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Crackdown In Bahrain

Baba, sumoud!” (“Daddy, stay steadfast!”)

Ten-year old Malak Rajab called out these words as Bahraini police led her father, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, from his home to waiting police vehicles in July 2012. His crime: insulting the Prime Minister in a tweet.

I filmed Rajab and his young daughter in their front yard from the upstairs window of their house; I had to film clandestinely, as I had entered the country under false pretenses—Bahrain was denying entry to nearly all journalists and human rights defenders. But I captured the girl’s defiant resistance as she trailed after the police who had her father in tow.Later that day, I witnessed her fear as the reality settled in: she did not know when her father would come home.

Read the full article here.

Bahrain Extends Arbitrary Detention of BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab, Court Postpones His Trial to 2 August

12 July 2016 - The High Criminal Court today postponed the trial of prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab, President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), to 2 August 2016. The judge refused his lawyers’ request of release, thus he will remain detained pending his trial. The undersigned NGOs strongly condemn the persecution of Rajab and extension of his detention. We call on the government of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab, and respect his human rights in detention.

Rajab appeared before the court on charges of “insulting a statutory body”, “insulting a neighboring country”, and “disseminating false rumors in time of war”. These are in relation to remarks he tweeted and retweeted on his Twitter handler in 2015 about credible allegation of torture at Jau prison and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He may face more than 10 years in prison if convicted, for which he was already detained from 2 April to 13 July 2015. Despite the charges having first been made over a year ago, today’s court hearing was Rajab’s first for this case.

Since his arrest on 13 June 2016 on separate charges, Rajab has been detained in solitary confinement with no contact with other prisoners and in very poor conditions. He is currently being detained at West Riffa police station. He is being denied the minimum standards of the treatment of prisoners, which has been the cause for deterioration of his health, including the loss of 8 kgs since his arrest.

Rajab’s lawyer states that he is being subjected to harassment in detention. His right to privacy is not respected during visits: all visits are under close monitoring by two police officers, who sit close to the family. Concerns over his deteriorating health is growing. His family, who saw him today, say he looked pale and seemed to have lost more weight since their last visit on 5 July.

On 28 June 2016, after two weeks in solitary confinement, Rajab’s health deteriorated and he was transferred by ambulance to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) in Bahrain Defense Hospital after he suffered from irregular heartbeats. On 29 June 2016, the authorities transported Rajab back to the police station although his health was reportedly still unstable. Rajab suffers from additional illnesses that are only worsened due to his detention conditions. His blood tests have shown that he suffers from a urinary tract infection and low mononucleosis, and he’s awaiting the results of more blood tests. Rajab needs to have two different surgical operations, to treat gallstones and an enlarged gallbladder. He also suffers from enlarged prostate. There is a high risk of further deterioration of his physical and mental health due to prolonged periods of solitary detention.

On 13 June 2016, the authorities arrested Rajab and charged him with “publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state.” These charges were brought against him in relation to three televised interviews in 2015 and 2016 in which he mainly discussed the human rights situation and violations committed by Bahraini security forces. It’s not clear if Bahrain government plans to move forward with another trial on these charges, which are separate from the current trial.

The arrest of Rajab, who is also Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, was widely condemned in June by international human rights bodies and governments, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said that “such actions by the State authorities could potentially damage the human rights situation in the country.” In addition the United States, France and Germany have raised concerns.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner issued a statement mentioning the case of Rajab and other recent alarming issues in Bahrain, while the Human Rights Commission of the US Congress expressed concern about Rajab’s health during detention. Most recently, in July, members of the European Parliament demanded the release of Rajab in their open letter addressed to High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Parliament reiterated its demands for the release of Rajab and its condemnation of the widespread campaign against human rights and political activists in Bahrain.

We, the undersigned, calls on the international community to press further for Rajab’s basic human rights to be respected, including to protect his health, and to publicly and clearly call for his immediate and unconditional release; and for an end to the government of Bahrain’s reprisals against human rights defenders.

For more information on Nabeel Rajab, please visit this page, and for any further developments on his case please visit this page as it is regularly updated with the latest information.

 

Signed:

    Bahrain Center for Human Rights

    Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

    European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

    Justice Human Rights Organisation

Human Rights First - Bahraini Officials Urged to Drop Charges Against Nabeel Rajab

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged the government of Bahrain to drop all charges against and immediately release prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The organization also urged the U.S. ambassador to Bahrain, William Roebuck, to attend in person Rajab’s hearing tomorrow, where a Bahraini court will consider charges related to his tweets and retweets critical of Bahrain’s treatment of prisoners and the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This unfounded prosecution constitutes a serious attack on freedom of expression in Bahrain, and occurs against the backdrop of a worsening crackdown on civil society and political dissent.

Read the entire article here.

Human Rights First - Four Things President Obama Should Do Immediately About Bahrain

Six weeks ago the Bahrain launched a new, surprising, wave of repression, and the kingdom’s few remaining voices of dissent have now largely been silenced.

Since May 30 the main opposition group Al Wefaq has been suspended, its leader Sheikh Ali Salman has had his jail sentence increased from four to nine years, activists have been prevented from attending the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister lashed out angrily at senior U.N. and U.S. officials, leading dissident Zainab al Khawaja was forced out the country, and prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was arrested and taken into custody.

It’s time for President Obama to take a series of steps to reverse the dangerous decline. At the very least he should distance his administration from the crackdown. Here are four things President Obama can do immediately to take a stand on Bahrain:

Read the full article here.

Amnesty Intl., EU parliament urge Bahrain to release rights activist Nabeel Rajab

Amnesty International and the European Parliament have independently called on Bahrain to free prominent human rights defender and activist Nabeel Rajab, insisting charges against him be dropped and calling his detention "a shameless attack" on free speech. "Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights defender Nabeel Rajab and drop all charges against him," Amnesty International said in its statement  on Friday, denouncing what the organization called Bahrain’s "barefaced assault on freedom of expression."

Read the entire article here.

FIDH - Twenty-Six NGOs Call for Immediate and Unconditional Release of Bahraini Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab, Prior to His Trial Tomorrow

Tomorrow, 12 July 2016, the trial of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab begins. Facing charges related to comments on the social media website Twitter, Rajab may be sentenced to more than ten years in prison. We, the undersigned NGOs, hold the government of Bahrain responsible for the deterioration of Rajab’s health due to poor detention conditions. We call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Rajab, and to drop all charges against him.

Read the full article here.

Index - European Parliament adopts resolution condemning Bahrain’s human rights abuses

Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted, with a large majority, a resolution condemning recent human rights abuses performed by Bahraini authorities, and strongly called for an end to the ongoing repression against the country’s human rights defenders, political opposition and civil society.

Members of the European Parliament called for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders jailed over charges related to the exercise of their freedom of speech. They further condemned Bahraini authorities’ measures to prevent representatives of civil society from participating in the work of international bodies, such as the recent imposition of travel bans on the delegation set to attend the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June

Read the entire article here.

Torture, imprisonment and killing – so what would it take for Bahrain to be criticised by Philip Hammond?

Bahrainis are calling their government’s intensified repression of all opposition “the Egyptian strategy”, believing that it is modelled on the ruthless campaign by the Egyptian security forces to crush even the smallest signs of dissent.

In recent weeks leading advocates of human rights in Bahrain have been jailed in conditions directed at breaking them physically and mentally, while others, already in prison, have been given longer sentences. The Bahraini citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qasim, the spiritual leader of the Shia majority in Bahrain, was revoked and the headquarters of the main opposition party, al-Wifaq, closed and its activities suspended.

Bahrain, once considered one of the more liberal Arab monarchies, is turning into a police state as vicious and arbitrary as anywhere else in the region. Mass protests demanding an end to the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty’s monopoly of power during the Arab Spring period in 2011 were violently suppressed with Saudi military and financial help. The authorities agreed to an international investigation into what had happened that revealed widespread use of torture, unjust imprisonment and killings of protesters. Repression continued over the following five years but failed to eliminate entirely the protest movement, despite imprisoning at least 3,500 Bahrainis.

Read the entire article here.

Bahrain accused of launching cyber war on protest village

Bahrain has been accused of shutting down internet and mobile coverage in a village beset by anti-government protests, while automated Twitter accounts bombard a popular local hashtag with sectarian, anti-Shia content. 

The latest round of demonstrations in Diraz began on 20 June when Bahrain’s government stripped the country’s highest ranking Shia cleric and Dirza resident, Sheikh Isa Qassim, of his citizenship. 

Read the full article here.

European Parliament adopts an urgency resolution condemning Bahraini authorities’ crackdown on civil society and political opposition

08 July 2016 – Brussels, Belgium – Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted, with a large majority, a resolution condemning recent human rights abuses performed by Bahraini authorities, and strongly called for an end to the ongoing repression against the country’s human rights defenders, political opposition and civil society.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) called for the immediate and unconditional release of Nabeel Rajab and other human rights defenders jailed over charges related to the exercise of their freedom of speech. They further condemned Bahraini authorities’ measures to prevent representatives of civil society from participating in the work of international bodies, such as the recent imposition of travel bans on the delegation set to attend the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.

In the resolution, MEPs urged the Bahraini government to stop persecuting legitimate political opposition. They condemned the decision to suspend the country’s biggest opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and called for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the group’s secretary general whose sentence was increased from 4 to 9 years in May.

The MEPs particularly condemned the Bahraini authorities’ misuse of anti-terrorism laws and mechanisms for denaturalisation as means of political pressure. The European Parliament strongly called on the authorities to reverse the decision to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim and to “restore Bahraini citizenship to all those individuals who were unfairly stripped of it.”

The resolution also called for the effective implementation of the 2011 recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the Universal Periodic Review and the country’s own constitutional provisions linked to the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Furthermore, the resolution recognised the risk of impending execution faced by Mohammed Ramadan and Ali Moosa

Finally, MEPs condemned the agreements on trade in weapons and technologies used to violate human rights and called for the prohibition of exports of tear gas and anti-riot equipment to Bahrain until investigations have been carried out into their inappropriate use.

The undersigned NGOs strongly welcome the resolution as a clear signal to the Bahraini authorities that they must respect their international commitments, as well as their own constitution, and allow their citizens to exercise their basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and assembly.

We believe that it is of the utmost importance that EU policy and decision-makers assert the respect for human rights and legitimate expression of political dissent as a condition for any further development of relations with Bahrain and GCC countries. The next opportunity to do so will be the EU-GCC ministerial meeting which will be held in Brussels on 19 July 2016.

Please read the full text of the resolution here.

Background:

In what has been a concerted crackdown on civil society, media and fundamental freedoms, Bahraini authorities have in the past month embarked on a series of arrests, impositions of travel bans and denaturalisations of their citizens who have tried to exercise their fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

These moves include:

  •   the arrest and prosecution of the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab;
  •   the suspension, announced dissolution and the asset-freeze of the country’s biggest opposition party, the Al-Wefaq Islamic Society;
  •   an increased jail sentence, from 4 to 9 years, for the party’s Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Salman;
  •  the imposition of travel bans on journalists and activists, including a delegation of human rights activists set to participate at the 32nd UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva;
  •  the forced exile of prominent human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja;
  •   the suspension of several non-governmental and religious organisations;
  • the denationalisation of Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the Bahrain’s Shia majority population

These moves, and in particular the decision to revoke the citizenship of Sheikh Isa Qassim, provoked a wave of mass protests across the country, representing the largest public outcry since the 2011 unrest.

Signed By,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
English PEN
European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
Index on Censorship
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Justice Human Rights Organization  (JHRO)
PEN International
Reprieve