Responding to the news that Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition have launched an offensive on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said:
“The assault on Hodeidah could have a devastating impact for hundreds of thousands of civilians – not just in the city but throughout Yemen.
“With an estimated 600,000 people living in and around Hodeidah, all sides to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to ensure that the civilian population is protected.
“Equally vital is that the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Huthi forces ensure the flow of aid and essential goods isn’t impeded in any way, as millions of people remain at risk of famine across the country.
“Hodeidah’s port is crucial to a country that is 80% dependent on imports to meet basic necessities. Cutting off this crucial supply line would further exacerbate what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“During the past three years of fighting in Yemen, all parties to the conflict have disregarded their obligations under international humanitarian law, consistently carrying out unlawful attacks that have killed or injured civilians. A repeat of such violations in Hodeidah would put thousands of lives at risk and must be avoided at all costs.”
Responding to the news that Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist in Bahrain, has had his appeal against his conviction for peacefully expressing his opinions online upheld, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:
“The Bahraini Court of Appeal has missed a vital opportunity to do the right thing and set Nabeel Rajab free.
“His ongoing detention is further proof of the Bahraini authorities’ relentless determination to squash the right to freedom of expression and silence any peaceful criticism.
“It is absolutely outrageous that he has to spend another single day behind bars solely for expressing his opinion online.
“The authorities must immediately release Nabeel Rajab and drop all charges against him.”
In February this year, Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence is related to posts and retweets shared on his Twitter account regarding alleged torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison, and the killing of civilians in the Yemen conflict by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
Nabeel Rajab is now expected to pursue a final appeal before Bahrain’s Court of Cassation.
Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been relentlessly harassed and intimidated for his peaceful human rights work and has been in and out of prison since 2012 on various charges related to his peaceful activism. He has been banned from leaving Bahrain since November 2014.
In the most recent round of prosecutions, Rajab has been detained since June 2016, and earlier this year was handed an additional two-year prison sentence for TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016. The Court of Cassation in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, upheld his sentence on 15 January 2018, convicting him of “disseminating false news, statements and rumours about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status”.
The jailing of a prominent human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for posts he made on Facebook and Twitter is a devastating blow to freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said today.
Ahmed Mansoor was this week sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 1,000,000 Emirati Dirham (approximately USD $270,000) for posts he made on social media.
“Ahmed Mansoor is one of the few openly critical voices in the UAE, and his persecution is another nail in the coffin for human rights activism in the country,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
“The decision to lock up Ahmed Mansoor for the next 10 years for simply sharing his opinion on social media is what causes the real damage to the UAE’s reputation and so-called ‘social harmony’, not Ahmed Mansoor’s peaceful activism.
“Ahmed is a prisoner of conscience who has been targeted, tried and sentenced for using Facebook and Twitter to share his thoughts. He should never have been charged in the first place and now he must be released immediately.”
Mansoor was reported to have been convicted of “publish[ing] false information, rumours and lies about the UAE” which “would damage the UAE's social harmony and unity.”
The prosecution characterized his so-called crime as “publish[ing] false information to damage [the] UAE’s reputation abroad” and “portray[ing] the UAE as a lawless land.” Mansoor had also been charged with “cooperating with a terrorist organisation operating outside the country” but was acquitted on this charge.
Mansoor was sentenced at the State Security Chamber of the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi. He can appeal his sentence to the State Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court.
Mansoor’s trial began in mid-March this year, and continued at a hearing on 11 April. A third hearing may have taken place on 9 May but there has been no confirmation of this. He was sentenced on 29 May, but the news was only revealed yesterday.
Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor, which includes the quashing of his sentence. Pending his release, Ahmed Mansoor must be granted immediate and regular access to a lawyer, his family and any health care he may require.
Ahmed Mansoor has been detained since 20 March 2017 and held for most of this time in solitary confinement. His place of detention has never been officially confirmed and he has been granted only two visits from his family; when his family visited him, they and Ahmed were both brought to the prosecutor’s office.
This is not Ahmed’s first conviction for expressing his opinion. In 2011, the Security Chamber of the Federal Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in prison for “insulting UAE leaders by delivering speeches and public lectures” and “provid[ing] false reports and information about the UAE that would harm the policies of the state”, in addition to “contacting international rights and political organisations working abroad”. He did not serve that sentence, however, as he was pardoned by the UAE President.
“The crown prince, who has styled himself as a reformer with Western allies and investors, should be thanking the activists for their contributions to the Saudi women’s rights movement,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the Saudi authorities appear to be punishing these women’s rights champions for promoting a goal bin Salman alleges to support – ending discrimination against women.”
Local state media outlets identified the long-time rights advocates Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Eman al-Nafjan, along with Mohammad al-Rabea, an activist, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, a human rights lawyer, among those arrested. It is not clear if the detained activists have been charged with the offenses the State Security cited.
Saudi activists told Human Rights Watch that the seriousness of the allegations and the viciousness of the deeply personalized media campaign are unprecedented and shocking. Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper reported that those arrested could face up to 20 years in prison. Al-Jazirah, a local daily newspaper, published a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef on its front page under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the state. A pro-government Twitter account posted images of those arrested with the word “traitor” splattered in red across their faces. Saudi Arabia does not permit any independent media to operate in the country.
Several of the detained activists are best known for campaigning against the ban on women driving and publicly advocating abolishing the male guardianship system, which gives men the authority to make a range of critical decisions on behalf of their female relatives. Their arrests come ahead of the anticipated lifting of a ban on women driving on June 24.
Saudi rights defenders said that in September 2017, the day the lifting of the ban was announced, officials working for the king’s office (also known as al-Diwan al-Malaki in Arabic) had phoned prominent activists, including some of those now detained, and warned them not to speak to the media.
Al-Yousef, 60, is a retired professor of computer science at King Saud University, and a leading activist in the longstanding campaign against the male guardianship system. Under this system, women need the permission of their male guardian – who may be their father, husband, brother, or even son – to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, or even leave prison.
Al-Nafjan, 39, is an assistant professor of linguistics at a university in Riyadh, and the author of a popular blog on Saudi society, culture, and women’s rights. She has written about women’s rights for numerous international media, including the New York Times and the Guardian. In 2013, al-Yousef and al-Nafjan protested the driving ban by filming as they drove by police stations in Riyadh and were both briefly detained.
Saudi authorities detained al-Hathloul, 28, in November 2014, as she attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates while live-streaming to bring international attention to the issue. She was held in a juvenile detention center for 73 days. She has built a significant social media following since then, with over 300,000 followers on Twitter, which has widespread popularity in Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad bin Salman has offered rhetorical support for women’s rights reforms, especially during his whirlwind public relations tour in the United States and Europe promoting business opportunities and promising “a return to moderate Islam.” During his interview with 60 Minutes on March 19, he said: “Saudi women still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don’t have. We have come a very long way and have a short way to go.”
Such reforms have so far been limited. In addition to planning to lift the driving ban, the authorities have allowed women to hold jobs previously closed to them, such as air traffic control, border control, and traffic police. However, the male guardianship system, the most serious impediment to women’s rights, remains largely intact.
In mid-September 2017, Saudi authorities arrested dozens of people, including prominent clerics and intellectuals, in what appeared to be a coordinated crackdown on dissent. Other Saudi activists and dissidents are serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism, including Waleed Abu al-Khair, Abdulaziz al-Shubaily, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-Hamid, Fadhil al-Manasif, Sulaiman al-Rashoodi, Abdulkareem al-Khodr, Fowzan al-Harbi, Raif Badawi, Saleh al-Ashwan, Abdulrahman al-Hamid, Zuhair Kutbi, Alaa Brinji, and Nadhir al-Majed.
“Every government that believed that the Saudi crown prince is a reformer and a champion for women should demand the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights activists,” Whitson said. “It’s not real reform if it takes place in a dystopia where rights activists are imprisoned, and freedom of expression exists just for those who publicly malign them.”
UN human rights experts* have called for the retrial of four men sentenced to death by a Bahraini military court in a collective trial that breached fair trial and due process guarantees and confessions obtained under torture.
They welcomed the news that the King of Bahrain commuted the death sentences to life in prison but deplored the imposition of the capital punishment in the first place. “The fact remains, that they should have never been convicted on the basis of flawed trials, let alone sentenced to death, and they still face life sentences,” they said.
The men, Mohamed AbdulHasan AlMutaghawi, Fadhel Sayed Radhi, Sayed Alawi Husain and Mubarak Adel Mubarak Mahanna, were sentenced to death by the Bahraini High Military Court on 25 December 2017 on charges of participating in a terrorist cell and attempting to assassinate Bahrain’s Defence Forces Commander-in-Chief. Two others facing the same charges were sentenced in absentia. All of them in addition had their citizenship revoked. They saw their appeals rejected by the Bahraini Military Court of Cassation on 25 April 2018.
Prior to their conviction, it is understood that the men were forcibly disappeared for several months, held in solitary confinement in small cells for a prolonged period and subjected to torture and ill-treatment to obtain confessions which were then used against them in court. They did not have access to legal representation until late in the trial proceedings and the court reportedly refused to investigate the defendants’ allegations of torture in custody.
“While welcoming the decision to annul the death sentences, we call on the authorities to ensure that the four men are retried in accordance with international law and standards“, the experts said. “The allegations of enforced disappearance and torture must be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated with a view to holding those responsible to account and preventing future similar occurrences.”
They further urged the King of Bahrain to pardon all other death sentences and ensure that all these and other pending capital punishment cases are retried in full respect of fair trial and due process guarantees in compliance with the treaty obligations the country has undertaken under the ICCPR and CAT.
“We also ask that the authorities reinstate the citizenship of all four men as well as that of all others that have been punished in the same manner in the same collective trial against established international human rights law and standards”, they added.
This was the first trial of civilians by a military court in Bahrain since 2011, after the King of Bahrain amended the constitution in 2017 to allow for the military trial of civilians. The UN experts called on the King of Bahrain to reverse the amendment.
The experts had previously sought clarifications from the Government on this case.
The human rights situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate in March 2018. 1668 serious human rights violations were observed between the 1st and 31st of March 2018, including arbitrary arrests, house raids, unfair trials, crackdown on peaceful protests, restrictions on freedom of movement, prohibition of Friday prayers, media materials that incite hate speech, enforced disappearance, torture, ill-treatment, injuries, destruction or confiscation of property and violation of freedom of religion and belief.
While the number of violations in March exceeded that of the previous month by 563 violations, the total violations were distributed as follows: 115 cases of arbitrary arrests; 42 cases of forced disappearances; 96 citizens received arbitrary sentences – the sum of which amounted to 599 years and 11 months in prison; 60 cases of torture and ill-treatment; 489 media materials that incite hate speech; 152 unlawful raids on houses and residential facilities; 86 crackdowns on peaceful gatherings and protests; 550 individuals who were arrested or accused were referred to court because of trials that violate freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; violation of freedom of movement by the continuation of the siege on Duraz area for 648 days and the imposition of house arrest on the highest religious authority for the Shiite Muslims in Bahrain, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, for 311 days without a judicial order or administrative decision; violation of freedom of religion and belief by prohibiting the Friday prayer in Duraz 5 times in March bringing the number of prohibitions to 90 times since 2016; 1 case of unlawful confiscation of property; and 10 cases of destruction of property.
In March, Bahrain witnessed 296 protests, while since the beginning of the year the number of protests has reached 1153 even though there has been a complete ban on peaceful assembly for 1277 days. The number of arbitrary arrests since the beginning of the year has reached 315. Since 2012, the nationalities of 579 citizens have been revoked for political reasons. Moreover, since the beginning of the year, there have been 358 illegal raids on homes and residential facilities. The total number of human rights violations that occurred in January, February and March are 3539.
Bahrain’s interior minister has threatened to crackdown on dissidents and activists who criticize the government online, Human Rights Watch said today.
Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, the interior minister, said on March 25, 2018, that the government was already tracking accounts that “departed from national norms, customs and traditions,” and threatened unspecified new legislation and heavy punishments against “violators.”
“No one can mistake the government’s latest assault on the shrinking space for dissent,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “A vow to punish those who ‘depart from national norms and customs’ is clearly aimed at anyone who criticizes the government’s policies.”
Bahraini authorities have gone after scores of activists, journalists, and photographers since nationwide anti-government protests in 2011. People targeted as dissenters have been harassed, imprisoned, ill-treated, arbitrarily stripped of their nationality, and forced into exile. The authorities have also prosecuted family members of activists in trials tainted by dubious terror-related charges and due-process concerns.
Human Rights Watch has documented how Bahraini authorities already actively police and punish online dissent, blocking numerous websites and publications, and arresting and harassing bloggers, journalists, and activists. The Bahrain Watch, a nongovernmental group, has reported that Bahraini authorities have used malicious links to determine who was behind certain social media accounts that they disapproved of.
One of Bahrain’s preeminent human rights defenders, Nabeel Rajab, is serving seven years in prison for speech crimes after two separate trials, in 2017 and 2018. In the latest trial, a court sentenced Rajab to five years in prison on February 21 for tweets that criticized the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen.
Since June 2011, 13 prominent dissidents have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including seven sentenced to life in prison. They include a leading long-term human rights advocate, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, and Hassan Mushaima, leader of the unrecognized opposition group Al Haq.
In May 2017, a Bahraini court dissolved the leading secular-left National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad). In June, the government ordered the suspension of Al Wasat, Bahrain’s only remaining independent newspaper.
In March 2017, a court sentenced Duaa Alwadaei, wife of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), to two months in prison in absentia for “insulting” a public official. And on October 30, a court sentenced three other relatives of Alwadaei – Sayed Nazar al-Wadaei, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, and Hajar Mansoor Hassan – to three years in prison on dubious terrorism related charges despite allegations of coerced confessions and other serious due process violations.
Sayed Nazar Alwadaei faces a total of 13 years in prison after additional convictions in two separate trials on dubious terrorism charges and sentences of three years and seven years.
The Bahrain Press Association (BahrainPA), a UK-based non-profit organization, reported that the Bahrain Cassation Court on March 27 upheld a 10-year prison sentence and stripping of citizenship for Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, a photographer, arrested in 2014 after covering anti-government protests. His father told Human Rights Watch at the time that interrogators questioned his son about his work, which included photographing the 2011 protests.
BFHR: The humanrights situation in Bahrain continued to deteriorate in February 2018. 1105serious human rights violations were observed between the 1st and 28thof February 2018, including arbitrary arrests, house raids, unfair trials, crackdown on peaceful protests, restrictions on freedom of movement, prohibition ofFriday prayers, media materials that incite hate speech, enforced disappearance, torture, ill-treatment, injuries, destruction or confiscation ofproperty and violation of freedom of religion and belief.
While thenumber of violations in February exceeded that of the previous month by 110violations, the total violations were distributed as follows: 83 cases ofarbitrary arrests; 31 cases of forced disappearances; 97 citizens receivedarbitrary sentences, including 10 death sentences that are between the stagesof appeal and cassation; 16 cases of torture and ill-treatment; 374 media materialsthat incite hate speech; 76 unlawful raids on houses and residential facilities;51 crackdowns on peaceful gatherings; 290 persons who were arrested or accused werereferred to court because of trials against freedom of expression and peacefulassembly; violation of freedom of movement by the continuation of the siege onDuraz area for 617 days and the imposition of house arrest on the highestreligious authority for the Shiite Muslims in Bahrain, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim,for 280 days without a judicial order or administrative decision; violation offreedom of religion and belief by prohibiting the Friday prayer in Duraz 4times in February bringing the number of prohibitions to 85 times since 2016;16 injuries due to the suppression of peaceful gatherings; 7 cases of unlawful confiscationof property; and 4 cases of destruction of property.
In February,Bahrain witnessed 513 protests, while since the beginning of the year thenumber of protests has reached 860 even though there has been a complete ban onpeaceful assembly for 1246 days. The number of arbitrary arrests since thebeginning of the year has reached 204. Since 2012, the nationalities of 580citizens have been revoked for political reasons. Moreover, since the beginningof the year, there have been 214 illegal raids on homes and residential facilities.The total number of human rights violations that occurred in January andFebruary are 2100.
The 7th of November 2012, was marked as the day when stripping of citizenships has emerged as one of the most disturbing methods used to silence dissent in Bahrain. That was when the Bahraini Minister of Interior revoked the nationality of 31 citizens, among them were clerics, former MPs, academics, journalists, human rights defenders, and members of civil society.
The numbers quickly escalated afterwards, as unrest is still ongoing. Until now, rights groups have counted a number of 578 Bahraini citizens whom citizenships were effectively revoked and are rendered stateless. Among them are 19 Shia clerics including three at ranks of Ayatollahs: Isa Qassim, Husain Najati, and Mohammed Sanad.
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights has launched today, the 23rd of February 2018: "Ana Bahraini" network in both Arabic (https://www.anabahraini.org/ar) and English (https://www.anabahraini.org) with the support of a number of human rights organizations, media platforms and research centers. The network is supported by: Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, Sentinel HRD, Bahrain Mirror and Bahrain Center for Studies in London.
“Citizenship is the most basic and fundamental right of every individual. One losing his/her nationality consists a social demise. One possession of citizenship should not be seen as privilege or reward for allegiance, and its revocation should not be wielded as a weapon of control and oppression. The citizenry is above government and absolutely not vice versa. Citizenship revocation only enhances the discretionary and arbitrary power of the executive authority” said Jawad Fairooz, President of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, also a former Bahraini MP whose nationality has been revoked.
“Ana Bahraini” network is interested in supporting and defending Bahrainis whose citizenships were arbitrarily revoked due to political and identity backgrounds.
The website gathers all relevant content, including lists of many of the affected persons, as well as the position of both the Bahraini government and the international community. The website also aims at creating a dedicated space for the cases of revoked citizenship in Bahrain and at publishing significant data, reports and news from various human rights organizations, media and research centers that could serve as references in both Arabic and English languages.
Organizers are seeking through this network to cooperate with all interested individuals or groups. Contact us on: email@example.com
The Bahrain High Criminal Court on February 21, 2018, sentenced the prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to five years in prison for criticizing torture in a Bahrain prison and Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today. The new sentence is in addition to the two-year sentence that Rajab is already serving on other charges related to peaceful expression.
“The new prison sentence for Nabeel Rajab is only the latest chapter in years of persecution and efforts to silence an activist solely for his efforts to sound the alarm on human rights abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Rajab should never have faced such charges or spent one day in prison for them.”
Authorities first arrested Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and deputy secretary general of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), on April 2, 2015, and filed charges based on his allegations on social media of torture in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison. Authorities released him provisionally on humanitarian grounds on July 13, 2015, but re-arrested him on June 13, 2016, for criticism in television interviews of the Bahraini authorities’ refusal to allow journalists and rights groups into the country.
This criticism led to a two-year prison term that a criminal court imposed in July 2017. The Court of Cassation upheld that sentence on January 15.
The new sentence is based on Rajab’s tweets on the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, which have killed thousands of civilians, and on alleged torture in Jaw Prison.
The BCHR reported that the Bahrain High Criminal Court had convicted Rajab based on article 133 of the Criminal Code for “disseminating false rumors in time of war”; Article 215 on “offending a foreign country” – in this case Saudi Arabia; and Article 216 for “insulting a statutory body,” based on comments to the media in March 2015 about alleged use of excessive force by security forces to quell unrest at Jaw Prison. Rajab can appeal this sentence.
Rajab, who also spent eight months in pretrial detention, appears at times to have been subjected to treatment that may amount to arbitrary punishment. He was held in solitary confinement for more than two weeks after his arrest in June 2016. Rajab’s health also deteriorated while in detention, his family has said. While in detention he has had several surgical procedures, suffered heart palpitations that led to hospitalization, and developed other medical conditions, including a low white blood cell count, his family said.
Rajab is a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory Committee.
The sentencing of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to five years in prison today for peacefully expressing his opinions online illustrates the Bahraini authorities’ utter contempt for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.
The sentence relates to posts on his Twitter account in 2015 as well as retweets about alleged torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison, and the killing of civilians in the Yemen conflict by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
“The conviction of Nabeel Rajab today is a slap in the face to justice. This sentence demonstrates the authorities’ ruthless determination to crush all forms of dissent and leaves no room for doubt about the extreme lengths to which they are willing to go to in order to silence peaceful critics,” said Heba Morayef, MENA Regional Director at Amnesty International.
“This shameful verdict must be quashed and the authorities must drop all pending charges and immediately release Nabeel Rajab. It is absolutely outrageous that he be forced to spend a further five years in jail simply for daring to voice his opinions online.”
Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been relentlessly harassed for his peaceful human rights work and has been in and out of prison since 2012 on various charges related to his peaceful activism. He has been banned from leaving Bahrain since November 2014.
Nabeel Rajab has been detained since June 2016 and is now serving a two-year prison sentence for TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016. The Court of Cassation in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, upheld his sentence on 15 January 2018, convicting him of “disseminating false news, statements and rumours about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status”.
On 4 September 2016, an open letter was printed under Nabeel Rajab’s name in the opinion pages of the New York Times which described the situation in Bahrain and his own trial, and urged the Obama administration to use its leverage to resolve the conflict in Yemen.
The next day, the public prosecution interrogated and charged Nabeel Rajab with “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of the state” in relation to the article. No trial date for this case has yet been set.
On 19 December 2016, an article was published in Nabeel Rajab’s name in Le Monde. Two days later, he was interrogated at the Criminal Investigation Directorate, accused of “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of Bahrain and the brotherly countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and an attempt to endanger their relations”. The case was referred to the public prosecution but it is unknown if he will be officially charged.
On 12 September 2017, the Terrorism Prosecution interrogated Nabeel Rajab in connection with comments and an image posted on social media accounts running in his name in January 2017. An image of the King of Bahrain with a Quranic verse asking whether he believed that “no one had power over him” was posted on an Instagram account in his name while comments on non-cooperation with national institutions and a call to protest against the January 2017 execution of three men were posted on his Twitter account. He denied the charges of “incitement to hatred against the regime”, “incitement to non-compliance with the law” and “spreading false news”. The case has yet to be referred to trial and could be activated at any time.
Arbitrary arrests, raids and restrictions on freedom of movement
121 cases of arbitrary arrest, including 6 children, were recorded,climaxing on January 23, 2018 and amounting to 44 unlawful arrests and 138 raids on houses and residential establishments that werecarried out without arrest warrants, and in a manner that spreads terror amongcitizens. In addition, the freedom of movement was violated through the continuationof the security siege on Duraz for 589 days and the imposition of house arreston the highest religious authority for the Shiite Muslims in Bahrain, AyatollahSheikh Isa Qassim, for 252 days without a judicial order or administrativedecision.
On January31, 2018, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim was transferred to the hospital after a13-day deliberate delay by the authorities, as he was scheduled for surgery onJanuary 18, 2018, therefore his rights to treatment and to freedom of movementwere violated.
Meanwhile,the security authorities continued to violate freedom of religion and belief bybanning Friday prayers at Duraz for 4 times in January, bringing the number to81 preventions since 2016. In addition, 200Bahraini citizens have been accused or arrested in the Public Prosecution andpresented to the Bahraini judiciary for reasons relating to freedom ofexpression and peaceful assembly.
Hate speech: 342 media materials
342 mediamaterials and messages that incite or help to incite hatred against humanrights defenders, political activists and Bahraini citizens were observedinJanuary. Those materials are divided into 89 media articles published in theofficial press and 253 materials published on social media by users thatinclude official and media figures, such as Assistant Undersecretary forInformation and Follow-up at the Prime Minister's Court, Ibrahim Al-Dosari,Ministry of Information Affairs’ adviser, Sawsan Al-Shaer, former MP MohammedKhaled, and journalists Faisal Al-Sheikh, Farid Hassan, Mona Mutawa and SaeedAl-Hamad.
The mediamaterials inciting hatred published in local press are as follows: 18 articlesin the Bahraini Al-Ayam newspaper, 25 articles in Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper, 13articles in the Bahraini Al-Bilad newspaper, and 33 articles in the BahrainiAl-Watan newspaper.
Torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and destruction ofproperty
18 cases oftorture and ill-treatment, which climaxed on January 14, 2018, were observed.The cases include four women and eight children – one of them an infant – who weresubjected to ill-treatment while attempting to enter the sieged area of Duraz. Inaddition, three children from Buri were also subjected to ill-treatment. Thedetained child, Sayed Hadi Ali Ne'ma from Iskan Aali and detainee Ammar AbdulGhani from Al-Daih were subjected to torture. Moreover, the right to treatmentand health care of Hasan Mushaima, Secretary General of the Movement for CivilLiberties and Democracy (HAQ), was violated. Moreover, 2 cases of destruction of property were observed onJanuary 24 and January 27, 2018. Also, 17 cases of enforced disappearance ofBahraini citizens were observed, including Ali Hussein Jassem who disappearedfor 45 days, Salman Ismail who disappeared for 40 days, Hussain Humaid Madanwho disappeared for 28 days, Mustafa Bahr who disappeared for 27 days, AbbasRahma who disappeared for 20 days and Mansour Al-Dulabi who disappeared for 20days.The cases of enforced disappearances were regionally distributed as follows:10 cases from Duraz, 3 cases from Nuwaidrat, and 1 case from each of Manama,Abu Saiba, Bilad Al-Qadeem, and Barbar.
In addition,77 Bahraini citizens were handed arbitrary sentences, whichclimaxed on the 24th and 29th of January, 2018, amountingto 24 cases. The total arbitrary sentences amounted to the following: 679 years of imprisonment, 3 years of imprisonment suspended forone year term, total fines of US $268,000, 39 sentences of revoking nationalities, and 10 sentences of deportingcitizens whose nationalities were revoked, four of them were deported before January1, 2018. In addition, the death sentence against Maher Al-Khabaz was upheld,even though four UN experts issued a report saying that he was subjected to tortureand ill-treatment. 2 death sentences were issued against Ali Al-Arab and AhmadAl- Mullali. Also, amongthose who were arbitraily imprisoned are 4 women.
The trial hearings,which violate the freedom of political action of Bahraini opposition leaderSheikh Ali Salman, as well as two former MPs of the Al-Wefaq parliamentarybloc, Sheikh Hassan Sultan and Ali Al-Aswad, continued.The fourth hearing washeld on January 4, 2018 and the fifth hearing on January 25, 2018. In the fifthhearing, Sheikh Ali Salman emphasizedthat the audio recordings which were usedas indictments for the charge of spying for Qatar are cut in a way thatdistorted their contents.
On January 16,2018, Bahrain's Court of Cassation upheld a two-year prison sentence againstNabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and DeputySecretary-General of the International Federation for Human Rights. A statementby the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said,“We are very worried about Nabeel's safety and well-being,”adding, “Authoritiesshould release him immediately, drop the charges against him, and investigatethoroughly his possible ill-treatment in detention.”
Appeals hearingsat the military judiciary for 17 civilians and one soldiercontinued to be held,in which civilian victims were tortured and ill-treated. Three appeals hearingswere held on January 10, 14 and 31, 2018, and the case was reserved until February21, 2018 without investigating the torture complaints which include 11violations: torture by electric shock, enforced disappearance, sleep andbathing deprivation, severe beatings and solitary confinement. On December 25, 2017,the military court sentenced five civilians and one soldier to death in thiscase, including human rights activist and head of Liberties and Human RightsDepartment at Al-Wefaq Society, Mohammed Al-Motaghawi, and the personal escortof Sheikh Isa Qassim, communications engineer Sayed Alawi Hussein.
Bahraini authorities have deported eight stateless Bahrainis, whom they had previously stripped of their citizenship, since January 29, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. The deportations followed an appeals court decision to uphold a 2012 ruling that ordered the deportation and stripping of citizenship of nine Bahraini nationals for “damaging state security.”
Since 2012, Bahraini authorities have stripped 578 nationals of their citizenship, leaving many stateless. In the most recent cases, on January 31, the Fourth High Criminal Court stripped 47 people of their citizenship on terrorism related charges, and on February 1 the same court stripped another 25 people of their citizenship. Bahrain should immediately put an end to these arbitrary deportations and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless or whose citizenship was revoked unfairly or arbitrarily, Human Rights Watch said.
“Bahraini authorities have dropped all pretense of pluralism and tolerance for dissent and are clearly stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Right Watch.
On January 24, the First High Court of Appeal upheld a November 7, 2012 ruling to strip citizenship from the nine people and to deport them, according to a news report citing their lawyer.
Authorities deported four of them to Najaf, Iraq – two brothers, Ibrahim and Ismail Darwish, on January 29, and Adnan Kamal and Habib Darwish on January 30, a human rights activist in Bahrain told Human Rights Watch. Due to concerns for their safety, the human rights activist requested to remain anonymous. Bahrain deported another four to Najaf on February 1: Abdulnabi al-Mosawi; his wife, Maryam Ibrahim; and his two brothers, Mohamed al-Mosawi and Abdulamir al-Mosawi. The ninth person, Adnan Ahmed Ali, was not in Bahrain when the judgment was delivered. The human rights activist said that Ali had agreed to voluntarily leave Bahrain for Iran some years ago.
These nine people were part of a larger group of 31 people, including opposition political activists, lawyers, and rights activists, whose citizenship an Interior Ministry decree revoked on November 7, 2012. The ministry based its decision on Article 10 (3) of the Bahraini Citizenship Act of 1963, claiming the 31 were “damaging the security of the state.” Only 18 of the 31 were in Bahrain at the time. Only an estimated five had dual citizenship, leaving the majority affected by the 2012 decision stateless.
The activist also told Human Rights Watch that the High Appeal Civil Court had moved up a session to consider the group’s appeals from December 31, 2017, to October 26 without informing the legal teams. Though the lawyers were not at the hearing and had no opportunity to present their cases, the court refused to rescind the order. The court action deprived the 31 people of their chance to exhaust all legal means to challenge the charges against them, the activist said. The Appeals Court used this decision in its ruling to uphold the deportation orders for the nine members of the group.
Since 2012, Bahrain’s courts have on several occasions issued mass sentences that included stripping of citizenship and prison terms. The 47 people stripped of citizenship on January 31 were among 60 the Fourth High Criminal Court sentenced that day on charges of forming a terrorist group.
Bahrain’s Supreme Court on January 29 also upheld a one-year prison sentence for Sheikh Isa Qassim, a Shiite spiritual leader of the now dissolved main opposition group al-Wefaq, and confirmed the revocation of his citizenship.
On July 24, 2014, Bahrain’s Official Gazette published amendments to the Citizenship Law of 1963. Article 10 permits the Interior Ministry, with cabinet approval, to strip the citizenship of a person who “aids or is involved in the service of a hostile state” or who “causes harm to the interests of the Kingdom or acts in a way that contravenes his duty of loyalty to it.” The July 2014 amendments to Bahrain’s citizenship laws grant the Interior Ministry additional authority to revoke the citizenship of people who fail in their “duty of loyalty” to the state.
Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality. Article 12 of the declaration states that, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” In 1999, the Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain has signed, stated that “The scope of ‘his own country’ is broader than the concept ‘country of his nationality,’” and that it would apply to people who have been stripped of their nationality in violation of international law.
Article 29 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Bahrain has ratified, states that “Every person has the right to a nationality, and no citizen shall be deprived of his nationality without a legally valid reason.”
“By slapping human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars with arbitrary citizenship revocations and deportations, Bahraini authorities are reducing courts to rubber-stamps on their quest to stifle dissent completely,” Whitson said.
Brothers Ismail and Ibrahim Darwish were expelled to Iraq at 09:00am on 28 January 2018, followed by Adnan Kamal and Habib Darwish on 29 January 2018. Four other people, Mohammed Ali, Abdul Amir, Abdulnabi Almosawi and his wife Maryam Redha, who also had their nationality revoked that same year, were told they would be forcibly deported to Iraq on 1 February 2018.
“The Bahraini government is using revocation of nationality – rendering many of its citizens stateless in the process - and expulsion, as tools to crush all forms of opposition, dissent and activism.” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director
“It is doing so with little to no pushback from the international community, including key allies such as the United Kingdom that could use their leverage to publicly condemn these actions,”
“Turning citizens into stateless people and banishing them by forcing them to leave the country is a violation of international law. Bahrain’s authorities must immediately halt all planned expulsions and allow those it has already expelled to return to the country and reinstate their nationality.”
The four men who were expelled are part of a group of 31 Bahraini citizens who were stripped of their nationality on 7 November 2012 on grounds that they had caused “damage to state security”. The 31 people, who were never officially notified of this decision and learned about it from the media, include activists who are now in exile, a lawyer, Shi’a clerics, two former members of parliament and other individuals with no political or religious affiliation.
Since 2011, the Bahraini authorities have revoked the nationality of over 550 people, including at least 150 in 2017.
Article 10 of the Bahrain Citizenship Law and its amendments stipulates that nationality can be revoked if a person engages in the military service of a foreign country; if a person helps or engages in the service of an enemy country; or if a person causes harm to state security.
This paragraph is framed too broadly and does not clearly define what could amount to “harm to state security” - thus enabling the state to crush the legitimate and peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly through revocation of nationality, even when doing so renders people stateless.
On 28 October 2014 a lower court in the capital, Manama, ordered the deportation of 10 out of the 31 people whose Bahraini nationality was arbitrarily revoked on 7 November 2012 and fined them 100 Bahraini Dinars.
On 29 January 2018, the Court of Cassation upheld the citizenship revocation and the one-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, of Sheikh Isa Qassem, the country’s most prominent Shi’a cleric and spiritual leader of the al-Wefaq opposition party, who is also now at risk of being forcibly expelled.
Bahrain’s preeminent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, is serving a two-year sentence for speech crimes, a punishment that a Manama appeals court upheld on January 15, 2018. Rajab faces an additional 15 years in a separate trial on charges that include tweets criticizing the Saudi-led military operation in Yemen. A Bahraini court in May dissolved the secular-left National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad) after the group condemned the January execution of three men. And in June, the government ordered the suspension of Al Wasat, Bahrain’s only independent newspaper.
“Bahrain’s tolerance for dissent is approaching vanishing point, erasing whatever progress it made after promising to make reforms following the unrest in 2011,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
In the 643-page World Report, its 28th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that political leaders willing to stand up for human rights principles showed that it is possible to limit authoritarian populist agendas. When combined with mobilized publics and effective multilateral actors, these leaders demonstrated that the rise of anti-rights governments is not inevitable.
Bahrain’s authorities placed 20 rights activists, lawyers, and political opposition figures under a de facto travel ban in September that prevented them from attending Geneva meetings in connection with Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
According to one human rights group, Bahraini authorities also stripped at least 156 citizens of their nationality in 2017, leaving them de facto stateless. Authorities also enacted a law that allows for the prosecution of civilians in military courts. In 2017, Bahraini courts sentenced to death a total of 14 people, including Sayed Alawi, a civilian engineer, who was one of six sentenced to death by a military court on December 25, 2017, for alleged terrorist activities.
Two relatives of Sayed Alwadaei, a human rights defender exiled in the United Kingdom, were sentenced to three years and another relative to six years in prison, on terrorism-related charges, despite due process violations and allegations of ill-treatment and of coerced confessions. It was not the first time that Bahraini authorities have targeted relatives to pressure or punish activists in exile.
The oversight bodies that the government set up in 2012 in response to a recommendation by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, failed to perform their stated mission of investigating credibly allegations of prison abuse.
Death or Confession": a report by human rights organizations monitors the torture of civilians in Bahrain's first military trial
Four Bahraini human rights organizations issued a report under the title of "Death or Confession", a report that monitors the violations due to secret military courts that tried civilians whose confessions were extracted under torture. These civilian were accused of attempting to commit crimes against Bahrain Defense Force, including human rights activist Mohammed Al Mutghawi and Sayed Alawi Husain, who is the personal attendant of the highest religious cleric in Bahrain Shaikh Isa Qassim.
It is important to note that this is now the first military trial for civilians since the recent legal amendment to the military judiciary.
The human rights organizations participating in drafting and writing of this report are: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said that "the trial violates fair trial procedures and that some of the accused were subjected to torture and ill-treatment". It added: "The recent constitutional amendment to the military judiciary was used to expose them to a trial that produces harsh sentences, as well as the arbitrariness of punitive sentences against three accused persons arrested as children", explaining that "two of the accused were forcibly disappeared around the year, namely Sayed Alawi Husain and Fadhel Abbas, without being investigated for their enforced disappearance.
The President of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Baqer Darwish, said that the "judiciary did not investigate the defendants' allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Military courts resorted to intimidating methods to threaten some of the families of victims and lawyers by exposing them to degrading treatment if violations were revealed on the media, or by human rights organizations". He also noted "In view of this, the judiciary has used the decision to secrecy of hearings to commit abuses and to enable those involved in torturing the accused with impunity".
Asma Darwish, the Head of International Relations in SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, pointed out that "the right to fair trials is an inherent right of any citizen anywhere and at any time, and no one has the right to violate such rights. incompatible with these inherent rights. Therefore, the decision to try citizens in military courts must be brought to an end because they do not conform to these inherent rights".
Yahya Al Hadid, President of the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, criticized the "role played by the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) by issuing a statement praising the proceedings of the case, while it did not mention in its statement on the 14th of November 2017 that the military judiciary is not the usual judge stipulated in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That means the NIHR is contributing to the legitimization of the role of the military judiciary in the trial of civilians in spite of its violations to the international Military Justice Law. It also did not have a clear position on the matter of the enforced disappearance of the four defendants".
The report recommended the repeal of the constitutional amendment and the restoration of Article 105 of the Bahraini Constitution as it was; to ensure that civilians are not tried in military courts and to repeal Law No. 12 of 2017 amending the Military Jurisdiction Law, which allowed civilians to be tried by military courts. That is to also open an independent investigation into all complaints of violations in this and other cases, concerning complaints of torture and ill-treatment.
The report also stressed that the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and the members of the Human Rights Council should urge the Government of Bahrain to adopt the basic principles on the independence and application of the judiciary. That is in order to ensure that the Government of Bahrain retracts the trial of civilians in military courts and amends the law. It also urges the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to request a visit to Bahrain and to call on the Bahraini authorities to accept the request for his visit.
To read the report click here
Reuters: Bahrain's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric underwent surgery on Friday, activists said, after he was hospitalized following months under virtual house arrest.
Qassim, who is believed to be in his 70s, was suffering constant pain and excreting blood, citing a groin hernia, diabetes and a form of heart disease, the group said on Nov 27.
DJIBOUTI (Reuters) - Late last year, the Kota Nazar, a Singaporean ship with 636 containers of steel, paper, medicine and other goods, set sail to Hodeida, the largest cargo port in war-torn Yemen.
It never got there. Like dozens of other ships carrying food and supplies to Yemen over the past 30 months, the Kota Nazar was stopped by a Saudi Arabian warship blocking Yemen’s ports on the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been stationing naval forces in and around Yemeni waters since 2015. Western governments approved the show of military force as a way to stop arms reaching Houthi fighters trying to overthrow Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
The de facto blockade is exacting a dire humanitarian toll. The Saudi-led coalition’s ships are preventing essential supplies from entering Yemen, even in cases where vessels are carrying no weapons, according to previously unreported port records, a confidential United Nations report and interviews with humanitarian agencies and shipping lines.
A U.N. system set up in May 2016 to ease delivery of commercial goods through the blockade has failed to ensure the Yemeni people get the supplies they need.
The result is the effective isolation of Yemen, a nation of 28 million people where a quarter of the population is starving, according to the United Nations. The war has claimed 10,000 lives. Half a million children under the age of five are severely malnourished, and at least 2,135 people, most of them children, have died of cholera in the past six months.
Aid agencies have ramped up their deliveries of food to some parts of Yemen this year. But Yemen imports more than 85 percent of its food and medicine, and commercial shipments have plunged. In the first eight months of this year, only 21 container ships sailed to Hodeida, according to port data compiled by the U.N. World Food Programme and Reuters. By comparison, 54 container ships delivered twice the volume of goods in the same period last year. Before the war, 129 container ships reached the port in the first eight months of 2014.
Food and medicine are being choked off. No commercial shipment of pharmaceuticals has made its way to Hodeida since a Saudi-led airstrike destroyed the port’s industrial cranes in August 2015, according to the administrator of the port, which is under Houthi control. In at least one case this year, a blocked commercial shipment contained humanitarian aid as well.
Representatives of the Houthi movement could not be reached for comment. Yemeni government officials declined to comment.
Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the U.N., denied last week that the coalition was blocking commercial shipments of food, medicine and fuel. Mouallimi said Yemen was receiving humanitarian aid.
”I can assure you that no shipment of humanitarian aid is being prevented from reaching Yemen by the coalition or for that matter by the Yemeni government. We have given clearance to all such requests for docking by any ship that carries humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.
“We are the largest contributor of aid to the people of Yemen so it doesn’t make sense for us to, on the one hand, be providing that aid and, on the other hand, be blocking it somewhere else.”
In the cases of the Kota Nazar and 12 other ships examined in detail by Reuters, the Saudi-led blockade turned away or severely delayed vessels carrying aid and commercial goods before they reached Yemeni ports even though the United Nations had cleared the cargo and there were no arms aboard. Seven of those vessels were carrying medicine and food in addition to other supplies.
Aid shipments are caught in the net. One of the seven vessels was carrying antibiotics, surgical equipment and medication for cholera and malaria for 300,000 people. The shipment was held up for three months, during which $20,000 worth of medicine was damaged or expired, according to U.K.-based aid group Save the Children.
In July, four oil tankers carrying 71,000 tonnes of fuel, equivalent to 10 percent of Yemen’s monthly fuel needs, were denied entry. Two were allowed in after five weeks, port records show.
In a report published last month, Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi-led coalition “arbitrarily diverted or delayed” seven fuel tankers headed to Houthi-controlled ports between May and September this year. In one case, a vessel was held in a Saudi port for more than five months, the group said.
Early this summer, Yemen’s internationally recognized government notified the United Nations that it had closed a rebel-held oil port due to its “illegal status” and “damage to the marine environment.”
The government is also diverting all vessels carrying cement and iron to the Yemeni port of Aden, which is under its control, according to the U.N.
As a result of the blockade, there have been no commercial flights to Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, since last summer. And two of the world’s biggest container shipping lines — Swiss-based MSC and Singapore-based PIL — stopped sailing to Houthi-held ports in early 2017, because of the delays and dangers involved. PIL has not yet resumed services.
In a confidential report submitted to the Security Council in April, U.N. investigators detailed many of the delays ships have faced getting through the blockade. In one case, a shipping company’s vessels waited 396 days to dock at Hodeida, incurring $5.5 million in fuel and refrigeration costs. The U.N. report also said that the coalition of Saudi Arabia and its allies takes an average of 10 days to grant vessels permission to dock at Hodeida even when the vessels are not delayed.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which oversees the U.N.’s clearance system, disputed the World Food Programme’s and Reuters’ count of container cargo delivered to Hodeida port.
In a statement to Reuters, UNOPS said its system, called the U.N. Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM), has cleared vessels to deliver nearly 10 million tonnes of food, fuel and general cargo to Yemen over the past 16 months. UNOPS did not provide evidence for the figure. It also did not specify how many of the ships it cleared were later stopped, delayed or rerouted by the Saudi-led coalition. UNOPS also said that events that transpire in international waters are beyond its remit.
“UNVIM has contributed to meeting the challenges of the current humanitarian crisis as much as possible by making basic commodities available in the Yemeni market,” the U.N. said in a statement.
In at least two private correspondences with U.N. member states and aid agencies this year, UNVIM officials voiced frustration that the Saudi-led coalition stopped or delayed vessels they had cleared. One internal UNVIM report from March said the coalition had delayed six vessels, which were later granted access “after continuous liaison and effort.”
The Saudi coalition isn’t the sole reason for the plunge in imports to Yemen. Foreign banks have cut credit lines to businesses because of concerns about being repaid and difficulties with processing transactions. The Yemeni central bank’s activities have been paralyzed over a tussle between the internationally recognized government and the Houthi fighters.
It is difficult to assess precisely the cumulative commercial and humanitarian effects of the blockade on Yemen. Many parts of the country are inaccessible to relief groups and reporters. Yet the U.N. has warned for more than two years that Yemen is a step away from famine. The World Food Programme estimates that the number of people needing aid has risen to 20 million this year, or more than two-thirds of the population, compared with 17 million in 2016.
Yemen is starving because it is a battleground in a political struggle in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia and its allies entered the war in Yemen to counter Houthi fighters, a Shi‘ite group backed by Iran.
Western nations, at odds with Tehran over its nuclear program, supported the Saudi-led intervention by helping coordinate airstrikes and refueling Saudi warplanes. The U.N. Security Council effectively supported Riyadh by imposing an arms embargo on the Houthi fighters; it said Yemen-bound vessels could be inspected if there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect they were carrying arms.
Riyadh has never formally drawn a line beyond which ships are not allowed to sail. It has not published a list of goods and materials covered by its restrictions. But it says it has the right “to take all appropriate measures to counter the threats” from Iran-backed rebels. A senior official with Iran’s foreign ministry denied allegations that his country provides financial and military support for Houthis in Yemen.
“Yemen is a catastrophic case. It is the man-made conflict that is driving hunger and driving the conditions for famine. Simple as that,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. “If we end the war, we will end the starvation.”
Some in the United States are beginning to criticize the blockade. Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana, a member of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, said Saudi Arabia might be violating humanitarian laws because it has impeded the flow of needed goods to Yemen.
“I do not suggest that the Saudis share all of the blame for this,” he said, referring to the nine countries in the Saudi-led coalition. “But they share a significant portion of it.”
International aid groups grew concerned about the effects of the Saudi blockade in early 2015, shortly after the Saudi-led coalition, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Senegal, entered Yemen’s civil war. Container shipments to Hodeida in 2015 fell to about 40 percent of their pre-war volume.
That summer, the U.N. issued the first of its many warnings that famine was possible in Yemen. Behind the scenes, the U.N. tried to convince Riyadh and its allies to let it inspect ships.
In early September 2015, the U.N. said it had reached a deal with the Yemeni government and the coalition to set up an inspection system that would facilitate the passage of goods to Yemen. The system, UNVIM, would be headquartered in Djibouti, the U.N. said. It took eight more months to secure the $8 million it needed to start operations.
When UNVIM was started in May 2016, its stated goal was “to restore trust among the shipping community” that there would be no unexpected and costly delays to shipments headed for Yemen.
Since then, all commercial vessels sailing to Yemen’s Houthi-held ports have had to submit an application to the U.N., complete with their cargo manifests and lists of their last ports of call. The U.N. reviews the applications and checks if the vessels have called at suspect ports or have turned off their transponders for more than a few hours - a common trick of smugglers seeking to avoid tracking. Occasionally, UNVIM’s contractors inspect the vessels.
UNVIM does not verify or inspect aid shipments unless they are mingled with commercial goods. Vessels fully chartered by aid agencies go through a different process: They directly obtain sailing rights from Riyadh. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of aid must make its way to Yemen aboard commercial vessels.
In the last 16 months, UNVIM has processed 685 clearances and granted vessels the right to sail to Houthi-held ports about 80 percent of the time. These vessels delivered nearly 5 million tonnes of food, 2 million tonnes of fuel and 2.5 million tonnes of general cargo, the U.N. told Reuters.
But even after the U.N. grants clearances, all commercial ships have to get approval from a Saudi-managed warship stationed 61 km west of Hodeida port.
This has proven difficult. Because the vessels are anchored in international waters, UNVIM can only coordinate with regional parties, including the coalition, to facilitate vessels’ access to the ports, the U.N. said in its statement. The rest of the process is up to local port authorities, it said.
The Kota Nazar, for example, had obtained U.N. clearance to sail to Hodeida in late December. But naval officers from the Saudi warship stopped and boarded it.
The officers suspected that the ship carried concealed Iranian arms destined for the Houthi fighters. They ordered the Kota Nazar back to Djibouti, its previous stop. There, the vessel’s crew offloaded 62 containers the coalition deemed suspicious, allowing the ship to set sail again for Hodeida in January.
Then the Saudi-led coalition insisted on another inspection. Three days later, the U.N. ordered the vessel to sail to Jizan, Saudi Arabia. In Jizan, local authorities and two U.N. inspectors offloaded every container aboard the vessel and X-rayed them. They held back 27 containers with cargo they said could be used in the Yemeni military conflict. The contents included bullet-cartridge belts, as well as iron pipes, welding electrodes, motorcycle parts and other manufactured goods.
Saudi authorities should immediately clarify whether they have imposed movement restrictions on former crown prince Mohammad bin Nayef, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair.
A June 28, 2017 New York Times report quotes former and current US officials saying that following King Salman’s elevation of his son, Mohammad bin Salman, to crown prince on June 21, authorities subjected Mohammad bin Nayef to house arrest and banned him from travel abroad.
“Reports that Mohammad Bin Nayef is under a travel ban and home detention without due process are bitterly ironic given his role in imposing similar arbitrary restrictions on thousands of Saudis,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Saudi government needs to call a halt to officials’ arbitrary abuses of power.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry should clarify whether authorities have restricted Prince Mohammad’s freedom of movement inside Saudi Arabia, and whether he is under a travel ban, and if so, clarify the legal basis for the restrictions, Human Rights Watch said.
The Bahraini authorities’ decision to bring terrorism charges against Ebtissam al-Saegh, a human rights defender detained since 3 July 2017, is a chilling blow to human rights in the country, said Amnesty International.
“Ebtisam al-Saegh is a prisoner of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released. Her only ‘crime’, is her bravery in challenging the government’s appalling human rights record. By charging her with terrorism for her work on human rights, the Bahraini government is itself attempting to intimidate and silence civil society in Bahrain,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty International.
“Amnesty International has strong reasons to believe that Ebtisam al-Saegh is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. When she was arrested in May 2017 she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the National Security Agency. We are deeply concerned for her well-being.
“There must be public outcry over the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. The silence of the UK government, which continues to insist that Bahrain is on a path to human rights reform, is deafening and shameful, and appears to have played a part in emboldening the Bahraini government to commit more human rights violations.”
A group of United Nations experts has expressed, on Tuesday July 18, 2017, deep concern at the alleged arbitrary detention of Bahraini human rights defender Ebtisam Alsaegh amid reports she has been tortured and sexually abused and is now on hunger strike.
“Ms. Alsaegh has been denied her fundamental right to due process from the very moment of her arrest to this day,” the experts said. “We are very worried at information that her health has dramatically deteriorated in the last few days.”
According to reports received by the experts, Ms. Alsaegh was detained on 4 July when Bahraini security forces raided her home. She is reportedly being held in solitary confinement at Isa Town women’s prison, and is being transported daily to an unknown location where she is interrogated for up to 14 hours without access to a lawyer.
Previous to her detention, on 26 May, Ms. Alsaegh was subjected to a seven-hour interrogation by officers of the National Security Agency, during which she was kept blindfolded and forced to stand up, while reportedly being beaten all over her body and sexually assaulted.
“We express the gravest concern at these allegations of torture and ill-treatment suffered by Ms. Alsaegh and we fear that she may be currently subjected to further acts of torture,” the experts said.
“The use or incitement of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is absolutely prohibited, under all circumstances.”
The experts called upon the Government of Bahrain to strictly abide by its obligations under international human rights law.
“The Bahraini authorities have a duty to investigate all allegations of human rights violations committed against Ms. Alsaegh, including torture by security forces during interrogations, and to prevent their re-occurrence,” they emphasized.
Ms. Alsaegh’s alleged treatment comes amid an ongoing campaign of attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders and political activists in Bahrain.
“We reiterate our serious concerns regarding the wider context of a general crackdown and mounting pressure exerted on civil society and dissidents in Bahrain, the ongoing prosecution and punishment of human rights defenders, and especially intimidation and reprisals against people who have cooperated with UN human rights mechanisms,” the experts underscored.
The Saudi Arabian government is employing the death penalty as a political weapon to silence dissent, said Amnesty International, following the execution of four Shi’a men in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on 11 July.
Yussuf Ali al-Mushaikass, a father of two, was executed along with three other men, for terror-related offences in connection with their participation in anti-government protests in the Shi’a majority Eastern Province between 2011 and 2012. He was convicted of offences that included “armed rebellion against the ruler”, “destabilizing security and stirring sedition by joining a terrorist group”, “firing at a police station in Awamiyya twice, resulting in the injury of a policeman” and “participating in riots”. Yussuf al-Mushaikass’ family were reportedly not informed of the execution in advance, only finding out about it afterwards when they saw a government statement read on TV.
“These brutal executions are the latest act in the Saudi Arabian authorities’ ongoing persecution of the Shi’a minority. The death penalty is being deployed as a political weapon to punish them for daring to protest against their treatment and to cow others into silence,” said Lynn Maalouf, Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut office.
“Yussuf al-Mushaikass was convicted following a grossly unfair trial which hinged largely on a ‘confession’ obtained through torture. The international community must come down hard on Saudi Arabia to ensure that others currently facing execution after deeply flawed legal proceedings do not meet the same fate. Saudi Arabia should quash their death sentences and establish an official moratorium on executions.”
“The Saudi Arabian government is showing no signs of letting up in its use of the death penalty and has employed it vigorously since the traditional pause for Ramadan,” said Lynn Maalouf.
“The death penalty continues to be used in violation of international human rights law and standards on a massive scale, and often after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated.”
To read the full article, click here.
The isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is precipitating serious human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said in a statement released on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.
It is infringing on the right to free expression, separating families, interrupting medical care – in one case forcing a child to miss a scheduled brain surgery, interrupting education, and stranding migrant workers without food or water. Travel to and from Qatar is restricted, and the land border with Saudi Arabia is closed.
“Gulf autocrats’ political disputes are violating the rights of peaceful Gulf residents who were living their lives and caring for their families,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Hundreds of Saudis, Bahrainis, and Emiratis have been forced into the impossible situation of either disregarding their countries’ orders or leaving behind their families and jobs.”
"Gulf countries need to take a step back and see the harm they are doing to their own citizens,” Whitson said. "Gulf countries should put people’s well-being before their harmful power games.”
The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in Middle East and North Africa said, in a statement released on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, that the arrest of human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh is another example of what women human rights defenders go through, noting that Bahrain authorities’ acts against Al Saegh are a vengeful response to Al Saegh’s work.
The coalition noted that the arrest of Ebtisam Al Saegh comes after a month of her documenting what she went through (torture, sexual and physical assault) which put her in danger of going through that again, especially that Bahrain have promoted a campaign against human rights defenders in the past few months.
The coalition called on the authorities in Bahrain to release Ebtisam al Saegh immediately and unconditionally, and to put a final end to harassments against her, including threatening her family members.
The coalition also reminded Bahrain’s government that the arrest of Ebtisam Al Saegh violates its commitment to human rights laws and international treaties, agreements and conventions it previously ratified.
It concluded that the arrest of WHRD Ebtisam Al Saegh is nothing but a clear attack on those who remain peacefully seeking ways to implement democracy and protecting human rights in Bahrain, “and we should defend them and demand their freedom.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Bahraini government, in a statement released on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, to lift its ban on the country’s only independent media outlet, the Arabic-language daily Al Wasat, which is still closed a month being suspende “until further notice” by the information ministry on 4 June. It was forced to lay off all its employees (about 160) at the end of June.
“Al Wasat was suspended on 4 June for no good reason,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “This suspension ‘until further notice’ constitutes an unprecedented act of censorship and means the end of independent journalism in Bahrain. We call on information minister Ali Al-Rumaihi to rescind this disgraceful decision and to do everything possible to help the newspaper to resume operating.”
With at least 14 journalists and citizen-journalists currently detained, the Kingdom of Bahrain is one of the Middle East’s biggest prisons for journalists. It is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
Amnesty International called on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, the Bahraini authorities to release human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh who was arrested on the night of 3 July 2017.
“The Bahraini authorities must immediately and unconditionally release al-Saegh whose only crime is speaking up against a government committed to crushing all forms of dissent,” Samah Hadid, Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International in the Middle-East said.
“We are deeply concerned about Ebtisam’s wellbeing. When she was arrested in May 2017, she was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the Bahraini National Security Agency. Bahraini authorities have failed to investigate those claims and we fear that she is at high risk of torture as long as she remains in custody.”
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned, in a report released on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, the refusal of Bahraini government to lift a ban on Al Wasat newspaper which led to its closure this week.
The Federation, which represents 180 journalists unions and associations globally, also called on “the Bahraini government to stop its policy of curtailing diversity in Bahraini media and intimidating independent journalists”.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We strongly condemn the refusal of the Bahraini government to lift the ban on Al Wasat newspaper which has forced its closure. The government must be held responsible for the loss of these jobs and the further narrowing of the space for independent journalism”.
Following an Associated Press investigation alleging that United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its allied Yemeni security forces are arbitrarily detaining and torturing detainees, who are also being interrogated by US forces in a network of secret prisons across Southern Yemen, Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research at Amnesty International in the Middle East said that “a UN-led investigation must immediately be launched into the UAE’s and other parties’ role in setting up this horrific network of torture.”
In a statement released on Thursday, June 29, 2017, Maalouf stressed that thousands of Yemeni men have disappeared in those networks. “Enforced disappearance and torture are crimes under international law,” she highlighted. “They must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.”
“Allegations about US forces taking part in interrogations of detainees or receiving information that may have been obtained through torture must also be immediately investigated, as the US may be complicit in crimes under international law. Also, given the UAE’s practice of torture domestically, which Amnesty International has consistently documented in the past, it would be a stretch to believe the US did not know or could not have known that there was a real risk of torture,” Maalouf pointed out.
“The UAE is obliged to uphold the UN convention against torture which it became a state party to in 2012. As a signatory to the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UAE must also refrain from acts that defeat the Treaty’s purpose, which includes reducing human suffering.”
“Furthermore, the USA as well as European countries must immediately halt arms transfers to the UAE given the high likelihood those arms could be used to facilitate enforced disappearances, torture or serious violations of international humanitarian law. Otherwise, arms suppliers could be complicit in war crimes.”
The UAE supports Yemeni forces that have arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and abused dozens of people during security operations, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released on Thursday, May 22, 2017.
According to the international watchdog, the UAE finances, arms, and trains these forces, which ostensibly are going after Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The UAE also runs at least two informal detention facilities, and its officials appear to have ordered the continued detention of people despite release orders, and forcibly disappeared people, including reportedly moving high-profile detainees outside the country.
“You don’t effectively fight extremist groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS by disappearing dozens of young men and constantly adding to the number of families with ‘missing’ loved ones in Yemen,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The UAE and its partners should place protecting detainee rights at the center of their security campaigns if they care about Yemen’s long-term stability.”
Thousands of people in the Gulf face the prospect of their lives being further disrupted and their families torn apart as new arbitrary measures announced by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the context of their dispute with Qatar are due to come into force from today, said Amnesty International.
The three Gulf states had given their citizens the deadline of 19 June to leave Qatar and return to their respective countries or face fines and other unspecified consequences. They had given Qatari nationals the same deadline to leave Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE and have refused entry to Qatari nationals since 5 June.
“The situation that people across the Gulf have been placed in shows utter contempt for human dignity. This arbitrary deadline has caused widespread uncertainty and dread amongst thousands of people who fear they will be separated from their loved ones,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme.
“With these measures, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have needlessly put mixed-nationality families at the heart of a political crisis.”
“They should immediately cancel this sinister arbitrary deadline, otherwise thousands of families risk being torn apart, with others losing their jobs or the opportunity to continue their education. People undergoing medical treatment are being made to choose between continuing their treatment or complying with the overly broad and harsh measures announced by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.”
“It is unthinkable that states can so blatantly infringe on the right to freedom of expression. Citizens have the right to express views and concerns about their governments, as well as feelings of sympathy towards others,” said James Lynch.
Bahraini authorities on June 4, 2017, ordered the immediate indefinite suspension of Al Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Sunday, June 18, 2017. The Bahrain authorities should immediately revoke the order, the international watchdog stressed, while noting that Al Wasat is one of the very few independent news sites in the entire Gulf region.
“A newspaper in Bahrain should be able to comment on and criticize the authorities in Morocco or anywhere in the world,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Shutting down Al Wasat is a prime example of Bahraini authorities’ complete intolerance of any kind of independent expression.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Al Wasat’s suspension is a violation of the right to freedom of expression and an attack on media freedom. It also appears to violate article 28 of Bahrain’s 2002 press law – Decree No. 47 for 2002 – which states that a court order is required to close or suspend a newspaper.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appear to be violating people's human rights by threatening to jail or fine them for expressing sympathy for Qatar, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The four states, which have branded dozens of people and entities with alleged links to Qatar as terrorists, must respect citizens' rights, Zeid said.
"It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation, and have the potential to seriously disrupt the lives of thousands of women, children and men, simply because they belong to one of the nationalities involved in the dispute," Zeid said in a statement.
He said directives issued by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to address the humanitarian needs of families with joint nationalities appeared to be inadequate, and his office had received reports of specific individuals being ordered to return home or to leave the country they are residing in.
"Among those likely to be badly affected are couples in mixed marriages, and their children; people with jobs or businesses based in States other than that of their nationality; and students studying in another country," he said.
"I am also extremely troubled to hear that the UAE and Bahrain are threatening to jail and fine people who express sympathy for Qatar or opposition to their own governments’ actions, as this would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion."
Arab countries engaged in a dispute with Qatar have shut down media outlets with links to or considered sympathetic to the Qatari government, Human Rights Watch said in a statement released on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The action is a violation of freedom of expression, HRW noted. The countries involved include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have also threatened criminal sanctions under existing laws against people who criticize the actions these governments have taken against Qatar and its citizens or who have expressed sympathy toward Qatar.
“Individuals have a right to express a variety of perspectives on current events,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments don’t have the right to close down media outlets and criminalize speech to shut out criticism they find uncomfortable.”
Authorities should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression. International law on freedom of speech prohibits the banning of peaceful criticism of governments, and crimes such as insulting the president or state authorities.
“The media need protection from political interference, not official muzzling,” Whitson said. “The offending governments should demonstrate they understand and respect the role of media outlets, even those they don’t agree with.”
Amnesty International called on, in a report released on Monday, June 12, 2017, the Bahraini authorities to put an end to the continuous harassment and targeting of the family of human rights activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who resides in the United Kingdom (UK), which Amnesty International believes is an attempt to force him to halt his peaceful activities and muzzle him from afar.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD). His brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, 18, his mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, 48, and a cousin, Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor, 29, are on trial in Bahrain accused of planting “fake bombs” which the police found in Sheikh Zayed Street and near the al-Mayoof roundabout, in al-Aali area, southwest of the capital, Manama, on 20 and 28 January 2017 respectively. According to Amnesty, all three were forced to “confess”.
Amnesty International called for the charges against Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, Hajer Mansoor Hassan and Mahmood Marzooq Mansoor to be dropped as they are based solely on “confessions” extracted as a result of torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International believes that these trials are part of the ongoing campaign waged by the Bahraini authorities to silence dissenting and critical voices, including those abroad.
On the first anniversary of the detention of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, 15 human rights organizations signed a letter addressed to the UN Member and Observer States to call on the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately.
The undersigned expressed their deep concern over the continued detention of Rajab, on the first anniversary of his arrest. “We urge you to call for his immediate release and for all charges against him to be dropped,” the letter read.
Nabeel Rajab was arrested on 13 June 2016. He remains detained despite a court order to release him on 28 December 2016. He faces three separate legal cases, the trials for two of which have been postponed 23 times. In all cases, Rajab is being prosecuted for exercising his right to freedom of expression and faces up to a total of 18 years behind bars.
“We are particularly concerned about Rajab’s health, which continues to deteriorate due to poor conditions and mistreatment,” the undersigned pointed out. On Wednesday, 5 April 2017, Rajab underwent major surgery at a military hospital. Against medical advice, he was returned to his cell at East Riffa Police Station two days later. The following day he was rushed to the police clinic for emergency treatment. On 7 June, he underwent minor surgery. Rajab’s health prevents him from attending his court hearings. The presiding judge has refused all requests submitted by his lawyers to release him on bail, despite the length of his detention period in solitary confinement and clear evidence about the deteriorating condition of his health.
Urgent international pressure for Nabeel Rajab’s release is needed, the letter highlighted. “We urge your delegation to call on Bahrain to end the unlawful detainment of Nabeel Rajab and to release him immediately and unconditionally.”
The undersigned NGOs include: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, CIVICUS, English PEN, European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, IFEX, Index on Censorship, PEN International, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying peoples’ livelihoods and education, Amnesty International said in a report released on Friday, June 9, 2017.
“For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme, who was in Doha last week.
“These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives. People from across the region – not only from Qatar, but also from the states implementing these measures – risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted. All the states involved in this dispute must ensure their actions do not lead to human rights violations. ”
While Amnesty International said it takes no view on the political dispute itself, which also involves other countries including Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, the organization expressed serious concerns about the impact of some of these steps on the rights to family life and education.
In a fresh blow to freedom of expression in the Gulf, people in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and UAE have also been threatened with harsh punishment if they dare to criticize these measures, Amnesty noted.
According to the organization, people with relations from other Gulf States are particularly at risk. Amnesty International has documented several cases of people cut off from parents, children and spouses as a result.
Residents in Saudi Arabia, UAE or Bahrain have been warned they could face harsh penalties if they make comments in support of Qatar. “These statements from governments with a record of repressing peaceful expression are a flagrant attempt to silence criticism of these arbitrary policies. Prosecuting anyone on this basis would be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression. No one should be punished for peacefully expressing their views or criticizing a government decision,” said James Lynch.
There are also concerns that migrant workers employed by Qatari nationals to look after their properties in Saudi Arabia may find themselves stranded, unable to return to Qatar where they have residence permits – and becoming undocumented in the process, at risk of exploitation or arrest and deportation. Amnesty International has spoken to workers in this situation, who have little information about what might happen to them.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states must protect any workers employed by Qatari nationals, including by facilitating the safe return of those who wish to return to their home countries or assisting those who wish to return to Qatar, Amnesty went on to say.
“Political disputes between states must be handled in a manner that respects human rights. There can be no justification for tearing families apart, suppressing peaceful expression, and leaving migrant workers abandoned and at risk. Arbitrary measures should be suspended immediately,” concluded James Lynch.
Top press freedom organizations and local Bahraini groups raised alarm, in a letter they addressed to ten countries including the UK, over the suspension of Bahrain’s only independent newspaper, Al Wasat, which has been barred from publishing for four days now.
The letter, signed by Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Article 19, Index on Censorship, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and ten others, state Bahrain is “effectively silencing the media in Bahrain and violating the right to freedom of expression.”
The letter is addressed to the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Italy and France – who all have embassies in Bahrain – as well as Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the European Union. It urges them to “publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to allow Al Wasat to resume publication immediately.”
The letter notes that Al Wasat’s suspension is the latest in a recent spate of reprisals against independent media and civil society actors, including journalists, writers, and human rights defenders. “In this context, journalists in Bahrain have expressed to NGOs serious concerns that the newspaper will not be allowed to resume publication”, the letter continues.
According to the letter, the suspension of Al Wasat muzzles the media, unduly restricting the right to freedom of expression and opinion. “As the only independent newspaper in Bahrain, its suspension removes a key voice for public discourse and denies the public the right to access information and diverse views,” the letter stated. “In the context of current, severe human rights violations occurring in Bahrain, calls for the resumption of the only independent newspaper and the respect for freedom of expression and opinion urgently need to be heard and acted on.”
Saudi Arabia should immediately quash the death sentences of 14 members of the Shia community for protest-related crimes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
The Court of Appeal of the notorious Specialized Criminal Court upheld the sentences in May 2017, after they were handed down a year ago on June 1, 2016, following a grossly unfair trial of 24 Saudi Shia citizens. The Specialized Criminal Court is Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism tribunal.
“The rise in death sentences against Saudi Arabian Shia is alarming and suggests that the authorities are using the death penalty to settle scores and crush dissent under the guise of combating ‘terrorism’ and maintaining national security,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The sham court proceedings that led to death sentences for 38 Shia men and boys brazenly flout international fair trial standards,” said Lynn Maalouf, director of research at Amnesty International in the Middle East. “The sentences should immediately be quashed.”
“Death sentences based on coerced ‘confessions’ violate international human rights law and are a repugnant yet all-too-common outcome in security-related cases in Saudi Arabia,” Maalouf said. “These death penalty trials fail to meet even the most basic requirements for due process.”
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment and unique in its finality. It is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.
Bahraini authorities should revoke an order barring the independent news outlet Al-Wasat from publishing and stop harassing the newspaper and its journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday, June 5, 2017.
"Al-Wasat has long been the scapegoat for a government fearful of allowing a free press," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "This ban should be lifted immediately."
Last month, CPJ joined several news agencies and press freedom organizations in calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to allow journalists to operate freely in the country. The call is in response to Bahraini authorities denying entry to a German journalist involved in a documentary critical of the country's human rights record and authorities questioning three Bahraini journalists, including an Al-Wasat staff writer, about social media posts and a protest.
Responding to news about the re-arrest of Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul at King Fahad International Airport in Dammam in Saudi Arabia on 4 June, Samah Hadid Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle–East said that “the Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain al-Hathloul is absurd and unjustifiable.”
“It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women's rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom,” Hadid highlighted. “If so she must be immediately and unconditionally released,” she added.
“Instead of upholding its promise of a more tolerant Saudi Arabia, the government has again shattered any notion that it is genuinely committed to upholding equality and human rights.”
Front Line Defenders said, in a report released on Thursday (June 1, 2017), that human rights defender Ebtisam Al-Saegh was sexually assaulted by the interrogators, after being summoned on May 26 by the National Security Agency (NSA) to Muharraq police station, in the North of the country. She was also subjected to verbal abuse, and interrogators threatened to rape her if she did not put an end to her human rights activities.
Front Line Defenders strongly condemned the torture and sexual abuse of Ebtisam Al-Saegh by agents of the NSA as well as the threats made against her and her family, which are directly related to her legitimate work in exposing human rights abuses in Bahrain. Front Line Defenders also called on the Bahrain authorities to immediately end all further harassment of Ebtisam Al-Saegh.
The international watchdog urged the authorities in Bahrain to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the acts of torture and sexual assault against Ebtisam Al-Saegh, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
Front Line Defenders called on the Bahraini authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Ebtisam Al-Saegh, as well as of the members of her family. It also urged the authorities to cease targeting all human rights defenders in Bahrain and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday called on the Government of Bahrain to promptly launch an independent, effective investigation into the deaths of five protestors during a security operation