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GCC Cases Raised in the HRC 34 Special Procedures Joint Communications Report

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) has compiled a brief summary of the Joint Communications Report, released by the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 23 Feb, 2017. The report documents human rights violations from recent complaints they have received and taken up with respective governments. The summary by ADHRB consists of all the cases raised for GCC States (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman) and Yemen. 

Access the full summary here: GCC Cases Raised in the HRC 34 Special Procedures Joint Communications Report

See the section written on Bahrain below:

Bahrain

Complaint: 04 Jul 2016, Bahrain, JUA, BHR 3/2016

Mandate(s)

  • arbitrary detention
  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • health
  • human rights defenders
  • torture

Communication Summary and Findings

 Information received concerning Mr. Nabeel Rajab who has been repeatedly arrested and has served several prison sentences as a result of his human rights work and for leading a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
“Concern is expressed at the arbitrary arrest, detention and charges brought against of Mr. Rajab, as well as the raid of his residence and the confiscating of his personal electronic equipment, and the that these actions appear to be directly related to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression through his peaceful and legitimate activities advocating for human rights in Bahrain. Grave concern is expressed at the alleged placement of Mr. Rajab in prolonged solitary confinement and the consequent deterioration of his health status, which may require access to specialized medical treatment. Finally, we express concern at the continued use of repressive legislation that constitute restrictions to the right to freedom of expression that are incompatible with international human rights law.”

Complaint: 07 Jul 2016, Bahrain, JAL, BHR 2/2016

Mandate(s)

  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • human rights defenders

Communication Summary and Findings

Information received concerning the alleged condemnation of Mr. Ali Salman to 9 years of imprisonment as well as the suspension of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society.
“We express particular concern the measures undertaken against Al-Wefaq, including the ordering of its dissolution and blocking of its website, represent limitations to the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association that are incompatible with the standards of international human rights law. Serious concern is expressed about the broader impact of the above allegations, in particular the criminalization of speech, which may have a “chilling effect” on civil society and human rights defenders, particularly on individuals exercising their rights to freedom of association and expression, such as political activists, human rights defenders and organizations.”

Complaint: 08 Jul 2016, Bahrain, JAL, BHR 4/2016

Mandate(s)

  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • human rights defenders

Communication Summary and Findings

Information received concerning allegations of a travel ban imposed on human rights defenders, Mr. Hussain Salam Ahmed Radhi, Ms. Ebtesam Abdulhusain Ali-Alsaegh, Mr. Ebrahim Al-Demistani and Mr. Abdulnabi Al-Ekry in an act of reprisal for their cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Council, and their human rights work through the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

“Grave concern is expressed at the allegations that the travel bans issued against Mr. Radhi, Ms. Ali-Alsaegh, Mr. Al-Demistani and Mr. Al-Ekry constitute acts of reprisal for the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association in relation to their human rights work, including in seeking to cooperate with the United Nations, its mechanisms and representatives in the field of human rights, namely with the Human Rights Council. Additional concern is expressed about the broader effect of the imposition of travel bans as a means of preventing the legitimate exercise of rights, which may have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and civil society as a whole, particularly those with dissenting opinions, exercising their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression.”

Complaint: 10 Aug 2016, Bahrain, JUA, BHR 5/2016

Mandate(s)

  • arbitrary detention
  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • human rights defenders
  • independence of judges and lawyers
  • migrants
  • privacy
  • religion or belief
  • terrorism

Communication Summary and Findings

Information received concerning systematic persecution and repression of the Shias in Bahrain through undue restrictions to their rights to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, including: dissolution of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, shutting down of faith based organizations, restriction on the practice of Khums, harassment of Shia clerics, restrictions on Friday Prayers and peaceful assembly, denaturalization of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim and other Shias, discriminatory treatment of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace in prison and the travel ban imposed on Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman. Alleged victims: 28

“While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we are deeply concerned by the systematic persecution and repression of the Shia population, religious leaders, peaceful dissidents, including human rights defenders, in Bahrain based on their religion or belief. Concerns are expressed at the harassment of the religious clerics through arbitrary arrests, detention and interrogation; violation of freedom of expression, including by criminalizing legitimate speech and undue restriction to access to the Internet. Additional concern is expressed at the restrictions of movement and freedom of 6 assembly and association of the Shias, including for Friday prayers. Further concern is expressed at the unfair processes of denaturalization of many dissidents and religious clerics that lead to statelessness and arbitrary deportation. We are also concerned at the discriminatory treatment and the lack of medical attention to Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace.”

Complaint: 15 Aug 2016, Bahrain, JAL, BHR 6/2016

Mandate(s)

  • executions
  • independence of judges and lawyers
  • torture

Communication Summary and Findings

Information received concerning the alleged lack of investigation into torture and other ill-treatment of Mr. Mohammed Ramadan, a Bahraini citizen, resulting in a false confession that led to his conviction and the imposition of the death penalty.

“Concern is expressed at the absence or at least serious delay of a thorough, independent and impartial investigation or prosecution into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Mr. Mohammed Ramadan and the continued upholding of his conviction and imposed death sentence following judicial proceedings that do not appear to have fulfilled the most stringent guarantees of fair trial and due process, particularly in connection with the reliance on false confessions extracted under torture as a basis for the verdict. While we welcome the opening of a new investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Mr. Ramadan, we express concern at the entrusting of this important investigation to the same State institution, the Ombudsman’s Office, whose earlier investigations raised serious doubts regarding their independence, professionalism and thoroughness.”

Complaint: 25 Nov 2016, Bahrain, JAL, BHR 7/2016

Mandate(s)

  • freedom of opinion and expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
  • human rights defenders

Communication Summary and Findings

Information received concerning allegations of a travel ban imposed on human rights defenders, Mr. Mohammed Jawad, Ms. Nedal Al-Salman, Mr. Hussain Salam Ahmed Radhi, Mr. Mohammed Al-Tajer and Ms. Enas Oun in an act of reprisal for their cooperation with the United Nations, and their human rights work through the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of association.

“Grave concern is expressed at the travel bans issued against Mr. Mohammed Jawad, Ms. Nedal Al-Salman, Mr. Hussain Salam Ahmed Radhi, Mr. Mohammed AlTajer and Ms. Enas Oun, in connection to their human rights work and exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association. We also express serious concern that the travel bans may constitute an act of reprisal against the above-mentioned human rights defenders for their efforts seeking to cooperate and share information with the United Nations and its mechanisms of human rights, including with the Human Rights Council and with the COP 22 of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Additional concern is expressed about the broader effect of the increased and repeated imposition of travel bans as a means of preventing the legitimate human rights work and exercise of rights, which may have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and civil society as a whole in Bahrain.”

250 Days of Internet Shutdown Costs Residents Over $500,000 #KeepItOn

Telecom companies in Bahrain have been deliberately disrupting internet services in the village of Duraz between 7:00pm-1:00am everyday for 250 days. The current sustained levels of internet disruption in the village for over 8 months is unprecedented anywhere in the world.

The shutdown has been maintained by disabling cell towers and dropping approximately 90% of packets on fixed-line connections. A Bahrain Watch investigation found that the shutdown has been systematic and continuous since 23 June 2016. A coalition of NGO’s sent a letter to the Bahrain Telecommunications Regulation Authority in August 2016 but have not received a response. An economic analysis by Bahrain Watch now estimates the cost of the internet shutdown to be more than 210,000 Bahraini Dinars (more than half a million USD) paid for by consumers.

Read more here.

Response to the Bahrain’s High Level Statement at the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

We, the undersigned, in reaction to the statement made today by Bahrain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdulla Faisal al-Doseri, during the High Level Segment of the Human Rights Council (HRC), are concerned by Bahrain’s continued lack of commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Mr. al-Doseri used the opportunity to underscore Bahrain’s legal framework, to highlight national human rights mechanisms and claim cooperation with international bodies and domestic civil society. We would like to call attention not only to the inaccuracy of these claims, but also to the use of empty rhetoric to distract from Bahrain’s widespread and systematic practices of human rights abuse. Furthermore, we are gravely concerned by Mr. al-Doseri’s attempt to frame the ongoing human rights violations in the country – including systematic arbitrary detention and torture; draconian restrictions on free expression, assembly, and association; religious discrimination; and political exclusion –  as successful reforms, thus underscores Bahrain’s commitment to further fueling the deepening human rights crisis.

New Laws Threaten Rights

Mr. al-Doseri’s praise of Bahrain’s constitution and expansive legislation to protect human rights, drastically contradict their vague provisions and flawed application in courts. The government has continued to use broadly-defined counterterror legislation to target activists, human rights defenders, and other members of civil society. In January 2017, under the guise of counterterror measures, the authorities further facilitated such abuse by re-empowering the National Security Agency (NSA), to arrest and detain civilians under the anti-terror law, which criminalizes expression of dissent or participating in protests. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) initially recommended that the authorities strip the NSA of its arrest powers due the agency’s direct involvement in the arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture of civilians in 2011. The reversal of this recommendation – one of only two BICI recommendations that had been fully implemented – is a sign that the the Bahraini government is actively abandoning what few reforms it had previously instituted.

In February, King Hamad of Bahrain began the process of amending Bahrain’s Constitution which would allow military courts to try civilians. The National Assembly has approved the amendment, which will now be referred to the Shura council. The current Constitution prohibits military courts from trying cases of civilians unless the king has declared a state of emergency, thus activating the country’s martial law. The proposed amendment will remove all legal limitations on the martial courts. During the 2011 state of national safety, National Safety Courts oversaw hundreds of unfair trials against protesters, human rights defenders, and political leaders.

Civil Society At Risk

Despite Mr. al-Dosari’s declaration of Bahrain’s commitment to work openly and collaborate with civil society, the government has continued to target civil society and has failed to adequately protect their rights to free expression, assembly, and association. Human rights defenders have repeatedly been harassed and imprisoned for their work. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, faces up to 18 years in prison in two trials. He has already served over seven months in pre-trial detention, on charges relating to his free expression. Other human rights defenders, such as Abdhuladi Al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, have remained arbitrarily detained, despite international calls for their release. Many other human rights defenders have also faced reprisals for their work, including interrogations, travel bans and forced exile.

Political Space Closing

In today’s remarks, Mr. al-Dosari condemned the politicization of human rights by some groups for their own political gain. While the government continues to reject attempts by independent human rights groups for the promotion and protection of human rights, Bahrain has also moved to restrict all political space for dissenting views. The Bahraini government has recently escalated its harassment of political opposition societies and dissidents, including by dissolving Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main opposition group. The closing of Al-Wefaq’s headquarters and seizing of its assets, in addition to an increase in the prison term of Sheikh Ali Salman, the party’s Secretary-General, from four years to nine, on appeal – represent further restrictive measures on Bahrain’s political space. Members of secular leftist societies including Fadhel Abbas, the former Secretary-General of Al-Wahdawi, and Ebrahim Sharif, the former Secretary-General of Wa’ad have also been targeted.

Religious Discrimination

In his speech, Mr. al-Dosari highlighted Bahrain’s efforts to promote moderation and religious tolerance, all while taking steps to counter radicalization and hate speech. However, discrimination against Bahrain’s majority Shia community has increased dramatically in the past year. Shia individuals are disproportionately targeted by arbitrary arrest, denaturalization, and deportation. Since June 2016, Bahraini authorities have also targeted over 75 Shia religious leaders, nine of which have been imprisoned on charges relating to their freedom of expression or assembly. Sheikh Isa Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in the country, was stripped of his citizenship in June 2016 and is currently being prosecuted on charges related to the traditional Shia practice of khums. Since his denaturalization, his home town of Duraz has been under police blockade due to widespread protests to his persecution by the Government. Nightly internet blackouts, collective punishment and disruptions to freedom of movement represent just some of the restrictive measures employed by Bahraini authorities in Duraz.

Further, Bahrain has maintained deeply sectarian police and military forces in the kingdom. The Government has maintained its policies to naturalize foreign Sunni nationals into the security forces, who continue to use excessive force against Bahrain’s Shia population. The Bahrain Defense Force also maintains deeply sectarian rhetoric in training manuals and practices.

No End to Impunity

While Mr. al-Doseri expressed pride in Bahrain’s national human rights institutions, he neglected to explain why these institutions have increasingly served to obfuscate allegations of abuse. We have consistently found that Bahrain’s accountability mechanisms – the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission (PDRC), and the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) – operate without the requisite independence from the government and continually fail to bring perpetrators to justice. Most recently, these mechanisms failed to competently investigate credible allegations of severe torture in the cases of Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace, and Abbas al-Samea, three individuals who were executed by the Government earlier this year. The SIU dismissed their torture after investigations which did not adhere to international standards. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the executions, as did the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who recently raised doubts over the MoI Ombudsman’s “independence, professionalism and thoroughness.”

Conclusions

Contrary to Mr. al-Doseri’s statement, the human rights situation in Bahrain has declined to one of its lowest points in years. We are gravely concerned by the systematic enforcement of arbitrary detentions, disappearances, torture, and denaturalizations of Human Rights Defenders, unionists and political dissidents. Despite the establishment of several accountability mechanisms, these have failed to effectively address abuses, and have put the lives of the most vulnerable victims – at significant risk. Recent decisions to re-empower the NSA and expand military courts represent further alarming regressions. These indicate that Bahrain is far from walking the path to reform.

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director, ADHRB: “Today’s High Level statement by the Bahraini government is yet another deeply disappointing failure to seize true opportunities for reflection, honesty and reform, Bahrainis today are facing the most serious and widespread human rights violations in years. At the Human Rights Council, the government has an opportunity to address these abuses head on, to frankly address the need for reform, and to seek the support of the international community in the promotion and protection of universal human rights. Unfortunately, the government has failed yet again to seize this opportunity.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD: “Actions speak louder than words, and Bahrain’s actions have included executions and new repressive laws, a blanket ban on all speech and reprisals against human rights defender. This is the true face of Bahrain, and the international community must use their opportunity at the Human Rights Council to condemn Bahrain’s doubled-down repression.”

We call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately make substantive and transparent reforms, including by implementing the 26 recommendations of the BICI, the recommendations of its Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review, and by engaging in full and open cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Procedures.

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

European Center for Democracy and Human Rights

 

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Continue reading here.

Member States should call for improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain

Your Excellency,
 
In view of the marked deterioration in the already poor human rights situation in Bahrain, and as the minimum collective action required, we urge your delegation to support a joint statement expressing concern over and calling for improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council.
 
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Continue reading here.

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Congress needs to step in to stop this happening.

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The ministry said the explosion happened in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama and that police was at the scene but gave no further details.

Read more here

 

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