This statement was originally published on bahrainrights.org on 23 July 2019.
The first six months of 2019 have seen increasing instances of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders, journalists, and active members of civil society in Bahrain. Amid the heightened crackdown on critical voices, the Bahraini government has regressed to a near total suppression of human rights. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented increased numbers of individuals arbitrarily arrested, an increased number of protests, and a significant number of citizenship revocation orders. All major opposition parties have now been dissolved, and stripped of their nationalities. Peaceful protesters died from injuries inflicted by security forces, many caused by the use of birdshot pellets and tear gas.
BCHR is gravely concerned about these recent developments in Bahrain, and the ongoing and increasingly severe and volatile crackdown on human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, journalists, and active members of civil society in the country.
Between 1 January and 30 June 2019, BCHR recorded a total of 261 arbitrary arrests in Bahrain, amongst which were 23 children and 2 women.
There have been 128 protests across the country; 5 of these protests came under attack. Numerous injuries were also reported during this time; injuries caused by birdshot pellets were the most common.
Between 1 January and 10 May 2019, BCHR recorded a total of 521 individuals sentenced in politically motivated cases, amongst which 334 had their Bahraini citizenship revoked, rendering them stateless, whilst 46 were sentenced to life in prison.
Since January 2019, 109 individuals were sentenced to death in Bahrain while many countries have, each year, recommended that Bahrain move towards the abolition of the death penalty and impose an official moratorium on the death penalty (104 countries such as France, Germany, United Kingdom, and South Africa).
Mohamed Ramadan, a 36-year-old soldier formerly serving at the Bahrain International Airport, and Husain Ali Moosa, 32 years old, are two Bahraini citizens who were sentenced to death in a collective judgment in 2014. They were convicted for their alleged involvement in the Al-Dair bombing of 14 February 2014 that resulted in the death of a policeman. On 16 November 2015, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation – the highest court – rejected Mohamed’s final appeal. He is currently awaiting imminent execution at Jau Prison. Sentenced to death in the same trial, Husain received a similar treatment. On 22 October 2018, the Court of Cassation overturned their verdict, on the basis of new medical reports, which may exhibit signs of torture. They are currently awaiting a re-trial. The order for a retrial of death-row inmates Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Ali Moosa certainly represented a positive step, given that their case rests on the coerced confession extracted from Mr Moosa. However, there is still a risk that Mr Ramadan and Mr Moosa will be subjected to an unfair trial as they have been prevented from attending recent hearings of their re-trial.
The increased use of indiscriminate violence against critical voices in the country, and the targeted reprisals levied at human rights defenders and their families is demonstrative of the escalated campaign in Bahrain.
Human rights defenders and members of Bahrain’s civil society more generally are systematically being harassed and punished, with the use of torture and imprisonment. On 31 December 2018, Bahrain’s top court, the Court of Cassation, upheld leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s five-year sentence for tweeting his criticism of the war in Yemen and the torture prisoners in Bahrain’s notorious Jau Prison are subjected to. Hassan Mushaima, a former political opposition leader, continues to serve his life imprisonment. Female activist Najah Yusuf has been imprisoned for alleged social media activity, which includes Facebook posts calling for peaceful protests against the Bahrain Grand Prix 2017.
The Court of Cassation also upheld the life sentence handed down to former political opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman. The lack of any credible political opposition in Bahrain restricts democracy in the country, and reduces avenues for criticism which could lead to a total suppression of freedom of expression and association in the country.
Trying civilians in military courts
The use of military courts to try civilians in Bahrain has particularly been criticized by many countries that called for Bahrain to rescind law 105b, which allows for civilians to be prosecuted in military courts if accused of crimes under the terrorism law. Bahrain should, additionally, review the anti-terrorism law and its implementation to ensure that it is not utilized for abuse, harassment, and detention of dissenters.
Based on the above, it is a critical time to push for the end of the systematic clampdown on freedom of expression in Bahrain. The international community is to put more pressure on Bahrain to lift the restrictions on the right to freedom of expression; it goes without saying that without the right to exercise the most basic rights, one cannot expect any reforms or rule of law. BCHR calls on the international community to pursue its efforts to raise concern about the plight of civil society in Bahrain and calls on the Government of Bahrain to take concrete steps to foster an environment in which civil society can operate freely, in accordance with international standards.
Further recommendations for the Government of Bahrain are:
– Signing and acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that aimed at abolishing the death penalty.
– Repeal the amendment to the Military Law and restore the law to its previous version, which prohibits the prosecution of civilians in military courts.
– Provide basic guarantees for all civilians accused in military courts and re-trials in civil courts with access to lawyers.
-Immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience who were arrested as a result of expressing their opinion through the media.
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Source: MEDIA FEED