Posts Tagged ‘Gulf Centre for Human Rights’

Saudi Arabia: already bad in 2016 for human rights defenders but continues in 2017

February 3, 2017

 

Nadhir Al-Majid is a well-known 40-year-old writer and teacher who has published many articles in various Arabic newspapers and electronic websites.

On 18 January 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh held its hearing in the presence of Nadhir Al-Majid, who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by seven years of a travel ban in addition to a fine. Reports have confirmed that the writer was alone during the hearing and not accompanied by his family or his lawyer. He was taken immediately after the verdict to Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh. There are fears that the authorities will refuse to officially deliver a copy of the verdict to him or his family, which might prevent them from seeking an appeal of the sentence at the Court of Appeal. The Public Prosecutor directed many charges against Al-Majid including failing to obey the ruler, participating in demonstrations, writing articles supporting protests (dating back to the year 2007), in addition to having contact with correspondents of foreign news agencies – namely Reuters, AFP, and CNN.

He was previously jailed on 13 April 2011 after he was arrested and his electronic equipment was confiscated. He was beaten, kicked and ordered to stand for hours and then placed in solitary confinement for five months. He was then placed in a cell with convicted drug dealers and weapons traders. The reason for his arrest is related to his writings, including an article entitled “I protest, I am a human being” which supports the right to demonstrate. He was released on 27 June 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the prison sentence of Nadhir Al-Majid is solely related to his work in defence of human rights.

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Saudi Arabian human rights defender Essam Koshak has been detained since 8 January 2017 for his online activism.

On 8 January 2017, Essam Koshak received a phone call from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Mecca, summoning him to al-Mansour police station. On arrival, at 5pm the same day, he was interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) about his Twitter account, which he uses to highlight human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, including the detention of human rights defenders and activists. During the first three days of interrogation, his request to have his lawyer present was denied. On 12 January, Essam Koshak’s detention was extended by four days and his lawyer was finally allowed to be present during his interrogations. He was transferred on the same day to Mecca General Prison where he is currently being held. Essam Koshak is a computer engineer and human rights activist who uses social media to call for reform and respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia.

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In the meantime the organization ALQST – through Samar Badawi [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/13/saudi-arabia-arrest-of-human… ] – draws attention to their “Human Rights Situation in Saudi Arabia 2016. Annual review” (for the full report: https://t.co/ACWlRfOFRu – for inquiries, yahya.i.assiri@gmail.com). 

The report contains a chapter on Human Rights Defenders describing several cases in more detail. It states that “Many of the political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are known to be prisoners of conscience. A large number of them have been swept up in the Authorities’ so-called War on Terror, but are in fact being held for their peacefully held and expressed political or religious views. This includes calls for social reform and in defence of human rights. They are tried in the Specialised Criminal Court, which is neither legitimate nor independent of the government, and was set up for the purpose of trying terrorism cases. Most human rights defenders are also charged and found guilty under the 2014 Counter-Terrorism Law. Today the majority of Saudi Arabia’s human rights activists are in prison, on trial, or being subjected to intense harassment.

sources:

http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1479

http://www.satprnews.com/2017/01/31/urgent-action-human-rights-defender-jailed-for-online-activism-saudi-arabia-ua-2517/

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 »

Elsa Saade talks about her work for “Gulf Centre for Human Rights”

July 28, 2015

On 26 June 2015 the ISHR (International service for Human Rights) featured a portrait of Elsa Saade, a woman human rights defender who works for the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), an independent, non-profit and non-governmental organisation that works to provide support and protection to human rights defenders in the Gulf region by promoting freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Elsa, who has worked closely on the issue of women human rights defenders in the Gulf and neighboring countries, explained how women human rights defenders are at particular risk. E.g. she  received a message from a women defender stating that she could no longer talk, that she was going underground. ‘They are threatening to kill me’, she said. ‘They will arrest me. I need to disappear.’ Elsa confirmed that she could not mention the defender’s name or where she is from as it would endanger her life, however highlighted how women not only face pressures from the government or non-state actors when she stands up for human rights, but even faces societal and cultural clashes which could be reflected inside her home.

Elsa explained how States in the Gulf region are mostly patriarchal. The simplest example of patriarchy is the fact that women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive. Two women defenders in Saudi Arabia, Maysaa Al Amoudy and Lujain Al-Hathlol, who were caught driving as a statement to allow women to drive, were arrested and tried in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which deals with cases of terrorism and State security. They currently await sentencing.

Elsa referred to the situation in Iran, KSA, and Syria, which she considers is especially bad. ‘If we hadn’t publicised certain cases, some of our human rights defenders would already be dead. If no-one knew their names, the government wouldn’t consider them, as if they didn’t exist. Those who exercise their right to freedom of expression face death threats, flogging and indefinite prison sentences.’..‘Some defenders fall silent but others gain confidence when bad things happen – it confirms the need to struggle for their rights. Although the conditions are depressing, it is inspiring to see how tragedies motivate women to raise their voice. Out of their misery they create something beautiful.’

At this point, Elsa further referred to cases of women Syrian refugees in Lebanon and how important their role in the house, family and society was. On that account she mentioned several challenges that humanitarian people who help Syrian refugees face. Having worked in the field she highlights that they are often at risk.

As a result of my work I have personally experienced challenges. I was put in a situation were I could have been beaten several times, just because I was helping the Syrian refugees.’ As a woman, and especially after having widened the scope of interest in the region’s several HRD cases, Elsa has begun to feel increasingly vulnerable. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk. In Lebanon the situation is not so bad for women. But on a recent trip to Egypt I felt incredibly paranoid. I was on the constant look out. That is why so many women defenders prefer to stay on the low.’

Elsa is adamant, however, on the necessity of continuing her work to support human rights defenders.

Without human rights defenders, the reality would remain hidden. There is a clash between three concepts: reality, delusion and myth. You have the myth, the image that the State wants to portray; the delusion, as people keep quiet to put bread on the table; and the reality on the ground. Human rights defenders, be they journalists, bloggers, lawyers, teachers or women defenders, portray this reality. They are the ones who ask for accountability, for independent judges, for basic human rights.’

[The Gulf Centre supports and protects human rights defenders in different ways to eventually create a community of strong and safe human rights defenders protected by international mechanisms. Firstly, it can mobilise a network of prominent human rights defenders to generate support amongst each other. Secondly, it runs UN advocacy projects and provides funding and technical assistance for HRDs to attend UN meetings. Thirdly, it allocates private funding for relocation, personal finance, appeals, and assisting with the provision of safe havens in case they are in danger. Fourthly, it runs training workshops on various issues HRDs are in need of and specifically on how to engage with UN mechanisms and protection mechanisms.]

For previous posts on the Gulf center: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/gulf-centre-for-human-rights/

 

Elsa Saade: Human rights defender from the Gulf Centre for Human Rights | ISHR.

Why Maryam Al-Khawaja boycotted the Bahraini court on 1 December

December 1, 2014

The leading human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja explains her reasons for boycotting the court hearing in Bahrain that on Monday 1 December saw her sentenced to one year in prison. This impressive statement was originally posted on the website of the Gulf Center for Human Rights on 30 November 2014. For more posts on Maryam Al-Khawaja see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/maryam-al-khawaja/

Maryam-e1409582320645

As a human rights defender, I, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy at the Gulf Center for Human Rights, have decided to boycott my court hearing on the 1 December 2014. During this hearing I am due to be sentenced on trumped up charges of assaulting two policewomen at the Bahrain International Airport. (Update: Al-Khawaja was sentenced to one year imprisonment on 1 December)

The decision to boycott the court was reached based on several grounds:

  • The lack of independence and due process in the Bahrain judiciary system:

It has become evidently clear that it is not possible to have a fair and independent trial in Bahraini courts as they stand. The judicial system in Bahrain is highly flawed, and is overrun with egregious human rights violations which usually start during the arrest, and continue throughout what is supposed to be a legal process. I was personally subjected to numerous human rights violations since the moment of arriving in Bahrain and until I was able to leave the country as can be read in my testimony here.

There are medical reports about the injuries I sustained during the assault I was subjected to, for which I continue to need physiotherapy. My case was sped up, and quickly turned for sentencing with complete disregard to legal procedures.

  • The lack of independency and neutrality of the judge himself:

The presiding judge, Mohammed Ali Alkhalifa, in the case brought against me is a member of the ruling family, and has been himself, as well as members of his family, identified previously during my advocacy campaigns as implicated in human rights violations. This makes his presiding over the case a clear case of conflict of interest given the personal grievances he may have against me. This judge in particular, it is important to note, has been involved in the sentencing of numerous human rights defenders including Nabeel Rajab and Naji Fateel in unfair trials.

  • The cooperation of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) with the Ministry of Interior:

During my imprisonment I met with the SIU, headed by Nawaf Hamza, to submit a complaint against the three policewomen and the first lieutenant who assaulted me at the airport. The prosecutor, Mohammed Al-Hazaa, rewrote my statement in his own words, attempting to implicate me in violations, and refused to correct what he had misquoted. This resulted in my refusal to sign the papers and filing of a complaint against the prosecutor. One day before the sentencing, namely on the 30th of November 2014, and due to almost daily follow up by my lawyer, the public prosecution notified him that the complaint case had been revoked. Despite my complaint about the assault since the beginning of my arrest, it was only one day before the sentencing that my lawyer was finally able to get a statement from the public prosecution that my complaint case had been revoked, at a time when the trumped up assault charges against myself were speedily processed and turned for sentencing.

  • The violation of my rights by the public prosecution:

During the interrogation I was subjected to, I was refused access to my lawyer by the prosecutor dealing with my case. During my imprisonment my lawyer was not given any visits, nor was the Danish embassy. The way that the public prosecution deals with politically motivated cases is it uses all aspects of the government to provide impunity for the perpetrators of violations.

Based on the reasons stated above, I find any and all cooperation with the court or attendance of the hearings by myself as a problematic legitimisation of an unfair and biased court. Therefore I have decided to boycott the hearings, and have asked my lawyer to do the same.

It is important to note here, if I, as a human rights defender, whose case receives international media and diplomatic attention is handled in this way; it is gravely concerning how cases not receiving attention are handled by the authorities in Bahrain.

Maryam Al-Khawaja
Director of Advocacy
Gulf Center for Human Rights
30th November 2014

Maryam Al-Khawaja: Why I am boycotting my date with Bahraini justice – Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

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/

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/

Trial Observation lawyer denied entry into Bahrain for trial of Naji Fateel starting tomorrow

November 17, 2013

While the appeal of human right defender Naji Fateel in Bahrain is due to start tomorrow, 18 November, a group of five human rights NGOs regrets the lack of cooperation by Bahraini authorities to allow access to the country for a trial observation mission. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights – and the World Organisation Against Torture), had mandated – with support from IFEX  – a lawyer to observe the trial, but their request remains unanswered.

[Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and a blogger, was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act.]

via Bahrain: Lawyer mandated by international human rights NGOs denied entry to Bahrain to observe the trial of human rights defender Naji Fateel / November 15, 2013 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

NGOs jointly call on world to focus on Bahrain on 14 August

August 13, 2013

13 NGOs have signed an open letter concerning the situation in Bahrain in the light of the upcoming mass demonstration on 14 August. As it is short and to the point here is the full text copied from the FIDH website:  Read the rest of this entry »

The EU should toughen its stand on Bahrain on 30 June say 6 big NGOs

June 27, 2013

A JOINT STATEMENT by the following 6 international NGOs: Front Line Defenders, Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) urge the EU to call for the release of human rights defenders and peaceful protest leaders in Read the rest of this entry »

YEMEN- PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND STOP ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS.

June 13, 2013

On 10 June 2013 the Gulf Centre for Human Rights Centre (GCHR) issued a report alleging a widespread pattern of attacks on human rights defenders and journalists in Yemen.

Since Yemen has been engaged in a process of transition to full democracy, the security services have intimidated journalists, allowed the judicial system to be used as a means of attack against them, and failed to investigate violence against human rights defenders. The GCHR has documented multiple cases of attacks, some by the state security forces, but with many being perpetrated by non-state actors. The GCHR calls for an end to the harassment.

Prior to the overwhelmingly peaceful revolution in 2011, attacks were commonplace but easily identified as emanating from the oppressive government of former President Saleh, says the GCHR report. The present pattern of attacks is more unpredictable and their source much harder to identify. “This gives rise to the requirement of even greater vigilance by the authorities to investigate, prevent and punish this wrongdoing, yet the authorities in Yemen have failed to act to investigate the widespread pattern of attacks in the transitional period,” comments GCHR Advisory Board member Melanie Gingell, a British lawyer who carried out a mission to Yemen in April.

Mohamed Al-Absi is a blogger and journalist who specialises in publishing the documents leaked to him from government departments about corrupt practices. He is now on trial on defamation charges and faces many years in jail if convicted. He has exposed corruption at the highest levels over the years and there are now well-founded concerns for his well-being should he be convicted.

– Judge Ahmed Saif Hashid, currently a member of parliament, has fought for social justice in Yemen but was recently the victim of a brutal beating by security forces when he joined a protest of injured people campaigning for their rights outside parliament. There has been no investigation of this attack.

– A Yemen based organisation, Freedom Foundation, has catalogued 109 attacks on journalists by mid-April 2013, including an attempt to bomb the offices of a newspaper, an attempt to assassinate a local journalist in the south of the country, shots fired at the car of a journalist working for the Times newspaper, and threats to cut out the tongue of a local newspaper editor.

– The journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye remains in prison following his arrest and conviction in relation to an article he wrote exposing the aftermath of an US cluster bomb attack on a suspected Al-Qaeda target, thereby discrediting the previous claim of responsibility for that attack by the government of former President Saleh.

The full report is available online in English and Arabic at: http://www.gc4hr.org/report/view/16