Bahrain ,February 28, 2008
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about new developments concerning the trial of 18 persons in Bahrain, including Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee.
According to the information received, on February 24, 2008, a new hearing took place regarding 18 persons involved in the December demonstration, including the above-mentioned defenders. The latter were only given 15 minutes to talk to their lawyers before the hearing. Although the hearing was due to be open, the police only allowed a few people to get into the judicial “complex”.
In the course of the session, Messrs. Al-Sheikh, Abdelnabi, Abdulah Saleh, Mohammed Ali, Al-Fateel, Al-Sengais and Al-Arab pleaded not guilty on charges of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission” that had been brought against them in relation to the demonstration held on December 17, 2007 (See background information). The defendants further complained about the acts of torture and ill-treatment they have been enduring while in detention, such as being prevented from sleeping, tied up for long periods and refusal of medical attention. Some of them reiterated that they have been sexually abused.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the men urged the court to release them on bail or at least to grant them access to a doctor and medical check-up, but Judge Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali Al Khalifa dismissed these requests.
A new hearing was set to March 17, 2008 to allow defence lawyers time to get prepared. After the hearing, the defendants were allowed to meet their relatives briefly, before being transferred to the Dry Dock Detention Centre, in Muharraq.
The Observatory is highly preoccupied with these allegations of torture and ill-treatments, which seem to aim at discouraging the Bahraini society to get involved in human rights activities, and urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately as their detention is arbitrary.
The Observatory further deplores the decision of the Judge to refuse them access to medical examination or to release them on bail, and recalls that despite several denunciations of these arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture and ill-treatments, the situation of the above-mentioned human rights defenders has not improved. The Observatory will continue to follow-up the situation closely, and particularly the recent commitment made by Bahrain to allow a United Nations visit to review the record of the country on torture, as well as to train official to human rights standards.
On December 17, 2007, a peaceful demonstration at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day, in the Sanabis area, aiming at paying tribute to victims of torture in the past, was violently dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Ali Jassim Meki, a human rights defender close to the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy, who participated in the demonstration, died a few hours later.