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The price for speaking out: Nabeel Rajab sentenced to 5 years for tweeting in Bahrain

Beirut-Geneva-Paris, February 21, 2018 - Today in Bahrain, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, BCHR President and FIDH Deputy Secretary General, was sentenced to 5 years in prison under trumped-up charges in relation to tweets denouncing the torture against detainees at Jaw prison and exposing the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. This surrealistic verdict, after a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice, illustrates once again the current crackdown of any dissenting voice in Bahrain, where scores of critics are currently jailed. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and BCHR reiterate their call to the Bahraini authorities to immediately release him as well as all detained human rights defenders.

Nabeel Rajab was convicted today based on Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal Code (“disseminating false rumours in time of war”), Article 215 (“offending a foreign country [Saudi Arabia]”) and Article 216 (“insulting a statutory body”). Rajab’s charges include a tweet from March 26, 2015, the day the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in Yemen, criticising wars that “bring hatred, destruction and horrors”. On December 4, 2017, in a public statement announcing the appointment of a group of experts to investigate the violations committed in Yemen, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein used nearly the same words to describe the situation in Yemen: “For three years, the people of Yemen have been subjected to death, destruction and despair”. 

“Nabeel Rajab is not a criminal, he is a prominent human rights defender and political prisoner. This new outrageous sentence contributes to further shut down space for civil society in the country”, FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos highlighted.

“This continuous harassment, which illustrates once more the Government’s relentless efforts to silence the whole Bahraini civil society, must stop. It is urgent for the international community to make sure Bahrain’s authorities cannot get away with their crackdown on human rights defenders any longer”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock added.

Today Bahrain is under a blackout, preventing local human rights activists from expressing themselves or traveling, and forbidding foreign journalists and human rights defenders from investigating. In October 2017, a delegation of FIDH board and former board members seeking to show solidarity with Nabeel and other imprisoned human rights defenders was denied entry to the country.

The ongoing case against Nabeel Rajab, which began in April 2015, has been postponed 20 times and on several occasions the Court violated criminal procedure law by announcing the holding of the trial with only a few days’ notice, and no explanation to Rajab’s lawyers. His lawyers reported they were therefore unable to prepare his defence or call their witnesses to testify in court. 

Nabeel Rajab has been in arbitrary, solitary and pre-trial detention since June 13, 2016, despite his deteriorating health conditions. After being hospitalised, his return to prison has been marked by new persecutions and dangerous, humiliating and degrading detention conditions. Beaten on his arrival, and woken up and searched in the middle of the night, his belongings were confiscated and his head was shaved. Since November 20, 2017, he is being held in Jaw prison in a segregated wing with convicted ISIS terrorists, putting his safety at risk.

Our organisations reiterate their fears for Nabeel’s health status and renew their call to the authorities to enable him to receive an adequate medical treatment, and to release him immediately and unconditionally.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Press contacts:

  • FIDH: Audrey Couprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57
  • OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
  • BCHR: Julie Gromellon: +961 81 784 437

Bahrain: Risk of Death Penalty

The Christian Coalition for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) makes an urgent appeal to stop the death sentences in Bahrain

On the 21st of February 2018, the military’s high court of appeals of Bahrain will retry eight men that have been convicted after an unfair verdict, including confessions obtained under torture. Four of the men have been sentenced to death and are at risk of seeing their conviction confirmed.  

On the 27th of December, after an unfair trial, the military’s high court of appeals sentenced 13 men on charges of forming a terrorist cell and attempting to assassinate a senior official of the Bahrain Defense Forces and revoked their citizenship. Five of the men are on exile and the remaining eight in custody have appealed the court’s decision.

Among them, Sayed Alawi, Sayed Fadhel Abbas, Mubarak Adel Muhanna and Mohamed Abdulhassan Al Mutaghawi have been sentenced to death. Mohamed Shehabi, Hussain Shehab, Mohammed Al Najar and Mohammed Al Ajami have been sentenced to 7 years of prison.

According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the defendants were subjected to torture after their arrest.

Some of them, such as Mohammed Al-Shehabi et Mohamed Abdulhassan Al Mutaghawi, have been victims of incommunicado detention for several months while others, such as Sayed Alawi and Sayed Fadhel Abbashave, been held in incommunicado detention for nearly a year despite desperate attempts of their families to get in touch with them.  

None of the defendants were allowed to communicate with a lawyer before the trial. Some of them have had to wait for the third hearing before being allowed to contact one. Their families were threatened of retaliation if they diffused the torture allegations of the defendants. This is the first sentence handed down by a military court against civilians since the constitutional reform of the 3rd of April 2017, allowing the military court to try civilians. The rise of death sentences and military trials is the result of the authoritarian governance in Bahrain, which continues to

The upsurge in death sentences and military trials is symptomatic of authoritarian governance, which continues to lead a campaign of repression with impunity against the opposition.

Context

The resumption of executions

22 Bahrainis are currently sentenced to death. After seven years of de facto moratorium, executions resumed a year ago. On the 15th of January 2017, Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima were executed after being sentenced after an unfair trial, to the point that the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions qualified their execution as extrajudicial.

On the 29th of January 2018, the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed a new death sentence. The Civil Court of Appeal sentenced Maher Abbas Ahmad on the 11th of May 2017 based on confessions he signed under treatment of torture. If the king ratifies his sentence, he can be executed at any moment.

The standardization of the use of military justice

In 2011, the year of the beginning of uprising in Bahrain, the National Security Court, an emergency court, founded by the Bahraini Ruler on March 15th, 2011, sentenced several human rights defenders and political opponents. Three months later, under international pressure, he ordered the creation of a Bahraini Independent Commission for Investigation (BICI) to investigate the events - namely, violent repression - that took place in Bahrain during February and March 2011. As a result, in November 2011, the BICI published a report in which it severely criticized the unfair trials led by National Security Court, demanding that a civil court retried the cases. At the time, the authorities had accepted that.

In contradiction with the recommendations of the BICI and in violation of the international laws concerning the right to a fair trial that Bahrain has signed, on the 3rd of April 2017, the monarch amended the constitution in order to give the jurisdiction of the military courts the right to try civilians. The above-mentioned 13 convicts are the first victims of this decision.

Source

https://www.acatfrance.fr/actualite/risque-de-condamnation-a-mor

New crackdown marks 7th Anniversary of Bahrain Uprising

Yesterday, while Bahrainis were commemorating the uprising anniversary, security forces, once again resort to force to break up peaceful marches using tear gas and live ammunition and leaving several casualties among the protestors. As the international community looks away, the Kingdom has been aggressively pursuing his intimidation campaign and intensified the repression. This breakdown has reflected in the increase of Human Rights violations witnessed in the last months and the continued stifling of Human rights movements.

The arsenal of abusive practices deployed by the Bahraini authorities includes arbitrary arrests, house raids, unfair trials, suppression of peaceful protests, restriction of freedom of expression and movement, ill-treatment and torture. Among those recurrent patterns of repressions, certain particularly alarming trends have been observed in the last year, with a systematic use of repressive laws and legal procedures to punish dissent.

Resurgence of death penalty

The year 2017 has witnessed an unprecedented proportion of resort to capital punishment by Bahraini criminal courts. This dramatic increase comes after eight uninterrupted years of absence of death penalty sentences. On 25 December 2017, a Bahraini military court sentenced six men to death on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting to assassinate a military official. Throughout the year, the instrumentalization of Terrorism Law has proven to be systematic and a large-scale technique used by Bahraini criminal courts to counter dissidents. To this day, three men have been executed on alleged terrorism charges and 22 remain on death row.

Increase of travel bans

The Bahraini authorities are targeting Human Rights defenders’ actions within and without the country. Other than the persecutions that the Human rights activists are facing in Bahrain, the authorities are increasingly resorting to travel ban. Among the persons confronted to such a ban is Nedal Al Salman, BCHR Head of international advocacy. On December 2017, Bahraini customs prevented her from travelling to Brussels where she was invited by European Union to participate to NGO Forum on Human Rights. Another illustration of the extraterritorial range of Human Rights disregard by the Bahraini authorities is the prosecution close relatives of activists that fled the country. 

Unfair trial

Numerous abysmal practices employed by the Bahraini courts fall within the frame of the violation of the rights to a fair trial. Besides the groundless allegations and abusive convictions, one other intimidation means used has been the repeated cancellation and postponements of hearings for trials. Thus, Nabeel Rajab, leading voice in the Human Rights movement and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has spent more than one year in pre-trial detention awaiting his trial. In a separate case, where he faces up to 15 years imprisonment for tweeting, he is still awaiting his final hearing as it has been postponed 20 times.

Considering this alarming situation, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights is calling upon the Bahraini authorities to respect their international obligations and to honor the commitments they took following the uprisings. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights deplores the passivity of the international community towards this aggravating situation and calls upon international actors to use the full range of their influence to stop the crackdown.

 

Bahrain: On 7th anniversary of beginning of popular movement, NGOs call for end to systematic targeting of human rights defenders and journalists

On the 7th anniversary of the peaceful popular movement of the Bahraini people which started on 14 February 2011, the undersigned NGOs call on the international community to help free human rights defenders in Bahrain, some of whom are jailed for life, and to stop the persecution of journalists simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Bahrain now has a reputation as one of the few countries in which all well-known human rights defenders (who are not already in jail or in exile) have been banned from working freely or travelling. This is designed to isolate the human rights movement and cut its links with the international mechanisms in particular the United Nations. A collective travel ban is essentially imposed on all human rights defenders, preventing them from participating in the activities of the three sessions held each year at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. Likewise, international NGOs and journalists, along with UN experts, cannot freely visit Bahrain.

Human Rights Defenders in Jail, Victims of Torture and Ill-Treatment

Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders are in jail, facing ill-treatment. On 05 February 2018, Khadija Al-Mousawi tweeted that she visited her husband, prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been targeted and abused in Jaw prison. He has been taken to hospital in shackles.

"When I went to visit my husband he was talking about going to the hospital chained," she tweeted. "I expected him to say that he felt humiliated, but he said the opposite. He was walking very slowly because of the weight of chains and the chain distance between the feet, but he was raising his head having a nice feeling.”

Al-Khawaja is the Founder and Former President of both the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), as well as the former MENA Protection Coordinator for Front Line Defenders. He has been held in Jaw prison since his sentencing to life in prison in 2011, along with other human rights defenders and activists, including blogger Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, who collectively make up the Bahrain 13.

In the past year, Al-Khawaja and other prisoners of conscience have protested repeatedly about the deteriorating conditions in Jaw Prison, which mimic the general deterioration of conditions in Bahrain for human rights defenders and civil society.

After he sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior in November 2017 about the conditions in prison, Al-Khawaja was also denied the right to make any phone calls until 17 December, which appears to be a reprisal against him for raising his complaint.

Another prominent human rights defender who has been ill-treated in detention (including being returned to unsanitary conditions following surgery, which resulted in an infection) is Nabeel Rajab, GCHR’s Founding Director, Co-Founder and President of BCHR, FIDH Deputy Secretary General and a member of the Human Rights Watch MENA Advisory Board. On 15 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld the two-year prison sentence against Rajab for talking with various media outlets about human rights issues. On this sentence alone, he will remain in prison until December 2018, even though he has now been incarcerated already for 20 months since his arrest on 13 June 2016.

One of the things that Rajab is accused of falsely stating is that journalists and NGOs are banned from entering the country. However, it is hard to dispute that the country is not only closed in term of civic society space, but equally not accessible for the international human rights observers. Among those NGOs which have not received permission to enter the country are signatories to this letter including FIDH, Front Line Defenders and GCHR, which has been waiting for the green light to enter the country to do a human rights mission since 2012.

In another case, Rajab is being prosecuted over two charges both related to tweets and retweets posted in 2015 about the war in Yemen and also about allegations of torture in Jaw prison after a prison riot in March 2015. The first charge is “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) referring to the Ministry of Interior in relation to tweets he posted denouncing the torture of detainees at Jaw Prison. The second charge is “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) in relation to tweets he published about the Saudi-Arabia led coalition air strikes in Yemen. A verdict is expected at the next hearing on 21 February 2018 and Rajab faces imprisonment of up to 15 years if convicted.

Women human rights defenders are not spared torture and abuse in prison. On 22 October 2017, Ebtisam Al-Saegh, the monitoring and documentation officer of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, was released from prison pending trial. Al-Saegh was held in solitary confinement in Isa Town Women’s Prison since her arrest on 03 July 2017 and subjected to harsh interrogation. The Public Prosecution ordered Al-Saegh to be incarcerated for six months pending investigation under the anti-terrorism law. In July 2017, a group of UN experts expressed “deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.”

In a previous incident, on 27 May 2017, Al-Saegh was arrested and suffered torture and abuse at the hands of the National Security Agency (NSA). She was summoned to Muharraq police station for questioning about her human rights activities and then tortured and sexually abused by members of the NSA. The security officers also threatened to murder her and her children. She was released seven hours later but had to go directly to hospital suffering from a “severe nervous breakdown.”

During the interrogation in May, she was asked about the work of activists inside and outside Bahrain, and about her human rights work in Geneva during the UN HRC sessions.

In 2017, the security authorities arrested and tortured many human rights defenders and then released them after forcing them to pledge to stop their human rights activities. Other people who were interrogated at Muharraq police station subsequently renounced their activism on Twitter and stopped tweeting. Only Al-Saegh strongly condemned these illegal practices, describing them on Twitter as a "crime against humanity."

All human rights defenders in Bahrain are either in prison or exile, or prevented from freely working or travelling, such as Zainab Al-Khamees, banned from travel since November 2016, and Nedal Al-Salman, BCHR’s Acting President, banned from travel regularly since May 2016, preventing her from attending UN HRC sessions. Al-Salman has been accused of illegal gathering and was interrogated four times, with charges remaining against her. The ban has been lifted twice and re-imposed, often for unknown reasons.

On 25 January 2016, human rights defender and board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) Naji Fateel was among 57 prisoners sentenced to additional 15-year terms for allegedly being involved in disturbances in Jaw prison in March 2015. The public prosecutor accused the men of having “unleashed acts of chaos, riots and rebellion inside (prison) buildings,” and they were charged with “damaging public property, attacking police, arson and resisting authorities,” among other offences. Fateel was already serving a 15-year prison sentence for “establishing a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution,” and has been in prison since May 2013. He was badly tortured in prison, and it is believed that his imprisonment stems from his human rights work, including his interactions with the UN.

Journalists Tortured and Jailed, Media Shut Down

Journalists in Bahrain are not able to work freely and have suffered terribly for covering human

rights violations. Journalist Nazeeha Saeed, former correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, reported being tortured in 2011. She is no longer able to work as a journalist in Bahrain and forced to leave the country. On 18 July 2017, an appeal court in Manama upheld the sentence imposed for “working without a license” against Saeed. She was fined 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. USD$2650). Saeed was charged with unlawfully working for the international media under Article 88 of Law 47/2002. Saeed had applied for renewal of her license but her application was rejected without any basis. It was the first time in 12 years that her accreditation was not renewed. She was also placed under a travel ban.

Previously, Saeed was arrested and tortured in May 2011 after covering protests. She was repeatedly beaten and subject to electro-shocks 10 times while in police detention. One of the policewomen responsible was brought to trial but acquitted in October 2012. In November 2015, authorities decided against charging other identified officers because of “insufficient” evidences. 

On 30 October 2017, human rights defender and “Al-Wasat” journalist Mahmoud Abdul-Ridha Al-Jazeeri was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and his nationality was ordered to be revoked. On 28 December 2015, Al-Jazeeri was arrested during a raid on his home by security forces in plain clothes. His arrest came one day after he wrote an article reporting on the regular consultative (Shura) council’s session, during which an MP asked authorities to punish Bahrainis who had their citizenship revoked on political grounds by depriving them of government housing. He was charged with supporting terrorism, inciting hatred of the regime, having contacts with a foreign country, and seeking to overthrow the government by joining Al-Wafa and the February 14 Youth Movement. He was subjected to ill-treatment in detention including being blindfolded and not being allowed to sit or sleep for almost three days. He is appealing the sentence.

On 24 June 2017, “Al-Wasat” newspaper notified its employees in an e-mail of the decision to lay off all 160 staff members. On 04 June 2017, Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) suspended “Al-Wasat” for allegedly violating the law and repeating the publication of and broadcasting news that stirs up the community and affects the relations of the Kingdom of Bahrain with other countries. The suspension relates to an article published about protests in Morocco on 04 June 2017, which was accused of “abuse of one of the Arab countries."

Editor-in-Chief Mansoor Al-Jamri said, "After 15 years of journalism, we reaffirm that the success of “Al-Wasat”’s unique project would not have been achieved without the confidence of its constituents, which it considered a civilised means of reform, a bridge of understanding, cooperation, coexistence and acceptance of opinion and the opposite opinion, depending on the loyalty to the whole nation of all groups of society, while adhering that is internationally acclaimed to media professionalism." He added, "The most important of all: honesty in saying and acting."

Recommendations to the International Community:

We, the undersigned NGOs, appeal to the United Nations mechanisms, the European Union, in addition to all governments with influence - in particular the United States and the United Kingdom - to apply serious pressure on Bahrain to demand the immediate release of all detained human rights defenders as well as all prisoners of conscience; and to protect public freedom, in particular freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and freedom of association; and to stop the security forces from practicing any form of torture or ill-treatment on detainees, a practice which is well documented in recent years and regarded as systematic in Bahrain.

We further call on the Bahrain authorities to allow the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of expression and torture to visit Bahrain immediately in order to meet representatives of civil society, meet detainees, assess the human rights situation in the country as well as to convey their recommendations to solve the crisis facing human rights defenders and journalists.

In addition, we call on the government of Bahrain to fulfill its promises made during Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review to uphold international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, including by taking immediate steps to:

  • Overturn the convictions, following unfair trials, of demonstrators and human rights defenders and activists, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Nabeel Rajab, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, and immediately and unconditionally free them;
  • Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain, bring an end to the practice of torture and ill-treatment in prison, police stations or secret locations and bring perpetrators to justice immediately;
  • Allow human rights defenders to work freely inside of Bahrain, and travel abroad, including by removing travel bans against Nedal Al-Salman, Zainab Al-Khamees, and Ebtisam Al-Saegh;
  • Allow foreign NGOs, journalists and UN representatives to freely visit Bahrain;
  • End the harassment of journalists and allow all journalists to carry out their work without fear of reprisals;
  • Respect the right to freedom of expression and opinion for all people in Bahrain, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Bahrain Constitution.

Signatories:

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

English Pen

FIDH, under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

 

Bahrain: abusive convictions of four women on terrorism charges

Beirut, February 2, 2017: On January 31, Muna Habib, Hamida Alkhor, Amira AlQashaami and Faten Hussein were convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for allegedly covering up for male family members. 
 
In Bahrain, women appear to be disproportionately targeted only for their relationships to male family members whom the government is investigating cases of alleged terrorism. Many of them are detained because of alleged terrorist activities by family members: “Targeting women as a way to attain male suspects punishes them for crimes they have not committed, and is violating their right to due process of law” said BCHR today. Suspects arrested under Bahrain's counterterrorism law routinely face serious human rights violations that compromise their right to a fair trial, many have been subjected to coercive interrogations and torture.
 
On Wednesday (January 31, 2018), the fourth high criminal court, sentenced to death two defendants, 19 others to life in prison, 17 defendants to 15 years, 9 to 10 years and 11 to 5 years, while acquitting two others of the charges raised against them.
Most of the charges hold against the defendants fall within the scope of the new anti-terrorism law used as legal ground by Bahraini authorities to curtail any form of dissidence. In total, 58 persons were convicted and sentenced on charges including membership to a terrorist cell, plotting to carry out a lethal attack, attempting to murder policemen and possessing unlicensed firearms and explosives. Among the group of convicted, four women have suffered particularly unfair sentences from the court on the charges of covering a wanted person.
 They have all endured a litany of abuses from the Bahraini authorities. They have been denied access to lawyers and relatives, as well as the opportunity to challenge the basis of their detention before a judge.

FIDH and BCHR strongly condemn an unprecedent wave of death sentences in Bahrain

Manama, Paris, 1 February 2018 : Bahrain has witnessed a dramatic increase in the use of capital punishment since 2017, and recent executions mark a dangerous return to the death penalty after a halt on executions since 2010. Our organisation strongly condemn this tragic  trend and urge the authorities to abolish the death penalty immediately.

 

(Picture above: Mohammed Al Mitgawi; a human rights activist on death role)

Today a new death sentence confirmed the dramatic acceleration of death sentences in Bahrain.

« Today Moosa Abdulla was sentenced to death after sentencing  Ali Al Arab, Ahmed Al Malaly and Maher Al Khabaz earlier this week. 22 Bahrainis remain currently on death row, which marks a record in the history of Bahrain », Stated Maytham Al Salman, Special Advisor at the BCHR.

On 25 December 2017, a Bahraini military court sentenced six men to death on charges of forming a terrorist cell and plotting to assassinate a military official.

The victims in this trial were subjected to torture, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, solitary confinement and enforced disappearance. Communications engineer Sayed Alawi Hussein Alawi, and Sayed Fadhel Abbas were forcibly disappeared for nearly a year, and Mohammed Al-Shehabi and Mohammed Al-Motaghawi were forcibly disappeared for several months. Some of the lawyers and  families of the defendants were threatened with reprisals if they revealed their treatment to the media or international human rights organizations. All the defendants were denied the right to meet their lawyers before the trials.

« We strongly oppose  the death penalty in all circumstances and for all crimes », expressed Florence Bellivier, FIDH Deputy Secretary General on Death Penalty. « The increased application of the death penalty in Bahrain is of high concern, as it also reveals  a discriminatory and inhuman practice, in addition to the violation of the rights to a fair trial and the instrumentalization of death penalty as a political tool »

The fact that the defendants were tried before military courts and not civil courts is significative. These courts were condemned by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011 for their acceptance of confessions extracted under torture and their failure to hold fair trials. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry recommended halting trying civilians in military courts in 2011, which was accepted by authorities. However, Bahrain amended the constitution to grant these courts the power to try civilians on 3 April 2017. This constitutional amendment was regarded by Bahraini human rights organizations as catastrophic.

 “The prosecution of peaceful dissidents in military courts is expected to flourish if the international community remains silent ”, declared Maytham Al Salman “ Mohammed Al Mitqawi,  a peaceful activist who has been working with human rights organizations and the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in reporting violations, who is today on death row.”

A year ago, on 15 January 2017, the Bahraini authorities executed Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42) in such conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Dr Agnes Callamard, qualified the executions as “extrajudicial executions”

FIDH and BCHR condemn the last wave of death sentences and executions in the strongest terms, and urge the government of Bahrain to immediately abolish the death penalty and accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for the abolition of the death penalty.

Furthermore, FIDH and BCHR call on the government of Bahrain to repeal the constitutional amendment of 3 April 2017 and restore Article 105 of the Bahraini Constitution to its previous state to ensure that civilians are not tried in military courts. They also urge authorities to open an independent investigation into all complaints of violations in all the cases , particularly those related to complaints of torture and ill-treatment, and adopt the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary adopted by the United Nations in 1985.

Press Contact ;
BCHR
Julie Gromelon
+961 81 784 437 / julie@bahrainrights.org

FIDH
Audrey Couprie
+33 6 48 05 91 57 / acouprie@fidh.org

 

THE OBSERVATORY

Bahrain: Fears for Nabeel Rajab’s life inside his prison

Beirut - Paris - Geneva, January 25, 2018: According to a credible confidential source, Bahraini authorities have planned to interfere with prominent rights activist Nabeel Rajab’s medication in a clear attempt to threaten his security and integrity. The Bahraini authorities should immediately and unconditionally release him.

“This attempted attack on Nabeel’s health is certainly not random” said today the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH - OMCT partnership), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf center for Human Rights (GCHR). It falls at a time when the government has tried to keep him under tight surveillance to prevent him from speaking out. The authorities couldn’t stop him from speaking out to defend human rights so they might be looking at other ways to silence him for good”. The situation is even more worrisome as Nabeel Rajab needs surgery and has no choice but to take the medication he is given.

“Bahrain has been cracking down on our friend and Deputy Secretary General, Nabeel Rajab for years with abusive tactics,” said Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President. “Recently alarming signals have multiplied raising security concerns regarding his detention condition. The government should put a stop to these tactics, and immediately release him. We seriously fear for his life”, he added.

“The Bahraini authorities should allow an international independent medical examination of Nabeel Rajab and the results of this examination to be duly recorded and accessible by his family. Nabeel Rajab’s life is at serious risk and he should receive urgently the medical treatment he needs by a trusted medical institution,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

In the last months, a number of prominent dissidents and activists have become seriously ill in detention in Bahrain, and have been denied independent, adequate and trusted care. Authorities have detained, imprisoned, tortured, intimidated, stripped of their nationality, or forced into exile many people who peacefully opposed or openly criticized the authorities’ actions and policies. The authorities have also shut down numerous independent media outlets.

“Authorities should immediately release him and allow him to seek medical care freely from a doctor of his choice”, said Maytham Al Salman, BCHR Special Advisor. “There are fewer and fewer human rights defenders able to work in Bahrain, and they do so at great risks, even in detention, as demonstrated by this case” he added. “The harassment of Nabeel Rajab is intended to silencing the whole Bahraini society”.

Press contacts:

FIDH:  Audrey Couprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57

OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39

BCHR: Julie Gromellon: +961 81 784 437

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

·       E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

·       Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

·       Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

Bahrain: Reverse Nabeel Rajab’s Prison Sentence

Court Rejects his Appeal Despite ill-treatment in prison 
 
On January 15, 2018, in an appeals hearing that lasted only about ten minutes, a Bahraini Court rejected Nabeel Rajab’s appeal of a 2-year prison sentence for “spreading fake news that undermine the prestige of the state”,  and postponed once again his case for tweeting against the Saudi-led coalition war in Yemen to February 21, 2018. 
 
Bahrain routinely misuses the courts, which lack independence, to target members of the political opposition and civil society activists. Rajab's verdict comes a few weeks after Bahraini Courts also upheld life sentences for 6 people and strip 26 of their nationalities on three consecutive days. 
 
“We are very worried about Nabeel's safety and well-being," said BCHR today "Authorities should release him immediately, drop the charges against him, and investigate thoroughly his possible ill-treatment in detention." 
 
On arrival at the prison where he is currently detained, Nabeel Rajab’s hair was forcefully shaved, he was subjected to an invasive body search and his books and clothes were confiscated. He is still held in the same cell than convicted high-profile ISIS terrorists. 
 
The ruling means that Nabeel Rajab will now have to serve the remaining 11 months of a two-year prison term, for interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016 and for exercizing his right to freedom of expression. 

Bahrain: Relatives of exiled activists continue to be targeted amid ongoing unrest

The signatory human rights organizations express their condemnation over the continued targeting and harassment of human rights defenders and their families. "Human rights defenders have been subjected to systematic and continuous violations, including arbitrary detention, travel bans and torture". Testimonies documented by reliable human rights organizations confirmed the continued target and harassment of also the families of human rights defenders.

The signatory organizations confirmed that they have monitored and documented the abuse committed by members of the security services against Yunes Ahmed Sultan, a Bahraini citizen, who is also the brother of human rights defender Mohammed Sultan, member of Bahrain Center for Human Rights. This abuse had revealed the extent of the involvement of the security services in targeting and harassing the families of human rights activists, as well as the torture policy that has become systematic, rampant and frequent, accompanied by methods of sexual assault and harassment.

The latest victim is Yunes, who was subjected to physical and psychological torture and degrading treatment, was indeed sexually assaulted by officer Taher Al Alawi on November 26, 2017 in the Southern Province Police Station (Hamad Town, Roundabout 17). Yunes was coerced to work and cooperate with the security agencies to monitor human rights activity and monitor the activities of human rights organizations cooperating with the United Nations' human rights mechanisms. (The victim's statement is attached with this statement).

The undersigned organizations demand the Government of Bahrain to open a genuine investigation into this incident and stop the targeting and harassment of human rights activists and their families. The Government of Bahrain is bound by Article 2 of the United Nations' Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.  The signatories also call on Bahrain to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst, to visit Bahrain in order to stand upon the real situation of human rights defenders and their families.

The signatories:

  1. SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
  2. Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  3. Bahrain Forum for Human Rights
  4. The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights
  5. Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights

Testimony

"Yunes Ahmed Sultan", is a Bahraini citizen who has been interrogated, tortured, and threatened by Bahraini police officers on two recent occasions in November 2017.

On 19 November 2017, officers at the Southern Province Police Station (Hamad Town, Roundabout 17) called Yunes Sultan and ordered him to come to the station. He arrived 15 minutes later, and officers took him to the investigation officer's bureau.

The investigation officer questioned him about the activities of his brother Mohamed Sultan, a Bahraini refugee currently residing in France and two other exiled Bahraini rights activists, Sayed Yousif AlMuhafda, vice president of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, currently based in Germany and Hussain Jawad, Chairman of the European Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights, based also in France.

During the investigation, the officer accused Yunes Sultan of meeting with exiled human rights defenders in France and Germany, and of cooperating with others to overthrow the government in Bahrain. Sultan denied these charges, and the officer called two other policemen who threatened to beat him and sexually assault him.

The officer also offered him financial rewards in order to provide him with intelligence on the activits' movements and work.

On 26 November 2017, officers at the station called Sultan again and asked him to come and see officer Taher Al Alawi. Sultan arrived and was taken to officer Al Alawi's office. Officer Al Alawi offered him tea or water, Sultan first said "no, thanks" but the officer insisted, and Sultan chose water. Officer Al Alawi instead threw the water in Sultan's face and began to insult him and his religious beliefs.

Officer Al Alawi stated that they had evidence against him, and brought a laptop with photos of him in public ceremonies with a number of public figures, including Nabeel Rajab and others. Again, Sultan denied any criminal activities, and stated that he could not recall details of any conversations he had with these public figures.

Two officers pinned Sultan to the wall, and officer Al Alawi told them "Do what you wish." The three officers began beating Sultan and started stripping him off his clothes, and sexually assaulting him. They also began kicking him on different parts of his body.

Officer Al Alawi ordered the other officers to leave the room and take all Sultan's clothes away. Officer Al Alawi resumed the investigations with Sultan while totally naked and again accused him of "terrorist activities", and pressured him to provide information on his brother Mohamed Sultan and Yousif AlMuhafdah and Hussain Jawad, or he would charge him with various crimes linked to terrorism and collusion.

Later, the police guards returned Sultan's clothes and ordered him to dress. He later discovered that the underwear he was given was not even his own!

Yunes said that the officers told him he has 15 days to think about their offer and to come back to the police station. The fifteenth day ended on Monday, 11 December. From then on, they have called him numerous times but out of fear he did not answer any of the calls. On the 13th of December, at 1:00 AM precisely, Sultan received a call from officer Al Alawi in which he directly threatened him and said: "are you afraid of me? A call at this time of the night would of course scare you, wouldn’t it? Your deadline has finished"!

Yunes Sultan said he was intimidated and out of fear for his safety and wellbeing he is now in France where he began the process of filing an asylum claim after fleeing Bahrain on the same day of the 13th of December 2017.

 

 

 

Bahrain:Secret military courts sentence civilians forced to confess under torture

The general principles of the Comparative International Law and the International Bill on the judiciary and trials warn of trying civilians in military courts or extending the application of special judicial laws in extraordinary cases.

It is well known and recognized that military courts are those which handle offenses committed by military personnel and associated with their military functions, and this is how the military court was described in the 2002 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and particularly in section b of Article 105 thereof, which stipulates that,

“The jurisdiction of military courts shall be confined to military offences committed by members of the Defense Force, the National Guard, and the Security Forces. It does not extend to other persons except when martial law is declared and within the bounds prescribed by law.”

However, after the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) was issued – especially paragraph 119, which led to consequent legal effects 5 nullifying the sentences of military courts during the period of the declaration of martial law that was accompanied by human rights violations, and then repeating the trials in civil courts – Bahrain resorted to surpassing this constitutional prohibition by amending Article 105 of the Constitution on March 30, 2017, lifting the constitutional impediment of trying civilians in military courts.

This constitutional amendment resulted in an amendment to the Military Judiciary Law on April 18, 2017, i.e. after less than twenty days and on an expedited basis. This law expands to make the military judiciary specialized in prosecuting civilians accused in the political cases stated in the Bahraini Penal Code (general law). 

Full report here