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Hamilton backs NI-CO over Bahrain 'torture' appeal

A call for the Stormont executive to suspend the work of a Belfast based company training security forces in Bahrain has been rejected.

NI-CO, owned by Invest NI, has worked with the police and prison services in the Gulf state. 

In a report published in September, human rights group Reprieve said those organisations were guilty of torture.I

It called on Stormont economy minister Simon Hamilton to suspend the contract.

But in a letter to the group, the minister said the executive was not in a position to suspend the company's work in Bahrain as it didn't award the contract.

Read full areticle here

 

Rights Groups Call for Bahrain Government to Take Action on Recommendations of UN Universal Periodic Review

On 22 September 2016, CIVICUS, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) made a joint submission to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ahead of Bahrain’s review in 2017. The submission examines the Bahraini government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, as the extent to which the recommendations of the previous UPR in 2012 have been fulfilled remains debatable. Several different sectors are addressed by the UPR such as, Freedom of Assembly, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Civil Society Representatives, Freedom of Expression and the Right to Peaceful Assembly. These are all core to the objectives of the three organisation in their pursuit of a just human rights environment in Bahrain.

Read the full report here.

Firstly, the UPR addressed Freedom of Association and put forward ten recommendations, which were all accepted by the authorities in Bahrain. Among others, the government committed to “abandon any restriction or obstacle to the work of persons and institutions engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights.” However, according to the three organisations, nine out of ten of the recommendations were not implemented in practice. This highlights the government’s disinterest in providing a secure human rights environment in Bahrain, as human rights, opposition, religious and other civil society groups have been harshly punished.

Secondly, five recommendations concerning harassment, intimidation and attacks on human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists and civil society representatives were presented. Once again, the Bahraini government accepted the majority, by accepting four and noting one. The authorities committed to ensuring “that HRDs must be protected and allowed to conduct their work without hindrance, intimidation and harassment.” However, this does not seem to have been the case in the aftermath of the agreement, as HRDs, journalists and civil society representatives are continuously punished for their work. In addition, the joint submission concluded that none of the five recommendations were implemented.

Thirdly, freedom of expression was another key component of the submission. Twenty-three recommendations were put forward and the Bahraini authorities agreed to 22 of them, leaving one noted. As many as all 22 of them could be described as not having been implemented, implying that the government has not taken any significant measures to ensure the right to freedom of expression in Bahrain. Moreover, the organisations suggested that the Penal Code of Bahrain is the main tool used by the government to curb freedom of expression.

Lastly, the previous UPR addressed 17 areas of improvement related to the right to peaceful assembly. They were all accepted by the government, however as a now recurring theme, they were not implemented. Furthermore, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees freedom of assembly. This in turn, contradicts the actual situation in Bahrain concerning peaceful assembly, as demonstrations and peaceful marches are routinely violently dispersed.

As outlined, several recommendations have not been fulfilled nor even pursued by the Bahraini government. This raises concern for civil society, as it illustrates a lack of commitment and lack of will to improve the human rights climate in Bahrain.

As a result, we call upon the Bahraini government to:
 
  • Prioritise human rights on the political agenda;
  • End its interference with the work of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society representatives; and
  • Abide by the UPR recommendations to which it has already agreed.
 
Read the full report here.
 

 

America should use its leverage with Bahrain

The Oct. 27 editorial “ ‘Is this the kind of ally America wants?’ ” highlighted the Obama administration’s myopic policy on Bahrain. The smallest country in the Middle East has manipulated its relationship with Washington for years, continuing to receive political support and military assistance from the United States while rejecting meaningful reform. The State Department has too often appeared paralyzed in the face of the regime’s attacks on moderate opposition and human rights activists, unwilling or unable to effectively respond. This inaction has only encouraged further violations, with all political dissent now effectively strangled.

Read the full article here

Hillary Clinton's Real Bahrain Scandal?

Describing a country as a “land of paradox” is a horrid cliché of foreign policy writing, but it’s unfortunately how we must begin our examination of Bahrain. The tiny Middle Eastern nation is majority-Shia yet ruled by Sunnis, wealthy yet with a very high unemployment rate, an island that often seems enveloped Lesotho-like by Saudi Arabia. Bahrain tends to get lost in our discussions about the Middle East, blurred in with that agglomeration known as the “Gulf States,” though during the Arab Spring, at least for a couple weeks, it came front and center.

Read the full article here

Five Years On: Journalists’ Killers Remain Unaccountable in Impunity Haven of Bahrain

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, which is dedicated to all members of the media who have suffered violence due to their profession, is marked on 2 November 2016. On this day, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) renews calls for accountability and an end to impunity for the Bahraini journalists and media professionals who have fallen victim to severe violations since 2011, including arrest, torture and loss of life.            

Blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al-Ashiri died at 40 years old under torture on 9 April 2011. The Ministry of Interior claimed at the time that he had died as a result of sickle cell anemia complications. However, the marks of harsh beating and bruises on his body were all too visible. Al-Ashiri, moderator of www.dair.net online forum, was arrested on 2 April 2011 on charges of allegedly “inciting hatred, publishing false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the overthrow of the regime” via e-forums.

The Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI) confirmed in its report that the death of Al-Ashiri was attributed to torture (Case No.24 in the report). On 12 March 2013, the first higher criminal court acquitted all five policemen who were charged with the beating that led to the death of Al-Ashiri. The crime of torturing Al-Ashiri to death remains without accountability.  

Kareem Fakhrawi was a businessman, founder of Bahrain’s first educational bookstore and a founder of the Al-Wasat newspaper. Fakhrawi died at the age of 49 on 12 April 2011 while in custody, due to torture. He was last seen at the Exhibition Centre Police Station on 3 April as he went to the police station to file a report and complaint about a raid on one of his relative's houses. His death has been documented by the BICI report (Case No.25) and confirmed to be attributed to torture. Two security men from the National Security Apparatus were put on trial on charges of “beating that led to death without intention.” The criminal court initially sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment, however on 27 October 2013, an appeal court reduced the sentence to three years’ imprisonment. There is no confirmation that the security men have indeed served any prison time for the crime committed.

 

Ahmed Ismael Hussain Al-Samadi, a citizen journalist who was video documenting protests, was killed after a gunshot in his right thigh (lower abdomen) fired by armed civilians. He died at only 22 years old on 31 March 2012 while he was filming a gathering of protesters along a highway near his home in a small Bahraini village, who were being attacked by security forces. Although the medical examiner's report had listed his cause of death as a gunshot wound, his death certificate, which was needed to open a police investigation, mentioned nothing about a bullet. During the following interrogations, several witnesses were called for questioning, in which the interrogators allegedly focused more on the whereabouts of the camera than on Al-Samadi’s assailant. In spite of attempts by his family to achieve justice, no one has ever been put on trial.

 

The above three cases of death have appeared in the 2016 UNESCO Director-General's Report on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity.

While killers of journalists remain free, the Bahraini government continues to target journalists with arrest and imprisonment. Among the Bahraini journalists who have been sentenced due to their professional undertakings are photographers Ahmed Humaidan, Hussam Soroor, Ahmed Zain Al-Deen, Mustafa Rabea and Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, who have all received 10-year prison sentences for their work. Al-Mousawi also had his citizenship revoked. Most recently, Mahmood Suroor received a 15-year prison sentence, which was issued on 21 April 2016.

BCHR calls on the Bahraini government to:

  • End the policy of impunity by those in government and those in power who are responsible for the failure to take serious steps to hold human rights abusers accountable for the grave crimes they have committed;  
  • Sign the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) in order to strengthen legal accountability for torturers; and
  • Immediately release all wrongfully detained and/or imprisoned journalists, and photographers.

Human Rights Watch - Arab Gulf States: Attempts to Silence 140 Characters

Gulf governments have attempted to silence peaceful critics in response to a wave of online activism in recent years, Human Rights Watch said in an interactive website that began operating today. The governments have responded to online criticism with surveillance, arrests, and other arbitrary punishments.

In a nod to Twitter’s 140-character limit, this interactive website presents the profiles of 140 prominent Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents and describes their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them. All 140 have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison. Profiled activists include Nabeel Rajab and Zainab al-Khawaja from Bahrain, Waleed Abu al-Khair and Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani from Saudi Arabia, and Ahmed Mansoor and Mohammed al-Roken from the United Arab Emirates.

Read the entire report here.

Index - Bahrain: Trial of Nabeel Rajab postponed until 15 December

The trial of prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab – president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – has been postponed for a fourth consecutive time to enable the country’s high criminal court to hire a cybercrime expert to verify who manages his Twitter account.

A new trial date has been set for 15 December.

Read the full article here.

Bahrain activist's trial postponed to Dec. 15

Bahrain on Monday postponed until Dec. 15 the trial of prominent democracy activist Nabeel Rajab to permit more investigation of a Twitter account he is accused of using to publish criticism of the government, his human rights group said.

Rajab's Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said the High Criminal Court postponed the trial for a fourth time to enable it to hire a cyber crime expert to verify that the Twitter handle in question was managed by him.

Read the full article here

Urgent Appeal Letter about Ghada Jamsheer's case by the Observatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information about the case of Ghada Jamsheer and her upcoming trial. 

The Observatory has been informed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) about the continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, a writer and blogger, Head of the Women's Petition Committee, an organisation which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the Shari'ah family courts.

According to information received, on November 7, 2016, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer will appear before Manama’s High Criminal Court of Appeal, on charges of defamation related to messages posted via her Twitter account criticising corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain, which is run by members of the ruling family.

Read the full letter here