Bahrain: Harassment of various human rights defenders, including excessive use of force, ill-treatment and torture in custody

13/06/2017
Urgent Appeal

BHR 002 / 0617 / OBS 063
Judicial harassment / Arbitrary detention
Ill-treatment / Torture / Intimidation / Killing
Bahrain
June 13, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about several acts of harassment targeting various human rights defenders throughout May 2017, including excessive use of force, ill-treatment and torture in custody and other acts of intimidation by Bahraini security forces.

According to the information received, on May 23, 2017, Mr. Mohammed Kadhem Mohsen, Deputy President of a local chapter of the Environment Friends Society [1] in the village of Duraz, died from injuries to his head caused by birdshot during a police raid on the same day against a peaceful sit-in organised to protest the harassment of religious leader Sheikh Issa Qassem [2]. During the raid, 286 persons were arrested and at least four other peaceful protesters were killed, including Messrs. Mohammed Ali Ibrahim Ahmed, Ahmad Jamil Ahmed Mohammed Al-Asfour and Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Mohammed Hamdan [3]. Throughout May 2017, peaceful protesters have been violently cracked down by authorities in Duraz, which access is restricted to since this is the city where Sheikh Issa Qassem resides.

Concurrently to the repression of peaceful protesters, a number of human rights defenders, journalists and online activists have been summoned for interrogation, reportedly ill-treated, threatened and forced to publicly announce their resignation from their human rights activities during interrogation by the Bahraini National Security Agency (NSA).

On May 23, 2017, Mr. Adel Al-Marzoog, member of the Bahrain Human Rights Observatory of the Al-Wehdawi Society, a political group, was summoned by the NSA in Muharraq and kept in custody until the following day. Following his release on May 24, 2017, Mr. Al-Marzoog announced his resignation and said that he will stop all his human rights activities. It has been reported that he was ill-treated during his detention and forced to remain standing for 18 hours.

On May 24, 2017, the Third Grand Criminal Court reduced Dr. Taha Al-Derazi’s sentence from six to three months in detention under charges of “illegal gathering”. Dr. Al-Derazi was immediately taken into custody to begin serving his sentence. Charges against him stem from his arrest, interrogation and subsequent release on August 14, 2016, after taking part in a peaceful assembly on July 19, 2016 in the village of Duraz protesting the arbitrary revocation of Sheik Issa Qassem’s citizenship.

On May 25, 2017, the Second Lower Criminal Court handed down a 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approx. 2,365 Euros) fine against journalist Ms. Nazeeha Saeed, France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s correspondent in Bahrain, for “working without a license” [4]. The Court of Appeals will review her case on July 18, 2017. Ms. Saeed, whose application to renew her license has been rejected without any basis at the end of March 2016, was summoned for interrogation and charged with “unlawfully working for an international media” under Article 88 of Law 47/2002 on July 17, 2016.

Besides, on May 27, 2017, Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, Monitoring and Documentation Officer at the NGO Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, was summoned by the NSA to Muharraq police station. She was released seven hours later and was immediately taken to the hospital in a very concerning psychological state, following a “severe nervous breakdown”. Upon her release, Mrs. Al-Saegh reported having suffered acts of torture, including severe beatings on the head, sexual abuse and was insulted threatened to be raped if she continued her human rights work. NSA agents also threatened to target her family members. According to reliable reports, she was also forced to repeat the royal anthem and beaten and insulted when failed to do so properly. During her interrogation, she was asked about the work of activists inside and outside Bahrain, including in Geneva during sessions of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC).

Mrs. Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who together with 22 other human rights defenders in April 2017 was subjected to a travel ban and falsely accused of participating in “illegal gatherings” in the city of Duraz [5], is also the target of a defamation campaign conducted by the pro-government newspaper Al-Ayam, which accused her of fabricating reports on human rights violations in Bahrain. On May 15, 2017, Mrs. Al-Saegh’s car was burnt.

Summoned by the NSA in Muharraq on May 28, 2017, blogger Mr. Hassan Al-Sharqi, who had been tweeting about the Duraz protests, the rights of peaceful assemblers and calling authorities to allow families of killed protesters to see the bodies, declared on the same day that he would stop tweeting. Reports confirmed that during his interrogation he was insulted, beaten and ordered by a security officer to stop his online activities.

On the same day, the head of the monitoring and documentation team at the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), Mr. Abduljalil Yousif, was summoned to the headquarters of NSA in Muharraq. He was interrogated for four hours about his human rights activities with BHRS and about his private life. Upon his release, he reported that he had been subjected to insults and psychological torture and was threatened that if he does not stop his human rights activities, he would be exposed and his family will be targeted.

The Observatory condemns the killing of Mr. Mohammed Kadhem and urges Bahraini authorities to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country. The Observatory also calls for an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into Mr. Mohammed Kadhem’s death and for those responsible to be held accountable.

The Observatory is appalled by the above-mentioned reports of torture and ill-treatment and expresses its outmost concerns over these new acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in Bahrain, which only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, and urges authorities to fully investigate the allegations of mistreatment by the authorities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Bahrain, urging them to:

i. Ensure the psychological and physical integrity of all human rights defenders in Bahrain and in particular of the aforementioned individuals;

ii. Fully, promptly, impartially and transparently investigate the killing of Mohammed Kadhem and other peaceful protesters as well as the allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and physical and psychological pressure of human rights defenders by security agents during interrogation and in particular of the aforementioned individuals;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level against all human rights defenders in Bahrain, and in particular against the aforementioned individuals, so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 5(b), and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

• 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; ofd@mofa.gov.bh
• 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: info@interior.gov.bh
• H.E. Mr. Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri, Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch
• H.E. Ahmed Mohammed Yousif Aldoseri, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Kingdom of Belgium, Fax: 0032 (0) 26472274; E-mail: Brussels.mission@mofa.gov.bh

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Bahrain in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, June 13, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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