Testimony given by BCHR president Abdulhadi Alkhawaja at the Third Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, organized by Front Line, October 2005

On September 2004, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights started a campaign on economic and social rights. A report on the subject was launched during a seminar attended by several thousand people. I, as the director of the center, presented a paper examining why the living conditions are deteriorating for half of the citizens of a country that is rich with oil. The paper accused the government of mismanagement and corruption, and proposed strategies to combat violations relating to economic and social rights.

A few days later, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was closed and I was arrested. After two months in detention, I was sentenced to one-year imprisonment, but I was released the same day thanks to powerful campaigns at both national and international levels. My case was featured on local news and satellite channels and provoked a series of demonstrations and protests in Bahrain, as well as interventions by many local regional and international actors and NGOs.

Despite closure, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights continued its activities assisting the unemployed and the underpaid to form a committee, and organizing a series of peaceful protests. The authorities did not tolerate the protests and on three occasions, during June and July of this year, a military special force assaulted more than 90 protesters including myself and other activists who were monitoring the events.

On Sunday 19 June 2005, during a peaceful protest in front of the royal court, I was severely beaten by the special military force when they assaulted protesters, despite the fact that I presented my identification as the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. As a result, I am still under treatment for a fraction in my upper jaw and for two damaged teeth.

Less than one month later, on Friday 15 July, I was deliberately assaulted by military special forces, before the start of a demonstration which intended to march on the House of Representatives to call for social security for more than 30000 unemployed citizens. I was repeatedly beaten on my head and back for more than 15 minuets by members of “alsaeqa” military force who carried batons and were covering their heads with black masks. I suffered physical pain and body exhaustion for more than two weeks, and still have scars from the beatings on my body. Five other victims, including Nabeel Rajab, the Vice-President of the Center, are still under treatment.

More than 90 people were assaulted in this incident, including a minor and three women. The police confiscated and damaged the videos and mobile cameras of the participants and reporters. A film including photographs of the injured and video shots, which were taken secretly by a mobile camera, was smuggled from the scene.

The events have not yet been investigated despite national and international appeals and petitions. Nevertheless, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Committee for the Unemployed continue their activities for the promotion of human rights in Bahrain with even more will and determination.

Finally, I wish to pay gratitude to all who supported me and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, including Front Line others whose representatives attend this conference.