Bahrain: Acquittal of Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah

18/03/2013
Urgent Appeal

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 reliable sources of the acquittal of Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah, Acting Vice President and Head of Documentation Unit of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was cleared of all charges relating to spreading false information on social media network Twitter.

According to the information received, on March 11, 2013, Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah was cleared of charges of “spreading false information on Twitter”. The charges dated back to December 17, 2012, when Mr. Al-Muhafdha was arrested following his participation and documentation of a peaceful protest held in Manama. He was held in pre-trial detention until January 17, 2013.

The Observatory welcomes the acquittal of Mr. Al-Muhafdha and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened in their favour. However, the Observatory remains concerned by the recurrent use of judicial harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain, which merely aims at sanctioning their human rights activities, and calls upon the Bahraini authorities to put an immediate end to this practice.

Background information:

On September 23, 2012, Mr. AlMuhafdhah and other Bahraini human rights defenders who cooperated with the United Nations (UN) received threats of reprisals while they were in Geneva to participate in the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The pro-governmental newspaper Al-Watan accused Mr. AlMuhafdhah and other human rights defenders of “defaming Bahrain” and labelled them as “traitors to the country”.

On November 2, 2012, Mr. AlMuhafdhah was arrested in Duraz while he was documenting the injury of a man who was shot by bird-shot pellets at a protest earlier that day. Mr. AlMuhafdhah was transferred to Budaiya Police Station where he was interrogated about his presence at the injured man’s door.

In the morning of November 3, 2012, Mr. AlMuhafdhah was taken to the public prosecution where he was remanded seven days in detention on charges of “participation in illegal protests”. On November 10, 2012, the public prosecution decided to extend Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah’s detention by seven additional days without providing any grounds or justification for this decision. On November 14, 2012, the Public Prosecution decided to release Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah and drop the charges of “participation in illegal protests” that had been pending against him since November 2, 2012.

On December 17, 2012, Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah was arrested while he was monitoring a demonstration held in the capital city of Manama to mark the anniversary of two protesters who were killed in 1994. On December 18, 2012, the Public Prosecutor remanded him in custody in Hooth Al-Jaff prison for seven days pending an investigation on charges of spreading false information on Twitter.

On December 25, 2012, Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah was presented before the Public Prosecution, which renewed his detention by 15 days. On December 27, 2012, the Public Prosecution referred the case to the Court.

On January 9, 2013, the Fourth Lower Criminal Court remanded Mr. AlMuhafdhah into custody.

On January 17, 2013, the Fourth Lower Criminal Court ordered the provisional release of Mr. AlMuhafdhah after paying 100 BD on January 17 and postponed the hearing to January 29, 2013.

On January 29, the Fourth Lower Criminal Court adjourned the hearings until March 3, 2013.

On March 3, 2013, the Fourth Lower Criminal Court refused the request by the defence to admit witnesses and announced that the final verdict would be issued on March 11, 2013.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Sayed Yousif AlMuhafdhah, as well as of all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. AlMuhafdhah, as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
- its Article 6 (c) which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” ;
- and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and 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”.

iv. 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
· Lt. Gen. Cheikh Rashed bin Abdulla AL KHALIFA, Minister of Interior, Tel: +973 17572222 and +973 17390000. Email: info@interior.gov.bh
· 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

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

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