Country/Topic: Bahrain Date: 06 February 2009Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Person(s): Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad, Abduljalil Alsingace Target(s): academic(s) , human rights worker(s) Type(s) of violation(s): arrested , charged , questioned Urgency: Flash
(BCHR/IFEX) - The following is a joint action by 20 IFEX members:
We, the undersigned freedom of expression organisations, are gravely concerned for the deterioration of human rights exemplified by the aggressive measures taken by the Bahraini authorities to silence three well-known activists from expressing their views and addressing public issues.
Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ), Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad, a scholar and social activist, and Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace, head of HAQ's human rights unit, were arrested around 2:30 a.m. (local time) on Monday 26 January 2009 and were kept in solitary confinement for three hours until they were transferred to the Public Prosecution (PP). Following almost nine hours of interrogation, Mr. Mushaima and Mr. Al-Muqdad were held in custody for further interrogation, while Dr. Alsingace was released on bail and officially banned from travel out of Bahrain. The PP declared that it will take the necessary measures to pursue cases against the human rights defenders in the courts.
During the interrogations, the three activists were questioned about their speeches and articles concerning public issues, which authorities considered to be "provoking hatred of the regime" and "inciting violence and the overthrow of the political system". These two charges are referenced in the Bahrain Penal code of 1976 and are punishable by imprisonment of up to eight years. This penal code does not meet international standards of human rights and has been denounced in the past by human rights organisations around the globe.
The activists also received a third charge under the Bahraini counter terrorism law, which has also been condemned by many international organisations, including the UN. Under this law, the activists face possible life imprisonment for "forming an organisation, outside the provisions of the law, which disrupts the provisions of the Constitution or prevents any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty."
The three activists categorically deny all these allegations and consider their arrest and the charges brought against them to be malicious and politically motivated.
Based on the hostile attitude of the authorities toward the three well-known activists, it is believed that their arrest and detention are related to the practice of their right to free expression, namely by carrying out legitimate and peaceful public activities such as publishing electronic articles and conducting speeches, seminars and presentations. The atrocious charges brought against them are baseless and meant to silence and prevent Mr. Mushaima, Mr. Al-Muqdad and Dr. Alsingace from expressing their thoughts and performing any activity related to democratic reforms and promotion of human rights and civil liberties, particularly freedom of expression and the right to free assembly and association.
The undersigned organisations call upon the Bahraini authorities to:
- immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Hassan Mushaima and Mr. Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad- quash all the charges related to their legitimate and peaceful activities- lift the travel ban against Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace- abolish the Bahraini Counter Terrorism Law, which curtails freedom of expression and allows for criminal prosecution on the basis of intentions and, amend the Penal Code so that it conforms to international human rights conventions- cease all measures targeting political and human rights defenders