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Bahrain gives 15-year jail sentence to two men connected with 2013 police bombing

The High Criminal Court in Bahrain has sentenced two Bahraini nationals to 15 years in jail over allegations of damaging a police vehicle.

The court on Wednesday issued the sentence allegedly in connection with a bomb explosion in 2013 that damaged the vehicle, according to Bahrain Mirror website.

The new development comes as human rights organizations have cast doubt on the independence of the Bahraini courts and challenge the sentences issued against the political detainees as the members of the judiciary are appointed by royal decrees and because the courts issue sentences based on confessions made under torture.

Read full article here.

UK Police Criticized for Lack of Transparency in Bahrain & Saudi Training Deals

The British College of Policing (CoP) which sets standards for UK Police Officers and also commercially offers worldwide training courses is currently under intense criticism after refusing to reveal the full details of its training deals with forces in Bahrain.
Reports of controversial deals with regimes who have appalling human rights records — such as in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia — have been uncovered, going back as far as 2013 onwards. Now, human rights groups are demanding clarity.
 
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Bahrain Moves to Restrict Digital Journalism

The Rio Olympics are the perfect example of the dwindling power of traditional media and the growing demand for digital journalism. While NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke’s “nightmare” of a 20 percent television ratings drop came true, digital viewership increased by 263 percent compared to 2012. Live streaming is becoming more and more popular not only to watch major sports games but also major news events. 

Last month some of the top news stories were streamed in real time through social media, including the attempted coup in Turkey. However, the Bahraini authorities are trying to fend off the global trend by imposing laws prohibiting local newspapers from using live streaming and restricting any video content from news outlets from exceeding two minutes.

Read full article here.

Index award winners and judges call for release of Bahraini campaigner

Playwright David Hare, author Monica Ali, comedian Shazia Mirza, MP Keir Starmer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka are among those who have written to Prime Minister Theresa May asking the UK government to call on Bahrain to release a campaigner imprisoned for just tweeting his opinions.

Nabeel Rajab has been in pre-trial detention in Bahrain since July. He has been held largely in solitary confinement, and for the first two weeks after his arrest was held in a filthy police cell that aggravated heart and other health issues.

Continue reading here.

Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain: BCHR Releases Report on Restricting and Criminalizing of freedoms online

Today, 31 August 2016, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) published a new report entitled “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”, which examines and discusses the measures taken by the Bahraini authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and increase surveillance of content published online as well as the ongoing prosecution and detention of Internet users.

read full report here

Since the advent of the Internet in the country in 1995, civil society activists and opposition figures have used it for their activities, such as communications and advocacy. Particularly during and since the 2011 pro-democracy movement, social media platforms have gained widespread popularity. Nowadays, Bahrain is the country with the highest Internet penetration in the Middle East and North Africa region; however, it is also the country in which people feel the least safe to express their opinion, criticize the government or talk about politics.

According to the report’s findings, since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have collectively sentenced at least 40 Internet users to more than 842 months in prison for exercising their right to free expression on the Internet and independent social media. As of August 2016, at least 17 Internet users remain in prison, including BCHR’s President Nabeel Rajab, who is the first person in Bahrain to be tried for “retweets” and now faces up to 15 years in prison. Indeed, from putting bloggers on military trials in 2011, to prosecuting them for whatsapp messages and satirical online content, the reports shows how the Bahraini courts are devoted to passing the harshest sentences to silence the last remaining critical voices online.  

Additionally, the report documents five incidents of Internet shutdown or disruption witnessed in Bahrain since 2011, as a regular practice by the government to limit data flow around critical events. The latest of these incidents is still going for over two months in the village of Duraz, impacting over 20,000 residences of the area.

Also in 2016, the reports details how authorities have introduced new restrictive laws and regulations to limit the content published online, including a regulation to restrict newspapers’ usage of video reporting online, as well as to completely ban live broadcasting, and another regulation to force Internet service providers to use a unified filtering system that should aid the government’s efforts to censor the Internet. With the current situation of hundreds of websites blocked, including BCHR’s own website, the report’s findings reveal that Bahrain is misusing terms like “fighting terrorism” to block any website that is critical to the government’s views.

After detaining most of the critical voices, including political leaders, and locking  human rights defenders inside the country with travel bans, and successfully controlling the traditional press, the Internet has become the latest target by the government,” said BCHR’s Vice-President Said Yousef Al-Muhafdah. “The government wants to shut down the last window for people’s voices and place a complete blackout on Bahrain, so the Internet becomes a tool for sharing photos of your dinner, not more.

In “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain”, BCHR outlines how Bahrain’s regulations and consequent actions are in direct violation of international covenants, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression over any platform. 

The report starts with an analysis of the existing and newly introduced legislation and regulatory bodies, then shows how these instruments are used to increase the government's influence over Internet users, how filtering mechanisms work, how information is manipulated and how dissenting individuals and organisations are targeted. Furthermore, “Digital Rights Derailed in Bahrain” gives extensive insight into the personal story and fate of many Internet users and social media activists, who fell victim to the state authority's surveillance apparatus. The report concludes with various recommendations for the Bahraini government as well as the international community on how to achieve change and ensure freedom of expression in Bahrain.

The report is sponsored by IFEX, the global network for freedom of expression, of which BCHR is a member. Read full report here

The report will be launched during the “Opinions are not crimes” event, organized by BCHR together with Global Copenhagen (VerdensKulturCentret) at Nørre Alle 7, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark, starting at 18.00 and ending at 20.00. We would be pleased if you attend the event!

 

For more information please contact:

Elena Mocanu

International Office Manager

elena.mocanu@bahrainrights.org

Travel ban against human rights defender Nedal Al-Salman

On 29 August 2016, human rights defender Ms Nedal Al-Salman was banned from travelling to Doha from Bahrain International Airport.
Nedal Al-Salman is the Head of International Relations and Women & Children's Rights Advocacy at Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and active in the promotion of women’s rights in Bahrain.

The human rights defender was travelling to Doha on 29 August 2016 on her way to Geneva to participate in several meetings at the United Nations Human Rights Council, when she was informed by officials at Bahrain International Airport that the Public Prosecution had ordered a travel ban against her. The human rights defender was not formally notified of this order nor its reasons.

 

Read full statement here.

Bahrain: Alarming clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement

Since May 2016 Bahrain has seen an alarming intensification in the crackdown on the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement, particularly against the political opposition and those critical of the authorities. This is Amnesty International's written statement to the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (13 – 30 September 2016)

 

Read the full statement here.

Bahrain's al-Wefaq opposition appeals dissolution ruling: Wefaq official

Bahrain's main opposition al-Wefaq has appealed against an administrative court ruling last month that dissolved the group and found it guilty of fostering terrorism, a leading Wefaq official said on Tuesday.

The court decision to dissolve al-Wefaq was part of a wider government crackdown on an opposition mainly comprised of Shi'ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger say in running the Western-allied Gulf Arab state.

 

Read article here.