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Bahraini human rights activist to face trial

Join a vigil at 10 Downing Street

When: Wednesday 14 December 12:30pm

Where: 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, an Index award winner, has been imprisoned for tweeting about the Bahraini government, and could face up to 15 years in jail. Rajab was taken from his home the morning of 13 June 2016 and has been awaiting trial ever since.

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Maryam al-Khawaja: Bahrain remains in the grip of oppression, and the UK Government is partly to blame

LAST year exiled Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja told The National the UK had “become a problem” for freedoms in the Gulf region. Now the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has written an exclusive response to the UK Government’s new focus on the region for The National following visits by both Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Al-Khawaja, who left her country for Europe to avoid a jail sentence, writes as her father Abdulhadi remains in prison for his pro-democracy work. He was sentenced to life by a military court on terror charges for his role in Bahrain’s civil uprising.

IN his speech during the Manama Dialogue, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in Bahrain, Boris Johnson said: “And so tonight I want to acknowledge that this policy of disengagement East of Suez was a mistake and in so far as we are now capable, and we are capable of a lot, we want to reverse that policy at least in this sense: that we recognise the strong historical attachment between Britain and the Gulf, and more importantly, we underscore the growing relevance and importance of that relationship in today’s uncertain and volatile world.”


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Bahrain – Opposition leader’s sentence upheld on appeal (December 12, 2016)

France notes with concern the upholding of the nine-year prison sentence for al-Wefaq’s secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman, whose movement – the main opposition party – was dissolved in July by the courts.

It is vital to create conditions that foster the resumption of an expanded political dialogue, which is essential to national reconciliation.

France reiterates its commitment to the freedom of opinion and expression throughout the world, and to the right to a just and fair trial.


Read the statement here

Rights groups blast sentence against Bahrain Shiite activist

Human rights groups are sharply criticizing a Bahraini appeal court's ruling upholding a nine-year prison sentence against the country's leading Shiite opposition figure.

Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy were among the groups condemning Monday's verdict against Sheikh Ali Salman. He is secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shiite political group.

Amnesty's Mideast Deputy Director of Campaigns Samah Hadid says the ruling shows "Bahrain's flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression."


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Bahrain court upholds 9-year prison term for opposition chief

A Bahraini court has upheld a nine-year prison term imposed on the country's most prominent opposition leader, Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, local media reported on Monday.

Salman, who leads the now closed al-Wefaq Islamic Society, was granted a retrial for inciting unrest "crimes of promoting change to the political system by force" in October for unspecified reasons.

He has been in custody since his conviction last June.


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Attacks on Civil Society Discussion Event ahead of Nabeel Rajab’s Trial on 15 December

Marking the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day on 10  December,  representatives of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Human Rights Watch Germany (HRW) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) convened in Berlin on 8 December during a discussion event entitled “Attacks on Civil Society” in Bahrain.

Among the panel speakers were Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah, Vice-President of BCHR, Wolfgang Büttner, press officer and associate advocate at Human Rights Watch Germany and Jean-Marie Rogue, EU liaison officer at FIDH.

Al-Muhafdah welcomed the panel and opened the discussion listing facts and figures related to attacks on civil society in Bahrain. From January to November 2016, BCHR documented 1153 arrests, and 1065 prison sentences totalling 9726 years handed down in politicized cases. At least 300 individuals have seen their citizenship revoked and to this day, there are about 18 Internet users detained for charges related to online freedom of expression, including BCHR’s President, human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. In addition to discussing Rajab’s case, in which he faces up to 15 years’ imprisonment on charges related to tweets and retweets, Al-Muhafdha discussed additional cases of retaliations against BCHR’s staff based in Bahrain. He highlighted the travel bans imposed on no less than five members of the BCHR team in the last six months, bans which were issued right before the 32nd and 33rd UN Human Rights Council sessions.

Al-Muhafdah made a call for civil society to stand up and join efforts to demand respect for human rights, and urged the German Foreign Ministry to call on the Bahraini government to:

  • Comply with its human rights obligations;
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and;
  • Guarantee fundamental rights of free expression, assembly, religion, and association without any reprisal.

Speaking on HRW’s behalf, Wolfgang Büttner emphasised the importance of International Human Rights Day on 10 December, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and commented on growing concerns related to countries breaking rather than upholding human rights. As Büttner remarked, “The tendency at the moment is that this gap in human rights standards - the legal standards and the practical implementations - is getting wider and wider. And Bahrain is one of those countries where the deterioration of human rights standards is evident.”

About the current situation in Bahrain, he stated that it might look calmer to international observers on the surface since there are fewer protests, yet this is not because the political situation has improved rather because the crackdown has gotten worse. The situation deteriorated beneath the surface instead. According to Büttner, the government perceives unrest mostly as a security problem and responds to it with repression, which in turn leads to violence and radicalization. Büttner narrowed down these developments to two possible outcomes, saying these harsh measures taken by the government to grasp control of freedom of speech and of expression could very well incite instability or it could spell a political graveyard in Bahrain where every political dissident and human rights defender is silenced.

To assist in measures to prevent this, Büttner called onto the German Government to:

  • Take a leading position in condemning human rights violations;
  • Speak out publicly, also on the release of Nabeel Rajab;
  • Speak out against the death penalty and to push it onto the agenda;
  • Speak in favour of human rights defenders, in private meetings as well as public statements.

FIDH’s representative Jean-Marie Rogue, working at the intersection of human rights and the EU, focused his presentation on the European Union’s approach towards human rights in Bahrain. His general view was that actions are being undertaken but they are too sporadic and vague. Instead more recommendations have to be sent to the EU by the parliament and the language used has to become more precise by actively taking a stance and condemning individual cases more insistently. To exemplify this argument, he discussed governmental reactions to Nabeel Rajab’s case where the EU never asked for his immediate and unconditional release, but rather, individual Members of the European Parliament made strong calls for his release. However joint action is needed as well as more direct, insistent, condemnatory phrasing. According to Rogue, the EU is acting a bit too cautiously in its communication with Bahrain, therefore not sufficiently using its leverage.

Rogue challenged the status quo of the EU in approaching human rights violations in Bahrain. The strategy of having a dialogue and “keeping doors open” has to be complemented by the following recommended actions at EU level:

  • Impose a human rights discussion in the yearly meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and in individual sectoral meetings with the Gulf region;
  • Implement human rights guidelines much more proactively;
  • Establish a common position by all 28 member states on human rights defenders in the Gulf region;
  • Control export of crowd control equipment and more general weapons and technologies that are used to violate human rights in Bahrain; and
  • Collaborate with civil society by naming and shaming states that are exporting arms and more specifically crowd control equipment and spying equipment to repress society and human rights defenders.


A nine year prison sentence against the Bahraini opposition leader, Sheikh Ali SalmaAlin, was upheld today by a Bahraini Appeal Court, after a retrial, in another blow to freedom of expression in the country. In response to the verdict Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director of Campaigns said:

“Today’s shocking verdict is another example of Bahrain’s flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression. Sheikh Ali Salman is a prisoner of conscience. He has been put behind bars merely for peacefully reaffirming his party’s determination to pursue power in Bahrain, to achieve the reform demands of the 2011 uprising and to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account. Instead of punishing him for peaceful criticism the Bahraini authorities must order his immediate and unconditional release.”


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Roundtable Session in Berlin on Bahrain’s Deteriorating Human Rights Situation: 1153 Detainees in 2016

Participants in a roundtable session in the German capital Berlin said that Bahrain has arrested 1153 people since the beginning of the year, including 186 children and 21 women, which reflects the extent of human rights deterioration in the country.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights hosted a seminar in Berlin entitled "The Attacks on Civil Society", where the center representatives, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Watch took part in.


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