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.
Between December 21 and 28, 2007, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests that targeted more than 60 activists. As of January 8, 2008, 28 remained in detention, including 11 human rights defenders. Allegedly, all human rights defenders who were arrested had been involved in public protests during the last few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms. As of January 9, some of these human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers and family, but none of the lawyers were given access to their clients’ files.
The trial of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab was scheduled to start before the High Criminal Court on February 3, 2008, and later adjourned to February 24, 2008.
On February 3 and 11, the prisoners were allowed to talk briefly to their families, and reported that they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including sexual assault, in the framework of their detention.
Actions requested :
Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to :
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab;
ii. Release them immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;
iii. Guarantee unconditional access to their lawyers, families and any medical treatment they may require;
iv. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;
v. Put an end to all forms of harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain;
vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.
· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax : +973 176 64 587
· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel : +973 172 27 555; fax : +973 172 12 6032
· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, tél : +973 175 31 333; fax : +973 175 31 284
· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: email@example.com
Paris-Geneva, February 28, 2008
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:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29