Saturday, January 19, 2008

Serious concern over acts of torture inflicted to human rights defenders in Bahrain



Serious concern over acts of torture inflicted to human rights defenders in Bahrain

January 18, 2008.

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), expresses its deepest concern following allegations of torture faced by human rights defenders in Bahrain.
According to the information received by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Messrs. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Al, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna, members of the Unemployment Committee, who had been arrested between December 21 and 28, 2007 by the Special Security Forces in the framework of a violent wave of arrests[1], were released on January 10, 2008 and have since then reported that they had been submitted to acts of torture and ill-treatments (beatings, verbal abuse, threats sleep and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement and prolonged use of handcuffs and eye blindfolds).

The three men were released with no explanation and they remain charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.Indeed, some of the detainees claimed that they were handcuffed for one or two weeks and beaten and kicked in order to prevent them from sleeping. They were also prevented to speak with each other, although being detained in the same room, and were blindfolded most of the time. Some detainees were forced to stand up for more than three days. They were submitted to psychological torture, being insulted verbally and threatened, in one case with a gun. Some of the detainees were taken out of their cell at night for interrogation ; meanwhile the other detainees could hear cries and screams.

Furthermore, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, also a member of the Unemployment Committee who is still detained, was visited by his father and told him that he had been subjected to sexual abuse, including rectal penetration with a stick. The Bahrain Human Rights Society has written twice to the Public Prosecutor requesting authorisation to visit the detainees but so far they received only negative responses.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied by these allegations of torture, which seem to aim at muzzling civil society, and human rights defenders in particular. Additionally, it seriously fears the resurgence of a systematic practice of torture in Bahrain.

The Observatory will immediately submit theses cases to the relevant United Nations Special Procedures. The Observatory recalls that twenty two persons remain in detention, including Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh, Hassan Abdulnabi, Hassan Abdelnabi Hassan, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Mr. Naji Al Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mr. Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Mr. Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee. They have also been charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

The Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately, as their detention is arbitrary. In addition, the Observatory calls upon the Bahraini authorities to order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law.

Furthermore, the Observatory urges the Bahraini authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, as well as to conform with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states 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”, as well as Article 12.2, which states 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”.

For further information, please contact:
Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39

[1] For more information see the Open letter addressed to Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, sent by the Observatory on January 10, 2008 as well as Observatory Urgent Appeal BHR 001 / 1207 / OBS 162 of December 11, 2007