Annual Report: Bahrain 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Bahrain 2013

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  • Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was particularly targeted, being repeatedly arrested and prosecuted. In May, he was charged with “insulting a national institution” through remarks made on Twitter about the Ministry of the Interior. On 9 July, he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for criticizing the Prime Minister. On 16 August, he was convicted for participating in “illegal gatherings” and “disturbing public order” and sentenced to three years in prison, reduced to two years in December. He was a prisoner of conscience.
  • Zainab al-Khawaja was detained for six weeks from April for staging a sit-down protest against her father’s detention and other human rights violations. She was arrested again in August and sentenced to two months in prison for tearing up a picture of the King. She was released on bail in October but re-arrested in December and sentenced to a month in prison while awaiting further charges. She was released at the end of the year.

In August, several UN Special Rapporteurs jointly urged the Bahraini government to cease harassing human rights defenders.

Prisoners of conscience

Prisoners of conscience, including those sentenced in connection with mass popular protests in 2011, remained in prison. They appeared to have been targeted for their anti-government views.

  • Ebrahim Sharif, ‘Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and 11 other leading critics of the government were serving prison terms ranging from five years to life. Their convictions and sentences were confirmed in September. They were convicted of establishing terrorist groups to overthrow the government and change the Constitution, and on other charges that they denied, despite a lack of evidence that they had used or advocated violence.
  • Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, former president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association, had his conviction upheld but his sentence reduced from 10 to five years in prison by the High Criminal Court of Appeal in October. In September 2011, an unfair military court convicted him of calling a teachers’ strike, inciting hatred and seeking to overthrow the government by force, despite a lack of evidence to support the charges. He said he was tortured following his arrest in 2011 while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention.
  • Six health professionals, including ‘Ali ‘Esa Mansoor al-‘Ekri and Ghassan Ahmed ‘Ali Dhaif, were arrested in October the day after the Court of Cassation confirmed their convictions and upheld reduced prison sentences of between one month and five years imposed on them in June. Originally, they were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison after an unfair trial in September 2011. The appeal court quashed the convictions of several others. Two of the six were released at the end of their sentences, but the four others were held at al-Jaw prison at the end of the year.

Freedom of assembly

On 30 October the Interior Minister banned all rallies and gatherings alleging that they allowed people to express opposition to the government and led to rioting, violence and destruction of property. He said the ban would remain in place until “security is maintained” and that anyone breaching the ban would be prosecuted. The ban was lifted in December and the Ministry of the Interior announced a proposal to amend the Code on Public Meetings, Processions and Gatherings, which imposed restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly.

  • Sayed Yousif Almuhafdah, a human rights activist, was detained on 2 November for attending an unauthorized gathering to document police behaviour towards protesters. He was released two weeks later and the charges of “illegal gathering” were dropped. He was re-arrested in December and charged with “spreading false news”.

Death penalty

One death sentence was reportedly imposed in March and upheld by the Court of Appeal in November. There were no executions. Two death sentences imposed in 2011 by a military court were quashed by the Court of Cassation and the two defendants were retried before a civilian court.