Suppressing Laws Should Not Be a Standard for Arrest and Accusation
Restricting Freedom of Opinion and Expression Violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
16 August 2010
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expresses its deep concern for the arrest of four human rights and political activists, and they are: Abdul-Jalil Al-Sangaece “president of the human rights office in Haq Movement”, and Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad “a cleric and a president of a charity foundation and a political and social activist”, and Saeed Al-Nori “a cleric and a member in the Islamic Wafaa Movement (a political movement)”, and Abdul-Ghani Khanjjar “president of the National Committee for Victims and Martyrs of Bahrain and the spokesperson of the Bahraini Coalition for Equity and Reconciliation”, where the Bahraini Authorities accused them of incitement to violence, terrorism and distorting the country’s image locally and abroad. The official statement indicated that the National Security Apparatus had proved through investigation that they are members in an organizational network that intends to target Bahrain’s stability.
The campaign of arrest of the four activists was preceded with strongly-worded speeches from the Executive Authority (the King, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior) against what was called “agitators against the State”, and they all indicated that the Executive Authority will take legal action against anyone who is proven to be involved in the incitement to use violence.
Since the first moment of the speeches of the Executive Authority, several official and non-official institutes, media workers, and public committees that are closely allied with the government released statements of support to the speeches and to the measures to be taken by the Executive Authority.
Information indicates that the Bahraini Authorities use suppressive laws such as the Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law, and several international organizations have in the past criticized them for their use of these laws in order to restrict the freedom of the political activists and human rights defenders in exposing the violations and practicing the peaceful role recognized by the UN mechanism and the international organizations.
The Anti-Terrorism Law:
The King of Bahrain issued law no. (58) Of 2006 regarding protecting the society from terrorists acts, based on a draft presented by the government and approved by the Councils of Shura and Representatives, despite the prevalent upheaval and objections raised by the opposition and the local and international human rights organizations.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Martin Scheinin, had demanded the legislative and executive institutes in Bahrain to “review” the law, expressing his concern that the law may harm human rights in the country, and especially that Bahrain is a new member in the Human Rights Council. Scheinin summed up the troubling aspects in four points, the first is that the definition of terrorism stated in the bill is unlimited and broad, and contradicts several treaties and conventions on human rights. Secondly, the imposed restrictions on the freedom of assembling will lead to criminating the peaceful demonstrations carried out by the civil organizations. The third point is the imposed restrictions on the freedom of expression, and the fourth point is the right to appear of the judicial proceedings which will not be guaranteed due to the full authority granted to the Public Prosecutor in relation to arrest without referring to the court.
In a detailed report under the title “an anti-terrorist law that threats human rights”, Amnesty International said that it is, “worried that some of the articles of the law describe terrorism without adequate accuracy, and this breaches the principle of the law’s legitimacy – and this requires that the criminal law gets drafted in an appropriate, clear and accurate method which allows the individuals to know what constitutes a crime – and this poses the risk of criminating the peaceful practice of freedom of expression and freedom of assembling and freedom of organization. Article (1), as an example, includes the expression “threat to national unity” as part of the prohibited targets, considering it terrorist acts.
Article (6) of the law failed in identifying what represents a terrorist institution or organization, and instead of that the law considered any political organization that opposes the Bahraini constitution as a terrorist institute. This article described, and in a vague form, the terrorist organizations as those that target “hindering any government institute or public authority from performing their duties” and target “harming the national unity”. This could lay restrictions to the activity of the political opposition and even the human rights defenders.
Article (11) criminates “promoting” terrorist acts and the possession of publications that include that. Under the broad definition of terrorist acts in the text of the law itself, this Article restricts the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the international law and which includes the freedom to seek any type of information, obtain it and publish it.
As to Article (27), it permits excessive arrest without judicial review. It also grants the power of extending the arrest to the Public Prosecutor, and who does not represent a judicial authority and lacks the independency to provide protection from arbitrary arrest. In addition to that, Article (28) allows the security institutes to extend the detention without charge based on secret evidence which the detainee cannot be informed of or refute. The arrest for a period of 15 days without a judicial review makes the detainee prone to torture and maltreatment.
The law grants the courts the right of the death penalty, while it fails to provide the essential defense procedures for those who could face such sentences. Making the penalties more severe in Article (3) of the law is considered dangerous and especially under the broad definition of the crimes addressed by the law.
The Penal Code:
The Bahraini Penal Code restricts the fundamental rights and punishes those who practice it. By doing so, this law criminates and punishes with imprisonment or a fine or both any who practice the following:
* Every citizen who deliberately releases abroad, news or statements about domestic conditions in the State, so as to undermine financial confidence in the State and adversely affect its prestige or position (Article 134).
* Any citizen who has attended abroad in whatever capacity and without authorization from the Government, any conference, public meeting or seminar or has participated in any manner whatsoever in the deliberation thereof with the intent of discussing political, social or economic conditions in the State of Bahrain or in any other state so as to weaken the financial confidence in the State of Bahrain or undermine its prestige or standing or worsen the political relation between Bahrain and these countries. (Article 134 repeated).
§ Any person who establishes, sets up, organizes or runs a society, organization, group or branch thereof aiming at the overthrow or changing the political, social or economic system of the State, promoting or favoring such action, where the use of force, threat or any other illegitimate method is noticed. The persons calling for joining such organizations shall be liable for the same punishment. (Article 159)
§ Any person who promotes or favors in any manner the overthrow or changing the political, social or economic system of the State where the use of any other illegitimate method is noticed (Article 160).
§ Any person who establishes, sets up, organizes or runs in the State of Bahrain without a license issued by the Government international societies, organizations or institutions of any kind whatsoever or branches thereof (Article 163) The Court shall order the dissolution of the aforesaid societies, organization and institutions in Articles (189) and (163) and the closure of their premises and confiscate its funds and properties (Article 164).
§ Any person who incites with the use of one of the publication methods to develop hatred of the ruling regime or show contempt towards it (Article 165).
§ Any person who willfully broadcasts any false or malicious news reports, statements or rumors or spreads adverse publicity, if such conduct results in disturbing public security, terrorizing people or causing damage to public interest. Any person who possesses, either personally or through others, any documents or publications containing anything provided for in the preceding paragraph, if they are intended for distribution or reading by others, and upon any person who possesses any publishing, recording or promotion device intended, even for a temporary basis, for the printing, recording or broadcast of any of the above. (Article 168)
§ Any person who incites others by any method of publication not to comply with the applicable laws or to embellish any act that constitutes a crime. (Article 173)
§ Any person who takes part in a demonstration in a public place where at least five persons are assembled with the aim of committing crimes or acts intended to prepare or facilitate the commission of such crime or aimed at undermining public security, even though for the realization of a legitimate objective (Article 178). Any person who offends by any method of expression the National Assembly, or other constitutional institutions, the army, law courts, authorities or government agencies (Article 216).
Abdul-Jalil Al-Sangaece was arrested on Friday 13 August 2010, where he was arrested in Bahrain’s International Airport, upon his return from London. Al-Sangaece had participated in an annual symposium hosted by the British House of Lords regarding the political conditions and human rights in Bahrain.
Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad and Abdul-Ghani Khanjjar were both arrested on Sunday, 15 August 2010, at 3 am from their homes, after confiscating their computers and mobile phones. The Security Forces did not find Saeed Al-Nori at his house, and he went to the Public Prosecution hours after searching his house.
Summary and Recommendations:
The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights emphasizes that the suppressive laws are not a standard of arrest and accusation, especially that these laws have been criticized by the international organizations and considered them to be restricting the public liberties.
The BYSHR stresses that the procedures of arrest and detention must be within the framework of the local laws and must be compatible with international standards.
The BYSHR considers the freedom of opinion and expression among the significant cases which must be protected. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 – indicated that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The BYSHR believes that the work carried out by the non-government organizations in the field of human rights is a peaceful and recognized work by the international mechanisms and organizations.
Based on that, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights demands:
1. The immediate and urgent release of the human rights defenders and political activists.
2. Form a fair and independent investigation committee in the torture allegations and the unjust procedures and trials.
3. Change the laws in line with the international standards.
4. Protect the freedom of opinion and expression in coherence with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
5. Provide the legal and moral protection for the defenders of human rights, and especially the ones working in the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
 AI Index: MDE 11/003/2006 (Public), News Service No: 197, 27 July 2006, http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE110032006?open&of=ENG-2MD