bahraini government has implemented the recommendations of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report. The call came in a letter to Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson asking her to release the report, which was mandated as part of the omnibus appropriations bill enacted in December of 2015 and due to Congress by February 1 of this year.

Read the full article here.

SIU Interrogated 58 Policemen & Referred 1 to Trial over Beating Prisoner

The Deputy Chairman of Bahrain's Special Investigation Unit (SIU), Mohammed Khalid Al-Hazza, said that the unit received 13 complaints in May, which included claims of alleged torture, maltreatment, and excessive use of force committed by public security service members. The SIU has taken action by investigating all the complaints, he added.

Read the full article here

Open Letter to UN Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children, on the Occasion of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

 

In 2015 alone, BCHR documented 237 cases of minors who have been arbitrarily deprived not only of their freedom, but also of innocence and childhood, held in inadequate facilities, in poor and degrading conditions, and who are victims of inhumane treatments.

 

June 4, 2016

Ms. Marta Santos Pais
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children

Copenhagen

 

Dear Ms. Pais,

On the UN International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression,
the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) wishes to express its deep concern over the deteriorating situation of child political prisoners in Bahrain, hoping to gain your support in urging Bahraini authorities to release them, and to end the practice of subjecting minors to unlawful arrests, systematic torture and ill-treatment in the Bahraini penal system.

Since the 2011 violent crackdown on peaceful democracy protests sweeping the entire country, the situation of human rights in Bahrain has dramatically worsened, affecting every segment of the society. Minors, as young as 10, have since become the target of retaliations by Bahraini authorities, as part of the ongoing repression of the pro-democracy and human rights movement.

BCHR, together with Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), has been able to document cases of minors arrested without due process, tortured under interrogation and unlawfully jailed alongside adult inmates, a dark reality of Bahraini retaliation tactics, transforming even the society’s most vulnerable and in need of protection into state enemies in order to intimidate even peaceful opposition to their authoritarian regime.

According to the Bahraini Penal Code, Article 32, “a person that is not more than 15 years of age at the time of committing a crime, shall not be held liable.” And yet, BCHR continues to document cases of arbitrary arrests, detention and physical as well as mental assault on children below the age of 15 by security forces. (See Annex below for sample cases.)

Many of these minors have been arrested following their participation in peaceful rallies, and even for their mere proximity to protests taking place near their residences. Frequently arrested without a warrant, teenagers and minors are more often than not held in incommunicado detention, i.e. their family is not given notice of their arrest, or communication between them and their children is prevented, while defendants are not allowed to  access the services of  a lawyer or have a legal representative during public prosecution. Charged on various grounds, ranging from illegal gathering and rioting, to destruction of properties, attacks on police officers and possession of Molotov cocktails, these children are impeded from properly defending their innocence.

Based on their testimonies, once they are brought to various police stations or to the infamous Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), teenagers and minors are subjected to food, water and sleep deprivation, to severe verbal humiliations, to incessant beatings e.g. slapping, punching, beaten in their genital areas, and even to sexual threats and assaults. Under this intimidating regime, the minors agree to sign false confessions of their alleged deeds, which are then used in public courts to issue their sentences. In most cases they are taken to Dry Dock Prison or Jaw Prison, to either wait for their trial or serve their sentences alongside adult inmates.

The lack of due process is sadly a common practice applied to all political prisoners in Bahrain; the fact that minors are forced to undergo such practices only serves to illustrate the severity and scale of mass bullying to which the Bahraini government is subjecting its own people. We continue to note the escalation of arrests, torture and ill-treatment under detainment of teenagers and minors at the hands of Bahraini security forces, in absence of due process and over politically motivated charges

 

Screenshot 2016-06-02 11.26.45.png

* Total of Arbitrary Arrests in Bahrain during 2015

As a signatory party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) since 1998, Bahraini authorities should “take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever [...] may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Furthermore, Bahraini authorities are acting in violation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified in 1992. Accordingly “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [Nor] shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; [e]very child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age.”

Moreover “[e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.”

BCHR calls on the Special Representative of Secretary-General on Violence against Children and all close allies and institutions, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Release all child and teenage political prisoners, and end any form of physical or mental retaliation tactics to which these minors are being subjected;
  • End the systematic violence during arrest and detention, in order to extort confessions, and enable access to a fair trial;
  • Observe International norms and standards, ensuring every child a decent life and full respect for his/her dignity; and
  • Offer adequate support to victims of unlawful arrests, torture and detention, through rehabilitation.

 

CC: Sven Jürgenson, President, UNICEF

       Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

       Helle Thorning Schmidt, Chief Executive Office, Save the Children

 


 

ANNEX

In this annex, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) would like to draw Your attention to individual cases of abuses that have been documented, in cooperation with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), about children in the Bahraini detention system.
 

Jehad Nabeel al-Same’a, age 10.

Bahraini police initially arrested Jehad in December 2013 as he played near his grandfather’s home. They charged him with attacking policemen, vandalizing police cars, gathering illegally and possessing a Molotov cocktail. Officials detained him for 43 days. After his release, he was re-arrested in May and sentenced to six months in prison.

Ali Husain Abdulla Ahmed, age 16.

On 1 August, 2014, police chased Ali to his grandmother’s house and arrested him. They did not present a warrant and based the arrest on Ali’s proximity to clashes occurring in the area. Security forces transported him to the police station, and during the detention they beat him all over his body and humiliated him. Ali is now held at the Dry Dock detention center where he awaits trial.

Nedhal Ali Hussain al-Abood, age 16.

On 24 September 2013, Bahraini authorities arrested Nedhal from his house. They did not present an arrest warrant. They transported him to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), where he was not allowed to get in contact with a lawyer. During his detention at CID, Bahraini security officers abused him. Nedhal told his parents that he signed a false confession in order to avoid returning to CID. On 13 August 2014, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Nedhal to life imprisonment. An appellate court later reduced his sentence to 15 years in prison.                                   

Ebrahim Ahmed Al Muqdad, age 17.

Ebrahim was arrested on 23 July 2012, at the age of 15, following clashes in Bilad al-Qadeem. After he was transported to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID), his family was not given notice of his arrest for two days. During his detention at CID, security officers tortured him. They beat him with police batons and their bare hands, sexually harassed him, shocked him and deprived him of sleep, food, and water. They pointed a gun at his head and told him to confess. Denied access to a lawyer, Ebrahim was sentenced to 10 years in prison, on charges of allegedly murdering a policeman, stealing a police vehicle, burning a military armored vehicle, illegal gathering and possession of Molotov cocktails. Ebrahim is now serving his sentence at Jaw prison, making him the youngest political prisoner prosecuted under a terrorism law internationally.

Read their full stories here.                                   

       

                               

 

 

NGOs support MEPs letter to the EU on urgent cases of Mohamed Ramadan and Husain Moosa in Bahrain

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, together with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, The Bahraini Centre for Human Rights, The Bahraini Institute for Rights and Democracy, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Justice Human Rights Organisation, welcome the open letter sent to the European Union High Representative Ms Mogherini by 42 members of the European Parliament. The letter, led by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mr Javier Nart, underscored the urgent cases of Mr Mohamed Ramadan and Mr Husain Ali Moosa in Bahrain.

Bahraini courts sentenced Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa to death for their alleged involvement in a bomb explosion that resulted in the death of a policeman in al-Deir village on 14 February 2014 in Bahrain. Mr Ramadan has exhausted all routes of the judicial appeals process on his case, and both men are currently awaiting execution. The execution is awaiting authorization by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and could be carried out at any time.

UN expert condemns the sentencing of the opposition leader Sheikh Ali al-Salman

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, today condemned the sentencing to nine years imprisonment on charges of inciting violence of Sheikh Ali al-Salman, the leader of the Wefaq opposition party in Bahrain. The expert’s call comes after a Bahraini court of appeal on Monday more than doubled his prison term, up from an earlier four years. 

Read full text here.

 

Human Rights First: Bahrain’s Selective Separation of Religion from Politics

Human Rights First has published a post on a law amendment passed by the Bahrain’s parliament last week, which prohibits religious figures from participating in political activities. Under this amendment to the 2005 Political Society Law, involvement in the political sphere is off limits to all those who have active religious roles, and no religious figure who delivers sermons can be a member of a political society.

Read the full blog post here.

NGOs condemn death penalties upheld based on coerced confessions, amid alarming rise of court sentences against political prisoners

We, the undersigned NGOs, strongly condemn the Bahraini government’s use of the death penalty, lengthy imprisonment sentences, and revocation of citizenship, amid ongoing credible allegations of torture, ill-treatment and deprivation of due process.

On 31 May 2016, an appeals court in Bahrain upheld the death sentences of three individuals - Sami Mushaima, Abbas Al-Samea, and Ali Abdulshaheed Al-Singace; and life sentences for six others - Ali Jameel Al-Samea, Taher Al-Samea, Husain Ahmed, Hasan Sabah, Ahmed Matooq and Redha Mushaima; and revoked the citizenship of eight of them. The detainees were arrested over two years ago, on 3 March 2014, by security forces in house raids, on charges of allegedly using improvised explosive devices which led to the killing of three police officers, one of them being an Emirati citizen. The state-sponsored media quickly published photos of the defendants accusing them of murder, before the investigation was even completed. On 26 February 2015, the High Criminal Court convicted them of all charges and passed sentence.

BCHR has been closely monitoring these cases, raising the alarm on more than one occasion on questionable interrogation practices and ill-treatment of these detainees, who were refused access to their families and lawyers. They said that they were subjected to torture during interrogation to force them to confess. Despite being presented with evidence to prove their innocence, the court convicted and sentenced them to the harshest of punishments. All defendants denied the charges against them, and pleaded innocent.

As reported to BCHR, the security forces subjected detainees to more than a week of enforced disappearance, during which they were allegedly tortured.  Sami Mushaima, who is one of three individuals sentenced to death for his alleged planning of the bombing event, has claimed that the security forces tortured him to force his confessions by beating him in his genital area, and keeping him handcuffed at all times, even in his prison cell. They also forced him to stand for hours and limited his access to toilet. Abbas al Samea – similarly sentenced to death – also alleged he was subjected to various form of torture, including electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and sexual assault. Other detainees in the case have reported being subjected to the same forms of torture.

Additionally, the defendants’ lawyers were prevented from accessing the case files during trials, and from cross-examining the public prosecution’s witnesses. As such, the prisoners’ legal representatives boycotted the hearings and protested the unjust and biased investigation and trial. This is a clear violation of their legal right to due process. Consequently, the case document that was submitted by the public prosecutor relied entirely on a confession obtained through torture.

We continue to note the escalation of harsh sentences issued by Bahraini courts in absence of due process and over politically motivated charges. In May 2016 alone, BCHR registered a total of 2,211 years’ worth of prison sentences, across more than 44 cases all related to the political unrest in Bahrain. 207 persons were subject to these sentences, where some of them have to pay a total of BHD 412,400 in fines (the equivalent of USD$$1,093,959.20). Moreover, 36 individuals had their citizenship revoked through court orders.

According to article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), every individual has the right to life, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his right. Article 6(2) mentions that countries which have not abolished the death penalty may not impose a death sentence against individuals if they cannot be guaranteed the right to a fair trial and where other ICCPR rights have been violated. This right to a fair trial will include the presumption of innocence and the right to examine witnesses. According to the interpretation by the UN Human Rights Committee, all ICCPR provisions must be upheld throughout proceedings. This includes the absolute rights under article 7 not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, for any purpose.

We, the undersigned, therefore call upon the government of Bahrain to:

  • Annul the death penalty convictions and life imprisonment sentences levelled against the 10 defendants;
  • Immediately launch an investigation into the allegation of torture and prosecute all individuals found responsible for the crimes of torture and or/cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political detainees who have been arbitrarily arrested for politically motivated charges due to the popular movement for freedom and democracy; and
  • Guarantee the right to a fair and impartial trial, as well as the right to legal counsel for all political prisoners in the Bahraini detention system.

 

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)