Posts Tagged ‘Bahrain Center for Human Rights’

Tweeting is not a crime: the RETWEET FOR FREEDOM campaign for Nabeel Rajab

December 15, 2016

TWEETING IS NOT A CRIME – RETWEET FOR FREEDOM

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and many other countries have no respect for freedom of speech: they imprison activists who tweet their support for human rights. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is being tried for tweeting in March 2015 ‘Save the Children, Women & civilian from the war in Yemen – war brings hatred, miseries & blood but not solutions’. For this tweet, and another one denouncing torture in the Jaw prison of Bahrain, he faces up to 15 years in jail. Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain: denationalization, reprisals and travel bans against human rights defenders – will it ever end?

June 23, 2016

Bahrain does everything it can to keep itself in the spotlight of human rights concern. A coalition of NGOs, as well as the UN and (reluctantly) the USA have recently come out with criticism over travel bans, reprisals, denationalization and other violations:

When the 32nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council opened in Geneva on 13 June 2016, Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s best-known human rights defender, was arrested after dozens of police officers raided his home at around 5am and confiscated his electronic devices. The day before, Bahraini human rights defenders and victims of violations were prevented from flying to Geneva. On 16 June 21 NGOs signed a statement of serious alarm by Bahrain’s restrictions civil society especially preventing them from engaging with the UN.

[Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR – nominee of the MEA 2012), founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, was reportedly arrested under order from the Ministry of Interior’s Cybercrimes Unit. Bahraini officials had imposed a travel ban on Rajab a year ago, and since April 2015 have maintained charges against him for crimes related to freedom of expression online. Despite the submission of several appeals against the ban, authorities remained unresponsive. On 14 June 2016, Rajab was transferred to the public prosecution; and new charges were brought against him of allegedly ‘publishing and broadcasting false news that undermines the prestige of the state’. The public prosecution remanded him to seven days in detention pending investigation.]

In a new escalation of its crackdown against civil society, Bahraini authorities have now also banned other human rights defenders from leaving the country. The bans were imposed as the activists were attempting to travel to Geneva to participate in the Human Rights Council.

In light of this escalated attack on civil society in Bahrain, the 21 NGOs call for the immediate release of all human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Nabeel Rajab, and for the removal of the imposed travel bans which unfairly restrict activists’ freedom of movement. We also request that the President of the HRC, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally lift the travel ban imposed on Bahrain’s civil society activists and guarantee Bahraini human rights defenders are free from intimidation and restrictions on their work, including at the UN. We also call on the international community to hold the government of Bahrain to its commitments and obligations to foster a safe environment for the peaceful enjoyment of universal human rights.  The government of Bahrain must immediately stop the ongoing reprisals against human rights defenders who are engaging with international mechanisms including the UN system. [21 signatories to be hound at the bottom of this post.]

On 21 June 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stepped in with an expression of great concern over this intensification of a crackdown on free expression and association, and the right to a nationality: Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain: #FreeNabeel campaign more urgent than ever in view of resumption USA security assistance

July 8, 2015

Nedal Al Salman , Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights [BCHR], launched today a day of solidarity for the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, with videos of supportive MEP’s. There is an urgent resolution adopted by the EU Parliament about Bahrain and in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]

You can join in the campaign by recording your self on video, state your name and the organisation you represent and say a few words about Nabeel Rajab and call for his release. Your video/photo can be shared on twitter under the hashtag #FreeNabeel [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/]

How difficult it is to match human rights diplomacy with geopolitical considerations is shown in the OP-ED in the New York Times of 7 July 2015 by Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:

“Last week, the State Department announced the resumption of “security assistance” to Bahrain. This ended a four-year ban on the transfer of arms that the United States put into effect in 2011, after the Bahraini government’s harsh crackdown on Arab Spring protests. In a statement, the State Department argued that Bahrain had made enough progress in human rights reform to be rewarded by ending the embargo, even though the human rights situation in Bahrain was not “adequate.” The State Department dedicated 49 pages of its 2014 report on human rights, released last month, to Bahrain.

It is a damning document: detailing arbitrary detention, torture, prison overcrowding, constraints on free speech and more. The decision to renew security assistance — in the words of a State Department spokesman, “armored personnel vehicles, MRAPs, Humvees, TOW missiles, arms and ammunition, that kind of thing” — is not only incongruous but also shortsighted, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, criticized acts of torture in Bahrain in his opening remarks at a session of the Human Rights Council in June. He called for “an immediate investigation” into allegations of torture in Bahrain’s prisons and for the release of “all those detained in connection with their peaceful activities.”

If Prince Zeid were a Bahraini, he could probably be arrested on charges of “insulting a statutory body” — as happened to the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab after he called for prosecution of officials who committed torture in prison. He now faces at least 10 years in prison on various charges relating to his activism.

I was arrested on March 16, 2011, a day after the government announced a state of emergency, a month after the protests started. A military court sentenced me to prison for protesting and talking to the media. What they did to me in prison will stay with me for life.

On my first day in Jaw Prison, about 20 miles south of the capital, Manama, an officer spat on me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me against a wall. During interrogation, another smacked me in the face and dared me to raise my arms to shield myself. They told me I’d be beaten even more if I did.

While I was in detention, four people were tortured to death, as Human Rights Watch has reported. In the interrogation rooms, we always thought of those who had been killed, wondering who might be the fifth. After my release from prison, I fled Bahrain and in 2012 sought asylum in Britain. This January, Bahrain revoked my citizenship, along with that of 71 others, leaving me stateless.

Bahrain’s situation has not improved since 2011. Last November, an inmate was beaten senseless and thrown into solitary confinement, where he died from his wounds during the night. In March, a prison riot broke out. Prisoners were angry about their treatment in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and about the unfair trials that had put more than a thousand of them there. Prison authorities are accused by prisoners of responding with excessive force.

What happened next was incomparable to what I was put through. According to a report published last month by a coalition of rights groups, including my own, prisoners said that police officers used birdshot and tear gas against inmates inside corridors and cells. Inmates were rounded up, beaten and held in the courtyards, where they spent weeks sitting in Bahrain’s heat. Former prisoners allege that officers forced inmates to kneel and lick their boots. An imprisoned academic named Abduljalil al-Singace has been on a hunger strike for over 100 days, in protest of the ill treatment suffered by prisoners in March. (There are growing concerns for his health.)

In light of the continuing abuses, the State Department’s praise of the release of the political prisoner Ibrahim Sharif as a sign of “meaningful reform progress” is absurd. Never mind that Mr. Sharif, sentenced to five years in 2011, had served most of his sentence, and that as a political prisoner, he should never have been imprisoned to begin with. And as one political prisoner was released, another, Sheikh Ali Salman, received a four-year sentence for his opposition activities. The police also called in his deputy for questioning last week, after he made a speech against torture in prison.

When the United States expressed concerns a few weeks ago to the Human Rights Council in Geneva about “the continuing criminal cases on grounds of political expression and assembly,” Bahrain rejected them as groundless. It is Bahrain’s prerogative to disregard its American ally’s qualms, but must the United States reward such disrespect by renewing military assistance?

The answer lies in geopolitics. Persian Gulf monarchs are on high alert as the United States nears a nuclear deal with their regional rival, Iran. They want to protect their position as the West’s strategic partners and maintain their influence in the Middle East. At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State is a potent threat to their security, which America seeks to bolster militarily. Resuming arms transfers rekindles not only the American-Bahraini relationship but also the hugely important American-Saudi one.

But these diplomatic considerations come at the cost of relinquishing whatever moral standing the United States had in Bahrain. Ending the suspension of military assistance was a misuse of America’s substantial leverage to bring positive change to the human rights situation in Bahrain and the Gulf, which has only deteriorated since 2011. For Bahrainis striving for a democratic country, America’s move is completely regressive.

President Obama promised a “tough conversation” with the Gulf monarchs when he met them in May. Was this the outcome of that conversation?”

Losing Leverage on Bahrain – The New York Times.

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.

Bahrain sets October 1 trial date for Maryam al-Khawaja

September 20, 2014

Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja (R), sister of jailed activist Maryam al-Khawaja, lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi (2-R) and Zainab's husband Wafi al-Majed (2-L), near the Bahrain court building in Manama on September 6, 2014

Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja (R), sister of jailed activist Maryam al-Khawaja, lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi (2-R) and Zainab’s husband Wafi al-Majed (2-L), near the Bahrain court building in Manama on September 6, 2014

AFP reports from Dubai that Bahraini human rights defender Maryam al-Khawaja is to stand trial from October 1 charged with assaulting a police officer. Her lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi told AFP the prosecutor general had also decided to extend her custody pending the trial. A conviction could carry a five-year prison sentence, he said. Khawaja, a director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights who also has Danish nationality, was arrested after arriving at Manama airport on August 30.

via Bahrain sets October 1 trial date for key activist – Yahoo News.

for previous posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/maryam-al-khawaja/

Bahrain: Travails of a Family of Human Rights Defenders

September 12, 2014

On Tuesday, 16 September, Maryam Al Khawaja, the Bahraini human rights defender will return to court for her second hearing on charges of assaulting a police officer, which she denies. It’s now been nearly two weeks since Maryam was arrested at the airport following her return to Bahrain to visit her father. She was initially detained for seven days, but over the weekend a Bahraini judge ruled to extend her detention by an additional 10 days. This is a good occasion to draw your attention to a long but fascinating piece by Lawrence Weschler on Truthdig of 11 September 2014. Under the title “Terrorizing a Family of Human Rights Champions” he describes in detail what happened to the remarkable al-Khawaja family of democratic non-violent human rights defenders [it is rumored that for the first time a family as such was considered for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize].  Read the rest of this entry »

Nabeel Rajab on the situation in Bahrain and lack of western pressure

August 18, 2014

On 17 August 2014 Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (the MEA Final Nominee of 2012), posted a strong piece in the Huffington Post which contains an impressive stand on why he takes the risks he does as well as a scathing attack on the western governments, especially those of the UK, for putting (arms) business before human rights consideration.

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

Read the rest of this entry »

One of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders, Nabeel Rajab, released today

May 24, 2014

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

Nabeel Rajab, Final Nominee MEA 2012

According to AhlulBayt News Agency prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab has been released in Bahrain today, 24 May 2014.  The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcome back their – respectively – President of the BCHR and General Secretary of the GCHR, free after a detention that lasted approximately two years. The two organisations warn that thousands of others continue to be imprisoned including BCHR and GCHR founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel. It is to be noted that Nabeel Rajab is being released because he served the full length of his arbitrary detention sentence.

Nabeel Rajab was initially sentenced on 16 August 2012, to three years in prison for advocating peaceful demonstrations to defend the civil and human rights of all the citizens in the country. On 11 December 2012, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentences to two years in prison. During his detention, he faced dire conditions and was subjected to ill-treatment and torture. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Nabeel’s detention was arbitrary as it resulted from the exercise of his universally recognized human rights. Despite this decision by the WGAD, all requests submitted to the authorities for an early release were summarily rejected.

Bahrain prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to be released after two years – AhlulBayt News Agency – ABNA – Shia News.

For the older posts that tell the story more in detail see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/

Finally some better news from Bahrain – but still a long road ahead

May 31, 2012


On 28 May 2012 there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel. Nabeel Rajab was released on bail and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja ended his hunger strike. Another HRD Zainab Al-Khawaja was also freed. I reported several times on these cases related to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), the 2012 nominee of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Throughout Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike he was able to draw international attention to the on-going human rights violations that are taking place in Bahrain. The hunger strike brought attention to the plight of human rights defenders and political activists who are in detention or have been subjected to human rights violations by the authorities. Despite the primary demand of his hunger strike of “freedom or death” not being met, he has achieved one of his main goals by attracting global attention and focus on the human rights situation in the country. In a statement the human rights defender thanked his family for their support and expressed his gratitude to all those who had shown solidarity with him both inside and outside Bahrain. He will now begin a special diet in order for his body to recover from the 110-day hunger strike.

That Nabeel Rajab was released on bail is of course excellent but we should not forget that he should never have been arrested (on the 5th of May) to start with.  He was charged with ‘insulting the statuary bodies” the so-called “Twitter Defamation case”, “participating in illegal assembly and calling others to join” through social networking sites. (See GCHR appeal dated 05-05- 2012 (http://gc4hr.org/news/view/138)

He was released on bail of 300 Bahraini Dinars (appr. $796). However, a travel ban remains in place and the trials will continue (a hearing on the “illegal assembly” case is scheduled for 17 June while another session for the “twitter case” is scheduled for 24 June).

Furthermore, human rights defender Zainab Alkhawaja @angryarabiya was released on 29th May 2012, after more than 1 month imprisonment. She is still facing trials in 2 cases. One of the hearing sessions on the case of “illegal assembly, assaulting a police officer and inciting hatred against the regime is scheduled on June 24th, while the case of “obstructing traffic” is scheduled for November 1st 2012.

While the BCHR welcomes the ending of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike and the release of both Nabeel Rajab on bail and Zainab Al-Khawaja, it expresses serious concern for the on-going trials of the released activists, the on-going violations of human rights by Bahraini authorities and the continued detention of human rights defenders including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja on fabricated charges.