Saturday, August 08, 2009

Activist Mohammed Al Sankees Dismissed from his Work Because of his Rights Activism

This is my younger brother, Mohammed, who never ceased struggling. As such he is paying a dare price for sticking to values and defending rights.

BAHRAIN: Human Rights Defenders Subjected to Job Dismissal and Income Cut-off
Activist Mohammed Al Sankees Dismissed from his Work Because of his Rights Activism

3rd August 2009

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) express their deep concern about the escalation in targeting human rights defenders and opposition activists in Bahrain. The Bahraini Authorities, and without prior notice, have recently taken a measure to terminate the services of human rights activist Mohammed Abdullah Alsankees of his work at the Ministry of Works after more than 22 years of employment in the same ministry.
Mohammed Alsankees, in his forties, is the founder and chairman of the Committee Against Inflation (High Prices), which was founded in 2006. He had a distinct role in the management of his Committee and in shedding light on its theme subject. He was also an active member of the committees for the defense of activists, political prisoners and detainees of conscience, and distinguishably contributed in social work when chaired the Social Center at Maqaba village for a period of time. Alsankees participated in joint activities with the Committee of Unemployed, until just before his arrest last December 21st, 2007 in a campaign waged against activists of popular committees and human rights defenders.
During the nineties, Mohammed Alsankees had been dynamic in the social activities as well as at the popular demands during which period, he was numerously arrested due to his role in the collection of signatures on what is locally dubbed as the 1994 popular petition calling for the restoration of the democratic life and the revitalization of the Constitution in 1973. Mohammed was held hostage by the Security Authorities in exchange for his younger brother, Adel Alsankees, who was wanted by the Authorities for his participation in the said petition and the steady protests during that period. This had had an impact on most of Alsankees family members who were subjected to arrests and their houses were repeatedly raided late at night. In addition to Mohammed himself, this had resulted in the incarceration of 70 yrs old mother- Fatema Ashoor- for a day and his 27 yrs old sister- Malkah Alsankees, a teacher at the Ministry of Education was detained for more than two months without any contact with her family during the detention period. Amnesty International archived numerous reports about the suffering of Alsankees family then.
Mohammed was repeatedly subjected to beatings by Security Forces in more than one popular protesting activity; the most apparent was when participating in a peaceful sit-in in front of the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), calling for the release of detainees of the "Airport" incident which occurred on 25th December 2005. Because of that beatings and collective punishment, Mohammed suffered from deep injury in one of his leg as well as in his back spine, a suffering which he is still enduring. The Security Forces did not cease by the brutal attack on Mohammed, rather, it later filed a lawsuit filed accusing him of assaulting a public officer. Aftermath that ordeal, Mohammed found himself before a trial that lasted until last May, when the case was suspended, among outstanding security cases - a label used by Authorities to identify cases involving detainees in popular protests and other rights activities.
Alsankees was arrested during the protests which came after the death of activist Ali Jassem on December 17, 2007, the commemoration day of the "Martyrs and Victims of Torture" in demands of prosecution of torturers reparation and justice for the victims of torture in the previous period. Since its founding in 2003, the National Committee for Martyrs and Victims of Torture has been annually celebrating that day, which has been fiercely resisted by the Authorities, resulting in arrests and injuries resulted from the use of excessive force to prevent its activities.
Mohammed Alsankees spoke to BCHR detailing the physical and psychological torture he suffered during arrest and interrogation in December 2007. This included beatings with a baton on the sensitive areas of his body, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, sexual harassment, and stripping of all clothes during the interrogation and standing for long hours in the cold weather in the open yard of the CIB offices. After seven months of detention, he was sentenced, among a group of human rights activists of popular committees, to a term of 5-years imprisonment, to be released by royal pardon on April 12, 2009 under a general amnesty to include most of the detainees and defendants in all the cases of rights activities and political protests. After his release from prison, Mohammed returned to work on April 19, 2009 where he resumed his previous post as a laboratory technician at the Ministry of Works until the date of his dismissal on July 20, 2009, i.e. after more than three months from the date of his release and return to work. But what raises suspicion is the backdated discharge of Mohammed marked to 30th March 2009, four months of returning to work, the BCHR believes that this to do with trying to deprive him of the advantage of the amnesty, which was expected during the period in light of the increasing popular protests and the numerous reports about the deterioration of human rights status in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has strong beliefs that the reasons behind the dismissal of Mohammed Alsankees is related his involvements in rights committees. It is also to deliver an indirect message to the rest of the human rights defenders, in order to daunt them and thus dissuade them from continuing their activities in detecting violations and defending human rights values. Targeting and intimidation by the security authorities against human rights defenders in Bahrain have been recurring in different styles, including smear and defamation by involving them in ethical issues, fabrication of criminal charges and remanding them in custody on charges relating to issues of violence and terrorism, abduction and brutally beating them before leaving them on the road in miserable condition. Some of them were harassed or sexually assaulted. Dismissal from work and threatening the livelihood of activists is an old style of harassment the Authorities is reviving after it was ceased during what was known as the political openness since the 2000.
In this regard, Nabeel Rajab- the BCHR president- stated that: "Terminating the livelihood of activists and human rights defenders and targeting their source of income could not be carried out by a State that respects the humanity of its people". He added:"The mounting campaign against them has become a source of concern for all regional and international institutions".
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights call for:
1 – The immediate reinstatement of Mohammed Alsankees in his work, without any reprisals and conditions, as well as cease harassing him through his only source of income.2 - Stop targeting and attacking human rights activists in any form.3 – Initiate a serious dialogue with the actors in the society instead of the continued repression process