February 13, 2008 The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, members of the Unemployment Committee, Naji Al-Fateel, member of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed Abdullah Al-Sengais, Head of the Committee to Combat High Prices, and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab, founding member of the Martyrs and Victims Committee and acts of torture and ill-treatments.

According to the information received, on February 3, 2008, the trial of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab was scheduled to start before the High Criminal Court. Nevertheless, on the morning of that day, while the defendants were not present, the presiding judge informed their lawyers that the session would be postponed to the afternoon. At 3 p.m., without the presence of the defendants’ lawyers, the session was adjourned to February 24, 2008. The judge also indicated that the trial could be held any time. They had been charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”, after a demonstration held on December 17, 2007, at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day[1].

On February 3, after the Court session, the prisoners were allowed to talk to their families for a few minutes. Some of them, including Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, informed them that they had been victims of sexual assaults by investigators of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), where they were being detained.

On February 6, 2008, Mr. Al-Sheikh was taken from the CIB to the Dry Dock Detention Centre (DDDC), where the legal general attorney doctor visited him and confirmed that he showed clear signs of sexual assault. However, the general attorney office later denied in a press statement that abuses had been observed on the detainees.

As of February 13, 2008, Mr. Al-Sheikh was still detained at the DDDC, while Messrs. Mohammed Al Sengais, Naji Al Fateel, Hasan Abdelnabi and Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali remained detained in the premises of the CIB. Messrs. Al Sengais, Abdelnabi and Ali are presently held in solitary confinement, in a 1x2 meter filthy dark cells filled with insects with their eyes-blinded and hands-cuffed. No further information could be obtained regarding the place of detention of Messrs. Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh et Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab.

On February 11, 2008, the relatives of Messrs. Al-Sengais, Al-Fateel and Abdelnabi were able to visit them. Mr. Al Sengais’ relatives reported that he was bearing signs of a scar on the head and that he was complaining of strong headache. They further asserted that on February 10, Mr. Al-Sengais had been dragged, handcuffed behind his back, to the outside of his cell, beaten in the yard by a metallic piece and further tortured by two men. On February 7, 2008, he had been taken to Bahrain Defence Force Hospital for treatment, where the physician had recommended that he be taken to psychiatric hospital for treatment due to the abuse he was enduring. An appointment was set with the psychiatrist for February 24, but later postponed to February 28 because of the adjourned court session.

On the same day, Messrs. Fateel and Abdelnabi told their family members that they were subjected to beatings when they protested against what happened to Mohammed Al-Sengais and demanded that he be transferred to the hospital. Mr. Al-Fateel further asserted that he was increasingly suffering from the consequences of the ill-treatment he had been subjected to, and that he had been placed with other detainees charged with criminal offences and infected with communicable diseases.

Mr. Abdelnabi told his family members that he has been under pressure and threats of sexual abuse aiming at pushing him to reveal plans and future activities of the Detainees’ Committee in which his wife is involved.

The Observatory is highly preoccupied with these allegations of torture and ill-treatment, which seem to aim at discouraging the Bahraini society to get involved in human rights activities, and urges the Bahraini authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these human rights defenders and release them immediately, as their detention is arbitrary.

The Observatory also recalls that despite that it has already denounced on several occasions these arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture and ill-treatments, the situation of the above-mentioned human rights defenders has not improved.

Background information:

On December 17, 2007, a peaceful demonstration at the occasion of the Martyrs’ Day, in the Sanabis area, aiming at paying tribute to victims of torture in the past, was violently dispersed by members of the riot police and of the special security force, who heavily resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Ali Jassim Meki, a human rights defender close to the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy, who participated in the demonstration, died a few hours later[2].

Between December 21 and 28, 2007, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests that targeted more than 60 activists. As of January 8, 2007, 28 remained in detention, including 11 human rights defenders. Allegedly, all human rights defenders who were arrested had been involved in public protests during the last few years that related to economic and social rights and restrictions on freedoms. As of January 9, some of these human rights defenders have had access to their lawyers and family, but none of the lawyers were given access to their clients’ files.

Messrs. Shaker Mohammed Abdul-Hussein Abdul-Al, Majid Salman Ibrahim Al-Haddad and Nader Ali Ahmad Al-Salatna were released on January 10, 2008 and have since then reported that they had been submitted to acts of torture and ill-treatments (beatings, verbal abuse, threats sleep and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement and prolonged use of handcuffs and eye blindfolds). The three men were released with no explanation and they remain charged of “illegal gathering” as well as “theft of a weapon and ammunition and possession of weapon and ammunition without permission”.

Indeed, some of the detainees claimed that they were handcuffed for one or two weeks and beaten and kicked in order to prevent them from sleeping. They were also prevented to speak with each other, although being detained in the same room, and were blindfolded most of the time. Some detainees were forced to stand up for more than three days. They were submitted to psychological torture, being insulted verbally and threatened, in one case with a gun. Some of the detainees were taken out of their cell at night for interrogation ; meanwhile the other detainees could hear cries and screams.

Furthermore, Mr. Maytham Bader Jassim Am-Sheikh was visited by his father and told him that he had been subjected to sexual abuse, including rectal penetration with a stick.

The Bahrain Human Rights Society has written twice to the Public Prosecutor requesting authorisation to visit the detainees but so far they received only negative responses.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Bahrain urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Maytham Bader Jassim Al-Sheikh, Hassan Abdelnabi, Abdullah Mohsen Abdulah Saleh, Ahmad Jaffar Mohammed Ali, Naji Al Fateel, Mohammed Abdullah Al Sengais and Ebrahim Mohamed Amin Al-Arab;

ii. Release them immediately and unconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee unconditional access to their lawyers, families and any medical treatment they may require;

iv. Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations of torture and ill-treatments, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

v. Put an end to all forms of harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain;

vi. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”, as well as Article 12(1) that provides “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax : +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel : +973 172 27 555; fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, tél : +973 175 31 333; fax : +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

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Paris-Geneva, February 13, 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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[1] See Background information as well as Observatory Open Letter to the authorities of January 10, 2008 and Observatory Press Releases of December 21, 2007 and January 18, 2008.

[2] Mr. Meki had actively taken part in human rights protests over the past years. He had been arbitrarily detained in 1996, in the framework of protests calling for the restoration of democracy and the release of detainees. He had also been briefly detained in 2005, for taking part in a demonstration to protest against sexual and physical assaults that had been perpetrated against Mr. Mussa Abd-Ali, an activist from the Committee of Unemployed People.