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Women Rights Activist Ebtisam Al-Sayegh Arrested by NSA, Serious Risk of Torture

4 July 2017 – Police have arrested woman Human Rights Defender Ebtisam Al-Sayegh, 48, in a midnight raid on her home. She is believed to be detained by the National Security Agency, and is at high risk of torture. Al-Sayegh was tortured at the NSA building in Muharraq in May. The NSA is the cite of many recent torture allegations and is headed by Sheikh Talal Al Khalifa, a Bahraini royal and Sandhurst graduate.

Read article here.

Bahraini Alleged Torture Victim Arrested-Rights Group

A Bahraini activist was arrested at her home late on Monday by masked and armed state security officers, a month after she complained of being tortured and sexually assaulted when she was summoned for questioning, a London-based rights group said.

Western-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, has stepped up a crackdown on critics, shutting down two main political groups, revoking the citizenship of a Shi'ite Muslim spiritual leader and jailing rights campaigners.

Officers believed to be from the National Security Agency (NSA) surrounded Ebtisam al-Sayegh's home and arrested her, the London-based Bahrain Centre for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said.

Read article here.

Ending reprisals against those who cooperate with the United Nations in the field of human rights

In April 2017, two situations occured that prevented civil society from participating in human rights discussions in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bahrain scheduled for May 2017 in Geneva. The first incident took place ahead of the UPR Pre-session of Bahrain organised by UPR Info on 6 April 2016. A human rights and civil rights defender from Bahrain, Sayed Hadi Hasan Mohamed Al Musawi, was prevented from speaking at the Pre-session in Geneva. When he attempted to board a plane to Geneva at Manama airport on the morning of 5 April, he was informed that he would not be permitted to travel.

The other incident arose prior to the UPR of Bahrain, where 27 Bahraini individuals, including Nedal Al-Salma, Head of Women and Children Rights at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, were summoned for questioning by the Bahraini Office for Public Prosecution and, while investigations were ongoing, were placed under a travel ban.

Read the article here.

Statement of Solidarity in Support of MENA HRDs for IFEX25

We, the human rights defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), along with other colleagues gathered at the IFEX25 Strategy Conference & General Meeting in Montreal, Canada, from 12 to 16 June 2017, declare our full solidarity with human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in various countries of the MENA region detained for their peaceful and legitimate activities defending and promoting freedom of expression, and we call for their immediate release. 

We express our deep concern about the authorities' use of travel bans and arbitrary detention as tools for reprisals against the reliable work of our colleagues in the region, including: 

Gamal Eid, director of IFEX member the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since February 2016 due to this work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt; 

Mohammed Zaree, director of the Cairo office of IFEX member the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place since June 2016 due to his work on freedom of expression and other human rights in Egypt; 

Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, co-founders of both IFEX members Bahrain Center for Human Rights(BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), prevented from attending the IFEX25 with their colleagues in Montreal as they remain detained as political prisoners in Bahrain due to exercising their right to freedom of expression in their work on defending human rights; 

Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations for IFEX member BCHR, and IFEX Council member, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with her colleagues in Montreal by a travel ban in place due to exercising her right to freedom of expression in Bahrain as well as international spaces, including the UN Human Rights Council; and 

Ahmed Mansoor, member of the GCHR advisory board, prevented from attending the IFEX25 with his colleagues in Montreal as he remains arbitrarily detained in the UAE since 20 March 2017 on charges that violate his right to freedom of expression. 

We believe that the only objective of these arbitrary actions is to isolate civil society organisations and their members from communicating with their peers and international mechanisms in order to cover up the massive violations of civil and human rights by the authorities. 

It was noted during IFEX25 that the close relationship between the governments of the MENA region and the UK and the US has led to the emboldening of security services in the region who continue to carry out gross violations of human rights around the clock without consequence. While we hold the governments of the region responsible for the deterioration of the human rights situation in the region, we call on international mechanisms, especially the United Nations, the EU and governments that have influence in our region to place human rights first in their diplomatic relationships and foreign policy. They must also protect and support human rights defenders as they carry out their important work aimed at building free, independent and prosperous societies dominated by social justice where there is no place for repression, discrimination and withholding of public freedoms. 

The undersigned members of IFEX urge the governments of the region to

1. Immediately and unconditionally release IFEX members Nabeel RajabAbdulhadi Al-KhawajaAhmed Mansoor, and all other prisoners of conscience; 

2. Abolish the travel ban imposed on our colleagues Gamal EidMohammed Zaree, and Nedal Al-Salman, and stop retaliation against all human rights advocates for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; 

3. Ensure the physical and psychological integrity and security of all detained human rights defenders and grant them their legitimate and unrestricted right to meet with their families and lawyers; and 

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the region are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Bahrain: IFJ condemns closure of Al Wasat newspaper and calls on the Bahraini government to stop intimidating independent journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the refusal of Bahraini government to lift a ban on Al Wasat newspaper which led to its closure this week.

The Association also stressed that “its doors are open to any journalist who wants to have any legal opinion or an appointment with a lawyer, and for journalists to be paid all the end of service entitlements according to the labour laws in the Kingdom of Bahrain“. 

Read the article here.

Bahrain should free human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, urges DROI Chair

Speaking on behalf of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Chair of the Subcommittee, Mr Pier Antonio Panzeri, stated: “Nabeel Rajab’s detention violates his right to freedom of expression. I call on the Bahraini authorities to grant lawyers and family members access to Nabeel Rajab, to drop all charges against him and to free him immediately.”

Read the statement here.

In Their Own Words: the stories behind the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture

For the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, REDRESS is sharing videos with the stories behind some of the torture survivors that they assist in their own words. In "Tortured and Exiled", former Bahrain MP Jawad Fairooz describes his painful feelings of homesickness after being tortured and forced into exile to the UK.

Watch his video and that of other torture survivors here.

UN event assesses violations of the right to freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain

On 21 June 2017, a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the 35th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, examined the criminalisation of peaceful expression in Bahrain.  “Freedom of expression and assembly in Bahrain are currently under attack,” said the panelists. The side event was co-organised by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Index for Censorship, PEN International, Women Human Rights Defenders – International Coalition, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Read full article here.

Bahrain jailed activists over tweets but still gets U.S. arms deal

More than 3,000 people have been imprisoned in Bahrain since the 2011 Arab Spring as the government continues its crackdown on dissidents. Over 100 have been killed.

The small Arab monarchy is also home to the U.S.’ biggest regional naval base and historically a large consumer of U.S. arms. Those sales had been frozen by the U.S. following the country’s attacks on protesters, but President Trump recently lifted those sanctions, allowing for the sale of $2.8 billion worth of American fighter jets.

Read full article here.

Another Light Goes Out in Bahrain as Al Wasat Closes

Yesterday’s letter from the Board of Directors to the staff of Bahrain’s only independent newspaper Al Wasat was a heavy blow for the country, and for journalism in the Middle East. It confirmed that the board had “decided to terminate the employment contracts with the employees, due to the cessation of business activities of Al-Wasat newspaper, in accordance with the decision of the Ministry of Information Affairs issued on 4 June 2017, a decision that has caused losses to the Company.”

The 4 June closure ordered by the government, which now attacks any public criticism, was the third time the newspaper had been ordered to stop publishing since widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in 2011, and was based on the pretext that the paper had published content “offensive to a sisterly Arab state,” after it covered protests in Morocco.

Read full article here.