World Organization Against TOrture (OMCT)

New information BHR 001 / 0704 / OBS 054.5 Sentencing and release / Closure of an NGO Kingdom of Bahrain November 26, 2004

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), informs about the evolution of the following situation in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

New information

The Observatory has been informed that on 21 November 2004, Mr. Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja, Director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) was sentenced to one year imprisonment by the Lower Criminal Court, for charges under the penal code (1976), including “inciting hatred against the State”.

The Observatory had mandated a member of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights (BSHR) to observe the trial. Mr. Al-Khawaja was not present at the hearing.

Later at night, His Majesty King Hamad ben Issa al-Khalifa issued a decree granting pardon to Mr. Al-Khawaja and ordered his release.

Mr. Abdul Rawf Al-Shayeb, spokesman of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture in Bahrain and Mr. Mahmud Ramadan, a board member of the Committee, who had been arrested by the anti-riot Police on October 28, 2004, during a Car Parade protest march, in order to call for the release of Mr. Al-Khawaja, were also granted pardon and consequently released, together with 11 other protesters that were detained during the parade.

The Observatory thanks all individuals, institutions and organisations that have called for their release, and hopes this is a signal of a new attitude towards the BCHR and its members. In particular, the Observatory calls upon the authorities to review the September 29, 2004 order of dissolution by the Ministry of Social Affairs and thus rehabilitate the Centre in the soonest delay.

Background information

On September 26, 2004, the BCHR’s leading activist, Al-Khawaja, was arrested after he had criticized the government’s policy and called for the dismissal of the Prime Minister, during a symposium on economic rights in Bahrain, organized by BCHR on September 24. He was charged for « encouraging hate of the state » and « distributing falseness and rumours » on the basis of articles 165 and 168 of the Bahraini penal code and remanded in custody for 45 days in Howdh Aljaf detention centre.

Following the symposium, a Committee composed of different governmental institutions was also created on September 26, by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Mr. Majeed Al-Alawi, with the aim of « taking punitive and legal actions against the BCHR ».

On September 29, 2004, Mr. Al- Alawi declared in a press release that he had issued an order of dissolution of the BCHR the night before, the order coming into force that same day. The official motive behind this decision is that the BCHR would have violated Law No. 21 of 1989 on Societies, without any other precision.

On October 28, 2004, Mr. Abdul Rawf Al-Shayeb, spokesman of the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture in Bahrain and Mr. Mahmud Ramadan, a board member of the Committee, were arrested by the anti-riot Police, together with several dozens demonstrators during a Car Parade protest march organized by the Committee, in order to call for the release of Mr. Al-Khawaja.

In October 2003 and May 2004, Dr. Majeed Al Alawi had addressed some letters to the BCHR, threatening to withdraw the Centre's operating license if they continued their "political activities", as they would contradict Law No. 21 of 1989 on Societies. Moreover, on June 30, 2004, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV Channel, the Minister openly threatened to shut down the BCHR because of "its political activities." Furthermore, Dr. Alawi criticized the organization's use of demonstrations as well as article and letter writing to defend and protect human rights in Bahrain.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Rehabilitate the BCHR in the soonest delay, as well as to put an end to any obstacles to their activities;

ii. Conform with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels,” and article 5(b), which states that “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organisations, associations or groups”;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Declaration and all other international human rights standards.

Addresses:

  1. Dr. Majeed Al ALAWI, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, P.O.Box: 32333, Isa Town, Kingdom of Bahrain; Tel : +973 687800 - Fax: +973 686954
  2. Mr. Khalid BIN ALI AL KHALIFA, Undersecretary of Justice, PO Box 450- Manama, Tel: +973 17522338- Fax: +973 175 36 343
  3. Dr. Yusuf ABDUL KARIM, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Po Box 547, Manama, Tél: +973 226766- Fax: +973 227 861
  4. Mr. Ahmed Mahdi AL-HADDAD, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Manama; Tel: +973 211935- Fax:+973 214 440
  5. Dr Faisal Al MOUSAWY, Chairman of Shura Council, Po Box 2991, Manama; tel: +973 17716500- Fax: +973 17715715
  6. Dr Faisal FOULAD, Shura Council, Po Box 2991, Manama; tel: +973 17330424- Fax: +973 17335910
  7. Mr. Adel Bin Abdul Rahman AL MAAWDA, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Representatives, PO Box 54040, Manama, tel: +973 748458- Fax: +97317644130
  8. Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Nations Office in Geneva, 51 Chemin William Barbey, 1292 Chambésy, Genève, Suisse, Fax : +4122.758.96.50; E-mail: bahrain-mission@bluewin.ch

Paris – Geneva, November 26, 2004

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line: E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch Tel and fax FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 01 43 55 18 80 Tel and fax OMCT + 4122 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29