BAHRAIN: Lawyer mandated by international human rights NGOs denied entry to Bahrain to observe the trial of human rights defender Naji Fateel

Urgent Appeal
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November 15, 2013. While the appeals trial of human right defender Naji Fateel is due to start on November 18, 2013, a group of human rights NGOs regrets the lack of cooperation by Bahraini authorities to allow access to the country for a trial observation. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Front Line Defenders, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and 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), with support from IFEX, had mandated a lawyer to observe the trial of the human right defender, but their request to facilitate entry to the country remains unanswered several days before the hearing.

Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and a blogger, was sentenced on September 29, 2013 to 15 years in prison for “the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the constitution” under Article 6 of the Terrorism Act.

On October 8, 2013, a few days after the date of the hearing was made public, IFEX wrote on behalf of the group to the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development to facilitate entry to Bahrain for a lawyer appointed as trial observer by the group of international organisations. Twelve days later, the Director in charge of Human Rights replied that “the Ministry is currently updating its entrance procedures and at this time we will not be able to facilitate the entry of your representative”. One day later, IFEX requested clarifications in order to be able to plan future trial observations. Such request remains unanswered to date.

Our organisations recall that Naji Fateel was arrested without warrant by security men in civilian clothes at his home in the village of Bani-Jamra at dawn of May 2, 2013 and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was severely tortured at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture.

Previously, Naji Fateel had been arrested on February 14, 2012 while he was participating in a peaceful march toward the Pearl Roundabout area, the now restricted centre of the 2011 protests for rights and democracy. He was also detained between December 2007 and April 2009, a period during which he was reportedly tortured. On May 22, 2013, Naji Fateel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on charges of “attending illegal gatherings”.

The co-signed organisations denounce this obstacle to observing the trial, which manifestly aims to hinder their human rights activities and impedes Naji Fateel’s right to a fair trial. They further call upon the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of movement to both local and international human rights defenders in Bahrain as enshrined by Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We collectively and strongly call on the Government of Bahrain to meet its international obligations and grant immediate and unconditional access to Bahrain for international human rights observers and journalists.

Our organisations also call upon the Government of Bahrain to put an end to the judicial harassment against Naji Fateel, and to release him immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.

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