Islamic Human Rights Commission
6 September 2010.
PRESS RELEASE: Bahrain: IHRC refers treatment of arrested human rights activists to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
The IHRC, which is an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has written an open letter to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, demanding that he look into the treatment of civil society activists recently arrested in Bahrain, and reportedly subjected to severe forms of torture and degrading treatment while being held incommunicado for over two weeks. (See below for full text.)
The arrested activists include Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Haq Movement, who was arrested on 13 August, as he and his family returned to Bahrain after addressing a meeting at the House of Lords of the British Parliament. Dr Al-Singace was permitted to meet his lawyers for the first time last week, which is how details of his treatment have been revealed.
Others who were arrested have subsequently been hospitalised as a result of their treatment in detention. These include Shaikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, a religious scholar, human rights activist and president of Al-Zahra charity; Abdulghani Khanjar, the official spokesperson for the Truth and Justice coalition; and Abdulhadi Alsaffer.
In the letter to the UN Special Rapporteur, Massoud Shadjareh, Chair of the IHRC, gives details of the forms of torture used on Dr. Al-Singace, including physical beatings, sleep-deprivation and being forced to stand for long periods despite the fact that he normally uses a wheelchair or crutches since being partially paralysed by polio.
He also highlights the fact that the broad and ambiguous language of the 2006 counterterrorism legislation, under which the detainees have reportedly been charged, is so broad that is enables the government to criminalize anyone who demands the basic rights to freedom of expression and association.
The letter informs the Special Rapporteur that the IHRC has concluded from its work on Bahrain that security officials routinely use torture for the purpose of securing confessions from suspects, and demands that he investigate Bahrain for clear breaches of its obligations as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture.
Massoud Shadjareh, Chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said:
“The treatment of Abdul Jalil Al-Singace and other arrested in the recent crackdown on civil society in Bahrain confirms what we have long suspected about Bahrain: that the state is now using such appalling tactics as a form of intimidation against human rights defenders and other members of civil society in order to try to suppress opposition to its increasingly brutal rule.
“Bahrain has a very poor human rights record, and it appears to be getting worse. The UN Human Rights Commission and all those genuinely committed to freedom, human rights and justice, must demand the immediate release of Al Singace and other political prisoners, and a radical change in the Bahraini regime’s approach to legitimate and peaceful political activism in the country.”
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Notes to Editors:
Full Text of Open Letter follows:
06 September 2010
Special Rapporteur on Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Dear Mr. Nowak,
The IHRC expresses its deep concern regarding the information received about the case of human rights defender Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and other activists. Dr Al-Singace, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Haq Movement, which promotes human rights and democracy in Bahrain, was arrested at Manama Airport on the morning of 13 August 2010, as he and his family returned to the country from London. He then spent more than two weeks in incommunicado detention. Dr. Al-Singace had attended a conference at the House of Lords in London on August 5, during which they discussed Bahrain’s human rights practices.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) states that in the formal interrogation sessions with prosecutors, Dr. Al-Singace stated that they had subjected him to torture and degrading treatment. Dr. Al-Singace described the torture he was put through to the Public Prosecutor, Nawaf Hamza. He stated he was handcuffed and blindfolded the entire time. He also states that they beat him on his fingers with a hard instrument, slapped him around, and pulled and twisted his nipples and ears with tongs. During the prosecution proceedings, Dr. Al-Singace reportedly complained about extensive beatings and degrading treatment during his detention, and requested medical attention. BCHR said that Dr. Al-Singace told the Public prosecutor of being kept in solitary confinement the whole time and was deprived of a shower, regular access to the bathroom and sleep for long periods of time. Dr. Al-Singace, who is partially paralyzed from polio and requires assistance to walk, said that authorities took his wheelchair and crutches away from him at the moment of arrest and forced him to crawl to and from his cell. He also alleged that they forced him to stand for long periods of time and that he was forced to sign statements written by the Bahraini authorities, which he was not allowed to read.
According to the BCHR other key members of the human rights movement in Bahrain have been taken as a result of this treatment in detainment, those include vocal critics such as Shaikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad (religious figure, human rights activist and president of Alzahra charity society of orphans); Abdulghani Khanjar (head of the national martyrs committee and torture victims, and the official spokesperson for the Truth and Justice coalition, which is made up 11 societies and organizations, both human rights and political) and Abdulhadi Alsaffer (active member of Committee against Rise in Prices and Detainees and Families committees).
According to the lawyers, prosecutors have charged the defendants with various crimes under the 2006 counterterrorism law and the penal code. The broad and ambiguous language of the 2006 counterterrorism law and the penal code allow the government to criminalize the basic rights to freedom of expression and association.
The use of such brutal torture by the Bahraini authorities clearly violates numerous articles within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Bahrain is a party. Article 9 of the ICCPR states that ‘anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him,’ and ‘shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power.’ This Article was clearly breached since these rules were not followed by the Bahraini authorities. Bahrain has also signed the Convention against Torture, which prohibits torture and other ill-treatment under all circumstances and prohibits the use of statements made as a result of torture as evidence in legal proceedings.
The IHRC finds that security officials repeatedly use torture for the purpose of securing confessions from suspects. Bahraini officials, however, claim that torture is not routine or systematic, and that any security official found to be liable would be punished. But to our knowledge, there have been no independent investigations or prosecutions concerning cases documented.
The IHRC, which has long been concerned about the Bahraini government’s treatment of human rights defenders in the country, calls on the Special Rapporteur to look into this case as a matter of urgency, and to confront the Bahraini state regarding the abuse perpetrated against these human rights defenders who are subjected to torture, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and wholly baseless accusations of serious criminal activity.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission is an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
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