URGENT ALERT: Bahrain – Detained human rights activists given harsh jail sentences

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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25 July 2008

URGENT ALERT: Bahrain – Detained human rights activists given harsh jail sentences

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letters

1. Summary

Several human rights activists detained in the wake of a demonstration held on 17 December 2007 to commemorate the killing of protestors 13 years ago, have been handed down harsh prison sentences ranging from one to seven years on 12 July 2007.

Five detainees who have received prison sentences of five years or more, are members of well know human rights and civil organizations, including Hassan Abdulnabi, who was given the longest sentence of seven years, and was fined 9980 Bahraini dinars (US$26,500). Six others were sentenced to one year each in prison, while four defendants were found not guilty.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), ‘Repeated allegations that confessions were obtained by abuse cast doubt…’ on the prison terms. The report further states that ‘Lawyers representing the sentenced men said they would begin filing appeals of the High Criminal Court’s verdicts in the coming days.’ Please see http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/07/16/bahrai19372.htm

IHRC requests all campaigners to send letters to the respective authorities mentioned below and appeal against these unjust sentences.

For background information on the campaign, please visit Bahrain campaign page: https://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3502

2. Background

[Source: International Freedom of Expression Exchange http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95654/]

Eleven human rights activists and demonstrators who were “unjustly” detained following protests in December have been given jail sentences of one to seven years, reports the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

Amid tight security, a Bahraini criminal court on 12 July sentenced 11 of 15 activists who were standing trial on charges ranging from illegal assembly to use of force against security officials. Hassan Abdulnabi, an active member of an organisation called the Unemployment Committee, was given the longest sentence at seven years, and was fined 9980 Bahraini dinars (US$26,500).

The arrests were triggered by demonstrations on 17 December in Sanabis, near the capital Manama, that were organised to pay tribute to victims of torture. Riot police and special security forces violently dispersed the protests. One pro-democracy activist was killed, allegedly at the hands of the authorities. Protests were held following his funeral that again resulted in violent clashes with the armed special forces.

Using the protests as a pretext, the Bahraini security forces detained up to 70 people for their role in the protests, including leaders of popular human rights and civil society groups.

The group of 15 was the largest to stand trial to date out of the 70 detainees. BCHR points out that the five people who received the harshest sentences of five years or more are known activists – leaders of the Unemployed Committee, the Committee to Combat High Prices, and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, for instance – and had been targeted by the government because of their work.

Six others were sentenced to one year each in prison, while four defendants were found not guilty.

“We believe the charges against the activists, for violent actions which they did not commit, are a pretext to silence them as a reprisal for their outspoken and peaceful human rights work,” 21 IFEX members had said in an appeal to the Bahraini authorities in February.

According to BCHR, the court paid no attention to the appeals, or to the medical team who had examined the detainees and concluded that there were signs they were tortured.

 

BCHR is calling for the immediate release of all the detainees, an independent committee to look into the torture allegations, and a full review of the public security laws that have been used recently to target human rights leaders.

The sentences come amid rising sectarian tension in Bahrain. In an effort to end the recent conflict, the authorities have announced a new watchdog committee to keep tabs on preachers, media outlets and websites promoting sectarianism.

BCHR has accused the new committee of being a front to suppress freedoms. The authorities closed down three prominent Bahraini websites that run political forums. Some of the people involved with the websites were summoned by state security and charged with instigating hatred.

Visit these links*:
– BCHR: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en
– Joint action: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/91069/
– “Government stokes sectarian tensions to justify crackdown on press” in “IFEX Communiqué” (9 July): http://tinyurl.com/5jyntt
– IFEX Bahrain page: http://tinyurl.com/ytqq7w
– “Court sentences protesters to jail”, in UAE’s “The National”: http://tinyurl.com/5wywnd
(23 July 2008)

*Note: IHRC is not responsible for the content of external websites, nor endorses them by providing their link.

For background information about this campaign, please visit IHRC Bahrain campaign page: https://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3502

3. Action required

a) Write to the Bahraini Ambassador in your country

UK campaigners can write to:

Charge D’Affaires Mr Yusuf M Jameel
30 Belgrave Square
London, SW1X 8QB

Fax: +44 0207 245 1073
Email: enquiries@bahrainembassy.co.uk

b) Write to the Bahraini Minister of Interior.

Rashid bin Abdallah bin Ahmad al-Khalifa
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 13
Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +973 172 326 61

4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

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1. Sample letter to Bahraini Ambassador in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

[Date]

[Recipient’s Name]
[Recipient’s Address]

Your Excellency,

Re: Detained human rights activists in Bahrain given harsh prison sentences

I am deeply concerned about the harsh prison sentences handed down to several human rights activists on 12 July 2007 in a Bahraini criminal court.

These activists were arrested in the wake of a demonstration held on 17 December 2007 to commemorate the killing of two protestors 13 years ago. They were charged with what appears to be trumped up charges of rioting, possession of ammunition, theft of a weapon and setting fire to a police vehicle.

Five of the defendants, who were handed down the harshest jail terms of five years or more each, are all well-known activists in popular human rights and civil organizations. Six others were sentenced for one year each.

The court paid no attention to appeals or to the medical teams who had examined the detainees and concluded that there were signs that the detainees were tortured. Further, allegations that confessions were obtained from detainees after abuse were not investigated and testimonies by defendants, about the torture that they were subjected to, were ignored.

I have read reports that several detainees are suffering from serious medical conditions owing to torture, bad prison conditions and the neglect shown by the authorities. Some require urgent medical treatment but have not received much care. I am concerned that the unjust prison terms will worsen their situation.

I urge you to immediately release all detainees and to launch an inquiry into the torture allegations and a full review of the public security laws that have been used to target human rights activists. I urge you to ensure that these attacks on civil liberties are immediately halted. As Bahrain has committed itself in the last decade to better governance, these actions blacken Bahrain’s reputation.

I look forward to your response on these matters.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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2. Sample letter to the Bahraini Minister of Interior

Your Name]
[Your Address]

[Date]

Rashid bin Abdallah bin Ahmad al-Khalifa
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 13
Manama, Bahrain

Your Excellency,

Re: Detained human rights activists in Bahrain given harsh prison sentences

I am deeply concerned about the harsh prison sentences handed down to several human rights activists on 12 July 2007 in a Bahraini criminal court.

These activists were arrested in the wake of a demonstration held on 17 December 2007 to commemorate the killing of two protestors 13 years ago. They were charged with what appears to be trumped up charges of rioting, possession of ammunition, theft of a weapon and setting fire to a police vehicle.

Five of the defendants, who were handed down the harshest jail terms of five years or more each, are all well-known activists in popular human rights and civil organizations. Six others were sentenced for one year each.

The court paid no attention to appeals or to the medical teams who had examined the detainees and concluded that there were signs that the detainees were tortured. Further, allegations that confessions were obtained from detainees after abuse were not investigated and testimonies by defendants, about the torture that they were subjected to, were ignored.

I have read reports that several detainees are suffering from serious medical conditions owing to torture, bad prison conditions and the neglect shown by the authorities. Some require urgent medical treatment but have not received much care. I am concerned that the unjust prison terms will worsen their situation.

I urge you to immediately release all detainees and to launch an inquiry into the torture allegations and a full review of the public security laws that have been used to target human rights activists. I urge you to ensure that these attacks on civil liberties are immediately halted. As Bahrain has committed itself in the last decade to better governance, these actions blacken Bahrain’s reputation.

I look forward to your response on these matters.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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For more information, please contact the office on the numbers or email below:

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