Bahrain: Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab arrested amid reports of torture at Jaw prison and concern for human rights defenders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Naji Fateel

02.04.15

Renowned human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was arrested today, 2 April, reportedly accused of spreading “false news” in tweets about torture in Jaw prison, where prisoners have been attacked recently and prevented from contacting their families.

Rajab’s wife Sumaya Rajab reports that over 20 police vehicles were sent to the house to arrest him, allegedly “for tweets he had made about torture in Jaw prison." (See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37ceQ7QBz0c&feature=youtu.be). Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and a co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), is already facing a six-month sentence for tweeting and has an appeals verdict on 15 April. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/879

The arrest comes amid serious concerns about conditions at Jaw prison, and questions about the whereabouts about prisoners including human rights defender Naji Fateel.

On 10 March 2015, BCHR, ADHRB and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) report that “Bahraini security forces allegedly attacked prisoners at Jaw Prison using rubber bullets, tear gas, and shotgun pellets. Leaked pictures from Jaw Prison show numerous injuries including several that seemed to be serious.” Prisoners blocked the entrance to the building in protest after they heard that a police officer had allegedly hit a woman visiting her brother.

Naji Fateel, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) who is serving a 15-year sentence for his human rights work, was caught up in the events of 10 March and has since been subjected to enforced disappearance within the prison.

According to a witness who provided testimony to BCHR, he and Fateel were in Building 4 together “when they heard the sounds of clashes.” Although Fateel was not involved in the protests, he was beaten when security officers later entered the building and removed all the inmates while beating them. The witness says that Fateel was badly beaten and separated from other inmates. He reportedly was taken away and there has been no news of him since then. Another nine inmates were taken away, including Ahmed Al-Humaidan, the imprisoned photographer, whose whereabouts are unknown.

Al-Humaidan’s family has had no news from him in 20 days and were told that a pre-scheduled visit of 30 March has been cancelled, as no visits with him are allowed yet. Most prisoners at Jaw prison are reportedly still banned from receiving family visits and phone calls.

Another prisoner of conscious who has not been heard from is Jaffar Ali Aoun, who was taken away with the other nine prisoners to Building 10. His family has not heard from him and are worried about his safety as a released prisoner reported that prisoners may face charges over the disturbance on 10 March.

On 2 March 2015, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a co-founder of the GCHR and former President of the BCHR, began a water-only hunger strike in protest of his continued arbitrary detention, poor prison conditions, and restrictions on family contact, lack of investigation into torture of prisoners and other mistreatment of political prisoners. He is serving a life sentence for his human rights activities. After three weeks, on 22 March; he stopped the hunger strike when prison officials asked him for time to address his demands. He had threatened to stop drinking water if they did not respond by 29 March. On 18 March, 27 NGOs and individuals signed a letter calling for Al-Khawaja to be freed, which outlines the demands, in addition to 64 human rights activists who signed GCHR’s petition during the ongoing online campaign to #FreeAlkhawaja. See:  https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/950

In March, the Danish Embassy tried to meet with Al-Khawaja but the meeting was cancelled when Al-Khawaja refused to undergo a “humiliating body search” as reported, which the prison administration had stopped for a while but have re-initiated again as a form of pressure on prisoners. Other members of the Bahrain 13, a group of prisoners including Al-Khawaja who were sentenced together in June 2011 in relation to pro-democracy protests, also reportedly went on hunger strike earlier in March.

This includes human rights defender and blogger Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, sentenced to life in prison during the Bahrain 13 trial, who reportedly began a hunger strike on 21 March, despite his ongoing health issues. According to American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Al-Singace was seeking news of other detainees in Jaw Prison and also calling for prison officials to stop banning calls and visits to Building 4, where his son Husain is jailed. ADHRB reports, “In a message to his family, Dr. Al-Singace asserted that all detainees are his sons, not simply Husain, and that he would continue his hunger strike until the condition of Building 4 is improved, and when all detainees across Jaw Prison are able to contact their families.”

The GCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to:

  • Carry out a thorough investigation into poor conditions and the mistreatment of prisoners at Jaw Prison;
  • Provide news of the prisoners subjected to enforced disappearance including Naji Fateel and Ahmed Al-Humaidan;
  • Allow all prisoners to receive family visits and phone calls, according to their rights; and
  • Free human rights defenders, activists, bloggers and photographers jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including Nabeel Rajab, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, Naji Fateel, Jaffar Ali Aoun and Ahmed Al-Humaidan. 

Participate in our campaign #FreeAlkhawaja

Take an active role in our solidarity campaign by signing the petition to free Al-Khawaja and sharing it: https://www.change.org/p/the-government-of-bahrain-freealkhawaja-immediately-and-unconditionally-2