The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of 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 the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) about the continued arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, a writer and blogger, Head of the Women’s Petition Committee, an organisation which campaigns for the rights and dignity of women in the Shari’ah family courts.
According to information received, on November 7, 2016, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer will appear before Manama’s High Criminal Court of Appeal, on charges of defamation related to messages posted via her Twitter account criticising corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain, which is run by members of the ruling family (see background information).
The Observatory recalls that Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, who has been detained since August 15, 2016, is currently serving a three-month prison term as part of her ten-month appeal sentence handed down on June 22, 2016, on allegations of defamation in connection with the same above-mentioned Twitter messages. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer does not have any legal representation, and is likely to be representing herself on the day of the hearing.
In addition, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer is being held in poor sanitary conditions in spite of her critical health condition. She is affected with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which requires medical treatment to which she does not have access while in prison, and which cannot be treated under such sanitary conditions. In that respect, she has requested a hearing before Manama’s High Criminal Court of Appeal so as to be granted community service instead of jail term, in order to receive adequate medical treatment.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and the continuous judicial harassment of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities, and calls upon the Bahraini authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally, and to drop all charges against her.
The Observatory also urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances Ms. Ghada Jamsheer’s physical and psychological integrity, including her access to adequate medical treatment.
Over the past years, Ms. Jamsheer has come under permanent surveillance with a 24-hour presence of plainclothes Public Security officials of the Ministry of the Interior in front of her home.
On September 14, 2014, Ms. Jamsheer was arrested and arbitrarily detained for more than three months on allegations of defamation, in connection with messages posted via her Twitter account criticising corruption in the management of King Hamad Hospital in Bahrain, which is run by members of the ruling family. Various charges were brought against Ms. Jamsheer based on the above-mentioned Twitter posts resulting in twelve criminal cases.
Hearings in a total of 12 criminal cases against Ms. Jamsheer have been regularly adjourned without any reason, in violation of Ms. Jamsheer’s right to be tried within a reasonable time.
On October 29, 2014, the Third Criminal Court acquitted Ms. Jamsheer in one case, fined her 100 BHD (approx. €210) in another case, and granted bail upon the payment of 50 BHD pending the decision on the other Twitter cases. However, Ms. Jamsheer had to wait until November 27 to be released, and was again rearrested only 12 hours later on new charges of “assaulting two police women” related to a confrontation that would have taken place during her arrest in September 2014. She was again released on December 15, 2014, and further put under house arrest until January 15, 2015.
On March 14, 2015, Ms. Jamsheer was prevented from leaving Bahrain via Bahrain International Airport by security authorities, following an order of the Prosecutor General. She did not receive any written notification about the ban.
On May 5, 2015, the Bahrain High Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to a one-year prison term, suspended for three years on charges of “assaulting a police officer”.
On November 26, 2015, the High Criminal Appeal Court upheld the one-year sentence, suspended for three years, issued against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on charges of “assaulting a police officer”. The Court refused all the requests made by the defense lawyers, which included the testimony of Ministry of Interior officials and a forensic examination of whether Ms. Jamsheer could have kicked the police officer as alleged.
On June 9, 2015, the Third Lower Criminal Court sentenced Ms. Jamsheer to one year and eight months imprisonment on charges of defamation in connection with the 2014 “corruption Tweets” (see above). Ms. Jamsheer paid a bail of 400 BHD (approx 1,200 USD) and filed an appeal.
Besides, on October 1, 2015, the Second Lower Criminal Court held its first hearing against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer on new charges of “verbal and physical confrontation with a police woman” also related to the above-mentioned September 2014 incident. The Court adjourned the hearing to November 11, 2015. On that day, Ms. Jamsheer’s lawyers requested the Court to present evidence and witnesses, and the court adjourned the hearing to December 28, 2015, and then again to March 31, 2016. Once more, the hearing was postponed with no date provided for the next hearing.
On January 18, 2016 the Third Criminal Superior Court of Appeal sentenced Ms. Ghada Jamsheer to two terms of two months in prison each and a 100 Dinars fine (approx. 241€) on charges of defamation in relation with the above-mentioned “corruption Tweets”.
In addition, on January 30, 2016, the High Criminal Appeal Court sentenced Ms. Ghada Jamsheer to 3 months in prison under the same corruption charges. At that time, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer’s fine amounted to 10,000 Dinars (approx. 24,181€).
On March 8, 2016, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer was further sentenced to an additional three months in prison, under the same charges, amounting to a total of 10 months sentence.
On June 22, 2016, the Second High Criminal Court of Appeal sentenced Ms. Ghada Jamsheer in appeal to ten months in prison for four cases related to the 2014 “corruption Tweets”.
On August 15, 2016, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer was arrested upon her arrival at Bahrain’s airport in Manama from London. Since then, she has been detained at the Isa Town Detention Centre for Women.
The Observatory recalls that on December 29, 2014, UN experts urged the government of Bahrain to drop charges against Ms. Jamsheer, as she was sentenced “purely for [her] criticism of government authorities. [...] Such criticism is not only fully legitimate according to Bahrain’s obligations under human rights law; it is also essential to the free and public debate necessary for a healthy civil society” they added .
Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Ghada Jamsheer;
ii. Release Ms. Ghada Jamsheer immediately and unconditionally, since her detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning her human rights activities;
iii. Immediately provide Ms. Ghada Jamsheer with the medical treatment she requires;
iv. Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Ghada Jamsheer as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;
v. Guarantee Ms. Ghada Jamsheer’s freedom of movement;
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 Articles 1, 12(1) and Article 12.2;
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, Fax: 00973 17 21 05 75; Email: email@example.com
• Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Fax: +973 175 31 284
• Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Twitter: @moi_Bahrain; @Khaled_Bin_Ali
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: email@example.com
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium; Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.firstname.lastname@example.org