14 Sep, 2015

NGOs Welcome 5th UN Joint Statement on Human Rights in Bahrain

14 September 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), welcome today’s joint statement raising the concern of 33 States about the human rights situation in Bahrain during the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council. This joint statement, led by Switzerland, raises the persistent concerns of the international community regarding a wide variety human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the ongoing use of torture, excessive & indiscriminate use of force, and restrictions on the freedoms of opinion, expression and assembly. This latest joint statement builds on four previous joint statements in the Human Rights Council since 2012, which raised similar concerns and enjoy a growing coalition of cross-regional support.

In addition to recognizing a long list of human rights abuses, the 33 States called on Bahrain to take action to substantively address these concerns. The States called on the government to fully implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and Bahrain’s Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review, as well as for enhanced cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Special Procedures. States also called for the release of all persons imprisoned for exercising their human rights, and for the government to “put an end to the repression of peaceful protestors and issue clear instructions to the security forces to refrain from using disproportionate force against the protestors.”

“Today’s statement is a clear message from the international community that Bahrain cannot continue to dodge accountability for its human rights abuses,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Government of Bahrain must address these concerns, or potentially face increased international consequences.”

Since 2012, five successive joint statements have been made on Bahrain at the Human Rights Council, with a growing number of States showing support for addressing these ongoing issues. Since 2013, all of the statements have enjoyed the full support of all European Union Member States, in addition to Switzerland, the United States, and a growing list of Latin American, African and Asian States.

“In Bahrain, we welcome the continued attention and concern of the international community on these longstanding human rights abuses, and hope that the Government will commit to cooperation, transparency, and reform,” said Nabeel Rajab, President of BCHR. The Director of Advocacy at BIRD, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, added that “the Government must act on these concerns now, or the Council may resolve that more serious measures are required in the immediate future.”

14 Sep, 2015

Symposium at Copenhagen University

On September 10th 2015 we held a symposium at Copenhagen University entitled 'Human Rights and Youth: The Case of Bahrain'. A short documentary was shown, followed by interesting and important talks given by Nedal Al Salman of BCHR, Hanna Ziadeh of The Danish Institute of Human Rights, and Magnus Harrison of Humanity in Action. The event then had a lively discussion of the issues, rounded up by drinks and snacks and a chance top talk informally to the speakers. 

We are happy to announce that the BCHR's event was very fruitful leading to interesting discussions and insights. Around 40 engaged and ambitious students showed up with an interest in specifically Middle East and human rights. We would like to thank everyone who was involved in this successful event and especially the talented board of panelists who guided us through the process of mutual learning and perspective expansion. We cannot wait to see what the future hold.

9 Sep, 2015

Champions for Justice: Bahrain’s Imprisoned Politicians

Last year marked the first general elections to be held in Bahrain since the pro-democracy uprising of 2011.  Since the election, which has been named amongst the worst elections in 2014 alongside those in Syria and Afghanistan, the Government of Bahrain has infringed on the freedoms of political opposition societies across the political spectrum. Al-Wefaq, the largest political society in Bahrain who boycotted the election, was the first to see high-profile arrests and trials on charges related to free expression. The government soon placed other societies, including the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) and Democratic Unity Gathering Society (al-Wahdawi), under similar pressures.

This month, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) call attention to leaders of the political opposition imprisoned in the past year. Their situations remain significant: Bahrain cannot reasonably claim to have instituted reforms or conducted a national reconciliation dialogue when leaders from the political opposition are imprisoned.

Ebrahim Sharif is the former Secretary-General of the secular nationalist party Wa’ad. He is a member of the “Bahrain 13”,  a group of political prisoners arrested in relation to their activities during  2011’s democratic movement. In June 2011, a military court sentenced Sharif to five years imprisonment, despite evidence that he was tortured in detention. A civilian appeals court upheld the sentence in 2012. In June 2015, Sharif was released on a royal pardon near the end of his prison term, when he was already eligible for parole. However, he was rearrested  just 19 days later, on 13 July, following a speech he gave after his release from prison. In the speech, he stated: “We are for democracy, we are for a constitution which gives wide authorities to the parliament, we are for a government elected by the parliament, we want a constitutional monarchy.” The Public Prosecution has charged him with “inciting violence” and “promoting overthrow of the government.” His next trial hearing is on 12 October 2015.

Fadhel Abbas served as the Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society (al-Wahdawi) prior to his arrest on charges related to freedom of expression. On 26 March 2015, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced that Bahrain would be joining Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in conducting air strikes in Yemen. On the same day, the MOI warned that it would take steps against anyone expressing opinions "against the approach that Bahrain has taken." The MOI arrested Abbas later that day in relation to a statement that al-Wahdawi published on Twitter calling Bahrain's involvement in the war unconstitutional. , After Abbas's arrest, the MOI undertook steps to dissolve al-Wahdawi on the grounds that it had been "undermining national security." On 28 June 2015, Bahrain's criminal court sentenced Abbas to five years in prison for "spreading false information that could harm the military operations of Bahrain and its allies" in Yemen. Abbas is currently serving his sentence in Jau Prison. His next appeal court hearing is 10 October 2015.

Sheikh Ali Salman is the Secretary-General of al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest licensed political society. Salman was an opposition leader at the forefront of the national dialogues between 2011 and 2014, during which he has consistently called for a stronger parliament and the release of political prisoners, while emphasizing that peaceful resistance is the only means to achieving reform in Bahrain. On 28 December 2014, officers arrested Sheikh Salman after summoning him for questioning. After more than two weeks in detention without being formally charged with a crime, the Public Prosecution charged him with inciting hatred, civil disobedience and promoting overthrow of the government, in addition to a litany of other charges. A Human Rights Watch study of Salman’s public speeches in question found no basis for the charges. On 16 June 2015, a criminal court sentenced him to four years in prison. His next appeal court hearing is 14 September 2015.

Sheikh Salman is not the only member of al-Wefaq to be targeted by the government. In August, police arrested al-Wefaq member and former Member of Parliament (MP) Sheikh Hasan Isa on his return from a foreign trip and he remains in police custody. In January, ex-MP Sayed Jameel Kadhem received a six-month sentence for disturbing the general elections after he accused the government of attempting to bribe candidates. Majeed Milad, the former elected president of the Manama Capital Municipal Council, a board member of al-Wefaq, and a key member of the 2013 National Dialogue, was detained on 1 July and has been put on trial for “inciting disobedience of the law,” for calling for peaceful protests. His trial resumes on 13 September.

BIRD, ADHRB and BCHR remind the Government of Bahrain that democracy cannot be achieved if political criticism is treated as a criminal act. In highlighting the cases of these three political leaders, we also remember all other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain sentenced on charges related to the exercise of their free speech and association. Freedom of expression, along with the rights to self-determination and political participation, is guaranteed under Articles 1, 19, 22 and 25 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006.

We call on the Government of Bahrain to honour the provisions of the ICCPR and respect its citizens’ right to freedom of speech, association, and political participation, by immediately releasing all persons charged or sentenced on politically-motivated charges and decriminalizing criticism and free speech.

1 Sep, 2015

AlSalman: New Anti-Hatred/Discrimination Legislation in Bahrain Could Turn to a Suppression Tool to Restrict Freedom of Expression

Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, head of the religious freedom unit at Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, expressed his fear that a new anti-hatred and discrimination legislation in the coming weeks would be utilised as a tool to use blasphemy laws to jail individuals for expressing their personal views. There are serious concerns that this law will restrict freedom of expression, noting that human rights organizations in Bahrain were and are still calling for legislation to prohibit the incitement to hatred in accordance with Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The article prohibits any advocacy of racial or religious or national hatred that constitutes incitement leading to hostility, violence or discrimination. Al Salman stated "However any legislation has to be in line with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Rabat Plan of Action to counter the incitement of hatred, the Camden principles and resolution 16 18 for combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief."

Al Salman continues, "We held 12 seminars and workshops in Bahrain in the past 4 years on the Rabat Plan of Action and on applicable strategies to create a balance between article 19 & article 20 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Right. We have also communicated in September 2012 with the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay prior to her meeting with a Bahraini official requesting her to advice the Government of Bahrain to embrace the Rabat Plan of Action and prohibit the incitement of hatred that has the likelihood of turning into hostility, violence & discrimination."  In January 2014 the democratic opposition societies in Bahrain also launched a historical document "No to hatred" that adopts the Rabat Plan of Action and the Camden principles and calls for applying article 20 of the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Right whilst pledging to defend article 19. Thus, non-governmental organizations in Bahrain have always welcomed the existence of a law prohibiting the incitement of hatred on the condition of full compliance with international standards for protection of freedom of expression in line with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." Al Salman added: "Any new law that contradicts with international human rights standards will not be supported by us noting that full compliance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has to be guaranteed by law to avoid the use of article 20 to suppress Article 19. The new anti-hate legislation would not be accepted and supported internationally and locally unless it is consistent with the Rabat Plan of Action, Camden principles and resolution 1618. We have serious worries of the legislation  being used to further restrict freedom of expression noting that Bahrain had agreed to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations calling for amendment of any provision of law that could be used to prosecute individuals or groups for exercising freedom of expression. The government of Bahrain has also pledged to amend all laws that suppress freedom of expression ensuring that all new laws are compatible with international standards in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ". 

On issuing an anti-discrimination law Salman said: "We are supportive of any legislation that ensures  equal citizenship among all Bahrainis regardless of color, gender, religious affiliation. We would also continue calling for the prosecution of those involved in the exercise of systematic sectarian discrimination". Al Salman also had concerns that the proposed anti - discrimination law would be abused to to legitimize prejudice and as a tool to avoid international criticism of systematic sectarian discrimination in Bahrain." He added: "The international public opinion has come to a firm conviction not marred by doubt of the absence of equal citizenship in Bahrain and the dominance of systematic sectarian discrimination. Reliable reports have confirmed this solid truth which was cited by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, UPR Human Rights Council recommendations to Bahrain, U.S. State Department reports on human rights and international religious freedom, US Commission on International Religious Freedom report (USCIRF) and tens of statements issued by the EU, EP, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and other respective human rights organizations and bodies."

Al Salman said: "In a country subjected to the the demolition of 38 Shia mosques, the dissolution of the largest religious institution in Bahrain (Ulama Islamic Council), the prohibition of teaching Fiqh al-Jaafari (Shiite Jaafari Doctrine) in public and private schools, revocation of the nationality of Shia scholars, imprisoning thousands of Shia nationals it is more than a necessity to criminalize the practice of racial discrimination at all levels. The elimination of all forms of discrimination in line with International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and promoting equal citizenship is the path forward to create sustainable social stability in Bahrain. Holding officials and non-official responsible for the practice of sectarian discrimination responsible in front of law is an urgent necessity, but it first requires a comprehensive mapping exercise to determine those involved in the practice of systematic sectarian discrimination in recruitment, assignment, provision of services and privileges noting that all these violations fall under the prohibited  category of racial discrimination."

Al Salman also questioned the compliance of Bahrain with UPR recommendation No. 103 presented by the United States of America which called for creating a more diverse and inclusive police force reflective of society. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report in 2015 confirmed that “according to interlocutors, members of the Shia community still cannot serve in the active military and there are no Shia in the upper levels of the Bahrain government security apparatus, including the military and police.” 

Al Salman concluded his statement by demanding authorities allow the visit of the UN Special Rapporteurs on the elimination of racial discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief. Furthermore, authorities should assist Bahrain in addressing solutions for restrictions on freedom of expression, prevalence of systematic sectarian discrimination, absence of equal citizenship and countering the growth of the incitement of hatred since 2011.

 
 
Reference:
 
 
 
3- Resolution 1618

 

 
27 Aug, 2015

Dr Abduljalil al-Singace hunger strike hits 160 days, 41 NGOs call for immediate release

27 August 2015, London – Bahraini prisoner of conscience Dr Abduljalil al-Singace today hits a milestone 160 days of hunger strike as rights organisations appeal for his freedom. Forty-one international NGOs today released an urgent appeal addressed to the Government of Bahrain to release the hunger striker.

On 21 March 2015, Dr al-Singace went on hunger strike in protest at the collective punishment and acts of torture that police inflicted upon prisoners following a riot in Jau Prison earlier that month. Since then, he has subsisted on water, fizzy drinks and IV injections.

The United States government recently stated their awareness of Dr al-Singace’s case and urged Bahrain to ensure adequate medical care for all prisoners and an investigation into all reports of mistreatment. The UK government has previously raised his case with Bahrain, though they have never called for his release. The 41 NGOs call on the international community, and in particular the US and the European Union, to urge for Dr al-Singace’s release.

The release of the urgent appeal also coincides with a protest led by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democacy (BIRD), English PEN, Index on Censorship and REDRESS outside the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, calling on them to take action on Dr al-Singace’s case and to put pressure on the Bahraini authorities to end human rights abuses in Bahrain and its prisons.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD: “The United Kingdom should use its leverage with Bahrain to secure Abduljalil’s release and hold their ally accountable. He is a blogger, a journalist, a thinker and categorically should not be in prison.”

Cat Lucas, Writers at Risk Programme Manager, English PEN: “PEN remains seriously concerned for Dr al-Singace, now on the 160th day of his hunger strike in protest at the treatment of his fellow prisoners. We continue to urge the Bahraini authorities to release Dr al-Singace and the many other writers of concern to PEN unconditionally, and to allow him access to the medical attention he requires, as well as to reading and writing materials, as a matter of urgency.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship: “Dr al-Singace has been on hunger strike for more than five months and the UK has yet to call for his release. His arrest, sentencing and treatment in jail have received international condemnation and we call on Britain to join global counterparts in calling for Dr al-Singace’s release and ensuring he receives appropriate medical assistance.”

Dr Abduljalil al-Singace is a prisoner of conscience and a member of the Bahrain 13, a group of activists arrested by the Bahraini government for their role in peaceful protests in 2011. Dr al-Singace is a blogger, academic, and former Head of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bahrain. Dr al-Singace is currently serving a life sentence ordered by a military court on 22 June 2011. 

21 Aug, 2015

NGOs Condemn Arrest of Former al-Wefaq MP Sheikh Hasan Isa

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express concern over the recent arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa, a prominent member of the opposition political group al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. His arrest is the latest in a series of such detentions undertaken by the government against opposition political figures. We condemn this arrest as both yet another act of suppression of free speech and a further attack against peaceful political opposition. We therefore call on the government to lift all restrictions against the legitimate and peaceable work of all political societies in Bahrain.

On 18 August 2015, government security forces arrested Sheikh Hasan Isa as he returned from vacation with his family. A former member of parliament for al-Wefaq National Islamic Society representing Sitra, Sheikh Hasan resigned his parliamentary position following a government assault on peaceful protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in February 2011, but maintained active membership in the political society. Upon his arrest, security forces transported him to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), a facility run by the Ministry of Interior known for human rights violations including substantial numbers of cases of reported torture. They held him there without charge for over 48 hours in direct violation of Bahraini domestic criminal law. Sheikh Hasan’s family has not been informed of the reason for his arrest, and the government has thus far denied Sheikh Hasan access to his attorney.

Sheikh Hasan Isa’s arrest is the latest in a campaign of government attacks against Bahrain’s peaceful opposition. The Government of Bahrain has also arrested and prosecuted other prominent political opposition figures, including al-Wefaq Society’s Secretary-General, Shaikh Ali Salman, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison for acts of peaceful speech; former Secretary-General of Wa’ad political society Ebrahim Sherif, who was re-arrested for exercising free speech and criticizing the government; Secretary-General of the Democratic Unity Gathering Society Fadhel Abbas, who was sentenced to five years in prison over a statement in which his society condemned the war in Yemen; and al-Wefaq’s General Secretariat member Majeed Milad, who was arrested for a speech in which he demanded fair electoral districts, a democratic State, and self-determination for the people. The government has also summoned other political leaders for interrogation over similar accusations, chiefly including al-Wefaq General-Secretary's Political Assistant Khalil Marzooq.

BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD believe that the arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa is in contravention of international legal protections, including his right not to be deprived arbitrarily of liberty as set forth in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD urge the Bahraini government to:

  • Immediately release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa, and all other prisoners of conscience detained on charges of free expression;
  • Take concrete steps towards resuming a national dialogue, including the release of all members of the Bahrain 13, other prominent opposition leaders including Sheikh Ali Salman, and human rights defenders like Naji Fateel; and
  • Cease all reprisals taken against individuals peacefully exercising their right to free expression as guaranteed by Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On the United Nations and its Member States to:

  • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Sheikh Hasan Isa;
  • Pressure the Government of Bahrain to end all harassment of political opposition leaders and take concrete steps towards resuming national dialogue;
  • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, compelling the Government to urgently implement all recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations;

On the United States to:

  • Reapply and immediately put into effect the recently lifted arms suspension on the Bahrain Defense Force and National Guard;

On the United Kingdom to:

  • Reassess the current program of assistance to the Government of Bahrain in light of the ongoing abuses;
  • List Bahrain as a Country of Concern in the next FCO Human Rights Report;

On the European Union to:

  • Condemn the re-arrest of Sheikh Hasan Isa and adopt the recommendations outlined in the European Parliament’s Urgent Resolution of 9 July 2015 on Bahrain.
15 Aug, 2015

Authorities Suppress Popular Celebration of Bahrain’s Independence Day

Since 2009, it has become the custom to carry out peaceful protests demanding self-determination on 14 August in celebration of Bahrain’s Independence Day. On 14 August 1971, Bahrain was announced as an independent sovereign Arab country, free from the British occupation. This historic decision was issued by the United Nations to crown the struggle and sacrifices of the people of Bahrain to obtain their right to self-determination.

From 2009 and beyond, this day has witnessed the presence of security forces countrywide. They routinely suppressed all protests using shotgun pellets and tear gas which caused injuries among protesters that ranged in severity. In addition, protesters have been arrested for the charge of illegal assembly. The authorities in Bahrain do not hold any kind of celebration on this day.

On 13 August 2010, the authorities launched the most repressive campaign in the history of Bahrain, which started with the arrest of the activist Dr. AbdulJalil Al-Singace because he "was intending to organize an event on the so-called National Day of the Kingdom of Bahrain in this month." The authorities in Bahrain claimed that it was "to promote national division" and proceeded to arrest hundreds of activists and dissidents, who were detained for months. They were released during the temporary period of breakthrough in February 2011, as a result of the popular uprising; but it was short-lived and soon was brutally suppressed, with many more arrests following.

In 2013, a group of citizens announced the formation of the "Tamarod" (Rebellion) group that set 14 August 2013 to be the start to its activities. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) documented a fast escalation of violations by the authorities a month and a half before the start date. There were reports of an increase in violence, arbitrary arrests, house raids, and blocking villages with barbed wires and cement barriers. Also, the Bahraini authorities passed new to restrict opposition activities.

 

Read the Full Report Here

7 Aug, 2015

Champions for Justice: Bahrain’s Student Prisoners

Since 2011, students and children in Bahrain have faced arbitrary charges and detention related to their freedoms of expression and assembly. Some have been arrested for participating in pro-democracy protests; others have been detained for apparently no reason at all. Bahraini authorities have treated preteen and teenage citizens as enemies, subjecting them to maltreatment, impeding their educational development, and inflicting physical and psychological wounds. 

More than half of the 200 minors currently imprisoned in Bahrain are housed in adult detention centers. Officers regularly arrest minors without presenting warrants, and once imprisoned, security forces deny them access to their families and attorneys. Bahraini authorities accuse children of a wide variety of crimes, including illegal gathering and rioting, destroying property, attacking police officers, damaging police vehicles, and possessing Molotov cocktails. They have not hesitated to use violence and intimidation in order to extract forced confessions. 

Children imprisoned in Bahrain miss critical years of their education, often being denied adequate access to education while serving out their sentences; children who should be in school are instead sitting neglected in prison. Bahrain has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that all children have the right to a primary education.

As August 12 is International Youth Day, this month we highlight students who have been imprisoned in Bahrain and denied their right to an education.

Nedhal Ali Hussain al-Abood was arrested from his home by Bahraini authorities on 24 September 2013, when he was 15 years old. Authorities did not present an arrest warrant to Nedhal before they transported him to the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID), where he faced 48 hours of incommunicado detention and abuse at the hands of Bahraini security officers. Nedhal later told his parents that he signed a false confession in order to avoid returning to the CID. On 13 August 2014, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Nedhal to life imprisonment under the anti-terrorism law for acts that he claims he did not commit. An appellate court later reduced Nedhal’s sentence to 15 years. His favorite hobby was football, and he intended to finish high school and go to university to become a doctor.

Ammar Yasser Abdulla Abbas was arrested from his home by Bahraini security forces on 2 March 2014, when he was just 13 years old. Security forces did not present him with a warrant. He was transported to Samaheej police station, where security forces beat him in an attempt to extract a confession. On the same day as his arrest, the Bahrain Criminal Court sentenced Ammar to six months of detention for arson, illegal gathering, violence, and possession of Molotov cocktails. Though security forces administer examinations inside the juvenile center where he is detained, they endeavor uncomfortable for inmates. Ammar was attending the ninth grade when he was arrested.

Jehad Sadeq al-Hebaishi was arrested by Bahraini authorities in the Bilad al-Qadeem area on 23 July 2012, when he was 16 years old. While detained at the CID, security officers slapped, insulted, tortured, and humiliated him. He was kept in solitary confinement for ten days and refused permission to consult with a lawyer. On 4 April 2013, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Jehad to ten years in prison under the anti-terrorism law, despite the fact that he told the court he had been tortured into giving a false confession. He remains in Jau Prison. In 2015, at age 19, Jehad was allowed to resume his studies in prison and recently completed a semester. But this resumption of education comes after three critical years without it, and reflects the arbitrary way by which prison authorities deprive youths of education. His hobbies included photography, sports, and traveling. Jehad had hoped to graduate from high school and go to university with his friends to study engineering. 

Abdul Aziz al-Mula was pulled from his mother’s car and arrested at a checkpoint on 26 June 2013. Security forces did not present him with a warrant. They transported him to the Isa Town police station, where he faced verbal and psychological abuse. Security forces eventually charged Abdul with arson and possession of Molotov cocktails. A Bahraini court sentenced him to five years of detention, a sentence that was later shortened to two years on appeal. Abdul remains in Jau Prison, where he suffers from psychological abuse and an eye injury that has rendered him blind in one eye. Abdul was in the 12th grade when he was arrested. His family is working with the Ministry of Education in an attempt to allow Abdul to continue pursuing his education.

Mustafa Mohammed Ali was arrested by security forces in August 2013, when he was 17 years old. Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member of the group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the Bahrain 13. His arrest may be related to the ongoing persecution of his family. Security forces interrogated Mustafa at the CID, where he was threatened with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Mustafa signed the confession and authorities charged him with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel. A criminal court convicted Mustafa and sentenced him to six months in prison, later reduced to three months in prison. Mustafa turned himself in to Sitra police station on 10 July 2015 and was immediately transferred to Dry Dock Prison. Security forces deny him clean clothes and access to money for food. Mustafa completed his intending to pursue a career as a doctor.

Sayed Adnan Sayed Majeed al-Khabbaz was arrested by Bahraini security forces on 28 March 2014 for allegations related to an attack on an on-duty police officer. Sayed was accused in several cases, and has been sentenced to over five years in detention. He currently serves his sentences in Jau Prison. Sayed could not finish his studies because of continuous home raids and numerous arrests. He was only able to complete the 11th grade before he was forced to withdraw from school.

Ahmed al-Saroo was arrested during a raid on his home conducted by masked Bahraini security forces on 9 April 2013, when he was 15 years old. Security forces transported him to the CID, where he faced harassment and abuse during his detention. Ahmed signed a forced confession after security personnel insulted him and threatened to beat him on his already injured leg. He was not provided access to a lawyer during interrogation. Under the anti-terrorism law, the court sentenced Ahmed to three years in prison on 19 September 2013, and he is currently serving his sentence in Jau Prison. Ahmed enjoyed photography and swimming, and wished to graduate high school and attend university with his friends.

Sayed Hadi Mohamed was arrested by Ministry of Interior (MOI) security forces during an attack on a friend’s home on 23 April 2014. MOI forces did not present him with a warrant at the time of his arrest. He was charged with criminal arson and transported from Samaheej police station to Dry Dock Detention Center, where police covered his head with a mask and took photographs of him holding Molotov cocktails. The photographs were later used against him. Sayed was in the ninth grade at the time of his arrest. His father filed legal papers and followed up with prison authorities and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in order to make sure Sayed could continue his schooling in prison, but the prison authorities only allowed him to take two of his final exams. He therefore failed the entire school year. The school called Sayed’s father and told him they never received any forms from the MOI or the MOE. Sayed remains in Dry Dock awaiting trial.

Ebrahim Ahmed al-Muqdad was arrested by Bahraini authorities following clashes in Bilad al-Qadeem on 23 July 2012, when he was 15 years old. Authorities transported him to Qudaibiya police station and then to the CID. He remained disappeared for two days. Security officers tortured Ebrahim during his detention at CID, harassing him, beating him, shocking him, and depriving him of food, sleep, and water. Ebrahim was denied access to a lawyer throughout his detention. Security forces eventually forced him to confess under duress. On 4 April 2013, the Bahraini Criminal Court sentenced Ebrahim to ten years in prison on charges of murdering a policeman, stealing a police vehicle, burning a military armed vehicle, illegal gathering, and possession of Ebrahim enjoyed attending school with his friends and playing with his siblings.

Hussain Faisal Abdul Wahed Jasim al-Nakhotha was arrested by Bahraini security forces while at his friend’s house on 17 September 2013, when he was 17 years old. He was transported to Nabih Saleh police station, where security forces tortured him. The public prosecutor charged Hussain with criminal arson, attacking police officers, and making Molotov cocktails, and ordered him detained for 45 days pending his trial. Hussain awaits trial at Dry Dock Detention Center. Security forces prevented him from taking school examinations during his detention. As a result, Hussain was forced to withdraw from school.

We call on the Government of Bahrain to take substantive measures to protect the rights of minors against arbitrary detention and abuse at the hands of security officers. We urge the government to allow the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children to visit the country to investigate allegations regarding the detention and conviction of underage Bahrainis, as well as to monitor access to education within Bahraini prisons. Finally, we call on the government to thoroughly reevaluate all allegations against those imprisoned while underage, to allow all prisoners access to an adequate education, to hold accountable any officials responsible for the abuse of minors, and – pending the proper investigations – to ensure their release.

5 Aug, 2015

Mass Arbitrary Arrest Campaign Post-Sitra Bombing

5 August 2015 - Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) are extremely concerned over the escalated measures and collective punishment the authorities have subjected the people of Sitra to in the aftermath of the bombing incident. On 28 July 2015, BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD condemned the violent attack on security forces that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight. 

Last week, the Government of Bahrain announced an explosion in Sitra that has reportedly resulted in the death of two policemen and the injury of eight. Immediately following the incident, Bahraini authorities put Sitra under siege and started a random and arbitrary arrest campaign. As a result, around 32 people have been arrested, 26 of which remain in detention. Arrests and searches were carried out without presenting legal warrants. All arrests were conducted through house raids leaving households in chaos and mess, and members of the families were reportedly harassed and traumatized. It was reported that one woman was violently beaten by security forces while trying to defend a relative who was being arrested. Since their arrest, detained individuals were allowed just one call to their families, which lasted only a few seconds before the call was ended. All persons arrested were not allowed to contact their lawyers or have legal representation following their arrest. 

The bomb incident has left the area under siege; the mobility of people living on the island has been restricted. Checkpoints were set up, including on the main causeway connecting Sitra and the main island, which has created traffic jams and hindered movement. Cars and trucks searches have been conducted and there have been some reported arrests at checkpoints. The boosted presence of security forces and newly created checkpoints add to the already existing tension on the island.

BCHR, ADHRB, and BIRD condemn the arbitrary arrests and find it alarming that safety of the detainees has been compromised, along with their basic rights of contact with their families and lawyers. We have seen previous similar cases in which speedy arrests and enforced disappearances have led to further human rights violations, including the torture of detainees in detention, deprivation of due process and right to a fair trial. BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD suspect a breach of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”; and Article 12 stating, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” The recent actions are also not in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9, Paragraphs 1-5.

Based on the above, BCHR, ADHRB and BIRD urge the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately provide all detained individuals in this case with a lawyer, and allow them access to family visits;
  • end the practice of torture to extract false confessions, and end the practice of subjecting detainees to enforced disappearance;
  • Respect and protect human rights of the suspects during and after the investigation process.
30 Jul, 2015

Bahraini authorities must respect human rights when investigating Sitra bombing

Amnesty International has today called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure those arrested in connection to a recent bombing are not subjected to acts of torture and other ill-treatment while in custody.

The Public Security Chief of the Ministry of Interior stated that several individuals had been arrested in connection with a bombing in the village of Sitra, on an island south of the capital Manama, which killed two policemen and injured six others yesterday. The security forces have been heavily deployed in Sitra and have carried out a number of house raids and arrests since the bombing.

Amnesty International recognizes the Bahraini authorities’ duty and responsibility to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the two policemen and injury of six others. However, the organization urges the authorities to ensure those arrested are not arbitrarily detained or placed at risk of torture and other ill-treatment and are given prompt access to a lawyer and family. If charged, they must be given a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty.

In many cases documented by Amnesty International, individuals arrested in connection to past explosions in Bahrain have often been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during their first days or weeks in the custody and interrogation at the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Many were then tried unfairly and convicted on the basis of “confessions” under torture. Scores have had their nationality revoked and several have been sentenced to death.

Many of those detained, for instance, in connection to an explosion in al-Daih village that killed three policemen on 3 March 2014, complained, including in court, that they were tortured during interrogation at the CID. Their lawyers were not able to meet with any of the defendants until the first session of the trial on 30 April 2014 despite repeated requests to do so ahead of the trial. The court also refused to grant lawyers full access to the evidence (video recording, pictures and witnesses) referred to in the prosecution documents, depriving them the right to equality of arms and preventing them from mounting an adequate defence or meaningfully cross-examining witnesses. In February 2015, the court sentenced three of the defendants to death and seven others to life imprisonment. All had their Bahraini nationality revoked.

Amnesty International is concerned that many of those being detained in relation to the Sitra bombing may be denied access to their lawyers and families for at least 28 days, in accordance with 2014 amendments to the anti-terrorism law, though contrary to international human rights standards. This places them at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. The anti-terrorism law also empowers the detaining authorities to hold them for up to six months without any means to challenge the legality of their detention before a court of law or an independent body.

The bombing on Tuesday in Sitra is the second to take place in one month. On 19 July, a bomb exploded in West Ekar which injured one policeman on duty. In 2014, five policemen died following separate bomb blasts in the village of al-Dair in February, in al-Daih in March and in Damistan in December.

All major political opposition groups in Bahrain publicly condemned Tuesday’s killings.

The Sitra bombing took place after the Ministry of Interior announced on 25 July that the security authorities had “foiled” an attempt to smuggle weapons into Bahrain and that one of two suspects arrested had “received military training in Iran” and was “given funds to assist the failed smuggling operation”. The Chief of Public Security stated that these weapons contain the same substance as that used in the bombing.

 

To view the original statement by Amnesty click here.