Bahrain: Sentencing in appeal of Mr. Naji Fateel

05/06/2014
Urgent Appeal

New information
BHR 001 / 0614 / OBS 049
Sentencing / Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment / Impunity of acts of torture
Bahrain
June 5, 2014

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.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights about the sentencing in appeal of Mr. Naji Fateel, co-founder of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and blogger, who monitored human rights violations committed during Bahrain’s uprising.

According to the information received, on May 29, 2014, the Court of Appeal headed by Judge Isa Al-Kaabi upheld a 15-year imprisonment sentence against Mr. Naji Fateel on charges of “establishing […] a group for the purpose of […] disabling the Constitution” under Article 6 of Law No. 58 of 2006 on Terrorism [1]. The charges relate to the alleged terrorist group known as the “February 14 Youth Coalition”, which organised demonstrations and protests during Bahrain’s uprising.

No evidence against Mr. Fateel was provided during the trial. The sentence was solely based on coerced confessions made under torture and without thoroughly and impartially investigating the allegations of torture which the defender was subjected to during his detention (see background information). During a hearing, Mr. Naji Fateel removed his shirt and showed the torture marks on his back; however, it was totally ignored by the court.

Mr. Naji Fateel will appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation. His lawyer also filed a complaint before the Supreme Judicial Council arguing that the trial proceedings fell short of the minimum standards of fair trial. Mr. Naji Fateel is currently detained the Central Prison “Jaw” where reports continue to emerge of overcrowded cells and dire conditions.

The Observatory recalls that other BYSHR members are also subjected to ongoing judicial harassment, including Mr. Mohammed Al-Maskati, BYSHR President [2].

The Observatory condemns the sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr. Naji Fateel, which merely aim at curtailing his human rights activities, and calls upon the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally. The Observatory also notes that several human rights defenders remain in arbitrary detention or are subject to judicial harassment in the country.

Background information [3]:

On May 2, 2013, Mr. Naji Fateel was arrested at dawn without warrant by security men in civilian clothes at his home in the village of Bani-Jamra and held incommunicado for three days, during which time it is reported that he was severely tortured. He was allegedly subjected to severe torture at the Criminal Investigation Directorate. Reports allege that he was subjected to electrical shocks to his genitals, left foot and back in addition to simulated drowning, severe beatings, threats to publish his wife’s photographs (taken from a camera confiscated by the security forces when his house was raided), insults, hanging by his hands from the ceiling, sexual harassment and threats of rape, standing for hours, and sleep deprivation. He was taken to the Ministry of Interior hospital twice for treatment due to the torture. Mr. Naji Fateel was detained in Dry Dock Detention Centre.

On May 22, 2013, Mr. Naji Fateel was sentenced by the Manama Criminal Court to six months of imprisonment on charges of “attending illegal gatherings” in relation to a gathering organised on January 24, 2012 in Bani-Jamra in which he did not participate. He was charged in another case with the establishment of a group for the purpose of disabling the Constitution under Article 6 of the controversial Terrorism Act.

On September 29, 2013, Mr. Naji Fateel was sentenced by the Fourth Criminal Court 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. Mr. Naji Fateel was then moved to the Central Prison “Jaw”.

On November 18, 2013, when the appeal trial against Mr. Naji Fateel started, the authorities of Bahrain denied entry to a lawyer who was mandated by a coalition of NGOs, including the Observatory, to observe the appeal trial.

In February 2014, one of the lawyers in the case said that 90% of their questions to the prosecution witnesses were rejected by the judge, and a policeman forcefully silenced a lawyer during his pleadings. Another lawyer was thrown out of the court room although he represented five of the defendants in the case.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Naji Fateel, all BYSHR members as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Release Mr. Naji Fateel immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Naji Fateel, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and apply them the sanctions provided by the law;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Messrs. Naji Fateel, all BYSHR members as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

v. 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”, 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”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

vi. 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, Tel: +973 172 27 555; fax: +973 172 12 6032
· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +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: info@bahrain-mission.ch

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