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Bahrain: more than 70 new Covid cases in major outbreak at Jaw prison

Jaw prison © Amnesty International

Prisoners not given face masks or hand sanitiser despite overcrowded conditions Authorities apparently blocking communication with outside world ‘They must not gamble with the lives of those in their custody’ - Lynn Maalouf Amnesty International is increasingly concerned at reports of a major COVID-19 outbreak at Jaw prison in Bahrain, a jail already notorious for its overcrowded conditions. Since 31 March, Amnesty has spoken to family members of six prisoners. Using an online testing status system on the Ministry of Health’s website, family members told Amnesty they were able to verify dozens

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Four Bahraini minors tried as adults

AI Mission to Bahrain - © Amnesty International
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In February 2020, Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain’s family received a phone call for his father to accompany Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain to the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Father and son attended the CID building where Husain was interrogated alone without a lawyer and without his father present in the room. Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain was informed of the charges against him and made to sign a document and told that he would be kept under surveillance before being released. His father was simultaneously and separately questioned about his son and while waiting for Husain, he heard the investigators screaming at his son to confess. Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain later told his family that he had also been slapped in the face.

On 30 November 2020, Husain Abdulrasool Salman Abdulla Husain was summoned again to the CID which he attended with his father and was detained. During his interrogation without a lawyer he admitted his involvement in burning tires and handling Molotov cocktails on 14 February 2020 as well as that of three other boys. The case was referred to the prosecution unit for terrorism crimes, who officially charged him under Articles 277 (1), 277(bis), 277(1 bis) and 277 (2 bis) of the Penal Code with premeditated arson; fabricating with other unknown persons Molotov cocktails with the aim of using them and endangering life and property; possessing and obtained Molotov cocktails with the aim of using them and endangering life and property; and using Molotov cocktails with the aim of using them and endangering life and property on 14 February 2020 in Karrana, a village north west of the capital Manama. He was also charged under Articles 178 and 179 of “participating with others in an illegal gathering of more than five people, in order to disturb public security by way of violence”. The case was referred to Branch Four of the High Criminal Court. The referral document named the four boys and stated that three of them, Sayed Hasan Ameen Jawad Abdulla, Faris Husain Habib Ahmed Salman, and Mohammed Jaafar Jasim Ali Abdulla were on the run.

Sayed Hasan Ameen suffers from sickle-cell disease and reduced heart function. He was twice hospitalized in October and November 2020. During the first hospitalization he spent a week in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Salmaniya Medical Complex including for vaso-occlusive crisis due to sickle-cell disease, muscular seizure, and encephalopathy.

On 14 February 2021, the King ratified Law No 4 of 2021 on the promulgation of the Corrective Justice Law for Children and their Protection from Ill-Treatment. The new law will consider anyone who committed an offence when under the age of 18 to be a child and as such would be tried by Juveniles Courts.

At present, under the 1976 Bahraini Juvenile Law, a juvenile is someone not exceeding 15 years of age. As such, Bahrain is in breach of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which it is a party.

Article 37 of the CRC states that: States Parties shall ensure that: (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action. Furthermore, Article 40 also states: 2(a) No child shall be alleged as, be accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law by reason of acts or omissions that were not prohibited by national or international law at the time they were committed; 2(b)(ii) To be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him or her, and, if appropriate, through his or her parents or legal guardians, and to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defence and 2 (b)(iv) Not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt; to examine or have examined adverse witnesses and to obtain the participation and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under conditions of equality.

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Bahrain: ten years on from Pearl Roundabout protests, human rights situation 'worse'

Protests in Bilad al-Qadeem, a suburb of Manama, after the arrest of the head of the banned Shiite opposition movement Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, in December 2014 © AFP/Getty Images

Mass protests crushed and independent inquiry ignored Crackdown on dissidents has intensified in recent years ‘The protest leaders of 2011 continue to languish in grim prison conditions’ - Lynn Maalouf Ten years after Bahrain’s popular uprising, systemic injustice in the country has intensified and the only structural changes since the mass protests at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama have “been for the worse”, said Amnesty International today. In the decade since the 2011 protests over government authoritarianism, sectarianism in employment and benefits, and refusal to provide accountability

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Activist returned to Pakistan and released

AI Mission to Bahrain
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Urgent Action Outcome: Activist returned to Pakistan and released

Geelaman Pashteen, human rights activist and supporter of Pakistan’s Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) was released.

1st update on UA 11/20


Jailed opposition leader in critical condition

Hassan Mshaima’
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Hassan Mshaima is the secretary general of the of al-Haq Movement, which is an unauthorized Shi’a political opposition group. Hassan Mshaima was arrested on 17 March 2011. He is among fourteen opposition activists who were arrested between 17 March and 9 April 2011 during the Bahrain uprising. Most were arrested in the middle of the night by groups of security officers who raided their houses and took them to an unknown location, where they were held incommunicado for weeks. Many of the 14 have alleged they were tortured during their first few days of detention when they were being interrogated by officers from the National Security Agency (NSA). None of the 14 was allowed to see their lawyers during NSA interrogations just after they were arrested. Some saw their lawyers during questioning by the military prosecutor ahead of the trial, while others were only allowed to see them during the first court hearing in May 2011, which was the first time any of the activists had seen their families since their arrest. On 22 June, Bahrain's National Safety Court, a military court, announced its verdict and sentenced them to between two years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”. 

Seven of the 14 activists were sentenced to life imprisonment: Hassan Mshaima, Abdelwahab Hussain, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr Abdel-Jalil al-Singace, Mohammad Habib al-Miqdad, Abdel-Jalil al-Miqdad and Saeed Mirza al-Nuri. Four people, Mohammad Hassan Jawwad, Mohammad Ali Ridha Ismail, Abdullah al-Mahroos and Abdul-Hadi Abdullah Hassan al-Mukhodher, were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Two people, Ebrahim Sharif and Salah Abdullah Hubail al-Khawaja were given five-year prison terms while Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh received a prison sentence of two years. 

On 28 September 2011, in a session that lasted only a few minutes, the National Safety Court of Appeal, a military appeal court, upheld all the convictions and sentences imposed on the 14 opposition activists. On 30 April 2012, the Court of Cassation in Manama ordered them to appear before a civilian court for an appeal trial; on the same day it reduced Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh's two-year sentence to six months. He was immediately released as he had already served his sentence. However, the other 13 remained behind bars in Jaw prison. Their appeal before a civilian court of appeal started on 22 May 2012. The High Criminal Court of Appeal upheld their convictions and sentences on 4 September 2012, and on 6 January 2013, the cassation Court confirmed verdict. Ebrahim Sharif was released on 19 June 2015 under a royal pardon and Salah al-Khawaja was released from prison on 19 March 2016, after completing his five-year prison sentence.

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Bahraini youth targeted in family reprisal

Free Kameel
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Kameel Juma Hasan is the son of Najah Ahmed Yusuf, a former prisoner convicted and held for over two years on charges of posting content opposing the government online. On 23 April 2017, Kameel, 14 years old at the time and still in middle school, was summoned with his mother for interrogation on charges of “unlawful assembly”, “hooliganism”, and “production and possession of flammable or explosive articles” (presumably meaning Molotov cocktails). While he was being held in the interrogation centre that day, a court convicted him in a grossly unfair trial in his and his lawyer’s absence of these charges and sentenced him to probation for a year. The family were never informed that he had proceedings on that date, and only learned of the ruling later. 

As Najah has described in interviews, during the interrogations with her and her son, Kameel, in April 2017 at the Muharraq office of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (Bahrain’s police interrogation agency), intelligence officers demanded that both mother and son become informants for the government on opposition activities in the Murqoban area of Sitra where the family lived. The officers threatened to take revenge against Kameel, using the criminal charges raised against him as a means of coercion, and told Najah they would kill members of her family, making it appear as an accident, if the two did not accept work as informants. Najah has consistently reported from the time of her arrest that she was subjected to beating and sexual assault by her interrogators. After she refused to become an informant during several days of interrogation and abuse, she was taken into pre-trial custody, prosecuted, and imprisoned based on charges of circulating online opposition content. She has spoken out about her experience to British media (The Independent, the BBC) since her release. Amnesty has written about her case several times.

Later in 2017, after his mother had been imprisoned, Kameel was summoned again under a new set of charges based on alleged participation in a violent demonstration. Given his prior experience of coercion under interrogation and conviction in an unfair trial, he did not respond to the summons. On 26 November 2017, a Bahraini court convicted Kameel in his absence on the new charges, ruling that he had violated the terms of his probation and ordering that he be held for the remainder of the probation term in a youth detention centre. He did not turn himself in to serve this term of detention and therefore became wanted. He managed to take his final exams for middle school in spring 2018, but thereafter went fully into hiding and so could not begin secondary school in the fall 2019 term starting September.

Throughout 2018 and 2019, a steady stream of summons, charges, and prosecutions were raised against Kameel, including six prosecutions based exclusively on charges of “unlawful assembly” and “hooliganism”, and over a dozen more also linked to participation in demonstrations. In total, Bahrain has raised at least 22 separate prosecutions against Kameel arising from his alleged participation in demonstrations. In one prosecution he has 38 co-defendants, including 13 other children – an unreasonably high number of defendants to charge in a single case that makes the task of determining individual criminal responsibility unfeasible and thus violates the right to fair trial. It appears that all of Kameel’s co-defendants, like him and his family, are Shi’a. Kameel’s home area, the island of Sitra, is almost exclusively Shi’a, and citizens from Sitra have often been viewed with suspicion by Bahrain’s Sunni government. Prison authorities recently confiscated religious articles (spare copies of the Qur’an and rosaries) from Kameel and other Shi’a inmates.

By the end of 2019, cases were being added against Kameel so rapidly that he was sometimes expected to attend separate hearings in separate prosecutions in a single day. Faced with mounting threats to the rest of the family as his father, brother, and cousins were summoned for interrogations on his whereabouts, Kameel ultimately chose to turn himself in after yet another summon, this one to the Nabih Saleh police station for the date of 31 December 2019. After turning himself in, he was transferred later the same day to the Royal Academy of Police, where Amnesty’s sources report he was subjected to beating and stress positions (forced standing). Several days later, he was taken to sign prepared “confession” documents that he had no opportunity to read. Given the proliferation of identical cases against him, the background, and the timing – official pursuit of Kameel became more aggressive as Najah continued to speak out about her own ordeal – it appears that his prosecution and imprisonment have been taken in reprisal against his mother.

Kameel was 16 years old at the time of his detention, and thus legally a minor under Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain is a party. Bahrain, however, has treated individuals above the age of 15 as adults for purposes of criminal prosecution since 1976, a stance it reaffirmed in its amendment of the Law on Minors in 2014 (Decree of Act No. 17 of 1976 on Minors, Art. 1, and Act No. 15 of 2014 amending this provision). Children under 15 can also be placed in various disciplinary proceedings falling short of criminal prosecution for participating in demonstrations under Bahrain law (Law on Minors, as amended by Decree of Act No. 23 of 2013, Arts. 2.8 and 6).

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Highest court upholds death sentences

Death Penalty
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Security forces arrested Hussain Ali Moosa, a hotel employee, on 21 February 2014. Mohamed Ramadhan was arrested on 18 February 2014 at the Bahrain International Airport, where he worked as a member of the security forces. Following their arrests, the two men were taken to the Criminal Investigations Department where they say they were tortured during interrogations. Mohamed Ramadhan refused to sign a “confession”, but Hussain Ali Moosa said he was coerced to confess to killing a policeman and incriminate Mohamed Ramadhan after being suspended by the limbs and beaten for several days. His “confession” was later used as the main evidence in the trial to convict both men They are held in Jaw prison in south Manama, Bahrain’s capital.

On 29 December 2014, a criminal court sentenced Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa to death for the killing of a policeman, who died in a bomb explosion in al-Deir, a village northeast of Manama, on 14 February 2014. The High Criminal Court of Appeal upheld their conviction and death sentences on 30 March 2015 and the Court of Cassation confirmed them on 16 November 2015. 

Despite receiving complaints from Mohamed Ramadhan’s wife and a US-based NGO in 2014, the Ombudsman’s office failed to investigate the allegations of torture for two years. In April 2016, the Ombudsman incorrectly informed the UK government that it had received “no allegations of mistreatment or torture” in relation to Mohamed Ramadhan. Following international pressure, the Ombudsman told the UK government in July 2016 that it had committed to undertake “a full, independent investigation”, subsequently interviewing Mohamed Ramadhan’s wife and lawyer.

On 28 March 2018, the Public Prosecutor confirmed having received a memorandum on the Special Investigation Unit ’s (SIU’s) investigations into Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa’s torture complaints. Based on the SIU’s recommendations, the cases were referred to the Minister of Justice, who in early May 2018 sent an application to the Court of Cassation for re-consideration of the verdicts. The SIU claimed to have uncovered medical reports by doctors of the Ministry of Interior supporting both men's claims of torture in detention. These reports had not been made available during their first trial. On 22 October 2018, the Court of Cassation overturned the death sentences imposed on the two men on the basis of this new evidence and ordered the High Criminal Court of Appeal to re-examine the cases under a new panel of judges. 

On 25 December 2019, Jaw prison authorities told Hussain Ali Moosa and Mohamed Ramadhan to ready themselves to appear that day before the High Criminal Court of Appeal so as to hear the verdict in their case. Shortly after, the two men were told that they would no longer be taken to court but were not provided with any reason. In court, in the presence of representatives of the UK, France and Germany, the judge postponed issuing his decision given the defendants’ absence. On 8 January 2020, the conviction and death sentences of the two men were upheld again.

Bahrain is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which recognizes the right to life and the right to a fair trial, which includes the right not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that "the imposition of a sentence of death upon conclusion of a trial in which the provisions of the [International] Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights] have not been respected constitutes a violation of article 6 of the Covenant” [right to life]. In its 2012 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions has reiterated that “it is arbitrary to impose the death penalty where the proceedings do not adhere to the highest standards of fair trial. Under international law, statements elicited as a result of torture or other forms of coercion must be excluded as evidence in criminal proceedings, except those brought against suspected perpetrators of such abuse (as evidence that the statement was made).

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Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway's contact-tracing apps among most privacy-infringing

Problematic contact-tracing apps have been introduced in numerous countries © Getty Images

COVID-19 apps putting privacy and security of hundreds of thousands at risk U-turn from Norwegian Government yesterday welcomed ‘Privacy must not be another casualty as governments rush to roll out apps’ - Claudio Guarnieri Bahrain, Kuwait and Norway have rolled out some of the most invasive COVID-19 contact-tracing apps putting the privacy and security of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, an Amnesty International investigation revealed today. Amnesty’s Security Lab reviewed contact-tracing apps from various European and Middle Eastern countries, including a detailed technical analysis

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Bahrain: Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab released after four years in jail

Nabeel Rajab was released earlier today after a court agreed to pass an alternative to the jail term he received, according to one of his lawyers © Private

Nabeel has repeatedly been targeted for his human rights work and peaceful criticism over the past two decades While the terms of his new sentence are not yet clear, they could include alternative sanctions such as house arrest, exclusion orders, or restraining orders ‘Nabeel’s release must now be accompanied by the quashing of his conviction and sentence, the dropping of any outstanding charges brought against him, and an end to the injustice he has been put through’ - Lynn Maalouf Responding to the release of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab on a non-custodial sentence in Bahrain today

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