Bahrain: Bahrain- GCHR & BCHR express their grave concern over the continued attacks and harassment of Bahraini rights defenders

17.09.13

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their grave concern over the continued attacks and harassment, including arrests and ongoing detention, of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

On 6 September 2013, Hussain Ali Abdul Nabi (20 years old) – a member of the Documentation Team of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) - was arrested from his friend's house. He was subject to enforced disappearance for several days. On 10 September, the public prosecution ordered the detention of Abdul Nabi for 45 days pending investigation on charges of "illegal gathering" and targeting policemen.

Abdul Nabi is not the only human rights defender facing criminal charges as part of a campaign that targets human rights defenders in Bahrain with defamation and fabricated charges in order to hinder their work. Naji Fateel, a board member BYHRS, remains detained since 2 May 2013 on charges of “establishing a terrorist group for the purpose of disturbing public security, disabling constitution and law, preventing public institution and authorities from performing their duties, attacking public and personal rights, and harming national unity,” under the internationally condemned Terrorism Law. On 23 May 2013, Fateel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for “illegal assembly”, while he is expecting a verdict on the other charges on 29 September 2013. In his first court hearing, which was held on 11 July 2013, Fateel talked publicly about the torture he was subjected to and took his shirt off to show the torture marks on his back. However, instead of  taking action to carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the allegations of torture, the judge did not allow the defendants to complete their testimonies and refused to take note of their allegations. (For more information please see:  http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6227).

In addition, the GCHR and BCHR are concerned about the health of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja who is still being kept with criminal prisoners who have Hepatitis A and B. Her family visited her recently and they reported that she has lost a lot of weight and her face looked yellow. Hepatitis A and B are contagious diseases and authorities at the prison rejected many requests made by Al-Khawaja to get the vaccine which puts her at great risk of infection. Al-Khawaja is serving multiple prison sentences at Isa women’s prison, and expected to remain imprisoned until February 2014 on different charges including entering a restricted area (the Pearl Roundabout) and “illegal gathering”. It is important to note that all prisoners eat together from the same food, which puts them at higher risk of contagion. To add to that, Al-Khawaja has been prevented from going outdoors since March 2012, which increases risks of infection and puts her health at risk.

The GCHR and the BCHR call on the US administration, as well as other governments that have influence in Bahrain including the UK government, the EU and leading human rights organizations, to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to:

1- Immediately release detained human rights defenders  Hussain Ali Abdul Nabi, Naji Fateel and Zainab Al-Khawaja, as well as all other detained human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain;

2- Immediately remove Zainab Al-Khawaja from her cell and provide her with vaccination;

3- Guarantee the legal rights and due process of the prisoners of conscious and victims of torture;

4- Stop the ongoing daily human rights violations as well as the escalated attacks against human rights defenders;

5- Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment;

The GCHR and BCHR remind the Bahraini government 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, recognizes 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 5 (b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels  (b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups” and 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.”