Bahrain: Bahrain13 on hunger strike protesting ill-treatment of minors in prison; Hussain Jawad abused in detention


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is alarmed by recent reports of abuse and torture in detention in Bahrain. The GCHR is concerned for the health of detained human rights defenders and other activists known as the Bahrain13, after they began a hunger strike on 19 February 2015 in protest of the recurring attacks on minors in Jaw prison. Security forces have reportedly been attacking the youth with dogs in building 6 at Jaw prison. The Bahrain13 could hear their screams for help, and hear them being slammed against the walls.

The Bahrain 13 is a group of imprisoned human rights defenders and activists, including GCHR co-founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, seven of whom have received life sentences for their peaceful pro-democracy activities. The others received between five and 15 years in prison. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention classified Al-Khawaja’s detention as arbitrary in an opinion published on 4 September 2012 and called for his release.

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja called his family on 20 February 2015 and said that the health of many of his 12 fellow prisoners have deteriorated due to the hunger strike. Al-Khawaja’s family also reports this his own health is suffering and he’s been ill. Many of the Bahrain13 have serious health issues, some as a result of torture and ill-treatment, including human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, in addition to human rights defenders Salah Al-Khawaja and Mohammed Hassan Jawad. The others are Ibrahim Sharif, Mirza Al-Mahroos, Abdulhadi Al-Mukhodher, Mohammed Ali Ismael, Hassan Mushaima, Abduljalil Al-Muqdad, Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, Abdulwahab Hussain and Saeed Mirza Al-Nouri.

The GCHR believes that the situation of detained human rights defenders in Bahrain contradicts the provisions of the United Nations “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners".

In other news, GCHR fears for the safety of Hussain Jawad, head of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR), following reports that he was tortured after being detained in the notorious Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). He was arrested during a house raid on 16 February. On 21 February, in the presence of his lawyers in the Public Prosecution office, EBOHR reports that he “appeared in very bad condition and looked exhausted as a result of physical and psychological torture and ill treatment.” Jawad was reportedly “subjected to different methods of torture, insults, death threats and threats against his wife.” He is being held pending investigation on a new charge of raising funds abroad for "subversive groups" to cause damage.

Jawad was already due in court on 25 February in a case in which he has been charged with allegedly insulting the King of Bahrain and “inciting hatred against the regime” following a speech he gave in Manama about human rights.

The constant arrest and charges made against human rights defenders continues unabated in Bahrain. Also this past week, on 18 February, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was in court on trumped up charges of entering a restricted area. The case was postponed to 15 April. She has already been sentenced to four years and four months in connection with other charges that contravene her right to freedom of expression. She has a three-month-old baby, born shortly after her release from prison in November.

On 4 March, Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the GCHR and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), is due in court on appeal of a six-month prison sentence for a tweet that allegedly offended the Ministries of Interior and Defence.

The GCHR is concerned that human rights defenders remain at high risk of imprisonment and abuse for carrying out their work and calls on the Bahrain government:

  1. To respect their international commitments and drop all legal prosecution against human rights defenders, freeing those wrongfully detained;
  2. To allow all human rights defenders to exercise their rights and to continue their peaceful activism without fear or prosecution or imprisonment;
  3. To take the required action to improve the situation of correctional facilities to match the recognised international standards which do not jeopardise the wellbeing and safety of prisoners, and to immediately halt the torture of detainees.

The GCHR respectfully reminds Bahrain that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to article 12 (2): “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.”