IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community
JOINT ACTION - BAHRAIN
25 February 2008
Twenty-one IFEX members, 34 other groups call for end to jailing andtorture of demonstrators and human rights activists in Bahrain
SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama
(BCHR/IFEX) - The following is a joint appeal from BCHR, 20 other IFEXmembers and 34 other groups to the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad Bin IssaAl Khalifa:Sheikh Hamad Bin Issa Al KhalifaKing of BahrainRiffa, BahrainFax: +973 176 64 587Your Royal Highness,We the undersigned national and international human rights organisationsand other groups defending freedom of expression urge the Bahrainiauthorities to immediately release those human rights activists anddemonstrators who were unjustly detained following protests in December,and to immediately desist from torturing the detainees. We believe thecharges against the activists, for violent actions which they did notcommit, are a pretext to silence them as a reprisal for their outspoken andpeaceful human rights work.As in past years, on 17 December 2007, the Bahraini National Committee forVictims of Torture (NCVT) organised its annual march. On that day in 1994two young Bahrainis were killed by Special Forces snipers from a helicoptershooting with live ammunition on a peaceful demonstration in Sanabisvillage calling for political reforms and democratisation.
On 17 December 2007, heavily armed members of the Bahraini Special SecurityForces (SSF) were deployed to head off the march, which was prevented fromkicking off in Manama. Confrontations quickly spread to nearby villages. InSanabis village, some protestors were attacked by the SSF and armed militia who besieged the area and showered it with tear gas and rubber bullets. Ali Jassem Makki was allegedly attacked and fatally beaten by the SSF. Protestserupted in many other villages, resulting in many wounded.Protests were waged in Jidhafs on the days surrounding Ali Jassem'sfuneral, resulting in fierce confrontations with the heavily armed Special Forces who used tear gas and rubber bullets on the protestors. Protestorsresponded by hurling stones and setting ablaze rubber tires and trashcontainers. One patrol vehicle was set afire by the protestors and a weaponinside it was allegedly reported to be missing, resulting in a series ofarrests a few days later of well known activists and human rightsdefenders.
The Bahraini security authorities detained up to 50 people, some of themleaders of popular human rights and civil society such as the UnemployedCommittee, Committee to Combat High Prices and Bahrain Youth Society forHuman Rights (BYSHR). Local human rights groups claim that the crackdownwas used as a pretext to clamp down on these organisations and round upthese activists, who were then unjustly blamed for the incidents during theprotests. They have since been subjected to all forms of ill-treatment andtorture.The Security Authorities ransacked houses and carried out dawn raids onthose detainees, and confiscated their computers and some of their personal belongings.
Out of those detained in the aftermath of the death of AliJassem, 14 detainees were falsely charged with rioting, illegal assembly,illegal possession of a weapon and ammunition as well as setting afire apatrol vehicle. Ibrahim Ameen Al Arab, a member of NCVT was also laterarrested and charged with possession of the allegedly missing weapon. These15 people were summoned to court on 3 February 2008, but because of thesudden change made by the judge to hold the hearing after official hours, the defendants' lawyers decided to boycott that session. The court sessionwas postponed until 24 February.
These 15 detainees include the well-known activists Maytham Bader JassimAl-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad JaffarMohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, memberof the BYSHR, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Singace, head of the Committee to CombatHigh Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of theMartyrs and Victims Committee. They have been subjected to severe tortureand ill-treatment which has included being held incommunicado, beatings,electrocution, malnutrition, deprivation from sleep, being held in uncleanconditions, and sexual assault. The latest form of torture was to put themost prominent of those activists in cells with prisoners apparentlysuffering from communicable diseases.
Popular protests calling for the release of those detainees have beentaking place in Bahrain on a daily basis, with some resulting in collectivepunishment such as showering the areas where these protests emanate withtear gas and rubber bullets as well as beatings of residents by SSF. This has lead to widening unrest.
We, the undersigned, express our deep concerns about the deterioration ofthe situation and the endangerment of the life of the human rightsdefenders in Bahrain. The initial incident and its repercussions could havebeen avoided should the Bahraini authorities have respected and protectedthe right of the individuals and groups for freedom of expression andassembly. An attack on freedom of expression has repeatedly proven to be atrigger for confrontation between people and local authorities.
We call on the Bahraini Authorities to immediately and unconditionallyrelease all the political, human rights and other activists unjustlydetained in the aftermath of events on 17 December 2007. Releasing all the aforementioned detainees would help suppress the unrest situation inBahrain, and restore tranquility.
We also take this opportunity to remind the local authorities to reconsiderlegislation and other practices which threaten all forms of freedom ofexpression and ensure conformance with international standards andcovenants.Signed by the following organisations:
Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS-HK), Hong Kong
Africa Free Media Foundation (AFMF), Kenya
Alliance of Filipino Migrants Communities and Association in Korea (KASAMMAKO), KoreaAlliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia
Arab Archives Institute, Jordan
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo.net), Egypt
Armanshahr Foundation, Afghanistan
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong
Association of Filipino Migrant Workers, Korea
Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (AIMW)-Hong Kong
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Society of Human Rights (BSHR), Bahrain
Bahrain Youth Society of Human Rights (BYSHR), Bahrain
Bicol Association, Korea
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Egypt
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
CARAM ASIA, Malaysia
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Philippines
Centre algérien pour la défense et la promotion de la liberté de la presse(CALP), Algeria
Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie (CNLT), Tunisia
Cordillera Alliance (CORALL-HK), Hong Kong
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), Egypt
Federation of Filipino Workers in Korea
Filipino Migrant Workers' Union (FMWU-HK), Hong Kong
Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec (PINAY), Canada
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka
Freedom House, United States
Front Line International, Ireland
Gabriela Australia, Australia
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
International Justice Network, United States
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Media Rights Agenda, Nigeria
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Migrant Forum of Asia, Philippines
MIGRANTE International, Philippines
Migrante Melbourne, Australia
Movement of Liberties and Democracy (HAQ), Bahrain
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Mogadishu
New Era Foundation, Korea
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de creation (OLPEC),Tunisia
OPEN ASIA, France
Palestinian Women's Committees, Palestine
Philippine Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), Australia
Philippine Caucus for Peace, Australia
Society of Supporting Freedoms and Democracy, Bahrain
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Thailand
Thai Regional Alliance in Hong Kong
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
United Pangasinan Hong Kong (UPHK)
Women on the Move (WEMOVE), Korea
Women Petition Committee, Bahrain
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), United States
cc. Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 cheminJacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland.Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50.
For further information, contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR,Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170,e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet:
The information contained in this joint action is the sole responsibilityof BCHR. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit BCHR.
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