The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) continue to express grave concern in regards to the targeting of human rights defenders in Bahrain by the authorities. The authorities in Bahrain have used many methods in attempting to prevent and/or limit human rights defenders in Bahrain from carrying out their work of documenting and reporting on human rights violations in the country.
Nabeel Rajab, director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and president of the Bahrain Center for Human, was arrested upon arrival at the Bahrain airport on the 5th of May 2012. Prior to his arrest he stated: “Given that Bahrain in essence lacks a judiciary system that is independent and/or fair, and is far from being in line with international standards of a fair trial, I have decided to boycott the trial against myself. The judiciary system in Bahrain, today, is a tool used against human rights defenders and people calling for democracy and justice.”
Rajab’s trial is due to begin its first hearing tomorrow, Sunday 6th May, 2012. The charges leveled against him are: “participating in illegal assembly and calling others to join”. In addition, it seems that Rajab could face more charges as he was summoned for interrogation on charges of “insulting the statutory bodies” on the 26th April 2012.
In other cases of attacks on human rights defenders, independent activist Zainab Al-Khawaja remains detained with five cases in court. Al-Khawaja is due to have three hearings on the 6th of May, one hearing on the 9th and another on the 15th of May. The charges leveled against Al-Khawaja are:
1. Illegal gathering
2. Obstructing traffic
3. Two charges of assaulting an officer
4. Swearing at an officer
Said Yousif AlMuhafdhah, head of the Documentation Committee at the BCHR, was arrested twice while observing protests, and released after several hours. AlMuhafdhah, who originally worked in bank, was fired after having to go into hiding for several weeks during the state of national safety last year. AlMuhafdhah is a husband and father of two little girls.
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former president of the BCHR, main founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and former regional director for the MENA region at Frontline Defenders, was arrested on the 9th of April 2011. He was beaten unconscious in front of his family, then subjected to severe torture during his detention as documented in case number 8 of the BICI report. AlKhawaja was sentenced to life imprisonment in a military court, in a case that was fabricated and on trumped up charges. His appeal in a military court was rejected in September 2011. On the 30th of April 2012 the Court of Cassation issued a decision to subject the case to another appeal in a civilian court. Al-Khawaja is today on his 87th day of a hunger strike, after he was reportedly held in solitary confinement, drugged and force fed in a very painful process he told his wife when she was allowed to see him last Sunday, 29th February 2012.
It is important to note that the cases provided in this statement are only an example of some of the human rights defenders targeted by the authorities in Bahrain. It appears that the Bahraini authorities are not only attempting to limit the work of human rights defenders in Bahrain, but also to bring the work of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights to a halt.
To ensure the continuity of the center and its work, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Head of International Office based in Copenhagen Denmark, will be named as of today the vice-president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and acting president during periods of Rajab’s arrest and/or detention.
As per the information provided above, the GCHR and BCHR call on the government of Bahrain to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders and drop all false charges.
2. Hold accountable those responsible for the torture of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and those responsible for the physical assault of Zainab Al-Khawaja.
3. Respect and adhere to the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the international standards of a fair trial.
4. Immediately start a process of rehabilitation for those subjected to torture and ill treatment in Bahraini prisons.
5. End the targeting and harassment of human rights defenders.
6. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.