30 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Ailing human rights defenders Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel not receiving medical support in prison

More than four months since a crackdown on protests took place in Jaw Prison, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned about the treatment of prisoners who were hurt during the incidents in March, notably human rights defender Naji Fateel, a Board member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. In addition, human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike for over four months in protest of the treatment of prisoners, causing serious concerns for his health.

Naji Fateel, who was jailed for 15 years for his human rights activities in 2013, was reportedly badly hurt during the events of 10 March when a protest by prisoners was violently suppressed, even though he was a bystander.  In April, GCHR received reports that Fateel was among prisoners being subjected to “physical and psychological torture,” and that he had suffered a broken leg and nose. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/998

Fateel is currently being held in ward 10 at Jaw Prison, which is famous for harassment of prisoners. He has reportedly not received proper treatment for his injuries even though he and his wife submitted several complaints to the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain, from which there was no response.

On 23 July, Fateel appeared before the 4th division of the High Criminal Court in relation to the Jaw Prison protests on 10 March. Fateel was transferred to the court where he was spotted with a shaved head, a procedure usually used to punish prisoners. He is accused of the following three charges: alleged assault of a public servant, damage to public property, and burning public property. The hearing was adjourned to 17 September.

Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace has been on hunger strike since 21 March 2015 to draw attention to poor prison conditions and torture, including the violence that occurred in Jaw Prison on 10 March. He is part of the group of activists and human rights defenders known as the Bahrain 13, which also includes GCHR Founding Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the peaceful protests in 2011. Both men have alsoprotested the treatment of prisoners of conscience. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1006

Dr. Al-Singace remains in Al-Qala’a hospital, where he has been kept since 1 April after he collapsed due to the deterioration of his health since he began his hunger strike. Dr. Al-Singace is taking liquids, is on an intravenous drip and getting basic treatment to respond to the health implications of the ongoing hunger strike. His family says hesometimes needs to be taken to Bahrain Defence Forces (BDF) hospital for treatment, but they won’t take him because he refuses to wear the prison uniform.

 

He is in need of treatment for a sore disc in his neck and lower back for which he needs physiotherapy, needs urgent surgery for his ear and nose, and requires a white blood cell count test. As of 22 July his white blood cell count was 3400, whereas it should be 3800.

 

As well, the prison authorities in Jaw Prison set the visit dates for Dr. Al-Singace according to their whims. They sometimes set visits after three weeks and not the standard two. His nephew passed away and the prison authorities refused to give him a condolence visit for it. They are also not allowing him to see his lawyer.

 

The prison authorities came up with new regulations and tried to force the Bahrain 13 to wear the prison uniform (which Dr. Al-Singace refuses to wear because he believes that he is not a criminal, but a prisoner of conscience.) Previously he stopped receiving visits for 10 months in 2013-2014 because of this requirement, which Al-Khawaja has also protested. The prison authorities also tried to implement the humiliating physical body search, where prisoners are forced to take their clothes off and wear a light piece of cloth in order to be searched.

 

The authorities are reportedly ignoring his concerns about prison conditions, apart from a visit from the General-Secretariat for Grievances in Bahrain on 7 July after 100 days of hunger strike, and a phone call from an officer to check on his condition.  Dr. Al-Singace told the Ombudsman he wouldn’t submit to wearing the prison uniform in order to go for medical tests and checkups. According to his family, he said, “I’m a respectable person, many officials in this country were taught by me. I’m being punished and humiliated further by making me look like a criminal. I refuse humiliation and insults. I’d rather die here than accept this.”

 

GCHR joined other NGOs to express concern for Dr. Al-Singace earlier this month and call for his freedom. See: http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1039

 

Recommendations:

The GCHR expresses its concern about the ongoing poor treatment of jailed human rights defenders in Bahrain and calls on international supporters to:

1.     Take action and sign a petition posted online by PEN International for Dr. Al-Singace at http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/bahrain-serious-concern-for-the-health-of-academic-activist-and-blogger-dr-abduljalil-al-singace/.

2.     You can also send a letter to Dr. Al-Singace in prison via this link.

 

The GCHR calls on Bahrain’s authorities to:

1.   Free Naji Fateel, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and all wrongfully detained human rights defenders who are in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

2.   Investigate allegations of poor conditions and the torture of inmates in Jaw prison;

3.   Ensure human rights defenders are protected from any harassment, torture, and persecution in relation to their peaceful human rights activities; and

4.   Provide detained human rights defenders proper medical care and attention, and the rights afforded to prisoners under the UN's Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

 

Read the original article here.

 

28 Jul, 2015

NGOs Strongly Condemn Violence in Bahrain

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

“Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

“Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

28 Jul, 2015

NGOs Strongly Condemn Violence in Bahrain

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), strongly condemn today’s violence that reportedly killed two policemen and injured eight others. Violence, in any context, is indefensible and will not effect the necessary reform Bahrain needs to achieve true stability and national reconciliation.

“Violence will not accomplish anything but further instability,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “The Bahraini government’s continued policy of criminalizing peaceful protests and calls for reform since the mass protests of 2011, has only contributed to an environment of mistrust, which has strengthened the hands of those who seek to undermine opportunities for national dialogue, and ultimately, reconciliation.”

By jailing the non-violent leaders of the opposition, like Hassan Mushaima, Abdulwahab Hussain, Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman, and peaceful human rights defenders, such as Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace, the Government of Bahrain has removed the strong voices that have continued to advocate for peaceful reform over the last four years.

“Such acts of violence should indicate the need for a renewed emphasis on reconciliation,” continued Abdulla. “By initiating a national dialogue without preconditions, fully respecting human rights, and releasing the thousands of political prisoners currently languishing in its prisons, the government can take the first steps towards preventing such future tragedies and cementing the foundations toward lasting peace.”

27 Jul, 2015

ADHRB: NGOs Express Concern for Arbitrary Detention of Outstanding Student

20 July 2015 – Geneva, Switzerland – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) are concerned with the arbitrary detention of 18-year-old student Mustafa Mohammed Ali in Bahrain. We are also concerned by reports that Mustafa’s arbitrary conviction will prevent him from receiving his certificate of good conduct from school, a requirement for Mustafa to access higher education in Bahrain.

Mustafa is the son of Mohamed Ali Ismail, a member the prominent group of Bahraini political prisoners known as the ‘Bahrain 13’. We are concerned that Mustafa’s detention may be directly related to the ongoing persecution of his family, who have suffered ongoing government intimidation since 2011.

In August 2013, security forces arrested Mustafa and interrogated him at the General Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID). At the CID, authorities threatened Mustafa with physical torture if he did not agree to sign a forced confession. Because of these threats, Mustafa signed the confession and was charged with illegal gathering and criminal assault of police personnel at just 17 years of age.

After obtaining the forced confession, the government immediately transferred Mustafa to Dry Dock Prison, where he served three weeks in pre-trial detention until he was released on bail. A Bahraini criminal court convicted Mustafa of his charges and sentenced him to six months in prison; an appellate court later upheld Mustafa’s conviction, but reduced the sentence to three months imprisonment. Both courts relied substantially upon Mustafa’s forced confession in securing his conviction and sentence.

On 10 July 2015, Mustafa turned himself into Sitra police station, whereupon the government immediately transferred him to the facility for minors at Dry Dock Prison. Mustafa has been detained since, and is currently being denied clean clothes and access to money with which to purchase food.

Mustafa completed his secondary school studies and graduated with honors, obtaining an outstanding 98.7% mark in his science courses. He intends on attending medical school and pursuing a career as a doctor. However, his arbitrary criminal conviction may interfere with his plans for higher education, as Bahraini universities require that students submit certificates of good conduct in order to obtain admission.

“Mustafa should be preparing for his life at university,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB, “Instead, the government is punishing him for being the son of a political prisoner. Bahrain’s allies must reject this attack on Mustafa, as well as the greater attack upon his generation.”

Mustafa’s conviction stands in direct violation of Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that ‘in the determination of any criminal charge,’ a defendant should be guaranteed the right ‘not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.’ It is also in violation of Article 13(c) of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which states that ‘higher education shall be made equally accessible to all…’

Since 2011, many students and children have been detained on arbitrary charges related to their free expression or assembly. Families of prominent activists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders have also been systematically targeted by the government.

“Bahrain has not imprisoned a criminal, it has imprisoned its future,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, “Today’s generation of Bahrainis are being deprived of an education, and in the long term it is everyone in Bahrain who will suffer for it.”

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy condemn the arbitrary conviction and detention of Mustafa Mohammed Ali and call on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali, and all other students or individuals arbitrarily detained or convicted;
  • Urgently grant Mustafa Mohammed Ali the documentation required for him to pursue his studies at University level;
  • Remove all restrictions on current and former detainees’ access to education and other social, economic and cultural rights;
  • Take urgent and effective measures to reform the judicial system towards compliance with international standards and minimum guarantees for those convicted, as outlined in Article 14(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

On the United Nations and its Member States to:

  • Publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to unconditionally release and drop all charges against Mustafa Mohammed Ali;
  • Adopt a resolution on Bahrain in the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging the Government to take urgent steps towards reforms in line with recommendations by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Second Cycle UPR Recommendations

 

To read the original article, please click here.

 

27 Jul, 2015

Discrimination And Lack of Transparency in the Distribution of Scholarships in Bahrain

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over acts of discrimination and a lack of transparency associated with the scholarship distribution system in Bahrain. The organization deems the system to be unjust, lacking transparency and preventing talented students with high GPAs and aspirations from pursuing further education.

 

Since 2011, the Ministry of Education has stopped publishing the names of students who received scholarships publicly in newspapers. On 18 July 2015, the results were endorsed by the Minister and were available to each student upon logging in to his or her account on the Ministry’s website. Since then, widespread public complaints about the results have been published over social media as well as mainstream media. For example, there are several cases of Shia students with GPAs over 90% who received no scholarship, but a mere grant of up to BDH400 (around €960) annually, which does not cover even a half of their tuition fees and cost of living. Around 600 students have scored over 95% GPA, and there were 2144 scholarship offered (2073 scholarships in Bahrain and 71 in other GCC countries). For example, Nawraa Abdulnabi is a student with 99.1% GPA who has requested to study medicine, but instead of a scholarship she was provided a grant. Zainab Mohamed, who also scored 99.1% and was looking to study medicine, has been provided with a scholarship in Nutrition.

 

Another flaw concerning the scholarship system implemented by the Ministry of Education is its process. In order to apply for a scholarship, the top students need to apply for 12 majors to which they aspire, a number far greater than their interests. The process of applying for a scholarship is based 60% on academic achievement and the remaining 40% depends on a personal interview. Some students recalled uncomfortable questions regarding politics and their support for the regime. This generates a very subjective assessment of one’s capability of receiving a scholarship, with a major focus revolving around awarding loyalty to the state of Bahrain.

 

Moreover, in some instances, instead of getting a scholarship, top students sometimes land in jail. The recent case of Mustafa Mohammed Ismael, a top Bahraini Shia student with a GPA averaging 98.8%, was arrested for allegedly taking part in an “illegal gathering” instead of being able to pursue his medical studies.   

 

These cases are alarming and BCHR suspects a breach of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states, “Everyone has the right of education. Higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Furthermore, Bahrain is a signatory of the International Convention on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of the Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which reads, “No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.” It also says: “All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.”

 

The BCHR believes that the current scholarship distribution system lacks transparency, and its mechanism of awarding scholarships leaves room for practical discrimination based on opinion or sect.

 

Based on the information provided above, the BCHR urges the international community to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

 

·     Reform the scholarship distribution system so that it is more effective, just and transparent;

·     Put an end to all possible discrimination related to religion and beliefs in the context of distributing the scholarships; and

·     Respect and obey the treaties and declarations signed which advocate for fair and equal accessibility to higher education based on academic merit only.

 

 

For more on Government Discrimination Against Shia in Bahrain, read BCHR’s latest report: Apart in Their Own Land.

 

23 Jul, 2015

Bahrain NGOs commend UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention decisions on Bahrain

22 July 2015—Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) commend the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) for their decisions released today declaring an additional eight Bahraini prisoners of conscience to be arbitrarily detained. However, we are concerned that, despite the Working Group’s efforts to engage the Bahrain government, the government has not implemented the recommendations of the WGAD.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is an independent group of human rights experts tasked with adjudicating if cases of detention raised to their attention may be arbitrary in nature. Last week, the group of experts issued a series of official decisions on the Bahrain government’s detention of Jassim al-Hulaibi, Mohamed Sudaif, Abdulaziz Mousa, Ebrahim al-Sharqi, Ahmed Abdulla Ebrahim, Taleb Ali Mohammed, and two unnamed minors. The Group found that these detentions were arbitrary and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Bahrain acceded to the ICCPR in 2006. Additionally, the WGAD held that the detention of one of the minors contravened the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain acceded in 1992.

The Working Group emphasized, “secret and/or incommunicado detention constitutes the most heinous violation of the norm protecting the right to liberty of a human being under customary international law” and noted any individual subject to such detention is “left outside the cloak of any legal protection.” The opinion also pointed out, “Under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.” With regard to one of the minors, the WGAD identified that “the present opinion is only one of several opinions in which the Working Groups finds Bahrain in violation of its international human rights obligations.”

Although the Bahrain government has released Mohamed Sudaif and one of the minors, Jassim al Hulaibi, Abdulaziz Mousa, Ebrahim Abdulla, and the other minor remain in detention.

“There is evidence definitively proving that Jassim could not have been involved in the protests for which he was arrested,” stated Sayed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. “These detainees must be released so they can return to school.”

The WGAD held that an adequate remedy would be for the Bahrain government to release the detainees and provide a means for seeking compensation. Finally, the Working Group referred parts of the cases to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

We applaud the decisions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and urges the Government of Bahrain to take immediate action in line with the Working Group’s recommendations. Specifically, we urge the government to immediately release the individuals that are being arbitrarily detained and to provide an adequate means for all the individuals to pursue just compensation for their detention.

“The Working Group’s holdings mark an important step for the full realization of human rights in Bahrain,” said Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of ADHRB. “Now it is on the government to implement the decision, release the detainees, and provide them with their due and just compensation.”

Please follow the link to download the WGAD Official Statements on Bahrain, July 2015.

17 Jul, 2015

Civil Society Organizations Call for Resolution on Bahrain in Human Rights Council

16 July 2015 – Geneva – Today, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), joined together with Amnesty International, the Asian Legal Resources Centre, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Conectas Direitos Humanos, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the International Service for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch to call on the Member states and Observer states of the Human Rights Council to “promote and support the adoption of a resolution expressing concern over and improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain”. In the letter, CSOs raise concern over the lack of progress in human rights in the country since a joint statement on Bahrain was delivered on behalf of 47 UN Member States during the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council in June 2014.  See the full letter below:  

 

 

To Permanent Representatives of 
Member and Observer states of the
UN Human Rights Council

Geneva, 16 July 2015,

RE: Situation of human rights in Bahrain

Your Excellency,

We urge your delegation to promote and support the adoption of a resolution expressing concern over and calling for improvements in the human rights situation in Bahrain by the Human Rights Council.

It is now over a year since Switzerland delivered the fourth and most recent joint statement on the situation of human rights in Bahrain on behalf of 47 UN member states at the 26th session of the Council.

We are deeply concerned that during this period the Government of Bahrain has made no significant progress towards genuine cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms. To the contrary, the Government of Bahrain has intensified its repression of dissenting voices, including through the arbitrary detentions of high-profile opposition activists and human rights defenders, trials that fail to adhere to international fair trial standards, ill-treatment of detainees, excessive use of force, and restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly that go far beyond those permitted under international law. 

We urge your delegation to resume efforts to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the upcoming 30th session of the Council and to promote and support a resolution that calls on the Government of Bahrain to:

-          Implement promptly and fully the recommendations of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and the recommendations agreed by the Bahrain Government in the context of the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, in particular:
 

o   Release  protesters, activists and human rights defenders detained or convicted solely for having exercised their rights to peaceful assembly, association or expression;
 

o   Ensure independent, thorough, and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment;
 

o   Demonstrate  the effectiveness, impartiality and independence of newly established human rights institutions, including the National Human Rights Institution, the Ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission;
 

o   Revise or repeal laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
 

o   Engage in comprehensive reform of the legal system to ensure effective independence of the judiciary; and 
 

o   Ensure accountability for the serious human rights violations that took place during and after the 2011 protests, including but not limited to those documented in the BICI report
 

-          Cooperate with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, including by swiftly providing access to Special Rapporteurs who have outstanding requests for visits to Bahrain, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, and
 

-          Authorise the opening of a country-office of the OHCHR with a full mandate to oversee implementation of the afore-mentioned recommendations and monitor the human rights situation on the ground, with periodic reporting to the Human Rights Council.
 

In light of the continued deterioration in human rights conditions in Bahrain, we urge your delegation to build upon the three earlier joint statements delivered at the Human Rights Council on this issue, and to send a strong message to the Government of Bahrain that it should take urgent, concrete and effective steps to improve the human rights situation in the country. The Government of Bahrain should also allow regular access to Bahrain by independent human rights NGOs to assist in monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.

We look forward to continued collaboration on these issues and we remain available to provide further information as required.

Sincerely,

 

·         Amnesty International

·         Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

·         Asian Legal Resource Centre

·         Bahrain Center for Human Rights

·         Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)

·         Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

·         CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

·         Conectas Direitos Humanos

·         Gulf Centre for Human Rights

·         International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

·         International Service for Human Rights

·         Human Rights Watch

 

Annex: 
Human rights situation in Bahrain

Bahrain’s courts continue to convict and imprison peaceful dissenters. On the rare occasions when authorities have prosecuted police officers or members of the security forces, they have either acquitted them or imposed lenient sentences that do not reflect the gravity of the crimes committed. No senior officials have been held accountable for serious rights violations, including torture.

By contrast, the high rate of convictions of defendants before the courts on vague terrorism charges, the courts’ imposition of long prison sentences in such cases, as well as the  judiciary’s failure – and that of the executive  authorities - to address the security forces’ repeated use of lethal and apparently disproportionate force, all reflect the lack of independence and weakness of Bahrain’s criminal justice system.

Human rights activists and members of the political opposition continue to face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for their peaceful activities.

·         On June 16, for example, a Bahrain court sentenced Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of Al Wefaq, the country’s largest legally recognized opposition political society, to four years in prison solely for public remarks he had made criticizing the government.  

·         On June 28, 2015 Fadhel Abbas, Secretary-General of opposition political party al-Wahdawi was sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing the Saudi-Arabia-led airstrikes in Yemen.

·         On June 30, authorities called in Khalil al-Marzooq, another Al Wefaq leader, for questioning about critical remarks he made at a public meeting several days earlier, and next day arrested Majeed Milad, an Al Wefaq board member, on charges that remain unclear. 

·         On 12 July, Bahraini police re-arrested recently released opposition figure Ebrahim Sharif, who is now facing new charges related to his right to freedom of expression.

In this context, the pardon and release of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab on July 13 is welcome. However his detention was arbitrary in the first place, because it related to peaceful criticism of the authorities and he may still face other charges related to the exercise of his freedom of expression, still pending at the time of writing of this letter.  His pardon “on health grounds” follows international pressure around his case, but comes on the heels of continued detention of many other dissenting voices and human rights activists in Bahrain.

In addition, twelve high-profile activists, including Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, remain in prison serving lengthy prison terms. Their convictions imposed by charges that relate solely to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, notably, their participation in Bahrain’s reform movement. According to local activists and legal experts, the Bahraini authorities have also arbitrarily detained many other critics and opponents of the government solely for expressing their opinions, and have detained, prosecuted and jailed scores of individuals, including children, for participating in peaceful anti-government protests.

The government also obtained powers to arbitrarily strip critics of their citizenship and the rights attached to it. The July 2014 amendments to Bahrain’s citizenship laws gave the Interior Ministry further powers to revoke the citizenship of people who it deems to have failed in their “duty of loyalty” to the state, while amendments to Bahrain’s counterterrorism law, exacerbated by the failure of the criminal justice system to provide fair trials and deliver impartial verdicts, provide further legal grounds for the arbitrary stripping of citizens’ Bahraini nationality, rendering many of them stateless, in clear violation of international law.

Bahraini authorities have set up various bodies mandated to prevent the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including the Ministry of Interior’s Ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit, and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission. However these bodies have yet to demonstrate their impartiality and independence in carrying out their mandates. There is evidence that the security forces continue to mistreat and in some cases torture detainees, in particular during interrogation at the Criminal Investigations Directorate.

Former inmates from Jaw Prison recently described to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International how riot police used teargas, birdshot, and beatings to retake control of four buildings within the prison after unrest broke out there on March 10, 2015. According to the former inmates, riot police moved prisoners outside and kept them in the open, exposed to the elements, for weeks, and repeatedly beat them, doused them with cold water and forced them to shout pro-government slogans. Prison officers also took some inmates to rooms in which there were no closed-circuit TV cameras and then beat them, according to former prisoners.  While the authorities said they have investigated the Jaw Prison incident, the details of the investigations are yet to be made public. 

 

 

16 Jul, 2015

UN: Freed from jail, now all charges against Nabeel Rajab must be dropped

GENEVA (16 July 2015) – Three United Nations human rights experts* today call on the Bahraini authorities to drop all charges the prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was released from prison earlier this week for health reasons. While welcoming Mr. Rajab’s release, the experts called it “only a half measure, given that the he is still facing charges that carry up to fifteen years of imprisonment.”

Mr. Rajab, who is the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was jailed in October 2014 in connection with statements made on his Twitter account and was initially charged for ‘publicly insulting official institutions.’ This was only months after he had completed a two-year prison sentence after calling for and participating in peaceful demonstrations.

Despite his recent release, Mr.Rajab’s pending charges include ‘disseminating false rumours in the time of war,’ ‘insulting public officials’ and ‘disseminating false news causing damage to the public security.’

“Criminalizing, prosecuting and imprisoning human rights defenders for carrying out their vital human rights work and enriching public debate are unacceptable under international law,” the experts stressed. “Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their legitimate human rights work without fear of retaliation or imprisonment.”

“We call for the immediate release of all Bahraini activists, as well as political dissidents, detained for peaceful exercise of their rights,” said the the experts, who have expressed serious concerns on a number of occasions to the Bahraini Government concerning the harassment of civil society and political activists in the country.

The UN experts continue to urge the authorities to review domestic laws and practices to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law, in particular the freedoms of expression and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

(*) The UN experts: Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

 

Cklick here more more information.

 

15 Jul, 2015

Concern over Privacy as New Evidences Emerge on Spyware sales To Bahrain

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses concern over recent reports and evidence indicating Bahrain’s purchase of advanced surveillance tools primarily used to spy on human rights activists and political opponents.

 

The recent hack by an unknown source of the Italian surveillance technology company Hacking Team revealed some troubling connections with Bahrain. Over 400 gigabytes of data, ranging from e-mails to personal WhatsApp backups, linked the company and its services to several governments around the world. This sensitive information entailed a purchase of the notorious spyware “Remote Control System” which spies on political opponents, human rights advocates, journalists and digital activists. It does so by recording Skype calls, controlling the target’s devices and eavesdropping via a computer’s webcam.

 

This spyware and other surveillance services were used by 37 countries, including Bahrain. Among the 400 gigabytes of data, was a file called “Midworld Pro – Bahrain” which indicated a Bahraini purchase of the “Remote Control System” spyware worth €210,000 (over 87,000 Bahraini dinars), likely used to target human rights activists and political opposition.

 

This is not the first time Bahrain has been found to be using malware to spy on activists and violate their privacy. Research published in August 2014 found Bahrain to be using the UK FinFisher spy software (also known as FinSpy) to hack on human rights lawyers, politicians and even members of a government commission investigating human rights abuses.  

 

BCHR considers these new findings to be compelling evidence of the repressive conditions in Bahrain, and sees it as a direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 12 of that Declaration urges that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. Article 19 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

 

Bahrain is known to have been arresting and torturing online users who have practiced their freedom of expression over the Internet. in its latest report about freedom on the Internet, Freedom House has ranked Bahrain as not free.  

 

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on European governments to:     

  • Apply stronger measures to prevent such technology from being supplied to states that do not comply with international human rights norms and practices.

 

And to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately stop purchasing and engaging with Hacking Team and any other spyware provider.
  • Stop spying on human rights activists and political opponents
  • Respect its obligation to protect human rights, including the right to privacy and to freedom of expression.

 

14 Jul, 2015

Bahrain: Mohamed Faraj Deprived of Medical Care in Jaw Prison

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the deprivation of adequate medical care of detainees in Jaw Prison, including in cases where the detainees are suffering from serious diseases. The BCHR has regularly documented the refusal by prison officials to give the detainees the medical assistance that they need.

For example, Mohammed Faraj (21 years old) was arrested on 27 October 2014, when he was sentenced to 10 years on charges of alleged “criminal burning and illegal gathering,” which was reduced upon appeal to 7 years on 26 January 2015. He was arrested at the court where he presented himself in a wheelchair.

Since then, he has been detained at Jaw Prison. According to medical reports obtained by BCHR, Faraj is suffering from a rare disease called Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Before his arrest, he was receiving treatment at the neurology clinic in Salmaniya Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Issa Al-Shroogi. His disease requires injection treatments three times a week and a regular intake of medicine. However, the administration at Jaw Prison refuses to accept the injections and medicine that his family has tried to provide many times. As Faraj’s disease has worsened, his lawyer, Sami Siadi, has submitted two letters to the judge in question requesting a suspension of the prison sentence. However, this request has not been answered despite the fact that Faraj continues facing serious risks such as sight loss and paralysis.

Based on the above, the BCHR calls on governments and international organizations to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

  • Provide Mohamed Faraj and all prisoners with adequate, and timely, access to medical treatment; and
  • End the practice of denying prisoners medical attention as a means of intimidation and punishment for exercising their human rights.