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Bahraini Scholar Dr. Masood Jahroomi Forcibly Deported After Citizenship Revocation, as Pattern of Discrimination Continue

Bahraini Scholar Dr. Masood Jahroomi Forcibly Deported After Citizenship Revocation, as Pattern of Discrimination Continues

8 March 2016 – Yesterday, the Government of Bahrain summoned Dr. Masood Jahroomi, a former Shia Ajam citizen for forcible deportation. Dr. Jahroomi, whose citizenship was revoked in January 2015, had his denaturalization order confirmed by the appellate court. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), and Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO) strongly condemn the authorities’ use of citizenship revocation as a tool to further target and discriminate against the Shia population.

On 14 April 2011, Dr. Jahroomi was arrested by security forces. He was subjected to enforced disappearance for approximately one month before his family was allowed to meet with him. Government forces allegedly subjected Dr. Jahroomi abuse in detention and was denied access to a lawyer and adequate due process. He was detained for five months before he was sentenced to four months in prison for "illegal assembly".

In January 2015, the Bahraini authorities revoked Dr. Jahroomi’s citizenship through an administrative order against 72 citizens. In its statement, the Ministry of Interior cited the revocation of citizenship as a punishment for allegedly committing “illegal acts.” However, none of those individuals were charged or brought to court for these allegations, including Dr. Jahroomi. On 6 March 2016, a Bahraini court upheld a previous decision to deport Dr. Jahroomi. He was summoned to be forcibly deported from Bahrain on 7 March 2016.

Dr. Jahroomi is a Bahraini scholar and former Chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Ahlia University, Bahrain. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom; having earned his MSc and BSc from the University of Manchester, UK, and the University of Bahrain, respectively.

This is the third incident in less than a month in which the Bahraini authorities have forcibly deported Bahraini citizens, including leading Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta and union member and medic Husain Khairallah. All individuals denaturalized and deported since 2011 belong to the Shia populations and Ajam ethnic group. The discrimination against Shia citizens, mainly Baharna and Ajam, was detailed in the UN special procedures joint communication report, in which the Rapporteurs on culture, extreme poverty, and religion expressed concerns regarding the Bahraini government’s systemic discrimination against its Shia citizens.

The signed organizations therefore call on the government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • End systemic discrimination against Shia populations, including Baharna and Ajam;
  • Allow Dr. Masood Jahroomi and others who were forcibly deported to return to Bahrain;
  • Reinstate the nationality of all those whose citizenship was arbitrarily revoked on politically-motivated grounds since 2011, including that of Dr. Masood Jahroomi; and
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

Bahrain Deports Another Man Whose Citizenship Was Revoked

The Bahraini authorities have deported Husain Khairallah, whose citizenship was revoked in 2012. This is the second case of forced deportation in a week, following the court of appeal’s decisions to uphold deportation orders. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) strongly condemns the Bahraini authorities’ actions against Khairallah and other Bahrainis who have had their citizenship revoked.

Khairallah was previously arrested in 2011, after which he alleged being subjected to torture while in detention. He was a member of the ALBA union and also one of the medics that treated wounded protesters during the Pearl Roundabout unrest in Bahrain.

On 23 February 2016, the court of appeal upheld the order to have Khairallah deported from Bahrain. Bahrain’s Directorate of Immigration, Passport, and Citizenship summoned Khairallah and arrested him after which he was immediately transported to the airport. After he refused to board the plane, he was detained at the airport. On the following day, Khairallah was only allowed to meet his wife. He had not been allowed to pack or say goodbye to his family and friends before he was arrested. He was then put on a plane to Beirut and had to leave his wife and 2 children behind.

This is the second case of deportation in a week. Two days before the deportation of Khairallah, Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta was deported by the Bahraini authorities after his deportation order was also upheld by the court of appeal. Last year, the authorities deported the prominent Bahraini Shia cleric Sheikh Husain Najati.

Apart from the cases of Khairallah and Sheikh Khojasta, there are ten ongoing cases of Bahrainis who have been denaturalized by administrative orders. As stateless individuals, they are usually deprived of their right to enjoy an adequate minimum standard of living, including health, social allowances, and other services. There have been calls to take the housing units given to them and their families prior to the denaturalization. They have been prosecuted and unfairly treated by security forces. Today, they are at an imminent risk of being deported.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has the right to a nationality (Paragraph 1). Paragraph 2 further specifies that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his or her nationality. Moreover, article 9 of the UDHR states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

BCHR therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • Allow Husain Khairallah to return to Bahrain;
  • Reinstate the nationality of all those whose citizenship was arbitrarily revoked on politically-motivated grounds since 2011, including that of Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta; and
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

 

 

Amnesty International: Jailing of Ebrahim Sharif Is 'Outrageous Attack' on Freedom of Expression

From Amnesty International UK.

 

‘Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out’ - James Lynch
 
The sentencing of Bahraini political activist Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison today simply for making a speech calling for reform is yet another example of Bahrain’s intensified crackdown on peaceful critics, said Amnesty International in response.
 
Mr Sharif gave the speech in July, a month after being released from prison for his role in the country’s 2011 reform protests. He had served four years of a five-year sentence after an unfair trial involving 21 opposition activists found guilty of attempting to change the constitution and monarchical system “by force”.
 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director James Lynch said: 
 

“The sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif to yet another year in prison simply for calling for reform in a speech is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the latest example of the Bahraini authorities’ insidious clampdown on government critics.

 

“No one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. Ebrahim Sharif’s conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out, serving as a warning to all dissidents, and must be quashed immediately.

 

“Today Amnesty International published its annual global report highlighting an unprecedented assault on freedoms across the world. Evidence of this crackdown is patently clear in Bahrain where the authorities have sought to suppress freedom of expression, association and assembly by continuing to ban demonstrations in the capital, Manama and harassing, intimidating and arbitrarily arresting government critics and in some cases even revoking their nationality rendering them stateless.”

 
Read the original source here.

Bahrain Court Sentences Ebrahim Sharif to 1 Year for Peaceful Speech

24 February 2016 - Bahrain’s fourth criminal court today sentenced leading opposition leader Ebrahim Sharif to one year in prison for allegedly “inciting hatred against the regime”. We, the undersigned NGOs, strongly condemn the sentencing of Ebrahim Sharif today, which represents yet another example of Bahrain’s criminalization of free speech. We call for Sharif’s unconditional release and the release of the more than 3,000 political prisoners who have been jailed since 2011 for exercising their universal human rights.

Today’s verdict comes in retaliation against a peaceful political speech on 10 July 2015 at the annual commemoration of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old peaceful protester killed by security forces in 2012. In his speech, Sharif reiterated his peaceful calls for reform, an end to discrimination in the country, and for the opposition to continue its peaceful movement as the only means to effect real change within and produce true dialogue with the government.

The Ministry of Interior re-arrested Sharif on 12 July 2015, just three weeks after his early release from prison, on charges of “inciting to change the country’s political regime, and publicly inciting hatred and contempt against the regime.” Today, the court found Sharif guilty of inciting hatred against the regime and sentenced him to one year. It acquitted Sharif of inciting the change of regime.

“Ebrahim Sharif’s sentencing for a political speech is a slap in the face for Bahrain’s allies who have tried to claim that Bahrain has taken steps toward reconciliation and human rights reform,” said Hugh Ali, Executive Director of the Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO). “His imprisonment for purely free speech charges shows that the government has no interest in upholding its international human right obligations.”

This is not the first time Ebrahim Sharif, the former secretary-general of the secular opposition National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), has been targeted by the Bahraini government for his free speech. In 2011, in the midst of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising, Bahrain’s security forces arrested and tortured Sharif, holding him in solitary confinement for 56 days without access to a lawyer or his family. In June 2011, a military tribunal sentenced Sharif to five years in prison on charges almost identical to those that the court tried him of today.

The United Kingdom stated in October 2015 that they “continue to monitor” Ebrahim Sharif’s case. In July 2015, following his arrest, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office stated that they urge Bahrain to ensure due process is followed.

“The UK needs to step up their rhetoric because due process is a meaningless call,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). “Sharif should not be prosecuted for his peaceful speech. The case should have been thrown out of court and Bahrain should be shamed for these authoritarian moves. It is that simple.”

The US Department of State cited Sharif’s early release in June 2015 by royal pardon, after serving four years and three months, as a key example of Bahrain’s “meaningful progress” on human rights reform that led to the partial resumption of arms sales that same month. Following his re-arrest, however, the State Department has publicly expressed concern over his case and formally called for his release, most recently in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising.

“While the United States has been consistent on calling for Ebrahim Sharif’s release, it, along with the UK and the rest of the international community must do more to back up this rhetoric to end the never-ending merry-go-around of Bahrain’s jailing of opposition leaders,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). “Bahrain’s allies must stay true to their own rhetoric: there can be no real dialogue or national reconciliation in Bahrain while any of the political opposition’s leadership sits in jail, let alone the more than 3,000 others who languish in arbitrary detention on politically-motivated charges.”

Signed,

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR)

Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO)

Bahraini Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta deported after citizenship revoked

 

22 February 2016 - The Bahraini authorities deported Sheikh Mohammed Hasan Ali Husain (Khojasta) following the court of appeal’s decision. Sheikh Khojasta is one of the more than 100 Bahrainis whose citizenship was revoked by a Ministry of Interior's’ administrative decision. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO) and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemn the deportation of Sheikh Khojasta and express deep concern over the imminent deportation of other Bahrainis who have been arbitrarily denaturalized by the Government of Bahrain.

In January 2015, the Bahraini authorities issued an administrative decision revoking the citizenship of Sheikh Khojasta and 71 other Bahrainis. Many of those thus denaturalized  were members of civil society, including human rights activists, journalists, political exiles, and religious and opposition figures. In its statement, the Ministry of Interior cited revoking their citizenship as a punishment for allegedly committing “illegal acts,” including, among others, “defaming the image of the state, inciting against the state and spreading false news to hinder the rules of the constitution,” as well as “defaming brotherly countries.” None of those individuals were charged or brought to court for these allegations.

Shortly after the decision, Sheikh Khojasta was summoned to the criminal court and charged with “illegal residency.” In May 2015, the court ordered his deportation and fined him BHD100; the court of appeals upheld the deportation order on 18 February 2016. On 21 February, Bahrain’s Directorate of Immigration, Passport, and Citizenship summoned Sheikh Khojasta to inform him that he was under arrest and that the execution of his sentence was imminent. He was later deported from Bahrain to Lebanon.

This is not the first time that the Government has arbitrarily exiled Shia leaders. Similarly, in 2014, the Bahraini authorities forcibly deported another Shia cleric, Sheikh Hussein Najati. Sheikh Najati had his citizenship rescinded by an administrative decision in 2014. Currently, at least ten stateless Bahrainis are at risk of deportation by the Bahraini authorities.

In 2014, the Government of Bahrain amended its citizenship and anti-terrorism laws to allow for the denaturalization of persons convicted of terrorism-related offenses, broadly defined in Bahrain to include activities protected by the international human rights of free expression and assembly. In August 2014, a Bahraini court issued the first denaturalization sentence, revoking the citizenship of eight individuals. Since then, Bahraini authorities have revoked the citizenship of a total of 260 Bahraini citizens, either through administrative decisions or by court order. In the majority of these cases, defendants were subjected to torture and subjected to significant violations of their rights to due process and fair trial.

The majority of those stripped of citizenship have also been rendered stateless. Stateless persons have no recognised rights in Bahrain, and their ability to obtain and retain housing, employment, legal representation, banking facilities and medical aid are all severely constricted. Bahrain has breached article 15 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which protects the right to a nationality and states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.”

We, the undersigned NGOs, consider the acts of citizenship revocation and the deportation of Sheikh Khojasta to be a tool of intimidation used by the government of Bahrain to silence dissent and further restrict the exercise of free expression and assembly.

We therefore call on the government of Bahrain to immediately:

  • Allow Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta to return to Bahrain;
  • Reinstate the nationality of all those whose citizenship was arbitrarily revoked on politically-motivated grounds since 2011, including that of Sheikh Mohammed Khojasta; and
  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Read French version here

NGOs Condemn Violence Against Protesters on Fifth Anniversary of Bahrain’s Peaceful Uprising

16 February 2016
 

Sunday, 14 February 2016, marked the fifth anniversary of Bahrain’s peaceful uprising. Bahraini people took to the streets protesting injustice and demanding freedom and democracy. The authorities responded with extensive use of force which resulted in numerous injuries.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR) and Justice Human Rights Organisation (JHRO) condemn the Bahraini authorities’ continued use of violence against protesters and urges the authorities to allow people to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression.

We followed up on the events leading up to 14 February and were on the ground documenting human rights violations, protests and more during the day of the anniversary.

Authorities’ Rhetoric

On 9 February 2016, amid calls for protests on the anniversary of the uprising, the Chief of Public Security threatened anyone who “calls to disrupt security and public order in Bahrain.” He labelled any such acts as “illegal”, “terrorizing”, and “disruptive of public order.” Moreover, he requested anyone who witnessed this behavior to call an MOI hotline.

On 14 February 2015, and among the continued and intensified protests, the Chief of Public Security accused protesters of holding foreign agendas, stating that Bahrain “still faced security threats from Iran-backed elements and militants linked to Islamic State.”

The King, his family and government officials celebrated the 15th anniversary of the National Action Charter, which ministers and senior officials claimed “put Bahrain on the path of progress, freedom, democracy and justice, in line with the provisions of the constitution and the rule of the law.”  They hailed the Charter as the King’s “pioneering reform project.”

Continued Protests

People organized peaceful protests in villages and towns all over Bahrain to mark the anniversary. Although there have been daily and nightly protests in many areas since 2011, the number of protests increased significantly from the beginning of February and more people took to the streets. From 11 to 14 February 2016, the BCHR documented 157 protests, of which at least 33 protests were suppressed using tear gas and shotgun pellets. Security forces tried to prevent these protests by increasing security measures and putting areas under siege.

Arbitrary Arrests

In  the week between 7 and 14 February, authorities arrested 89 individuals, including 30 children as young as 10 years old, which is an approximate 36% increase compared to the week before. Over 60% of arrests took place between 11 and 14 February. The highest number of arrests was recorded on 14 February. Moreover, most of the documented arrests occurred on the streets as a result of suppressing protests.

The Bahraini authorities also arrested four American journalists, who were covering protests in Sitra, an island near Manama. Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior stated that it had arrested one of the journalists with a “a riot group” in Sitra and the others were arrested at a checkpoint. The MOI said that they gave false information about the work they do and that they practiced unlicensed media activities. Bahrain has made it extremely difficult for journalists to legally cover protests and opposition activities.

                                  Arrest of one of the American Journalists in Sitra

 

Use of Excessive Force

Numerous cases of shotgun injuries and cases of near suffocation from tear gas were documented by activists on the ground. Videos and images went viral on social media of security forces firing at protesters and the injuries which resulted from this use of force.

                                 Shotgun injuries

 

                                 Excessive use of teargas

 

Conclusion

The Bahraini authorities are in clear violation of basic and fundamental human rights according to international human rights laws. They have particularly abused the rights to free expression, opinion and assembly, as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Bahrain acceded to in 2006. They have jeopardized on many occasions protesters’ right to life by subjecting them to tear gas and shotgun pellets. The Government of Bahrain, with little protest from its allies, continues its path of escalation of human rights abuses rather than implementing reform and having constructive dialogue with its people.

Read the French version of ths article here.

NGOs Commemorate the Five-Year Anniversary of Bahrain’s Peaceful Uprising

Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets to call for democratic reform and an end to discriminatory government policies. The Government of Bahrain responded violently, deploying security forces who used excessive force to quell peaceful protests.  Their tactics have resulted in thousands of arrests, hundreds of injuries, and dozens of deaths since 2011. On the fifth anniversary of the protest movement that began that day, 14 February 2011, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), and Justice Human Rights Organization (JHRO) call on the Government of Bahrain to respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and to refrain from using force to suppress non-violent demonstrations. We also urge the Bahraini government to immediately release all arbitrarily detained political prisoners and human rights defenders and for all in Bahrain to unequivocally reject violence.

In the five years since Bahraini authorities violently suppressed the 2011 demonstrations, the political situation has not improved. Following the original protests, the government established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), a committee of jurists and legal scholars tasked with investigating crimes committed by the authorities and suggesting the reforms necessary to resolve the country’s political crisis. Almost half a decade later, however, no more than five of the BICI’s 26 recommendations have been fully implemented. As documented in Shattering the Façade, a report released by ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD in 2015, the Government of Bahrain has not only failed to institute the most substantial reforms, it has actively obscured this fact with superficial policy changes and regular declarations of “unprecedented progress.”

“When the BICI first released its report, Bahrainis were hopeful. They saw it as a potential roadmap out of oppression, discrimination, and corruption,” Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha, Vice President of the BCHR, remembers. “Now, the BICI is a constant reminder of what could have been – the justice and freedom that the government refuses to grant its people.” 

Rather than implement its commitment to reconciliation, the Government of Bahrain has retrenched, coming to rely more and more on the same repressive security measures condemned in the BICI report. In the last four months of 2015, Bahraini authorities arrested more than 400 people, 76 percent of which were arrested arbitrarily or unlawfully. At the same time, ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD have documented a pattern of enforced disappearance, due process violations, and severe torture within the Bahraini criminal justice system, finding evidence of the use of systematic torture between 2011 and 2015.

“Despite its claims to the contrary, the government has effectively abandoned truth and reconciliation for violence and intimidation,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Advocacy Director of BIRD. “The security forces may not be killing protesters in the streets – as they have in years past – but it’s only because they’ve honed their practices of arbitrary detention, disappearance and torture.”

The government’s recurrent failure to address the political crisis is embodied in the aftermath of the March 2015 riot at Jau Prison, a detention facility that holds hundreds of the country’s political prisoners.  After a minority of prisoners rioted over the facility’s overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, security forces subjected inmates to mass psychological and physical abuse. Less than a month ago, in the face of mounting evidence collective punishment, abuse, and due process violations at Jau, a Bahraini court sentenced 57 of these inmates to additional 15-year jail terms for offenses such as “resisting authorities” and “damaging public property.”

“The government has made clear its intentions to double down on the repressive measures it used to suppress democracy five years ago, not reform them,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “To avoid a relapse into the same unrest and instability, the Government of Bahrain must immediately change its reckless course.”

“In light of the ongoing violations, Bahrain’s continuing claims of reform are a gamble on the nation’s reputation,” stated Hugh Ali, Executive Director of JHRO. “We call for joint efforts in order to provide international guarantees to the people of Bahrain towards the exercise their legitimate rights as per the international conventions and treaties.”

 

 

 

Bahrain: An Analysis of the Legitimacy of Charges Against Sheikh Maytham Al Salman

Download the Full Report Here.

On January 6, 2016, Bahrain’s authorities charged Sheikh Maytham Al Salman, a human rights defender and cleric, with incitement of hatred towards the system of government and expressing views on an ongoing trial with the intent to change public opinion. The charges were based on a speech Sheikh Maytham delivered on December 27, 2015, at a public event held in solidarity with Al-Wefaq’s imprisoned Security General, Sheikh Ali Salman. This legal statement is concerned with the legitimacy of the charges laid by the authorities of Bahrain against Sheikh Maytham Al Salman. This review was prompted by the repeated use of such or similar charges against human rights defenders and political opponents, including Sheikh Maythan himself.

The statement analyses the charges in line with international human rights standards and jurisprudence related to freedom of expression. Under international law, freedom of expression may only be restricted it the restrictions satisfy a three-part test: a) legality, b) legitimate grounds and c) necessity and proportionality. Accordingly, this statement analyses whether the charges (incitement and contempt of court) against Sheikh Maytham Al Salman meet the three-part test. This statement also reviews the circumstances surrounding Sheikh Maytham Al Salman detention and charges.

On the basis of a thorough discussion of international, regional and national jurisprudence, this statement concludes that the charges of incitement to hatred against the system of government and of expressing views on an on-going trial fail both the legality and the necessity test. The statement also finds that Bahrain’s Government, by subjecting Sheikh Maytham Al Salman to repeated detention, interrogation and unsubstantiated charges, is creating in terrorem conditions, aimed at instilling fears and self-censorship, and amounting to harassment.

In conclusion, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression calls on the authorities of Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Sheikh Maytham Al Salman and put an end to its harassment of the human rights defender and inter-faith activist.

This Legal Statement received international support from freedom of expression scholars, lawyers, and activists. The Signatories list is live and new signatories are added as the come in.

SIGNATORIES:

Galina Arapova, Director, Senior Media Lawyer, Mass Media Defence Centre, RUSSIA

Catherine Anite, Head of Legal Department, Media Lawyer, UGANDA

Romel Regalado Bagares, esq., Executive Director, Center for International Law, PHILIPPINES 

Samir Behmeda, Lawyer and Member, Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, TUNISIA

Mishi Choudhary, Executive Director, Software Freedom Law Center, Lawyer, INDIA

Dr. Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University, U.S.A

R. Dipendra, Media Defence Lawyer, MALAYSIA

Taís Gasparian, Lawyer at RODRIGUES BARBOSA, MAC DOWELL DE FIGUEIREDO, GASPARIAN, BRAZIL

Charles Glasser*, Lawyer, Adjunct Professor of Media Ethics and Law, Arthur Carter Graduate School of Journalism, New York University, U.S.A

David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programmes, ARTICLE 19, UNITED KINGDOM

Dr. Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director, Free Expression Programs, PEN America, U.S.A.

Gregg P. Leslie, Legal Defense Director, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, U.S.A

Catalina Botero Marino, Lawyer, Professor at the Universidad Externado Law School, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2008-2015), COLOMBIA

Peter Noorlander, Chief Executive Officer, Media Legal Defense Initiative, UNITED KINGDOM 

Karuna Nundy, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, INDIA 

Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director, Bytes for All, PAKISTAN

Carey Shenkman, First Amendment and Human Rights Lawyer for Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, U.S.A.

David A. Schulz, Director, Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic, Law School, Yale University, U.S.A.

Damian Tambini, Associate Professor, London School of Economics, UNITED KINGDOM

Dr. Dirk Voorhoof, Professor of Media Law, Ghent University, BELGIUM

Richard N. Winfield, Lecturer in Law, Law School, Colombia University, U.S.A.

*AFFILIATIONS ARE FOR PURPOSES OF IDENTIFICATION, NOT NECESSARILY INSTITUTIONAL ENDORSEMENT

Signatories list was last updated on February 11, 2015 at 3:30 PM EST.

 

Link to the Statement Here.

Analysis: Arbitrary and Unlawful Arrests in Bahrain

During the last four months of 2015, Bahraini authorities made over 400 arrests, averaging roughly 105 arrests per month. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) have collected and analyzed data on this recent wave of arrests, finding that police officials consistently acted in contravention of international law. In the vast majority of cases, arresting officers failed to provide a warrant or a reason for detention; and arrestees reported having been subjected to excessive force, ill treatment, and torture.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain acceded in 2006, requires state security forces to observe certain guidelines when undertaking arrests in order to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention,” and that “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” Of the hundreds of arrests recorded by ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD during the 16-week documentation period, 76 percent failed to meet these standards. The data suggests that for Bahrain's security forces, adherence to the ICCPR is increasingly becoming the exception, not the rule.

Note: The following analysis is based on data independently collected by ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD. Unless otherwise specified, it refers only to the actions of Bahraini security forces from 31 August 2015 to 31 December 2015.

The Data Set

Over the course of four months, ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD tracked the number of arrests effected by Bahraini authorities, recording the legality and circumstance of each case. We found that government forces detained at least 421 individuals, including 53 minors. Additionally, we found that eight distinct circumstances accounted for 95 percent of arrests, listed as follows in order of frequency: house raids, streets and public spaces, prisons, checkpoints and travel hubs, courts, hospitals, traffic offices, and formal court summons (see Figure 1). For clarity, the circumstances of arrest will hereafter be referred to as the arrest category.

The data indicates that Bahraini security forces effected 219 arrests during raids on private homes, representing more than half the total number of documented arrests and the highest number of arrests in a single category. The next most common categories of arrest were public spaces with 76 arrests, checkpoints and travel hubs with 53 arrests (particularly those checkpoints along the King Fahd Causeway between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which accounted for 39 percent of all checkpoint and travel hubs arrests), and court summons with 30 arrests.

Altogether, security forces carried out 76 percent of the 421 total documented arrests in violation of Article 19 of the ICCPR, resulting in the unlawful detention of at least 319 individuals.

Unlawful Arrests

House Raids 

Arrests during raids on private homes accounted for not only the vast majority of illegal arrests, but the majority of total arrests as well. According to the data collected by ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD, Bahraini authorities made 197 out of 219 of these arrests illegally, indicating that 90 percent of all house raid arrests were unlawful. Moreover, unlawful house raid arrests accounted for up to 52 percent of all arrests conducted during the documentation period.  In other words, one in every two people arrested in Bahrain during the documentation period was illegally arrested in his own home.

Testimony provided to ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD by witnesses and victims suggests that house raids typically followed a pattern. Security forces often conducted house raids suddenly and at night. At the start of a raid, police officials reportedly surrounded and entered the target home without warning. Once they gained entrance, the authorities searched the house, arresting one or more residents and/or confiscating personal property. During the house raids that occurred in the documentation period, security forces rarely presented an arrest or search warrant.

After they had taken one or more individuals into custody, the authorities commonly transported the detainee(s) to a Ministry of Interior facility such as a police station or an office of the Criminal Investigative Directorate (CID). Arrestees and witnesses regularly reported having been subjected to physical or verbal abuse during house raids, as well as in the processes of arrest and transportation.

Checkpoints and Travel Hubs

Checkpoints and travel hubs are tied with streets and public spaces as the second most common site of unlawful arrests, with security forces carrying out at least 46 during the documentation period.  Specifically, the authorities carried out 21 unlawful arrests on the King Fahd Causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 15 unlawful arrests at the Bahrain International Airport, and 10 unlawful arrests at other checkpoints. In total, these 46 unlawful arrests represent 87 percent of all arrests carried out at travel hubs and/or via checkpoint stops during the documentation period, as well as 11 percent of total arrests.

Individuals detained at checkpoints and travel hubs reported that arresting officers rarely informed them of a reason for their arrest. Virtually all arrests on the causeway and at the airport failed to meet the standards laid out in Article 9 of the ICCPR, while only 41 percent of miscellaneous checkpoint arrests were conducted in accordance with its provisions.  

Streets and Public Spaces

As noted, streets and public spaces tied with checkpoints and travel hubs for the second-highest number of unlawful arrests, at 46. The data indicates that 60 percent of all street arrests conducted by the authorities failed to meet the standards of the ICCPR.

Witnesses and arrestees reported that Bahraini security personnel generally undertook street arrests either at random, while on patrol, or during targeted sweeps of areas commonly used to hold demonstrations. In the majority of these cases, the authorities failed to provide a warrant or any reason for arrest. A number of these individuals also reported that the arresting officers employed excessive force.

Additional Human Rights Abuses

Individuals that have been unlawfully or arbitrarily detained by the authorities are at a heightened risk of experiencing further human rights and due process violations as they progress through the Bahraini criminal justice system. Arrestees reported to ADHRB, BCHR, and BIRD that security personnel physically and verbally abused them during and after their arrests. They described being beaten with batons and wooden sticks as well as being kicked and punched. The authorities also subjected a number of arrestees to enforced disappearance for periods ranging from several hours to up to three weeks. During this period, government officials reportedly interrogated the accused without any legal representation. As such, the inherently extrajudicial nature of unlawful and arbitrary arrests contributes to broader violations of due process, infringing on the right of the accused to a fair trial.

Conclusion 

According to our findings, Bahraini state security forces consistently violated international guidelines for arrests during the period between 31 August and 31 December 2015: only 24 percent of the arrests conducted during these 16 weeks were conducted in accordance with international law. Although Bahraini legislation ostensibly guarantees the rights to individual liberty and security of person, the data suggests that Bahraini authorities regularly flout their domestic legal obligations. Additional human rights and due process violations associated with arbitrary detention only aggravate these routine abuses of power. That the agents of Bahraini law enforcement so frequently violate their domestic and international obligations not only undermines the rule of law; it leaves the country’s most vulnerable citizens little recourse for justice.   

 

-Read the French version of this article here.